Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Broadcasting)
: I move,
That the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill be now read a second time. This bill amends the Television New Zealand Act 2003, in line with this Government’s wish to replace
the current Television New Zealand charter with a less prescriptive list of functions and to leave Television New Zealand to concentrate on being a successful television broadcaster without the shackle of an unrealistic dual mandate. The other core purpose of the bill is to amend the Act to allow the rescreening of TVNZ’s archived pre-1989 television programmes and to provide a process for compensatory payments to individuals with an interest in the works when the archived programmes are rescreened.
This bill provides a realistic framework within which TVNZ will operate. The reality is that for many, many years TVNZ has been predominantly commercially funded. Well over 90 percent of its income is from commercial revenue, and that was the case under the last Government. Indeed, the Labour Government was in denial that it actually owned a commercial broadcaster. It tried to pretend that TVNZ could be all things to all people, and that despite being commercially funded, it was a public broadcaster, rather than publicly owned.
TVNZ has struggled to return a consistent dividend to the Government. This has been due, in part, to the uncertainty created by the Government’s long-term expectations of it. Removing the charter is being honest and not trying to pretend that TVNZ is something that it plainly is not. The real test is to look at what difference there is in TVNZ’s viewing schedule prior to the charter as compared with during it, and the answer is that there is none.
With the passing of this legislation, TVNZ’s functions will be to be a successful national television and digital media company; to provide high-quality content that is relevant to, and enjoyed and valued by, New Zealand audiences; to provide both New Zealand and international content and reflect Māori perspectives; and to include the provision of free-to-air channels available to audiences throughout New Zealand. These at last provide TVNZ with a clear direction and formalise the Government’s expectations as shareholder.
TVNZ will continue to provide broadcasting services to all New Zealanders, and the public will continue to have access to local content on TVNZ, including material with a Māori perspective. The removal of the charter will have little impact on what is shown on the screen. TVNZ will continue to screen events of major public significance, it will still screen content of relevance to a broad cross-section of New Zealanders, and it will still screen high levels of New Zealand content. At the same time TVNZ will have the flexibility it needs to effectively pursue commercial objectives and to continue its transition from a traditional broadcaster to a multi-platform digital media company with diverse income-streams and services.
The proposed functions of the bill will still allow TVNZ to feature content of a public service character as part of its total output. This will be achieved by TVNZ continuing to have access to New Zealand On Air funding to ensure the delivery of high-quality New Zealand content, which reflects the Government’s policy of providing support for public service broadcasting primarily through contestable funding via New Zealand On Air—funding programmes rather than broadcasters.
In terms of the bill’s other functions, Part 4A, which is to be inserted in the Television New Zealand Act by clause 10, establishes a scheme for the rescreening of pre-1989 TVNZ archived works. TVNZ’s archive is a unique and valuable record of New Zealand’s historical, social, and cultural life and an important part of our screen heritage. It is in the public interest that the publicly funded programmes in the archive be available for future viewing. Currently, a significant number of programmes are effectively locked up in the TVNZ archive, unable to be screened because the multiple rights attached to the works would require clearance. The bill provides a means to resolve the issue of rights clearance. The scheme balances public-good objectives of making these works available for current and future generations to see with the rights of
those who were contracted to work on the programmes. The existing arrangements between TVNZ and Māori Television for the provision of archived content will continue. The scheme applies only to those works for which TVNZ holds full copyright and not to those produced or co-produced by an independent producer.
I note that Opposition parties have presented two minority views in the Commerce Committee’s report. The Labour view focuses solely on the removal of the charter and asserts that the local production industry will be disadvantaged by the removal of the specific requirement for TVNZ to support it. I remind the House that the charter had a negligible effect on TVNZ’s programming. In introducing the charter, the previous Government did nothing about altering TVNZ’s commercial model or removing the obligation for it to deliver a dividend.
It will be interesting to hear the Opposition members’ speeches in this debate. I expect to hear plenty of misinformation about the death of public broadcasting while they ignore the fact that the Government is spending $231 million per year on all forms of broadcasting. I am also sure we will hear no mention of the fact, as the
magazine points out, that New Zealand is the only country of 4 million people in the OECD that funds a public service radio network, an indigenous television channel, and an $81 million contestable fund for local programme making. For the Opposition, the broadcasting glass is always half empty.
We will hear from the Opposition members a repeat of the assertion that public broadcasting is in crisis. Labour’s answer, according to its press release of 14 April, is a call for “the nation’s top thinkers, business leaders, politicians, academics and senior media industry figures to converge to discuss the future of public broadcasting and media in New Zealand.” I will leave the audience to decide whether the Opposition has any credible plan for broadcasting beyond constantly complaining.
I note that the Green Party expressed concerns about the future of public service television and the health of the local production industry. However, I am confident that the Government’s ongoing support for, and commitment to, New Zealand On Air’s contestable funding model and the bill will help to support these outcomes. The Green Party’s minority report expresses concerns that once the bill has passed, TVNZ will own the archive and will be able to charge exorbitant fees for access to archived material. In fact, TVNZ already owns the archive, and outside the purposes of the scheme the bill has no effect on its charging for the use of archived material.
The amendments proposed by the Commerce Committee have strengthened and clarified the bill. I am confident that the legislation will mark a new era for TVNZ. In a converging media environment, TVNZ will have a flexible and realistic set of statutory functions to position it as a modern, competitive broadcaster. The expectations of TVNZ are clarified, and the unworkable, vague mandate of the charter will be gone. The TVNZ archived works scheme will ensure that rights-holders will gain benefit from their work, that the public will no longer be denied the opportunity to view works that are part of New Zealand’s cultural and broadcasting heritage, and that further value will be gained from the public funding invested in the programmes. I commend the bill to the House.
CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South)
: I will first acknowledge that there has been yet another disaster in New Zealand. Our thoughts are with the people of Auckland tonight who are affected by the tornado.
