A big campaign has been mounted to save the last vestiges of public television in New Zealand, namely TVNZ7. A series of meetings are occurring throughout the country and one was held in Christchurch last night. It's a campaign that has largely been orchestrated by the Labour Party although I notice that its leader has yet to publicly jump to the defence of TVNZ7.
TVNZ7, will, of course, cease on June 30 and then will simply broadcast TV1.
I actually have no interest in saving TVNZ7 and I think its a misconceived campaign that avoids the real issues.
For a start, this is a campaign that is designed to let our dismal Labour Party off the hook. It can go around the country pretending to be the defender of the public television ethos when, in reality, it has done more than its fair share to destroy public broadcasting in this country.
Labour's astonishingly inept view that TVNZ could somehow meet public service obligations while at the same deliver a commercial dividend to the Government was always a recipe for disaster. As I wrote a couple of years ago:
The hard fact - one that Labour Party hacks choose to ignore- is that it was the Labour Government of 1984-90 that tipped public broadcasting into the quagmire of commercialism.
It deregulated broadcasting in New Zealand which included no limits on foreign ownership of media companies, no limits on cross-ownership -and it was Labour that imposed the neoliberal business model on TVNZ.
I find it galling that many of the defenders of TVNZ7 had nothing to say when Labour imposed its ridiculous hybrid model on TVNZ in the 1980s. They are lions when Labour is in opposition - but lambs when Labour is in government. Believe me - nothing has changed in that respect.
Labour supporters are ignoring that even now its unclear what Labour's real commitment is to public broadcasting. Labour's broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran says that Labour is committed to 'a strong independent public media'.
But campaigning for the retention of TVNZ 7 is not a commitment to public broadcasting. At the heart of this campaign lies an assumption that commercial interests will continue to dominate broadcasting in this country.
As it stands right now TVNZ 7 is a under-resourced channel with a limited range of programmes and it lacks a comprehensive news and current affairs service. Why should anyone want to support that or is the implication that this is all we can now expect from public broadcasting in this country?
Also I oppose public broadcasting being sidelined to the periphery and acting as some kind of 'niche provider' for the chattering classes dissatisfied with what is on offer from the main commercial channels. This simply isn't good enough.
We need to have a non-commercial national broadcaster that is at the heart of New Zealand's cultural life and that broadcaster should be TV1.
If the Labour Party really has a commitment to ' a strong independent public media' then it should be advocating that TV1 be transformed Into a fully-resourced non-commercial public broadcaster. This, incidentally, is the policy of the Green Party.