The Television New Zealand Amendment Bill represents three things the Government is becoming renowned for: weakness, cronyism, and dodginess. The weakness of the Minister of Broadcasting is in not having any real plan for public broadcasting in this country other than to get rid of it. If he had a plan, then he is being rolled. Jonathan Coleman is a weak Minister. The legislation is a disgrace, and his
approach to public broadcasting is a disgrace. He is a waste of space. The weakness of the Prime Minister and the Ministers, including the Minister of Broadcasting, is in kowtowing to pressure by corporate media to bail them out while seeing off the important role of public broadcasting. That is cronyism at its worst. TVNZ will be stripped of its charter and its public interest role. TVNZ 7 has been axed. Our new, innovative digital channel is gone while the Government hands over a $43 million loan to its corporate mate MediaWorks, which runs TV3 and some influential radio stations. It is an election year—go figure.
Labour is emphatically opposed to the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. We are opposed to replacing the TVNZ charter with a statement of functions. We are opposed to the Minister instructing TVNZ that it is no longer a public broadcaster but instead a commercial broadcaster. That was earlier this year—well before this bill is enacted—when the charter was still in force.
I will tell members what TVNZ said to the Commerce Committee on 7 April in response to a question from me about whether it believes that TVNZ is a commercial broadcaster or a public service broadcaster. The TVNZ Chief Executive Officer, Rick Ellis, said that the shareholder, the Government, has made it clear that its primary mandate is to be a commercial broadcaster, a commercially successful company. The announcement that the Minister made yesterday in respect of TVNZ 7, I think, gives weight to that. He said: “Our primary focus is to be a commercial broadcaster, commercially successful,”—TVNZ must be a successful commercial entity. Rick Ellis said the Minister had visited the board in March and expressed that view. TVNZ was instructed to prioritise commercial functions and hence neglect the charter well before the charter had even been abolished—and it has not yet been abolished. The charter is supposed to be abolished with the bill but the charter currently remains in statutory force. TVNZ is supposed to be abiding by the charter, but the Government has blatantly disregarded the law as it stands, because it has already made the decision to axe the charter. This raises some very interesting questions about whether the Government has acted unlawfully in instructing a Crown company through policy to act in a manner that contravenes its statutory functions. Who was the last Prime Minister to do that? It was Muldoon. He made decisions that contravened laws and then changed the law to give his decisions validity. The legal precedent of
Fitzgerald v Muldoon in the 1970s was a case of the executive assuming the powers of the legislature—powers it did not have. That is dodgy.
I will tell members what else is dodgy. The Minister Jonathan Coleman claims that the Government did not receive any proposal from TVNZ 7 regarding the possibility of funding TVNZ 6 or TVNZ 7 with commercial revenue from Television One and TV2. However, Labour understands that TVNZ did consider this possibility, but because of the demand for increased dividends it was not possible. TVNZ told the select committee that it approached the Government with a proposal to keep TVNZ 7 going. Jonathan Coleman has denied that. Who is telling the truth? Perhaps the Minister could answer that question.
We also understand that the Government instructed TVNZ to operate, in effect, as a State-owned enterprise and return dividends at a rate of 9 percent, even though the risk-free rate was apparently only 6.4 percent. Where in the charter does it state that TVNZ is required to return a dividend of 9 percent and that that requirement takes precedence over all the other clauses in the charter? If there is such a clause, then I challenge the Minister to read it to the House.
To take the cake, we also understand that on one of the many occasions when the Minister Jonathan Coleman attended board meetings with MediaWorks not only was the future of TVNZ 7 discussed but a strong message was delivered to him by the board to
get rid of it. Given that the Minister subsequently did get rid of it and that MediaWorks was handed a cool $43 million loan to defer payment on its spectrum licences, how did MediaWorks get to exert so much pressure on the Government? Perhaps the Minister would like to answer that question. Did the Minister discuss the future of TVNZ 7 with the board of MediaWorks? What was the nature of those discussions and what message was delivered to him? Was it a strong message? Was it a message to get rid of TVNZ 7 or else? He certainly met with the board of MediaWorks on many occasions—nine times to be precise—between 9 December 2008 and the end of last year. I am not sure how many times they have met this year; perhaps he could tell us that. Interestingly, he met with the board six times last year. That is a lot. What did he discuss? In the meantime—
Brendon Burns: Every 2 months.
CLARE CURRAN: That is correct. In the meantime when Minister Coleman has been busy meeting with the board of the commercial broadcaster, public radio broadcasting in New Zealand is in tatters, following a statement made by the new Radio New Zealand chair, Richard Griffin, that he is going to move our State radio broadcaster towards commercialisation. He said that Radio New Zealand will not become a commercial product, but in the next breath he revealed that he was open to sponsorship of some radio programmes at the State broadcaster, even if a law change was needed. He said: “This board has got the will and determination to make it happen not just to enhance the product, but to enhance the revenue for the product.” Richard Griffin, the new chair, is a former press secretary to Jim Bolger, and he denied that his appointment was political. But his agenda fits with this Government’s view to strip our State broadcasters of public broadcasting functions and to turn them towards cost recovery and even profit. He has been appointed to chair that board, after less than a year.
What does this all tell us, and what does this bill being put before the House today tell us? It tells us there is a crisis in public broadcasting in New Zealand.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I told you. There you go.
CLARE CURRAN: Recently, as the Minister has just helpfully told us, more than 60 academics in New Zealand wrote an open letter of concern to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Broadcasting, the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, and the Minister of Finance. The letter expressed their deep concern about the closure of TVNZ 7. They said that this was “one more in a series of steps by the government to dismantle the little that is left of public broadcasting in our country. … Public service television is even more important in a country of such limited size. Our small population means that New Zealand’s commercialised television channels simply cannot provide the range of programming that viewers want and should be able to access in the interests of democracy as well as cultural identity. In radio, New Zealand has a national public service network, Radio New Zealand (RNZ), and publicly-funded Māori radio stations. In television, it has two publicly-funded Māori channels (Māori TV and Te Reo) which are performing an important function—but there is no national television service equivalent to RNZ.”
So while I am at it, here are a few more questions for the Minister today. I wonder what his response is to the claims made by those academics that most OECD countries have at least one public service television channel, simply because they understand the market will never fulfil this role, and without it the potential of television to create a better-informed society and a stronger democracy will never be realised. There is, as far as I can discover, one other country in the OECD that does not have a public service television channel, and that is Mexico. Now, New Zealand has joined Mexico, and that is shameful.
Last week, Labour called on the nation’s top thinkers—the business leaders, politicians, academics, and senior media industry figures, as the Minister has helpfully said—to converge to discuss the future of public broadcasting and media in New Zealand. I repeat that call today, and it is my understanding that it is getting a good reception. A lot of people out there care about public broadcasting in New Zealand. That Minister is not one of them. Every democracy should have the ability to tell stories, to provide the public with independent, critical analysis, reporting and investigation, and to not be owned by corporate interests.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie)
: It is an honour to stand and support the second reading of the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. It is an honour because this monumental legislation is all about repealing a charter that is not working, and freeing up Television New Zealand to avoid a dual mandate—the disparate sorts of cross-purposes that currently it is focused on.
National is committed to public broadcasting. It is committed through the $231 million that is invested in public broadcasting across not just television but radio and other forms of media. It is committed to television through New Zealand On Air funding. There is over $80 million of New Zealand On Air funding, which allows television programmes to be made across a number of channels. It is also committed to public broadcasting in the television space through the Platinum Television Fund, from which $15 million per year is available for bidding by local production companies and various providers of content. This bill is about wanting the best for New Zealand viewers, and wanting the best for Television New Zealand: for it to be a successful commercial broadcaster operating across the various media.
There are two basic purposes to this statute. The previous speaker, Clare Curran, talked about the focus on more generic statutory requirements, yet she did not mention once what those statutory requirements were. Instead she questioned the Minister as to what National was doing. But I put it back to the Opposition. I put it back to Labour, which spent 9 years in Government, and I ask how Labour would fund its ambitions for public broadcasting. How, in this economic climate, during this global economic recession, would Labour fund the types of broadcasting platforms that it has been advocating for? That type of funding does not grow on trees.
This bill also enables the screening of pre-1989 Television New Zealand archived works. It is really important that a lot of those works are released for public consumption, and that they are seen. Thankfully, most parties around the Commerce Committee table actually agreed that those works should be released, that the relevant rights-owners should be compensated in some form, and that rescreenings should at least be free for those programmes to be released for publication.
I just mention briefly new section 12, amending the Television New Zealand Act. It provides for Television New Zealand to be a successful, national television and digital media company, providing a choice of different platforms and maintaining a commercial performance. As I said, the dual mandate has not worked. Most people would accept that. It has not worked because on the one hand Television New Zealand is trying to satisfy the requirements of the charter, and on the other hand it is competing with a number of other media companies not just in television but now across a number of other media platforms. It is competing on a commercial basis, and it needs to compete with high-quality content. The other function that is stipulated in section 12 is that Television New Zealand provides high-quality content that is relevant to, and enjoyed and valued by, New Zealand audiences. We can see from that stipulation that there could be a conflict with the charter, in that section 12 is about providing content that consumers are prepared to watch, and content that advertisers are prepared to pay valuable advertising dollars to support being put on the screens. It is also about
encompassing New Zealand and international content and reflecting Māori perspectives, which, I think, in the select committee we all agreed with.
As we can see, section 12 is quite narrow. It allows for Television New Zealand to focus on its commercial purpose.
Also, the previous speaker from across the aisle stated that public broadcasting is not effective. Television New Zealand is the winner of numbers of awards not just for news content and sport but also for the content that it produces on a daily basis. The Platinum Television Fund, as I have already stated, has been put in place in order to attract programmes that will deliver high-quality content. They include, of course, current affairs shows like
Q+A,and Billy, a docudrama detailing the life of one of our best comedians, Billy T James, as well as other documentary series like
Wild Coasts. Through that contestable fund, producers are able to get funding for the production of local content of a high quality that—and this is important—local people want to watch.
I support this bill. The Government has put forward this bill in order to move Television New Zealand into the next century. It is a move in terms of the digitalisation of TV, and we await that with great zeal. This bill certainly facilitates the movement of Television New Zealand into the future. I support this bill. Thank you.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: “Good television needs faith. From everyone. The beginning is the most difficult part—finding the faith to have an idea, to stick with it, to believe in it—and believe that it will improve and endure. Then, producers have to keep that faith, not let it be diluted by doubters and skeptics, nurture it, give it time and respect—lead the crusade from the front. Once the idea is whole, the commissioners and programmers need the faith to look outside the dogma that surrounds them and see the worth in the idea, see a place for it—and believe other people will see that worth too. Then, even when it finally gets on screen, the spectators need more than a little faith to give it a first—and maybe a second and a third—chance, before it can repay their trust by becoming something they value and love.
And that’s the problem with the move to fully commercialise—then surely privatise—Television New Zealand. It shows that the government has no faith in local broadcasting, no belief beyond that of its ability to make a profit. And without that faith, everything else in the process becomes more difficult, easier to avoid or refuse, until eventually the faith is lost altogether. That is why the concept of the ‘State Broadcaster’ is still important in these fractured media days. It’s a symbol of the collective belief that local television is more than money-making space-filler. It’s a statement that the worth of New Zealand-made programmes is greater than the sum of the money that’s spent on them. It’s a belief that they are important to us, belong to us. It shows faith—in ourselves, our present—and our memories.”
I wish I had said that. That was from a submission from Jonathan Brough, director and editor and member of the Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand. He made that submission to the Commerce Committee, which heard only 15 submissions on the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. I think it is a shame that we heard so few submissions, with only 55 submissions having been received. I think the reason the number of submissions was so low, yet the quality of submissions received was so high, was that the Minister had put his position at the outset of his comments on the second reading of this bill. Essentially, the National Government has told the people of New Zealand that they are irrelevant, that their views and input into the development of the charter that we had in place are irrelevant. The Government was progressing this legislation as the charter itself was being renegotiated with the people of New Zealand. This legislation is an absolute affront to democracy, and I am proud of the fact that our party has taken a principled stance to oppose it—and oppose it we will.
The reason that we oppose the legislation is also summed up in the reality of the functions of Television New Zealand that take over from the charter. We have heard two speakers from the Government say that it does not matter that the functions of Television New Zealand are “to be a successful national television and digital media company providing a range of content and services on a choice of delivery platforms and maintaining its commercial performance. In carrying out its functions, TVNZ must provide high-quality content that—(a) is relevant to, and enjoyed and valued by, New Zealand audiences; and (b)”—and this is what replaces the charter—“encompasses both New Zealand and international content and reflects Māori perspectives.”
I am sorry, but that does not replace the charter, which invites Television New Zealand—or, in fact, requires Television New Zealand—to “feature programming across all genres that informs, entertains and educates New Zealand audiences”. It requires Television New Zealand to “strive always to set and maintain the highest standards of programme quality and editorial integrity”. It requires Television New Zealand to “provide shared experiences that contribute to a sense of citizenship and national identity”. Those requirements are somehow dealt with in the requirement that Television New Zealand “encompasses both New Zealand and international content and reflects Māori perspectives.”
The requirement that Television New Zealand “reflects Māori perspectives” is replacing in the charter the requirement that it “ensure in its programmes and programme planning the participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Maori voice”. That is what Television New Zealand had to do under the charter. Now it simply has to reflect Māori perspectives. That is an embarrassment in this day and age, especially with all of the debates that we have had in this Parliament around issues relating to Māori. I suspect that the Māori Party members will condemn this bill when they make their contribution to the debate.
The Television New Zealand charter goes on to require that Television New Zealand “feature programming that serves the varied interests and informational needs and age groups within New Zealand society, including tastes and interests not generally catered for by other national television broadcasters.” I do not see that requirement at all in this set of functions, or the reference to its functions in the bill before us.
In fact, I find it rather interesting. The Screen Production and Development Association made a very interesting comment in its submission: “The current proposed wording of the Bill means that there is neither obligation nor commitment to the commissioning and screening of New Zealand local content. ‘Encompasses both New Zealand and international content’ does not mandate any actual commitment to significant local content. Given that international content is cheaper to purchase and those relationships with providers of offshore programming are contractually ongoing, there is little or no need to legislate for the purchase of international product.” That is a very good point. If that was not written in the legislation, do members think that Television New Zealand would stop buying international content? Of course it would not. It is local content that this legislation should be protecting, because it does not happen just as a matter of course; it happens because there is a commitment to it. A number of countries, of course, have quotas through which those concerns are able to be addressed.
The charter carries on to say that Television New Zealand has to “maintain a balance between programmes of general appeal and programmes of interest to smaller audiences” and “seek to extend the range of ideas and experiences available to New Zealanders”. Television New Zealand has to “play a leading role in New Zealand television by setting standards of programme quality and encouraging creative risk-taking and experiment”. It has to “play a leading role in New Zealand television by
complying with free-to-air codes of broadcasting practise, in particular any code with provisions on violence”, and it has to “support and promote the talents and creative resources of New Zealanders and of the independent New Zealand film and television industry.”
That is another point that was made very strongly in the Screen Production and Development Association submission. Basically, it says: “A clear commitment to commissioning and screening of local content is imperative to the stability of the independent screen production sector.” I do not think that anyone could put that better. I think that is absolutely the problem in a nutshell. In fact, the association goes on to say: “It is ironic that, at a time when the importance of the film industry is being recognised and supported in New Zealand …”—well, I saw the National Party bend over backwards to change the law of this country in order to support the film industry. At least, that was the pretence that National used. It changed the law on that basis. We have large budget grants available for our film industry, yet the bill we have in front of us can effectively undermine and remove support for the backbone of the film industry, which is the independent television sector. The submission we heard loud and clear from the Screen Production and Development Association was that without a healthy, vibrant television industry there is no film industry.
I think the National members really have to take that message on board. I do not think anyone on the select committee was left with any doubt that this legislation is bad law. It stands in the way of the things we ought to be encouraging as a nation, and it stops us from exploring all of the ways we can ensure our identity as a nation. I think this bill is a travesty, and we will not support it.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: The Green Party, too, considers that the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill is shocking legislation that will strip TVNZ not just of its charter but of any public service obligations or responsibility. It will turn TVNZ into a nakedly commercial broadcaster that is focused solely on chasing ratings and advertising revenues, and that is indistinguishable from any other commercial broadcaster. Once this bill is passed, TVNZ will exist for the sole purpose of returning a dividend to the Government, and it will not be expected to deliver anything other than a profit to the Government. In fact, when the Minister was asked what exactly the point is of the Government owning two television channels that have no public service functions or responsibilities and are solely commercial, the Minister answered that they would play a valuable role in returning a profit to the shareholder. In other words, the Government will own two television channels for the sole purpose of extracting money from them. It is extraordinary.
The Green Party was the first to admit that the previous dual mandate of TVNZ was not a great success. But at least the charter spelt out explicitly and unequivocally that TVNZ was expected to be a public service broadcaster, to serve the public interest, to have high-quality news and current affairs, and so forth. Once this bill is passed, there will be no obligation on TVNZ to provide impartial news and current affairs, to screen documentaries, to screen any children’s television programmes, to screen any drama, or to screen any minority programmes. Indeed, there will be no obligation on TVNZ even to screen New Zealand programmes. We can expect to see fewer and fewer New Zealand programmes on TVNZ for the simple reason, as others have pointed out, that it is far more expensive to produce New Zealand programmes than it is to import cheap programmes from overseas.
That is why, on TV2, we have 17 percent New Zealand content and 83 percent of the content is cheap foreign programmes. Basically, TV2 is just an offshore channel, and this is what Television One will become. It is also, of course, the same reason why the Government refused to fund $15 million a year in order for TVNZ to continue with
TVNZ 7. The board of TVNZ told the Commerce Committee that it had put a case to the Government for TVNZ to continue to fund TVNZ 7, but TVNZ was turned down flat by this Government because it is not interested in, does not understand, and does not care about public service television. It wants TVNZ to be a solely commercial broadcaster.
Of course, once this bill is passed, we will be the only country in the Western World that does not have a mainstream public service television broadcaster. The campaign Save TVNZ 7 says that every self-respecting democracy in the world funds a public television broadcaster. In Europe every Government funds one. Most of the Governments in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa fund public service television. Everywhere—except New Zealand—public service television is being funded. And why do countries fund it? They invest in public service television because they understand that public service television is essential not just for the sake of their national identity but also in order to have a healthy democracy and an informed society. Public service television promotes ideas and perspectives that are ignored in commercially driven, ratings-driven television. In commercial television the ratings are the only measure, the sole measure, of the success of a programme, whereas in public service television programmes are also driven by the public interest—not just by ratings.
The most galling thing of all is that at the very time that the Government is stripping TVNZ of any public service obligations, it is bailing out its mates. It is subsiding its mates in MediaWorks, the company set up by Steven Joyce that is, in fact, TVNZ’s commercial competitor. The Government is effectively funding it, subsidising it, by $43 million with a loan deferral scheme. I learnt from a previous speaker, Clare Curran, that the Minister has met nine times with the board of MediaWorks. That is shocking. The Government went against the advice of Treasury and of the Ministry of Economic Development in extending the loan to MediaWorks. They said the Government was effectively acting as a bank for MediaWorks in deferring its loan. So the Government can extend $43 million in a subsidy to MediaWorks, but it cannot afford $15 million for TVNZ 7.
The Minister is yet to outline any clear broadcasting strategy, but it is clear that the underlying strategy is to fully commercialise TVNZ in order to ready it for sale in the next term of Government. That was the agenda back in the 1990s, and now we are here to finish off the unfinished business and to sell off TVNZ. Anyone who thinks otherwise is, I think, being naive.
Another agenda of TVNZ appears to be to move away from free-to-air television into pay television. It seems that the Government wants to remove free-to-air television and have just pay TV. We were told at the Commerce Committee that the main growth area for TVNZ, for the business, is expected to be pay TV, and that TVNZ plans to pitch even more channels to Sky television than it is doing currently. TVNZ is openly courting Sky, which has a 50 percent market share. It has launched the TVNZ Heartland channel exclusively on Sky. Then it announced it will be producing a 24-hour channel for preschool kids on Sky, and it is looking at further opportunities. Indeed, the head of digital services for TVNZ, Eric Kearley, said: “There has been a lot of talk about media revolutions but the real revolution has been a move from ad-funded television to pay.” At the select committee we said that if all of TVNZ’s growth is focused on developing channels for pay TV, surely that undermines free-to-air TV. It must be undermining it. But it is clear that this is the agenda here; the agenda here is to move us along into pay TV.
The problem is that Sky television provides almost no local content apart from sport and is prohibitively expensive. According to some estimates, as many as 2 million New Zealanders will not be able to afford to buy a Sky subscription. So why is this
Government moving to switch to pay TV and away from free-to-air television? With the ditching of TVNZ 7, what will be the point for people, like myself, who have invested in the FreeView platform? There will be no channels to watch, apart from Television One and TV2. Once again, once TVNZ 7 is ditched next year, all the incentive will be to move more and more to Sky. That seems to be the Government’s agenda.
Someone recently reminded me that
The Hollow Men had revealed a discreet but direct relationship between Murdoch senior and one of his sons and key insider advisers in the Brash campaign. So it is interesting that at the very same time that we have Mr Brash resurfacing in New Zealand to strip, as someone said, New Zealand of our remaining assets, we have the Government, with its Sky-friendly policies, moving to switch, it seems, from free-to-air TV to pay TV. I note that the Government is about to allow Sky to access Government funding, so that is all part of its agenda.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga)
: Just over 2 years ago my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell took the opportunity in question time to ask the Minister of Broadcasting how he could best ensure that the participation of Māori can be clearly identified and the presence of a significant Māori voice can be heard. I thought that was a really good question, and one that many Māori viewers were thinking about in the aftermath of that embarrassing admission of the TVNZ boss that TVNZ was meetings its commitments to Māori in programmes such as
Police Ten 7 and
Shortland Street. In his reply, Dr Coleman responded that the statutory function of reflecting Māori perspectives will be included in the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. He went further, suggesting that TVNZ has a specific Māori content strategy and its commitment to Māori programming will not change. He also said that New Zealand On Air has a specific strategy for Māori programming. Finally, he noted that the Government is, of course, a supporter of Māori Television.
That all sounded well and good, so in November last year I myself asked the Minister at question time: “Would he like to celebrate the fulfilment of the Crown’s Treaty and legal obligations to protect and promote Māori language through broadcasting, and is weakening the TVNZ charter the best way to achieve that?”. Dr Coleman obviously thought it was OK to do so. I asked him whether he was “aware that there are statutory and legal obligations on TVNZ as a result of the Privy Council’s findings in the New Zealand Māori Council broadcasting case in 1993, and what is he doing to implement those obligations?”. Dr Coleman obviously misunderstood my question, and tried to say that New Zealand On Air and Te Māngai Pāho carry out those functions. I wanted to know what TVNZ was doing, so I was allowed to repeat the question. Dr Coleman said “Yes, and they are being honoured through the new statutory functions for TVNZ.” In fact, if we look at this amendment bill, we find that they are not.
Many other speakers here have noted that very few material changes were recommended following the select committee process. If we look at just one aspect of the bill, the archived works, we might think that that was acceptable. The changes recommended specify that the definition of “archived work” should be changed to make it clear that it would apply only to works made on or before 27 May 1989 for which TVNZ owns the whole copyright. It also recommended that archived works must be screened free to the viewer but between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. on any day of the week on Television One and TV2, or be “subject to a licence that is sold for profit by TVNZ to screen on any other platform …”. It therefore ensures that TVNZ cannot use the works for profit only.
When we looked through the submissions, it was evident that the changes around archived works were generally supported. But a couple of provisos stood out for us. In the submission from Māori Television it was noted that it was supportive of the
objective of the bill to allow material within the TVNZ archive to be seen again, but there was concern noted around the tentative nature of some of the wording proposed. As a case in point, new section 29C1, in clause 10, states: “Provided that TVNZ complies with the requirements of this Part, it may— … (b) grant the Māori Television Service the right to screen an archived work under any arrangement agreed between that service and TVNZ:”. The use of the words “may grant” suggests that TVNZ would no longer have an obligation to provide access to Māori Television, only an option to do so at its discretion.
Māori Television challenged this as contrary to the Crown undertakings made to the court in 1991, as reflected by the 1991 Crown-TVNZ Agreement. In the arguments it put forward, it stated that news and current affairs programmes and others of an historical or review nature make up a significant proportion of the programmes broadcast by Māori Television, and any restriction on Māori Television’s access to the archival material in the TVNZ archive could have a significant negative impact on Māori Television’s ability to produce, and the quality of, new programmes. It would also potentially be anti-competitive, meaning only TVNZ can use such archived material for the production of new programmes.
These concerns become even more disturbing when we look through the entirety of the bill and note, as the Human Rights Commission stated explicitly, the stark references to Māori in the bill itself. In the view of the Human Rights Commission, the removal of the charter from the Act leaves a gap in that it is not explicitly and specifically set out that it is the responsibility of a public broadcaster to reflect the biculturalism of the New Zealand State and the diversity of New Zealand society. So I want at this point to refresh our collective memory about exactly what the TVNZ charter says about Māori. Its charter says that TVNZ shall “provide shared experiences that contribute to a sense of citizenship and national identity”, and “ensure in its programmes and programme planning the participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Maori voice”. It goes even further than broad statements of principle to state that in fulfilment of those objectives, TVNZ will “feature programmes that serve the interests and informational needs of Maori audiences, including programmes promoting the Maori language and programmes addressing Maori history, culture and current issues”.
I would like the House to compare the detail and the specificity of those provisions with the bare-bones statement in new section 12(2) in clause 6, namely that “In carrying out its functions, TVNZ must provide high-quality content that— … (b) encompasses both New Zealand and international content and reflects Māori perspectives.” There is a world of difference between “the participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Maori voice”, and “[reflecting] Maori perspectives”. As the Human Rights Commission spells out in its submission, a mere gesture towards Māori perspectives goes nowhere towards ensuring the genuine representation of Māori at all levels of television programming.
I cannot help but contrast this bill with the amazing precedent that has occurred today with the ground-breaking initiative in establishing a Māori working group to help steer the roll-out of the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative. Ngā Pu Waea grew out of a submission by the Māori Economic Taskforce on the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative. It is about taking every opportunity to strengthen Māori participation in developing this nation. The working group is designed to ensure that Māori can maximise opportunities for economic development and that Māori views are represented as the initiative progresses. The working group, representing a range of Māori working in the information and communications industry sector, and iwi and economic leaders, will work with Vodafone, Telecom, and the Government to ensure
that Māori communities do not miss out on the promise of the digital age. I want to commend Minister Joyce for working so well with the Māori Party—for honouring the relationship that we have entered into, in order to ensure that the influence and the integrity of the Māori voice is heard in all its many dimensions. If we had one message for Dr Coleman, it would be to look to the leadership offered by this announcement today—and by his colleagues—in affirming the responsibilities of TVNZ to meet its obligations to Māori.
We leave this debate with these points. The Māori Party can see no benefit to Māori in stripping away the substance of the charter and effectively leaving TVNZ to run its own ship. We are also concerned about the tentative nature of some of the wording and the very scant reference to Māori in the bill. We hope that Ngā Pu Waea becomes a significant benchmark for enhancing the quality of this bill, and we place on record our absolute commitment to working with the Government to ensure once again the participation of Māori and the presence of a significant Māori voice in TVNZ programmes and programme planning. Kia ora.
KATRINA SHANKS (National)
: The purpose of the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill is to ensure that TVNZ has the capacity to continue to grow and succeed as New Zealand’s national television and media company. In the first reading debate Minister Coleman explained why the current charter was unworkable, and that the bill would have the effect of freeing up TVNZ to function as a competitive multimedia company.
When the bill came to the Commerce Committee we heard some of the reasons why the charter had not made a difference to the content of State television. We looked more closely at why replacing the charter will give TVNZ the flexibility it needs in order to effectively pursue commercial objectives.
In this bill the TVNZ charter is replaced with a statement of functions. Clause 6 substitutes a new section 12, which states that TVNZ will provide services and content on a choice of delivery platforms. That is absolutely crucial to the growth of TVNZ. In order for TVNZ to remain competitive it is important that it keeps up to date with consumer needs. One of the main issues outlined in the select committee hearing was that current legislation does not recognise TVNZ as a multimedia company. Today TVNZ has numerous online services—for example, TVNZ Ondemand, which is very popular and widely used. The TVNZ website receives 1.4 million unique hits per month. The TVNZ Ondemand service has attracted 300,000 unique browsers per month. By replacing the charter with a set of functions those sorts of services will be recognised and encouraged.
With its new high-level functions and its own strategic direction, TVNZ retains its vital role as a willing broadcaster of local content. This role is essential to the contestable funding model, which, in order to succeed, needs broadcasters willing to commission and screen New Zealand content. The Platinum Television Fund, which allocates $15.1 million for projects to screen on any of New Zealand’s free-to-air national broadcasters, gives the best possible projects the chance to make it to our screens. Programmes such as
and other documentaries have been successful applicants for that funding.
The second major aspect of this bill is that it unlocks works that are currently archived by TVNZ. The archived works scheme is ground-breaking in proposing a scheme to enable the rescreening of works that have been unavailable for reuse because of the need to negotiate with multiple contract-holders. This topic was extensively discussed by the submitters, and provisions were amended by the committee accordingly. The committee has recommended that the definition of “archived work” be
changed to make it clear that it would apply only to works made on or before 27 May 1989 for which TVNZ owns the whole copyright.
Our Government aims to strike a balance between the public good of allowing those works to be re-shown, and acknowledging the rights of contract-holders. New section 29G, which is inserted by clause 10, also provides for the establishment of the TVNZ Archived Works Fund, from which compensation would be paid for the screening of an archived work.
I believe this bill will allow TVNZ the capacity to grow and stay relevant in today’s environment. Thank you.
BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central)
: I would like to talk about a wide range of issues relating to the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill, but I cannot let pass the comments from the member for Te Tai Tonga in support of this bill and how it will serve Māori interests. I note that the charter provisions that this bill replaces, which gave effect to a wide range of programming interests, including the issues of minority groups and Māori, are simply replaced in this bill by the requirement that TVNZ “carries out its functions and maintains its commercial performance.” How that serves the interests of Māori is absolutely beyond me. It is a joke to say that this bill serves the interests of Māori or any other New Zealander.
When I took on the broadcasting portfolio 2½ years ago I took the trouble to take out a video of a film I had watched many years earlier as a young man called
Network. It starred Peter Finch as a television anchor in America who was sacked because the ratings of the channel for which he was a frontman were falling. On the last night that he was on air he went mad, the ratings soared, and he was kept on air by the new marketing executive on that channel as the ratings climbed and climbed. The network brought into the news hour people such as “Sybil the Psychic”—who I suppose was some latter-day equivalent to Ken “Moon” Ring—and the programme got more and more bizarre as this madman fronted it. Finally, in the coup de grâce, the television executives ordered the assassination of that news anchor to really put the ratings through the stratosphere.
That is what this bill is about. It is a portent of where we are going with television in this country. It is a disgraceful bill. It will lead to an increasingly disgraceful TVNZ. It comes from a Minister who has absolutely no clout in Cabinet, and it shows in this bill. It is from a Government with an agenda to dumb down TVNZ and prepare it for sale in any second term of a National-ACT Government. If we thought Paul Henry was poor—if we thought his comments about the previous Governor-General not being a suitable Governor-General were poor—well, watch out, because there will be one hell of a lot more of that coming down our TVNZ channels as a result of this bill. As I said at the start, the only requirement that TVNZ will have from here on, as a result of the passage of this bill, is to ensure that TVNZ maintains its commercial performance.
I think back to one of the earlier incidents involving Mr Henry, when the head of news and current affairs at TVNZ tut-tutted, slapped him with a wet bus ticket, and said that he was a naughty boy, but he rated. We have another parallel to this bill in respect of the actions of TVNZ and TV3 against the Broadcasting Standards Authority. The authority tried to suggest that a programme airing on TV2, one of our State broadcasting channels, called
Hung, which showed a man performing oral sex upon a woman, might not be worthy of broadcasting on the State channel, and TVNZ and TV3 ganged up against the Broadcasting Standards Authority because they did not want any constraint on their commercial objectives. If someone tries to put up a Māori programme against anything with that kind of content, the viewer will lose big time, and Māori interests will lose big time. They will not gain any audience share in a broadcasting environment where the only requirement of the State broadcaster is to coin it, and to make a 9 percent
dividend for this Government. There is no other requirement, compunction, or limitation upon it. All the broadcaster has to think about is the money it will make for the Government.
It is an appalling set of objectives for any Government in a Western democracy to say to its State broadcaster that it does not give a damn what it does, as long as it makes money. It is an appalling indictment on us as parliamentarians. We are living in a democratic system. We must have a broadcaster that is not driven solely by commercial objectives. We should have a broadcaster that needs to consider the issues of balance, fairness, judgment, and propriety, and not simply the question of whether a programme will rate and make more and more money for the Government because that is what the Government is telling us it wants. This is an indictment of this Government. It absolutely symbolises the Government. It says everything about this Government, because it comes down to commercial performance. That is the only measure that counts for this Government. It is an appalling indictment upon it. This is an absolutely disgraceful bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I would like to hear what the member is saying, so I ask members to please calm it down. Interjections should be rare and reasonable. Cross-exchanges are not acceptable. Comment on what the member is saying is fine.
BRENDON BURNS: This bill is an absolutely appalling indictment of this Government and the approach it is taking. It is replacing the TVNZ charter, which required the State broadcaster to consider a range of issues and concerns, such as minority interests, Māori interests, people with disabilities, and people who wanted to see programmes that were not driven by commercial objectives. The Government has simply told TVNZ not to worry about any of those considerations; all it has to do is make as much loot as possible. As I have said, if we think we have seen the worst already in respect of our State broadcaster, we have not really seen anything yet. I will also say, in respect of this bill, that it is part of an agenda towards the privatisation of TVNZ—
Hon Members: Oh!
BRENDON BURNS: Well, Ministers and members opposite were denying they would have any privatisation, but suddenly in the last few months it has become clear that, yes, we will see the sale of State assets to 49 percent after any election that the National and ACT Government is likely to win.
Hon Dr Wayne Mapp: All energy companies.
BRENDON BURNS: I say to the member for North Shore that with his departure, and with the elevation to Parliament, perhaps, of Don Brash, the prospects of TVNZ being privatised have just increased because there is already not much restraint in respect of that party opposite. If Don Brash is elected to Parliament, we will see TVNZ put on the blocks very rapidly. And it will probably be sold to the mates of that Government, who have already seen the abandonment of a review of competition in broadcasting that was desperately needed. The Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit of Treasury actually told the incoming Minister in his briefing papers that the value of TVNZ was being eroded by Sky and its increasing dominance of the broadcasting market in New Zealand. But what did that Minister do? He actually turned down the advice of the officials and said that his Government did not need any review of broadcasting, because it was working perfectly well. But what is happening now? The market share of Sky continues to grow.
FreeView was established by the previous Labour Government, with channels 6 and 7 to make sure people had an alternative to the increasing commercialism of TVNZ. We had two non-commercial channels, which gave people an opportunity to have something a bit more high-brow than
Hung. But what has happened? TVNZ 6 has been
turned into a youth music channel, and TVNZ 7 is being abandoned from the middle of next year. That is the prescription for broadcasting that this Government is following—if it don’t make a quid, it ain’t got no value. I say to members opposite that they need to think very carefully about this bill and what it prescribes, because if you live by this you will die by it, and you will have the whole situation emerging of an increasingly commercial TVNZ and you will suffer from that as much as members on this side of the House—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thought I had indicated to the member that he cannot bring the Speaker into the debate.
BRENDON BURNS: My apologies again, Mr Deputy Speaker—my apologies. Ministers and members opposite will be the people who pay the price, as much as members on this side, because where there is an increasingly dominant commercial environment, then there will be a price to be paid. We have already seen the dominance of Sky in the last year. A year ago this month, I think, it took on the TVNZ Heartland channel, using material paid for by New Zealand taxpayers who cannot even see it on their channels. They have to pay their coins to Rupert Murdoch to watch TVNZ content that was paid for by them in the past. That is a portent of what is happening. That is the future of broadcasting under this Government. There will not be anything made for TVNZ that does not have a commercial return. The independent producers know that the future is very bleak for them, because they will have to compete with that increasingly commercial content drawn from overseas. It will be sexed up so that people will view it, and how on earth will a good documentary screen in that sort of environment? Why would TVNZ put one to air in a slot at a time people can actually watch it when they can buy
Hung and other programmes at a tenth of the price from overseas? The content will be sexed up to maximise the audience, increase the revenues, and pay the 9 percent return to the Government. That is what this is about. Alongside the $43 million sweetheart deal with MediaWorks, that is the portent of what this Government is about in respect of broadcasting. This bill is an appalling bill and it is a disgraceful bill. We as parliamentarians, who are at the forefront of democracy, should stand against this bill.
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth)
: I am pleased to stand and support the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. The Government aims to replace the TVNZ charter with a briefer and less prescriptive statement of functions that will enable TVNZ to determine its own priorities against a general set of functions. The bill also specifies that TVNZ will provide content for a range of media, in addition to the conventional television channels.
The review of the TVNZ charter commenced under the previous Government. Many pundits in the industry at that point in time said that the charter was dysfunctional and needed review. Traditional one-to-many television broadcasting remains the dominant medium, but it is being supplemented by a rapidly evolving viewing environment in which people choose personalised content from multiple sources. Part of the work that we want to do through this repeal is to allow TVNZ to determine its priorities regarding the mediums that are being used today for personalised content—such as mobile phones, computers, laptops, and other tablet devices—which people tend more and more to view at their convenience.
Page 3 of TVNZ’s statement of intent states that it intends to “Reach more New Zealanders in more ways: TVNZ will maximise target audience share on all available screens; drive two-way interaction with consumers; provide and promote opportunities for its clients to engage with consumers across all screens; and sustain its leading position as New Zealanders’ first choice for news, information and entertainment.” We need, I believe, to trust the general public in their ability to discern good television. I
understand that the members of the Opposition believe that that needs to be prescribed, but we are not prescribing. We are endeavouring to enable those who are involved in the industry to take responsibility, and also to enable those consumers to choose, with responsibility, good television.
We are honouring our election promise to replace the current Television New Zealand charter with this less prescriptive list of functions, and to leave the company free to determine its own priorities. In becoming a television and digital media company, TVNZ will focus on enabling content to be personalised via interactive services, user-generated and shared content, and time shifting of content by digital video recorders. This is the world in which we live; we can, of course, access past programming via the internet. As I said, the list is non-prescriptive, because we believe that, to a large extent, clients and consumers are intelligent participants in the media world.
The functions of TVNZ are to be a successful national television and digital media company. We already know that 90 percent of its revenue is generated through commercial sources. In terms of TVNZ carrying out its functions, we are stating under clause 6 of the bill, which substitutes a new section 12, that “TVNZ must provide high-quality content that—(a) is relevant to, and enjoyed and valued by, New Zealand audiences;”. These statements in themselves say that in terms of this amendment bill, what is produced needs to be broadly relevant to New Zealanders. It needs to generate personal enjoyment for New Zealanders, and also to be valued by New Zealanders; therefore, it must be in the public interest. The content also “(b) encompasses both New Zealand and international content and reflects Māori perspectives. (3) TVNZ’s services must include the provision of channels that are free of charge and available to audiences throughout New Zealand.”
Just as I close, I tell the House that Kiwis now have a greatly expanded choice about what they view and when they view it. Our focus is on funding content, with the public choosing how they prefer to watch it. I am happy to support this bill to the House.
LOUISA WALL (Labour)
: I rise to support the very clear and rational articulation of the Labour position on the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill, which is, obviously, to not support it. I have attended one Commerce Committee meeting, which was this afternoon, so I feel more than capable of contributing to this debate.
The TVNZ charter is not the problem. Members on that side of the House want to make it the problem, but the reality is that it is not the problem. There is no empirical evidence or clear rationale about what is broken. National just wants to dismantle our current broadcasting framework because it was a Labour initiative, and because the Government wants TVNZ to make money. It is all about the money. On this side of the House we want TVNZ to make good-quality local programmes that provide the framework for our creative industry. We want to employ people, unlike members on that side of the House, who love to sack people. We want New Zealand - made programmes. That is what we want TVNZ to do, and that is what the Television New Zealand charter instructs TVNZ to do.
I will provide a little bit of history. The TVNZ charter came into effect on 1 March 2003. It established the principles of TVNZ as a free-to-air broadcaster committed to broadcasting content that includes all genres and that informs, entertains, and educates New Zealand audiences. TVNZ is supposed to “contribute to a sense of citizenship and national identity”. We do not ask TVNZ to show us the money, like they do over on that side of the House. We ask it to show us the depth and breadth of New Zealand. The charter does this by ensuring that New Zealanders see New Zealanders on television.
How does TVNZ do that? It does that by fostering programmes that enable all New Zealanders to have access to material that promotes Māori language and culture, by
reflecting the regions to the nation as a whole, and by promoting understanding of the diversity of cultures that make up New Zealand’s population. If we let the market do it, I am sure the content will be very white and bland. We will not see Māoris, we will not see Indians, we will not see Asians, and we will not see Pacific people, because that party on the other side of the House does not care about representing all of New Zealand. It just wants to represent some of New Zealand—probably the part of New Zealand that receives $44 million every week in tax cuts. Those cuts do not go to the people Su’a William Sio and I represent.
The leader of National, John Key—let us get it right; he is the leader of National—has said those guys over there were abolishing the Television New Zealand charter because it was not working. He said there had been a number of inquiries. I will go immediately to an article by Peter Thompson. He is a senior lecturer at Unitec in the school of communication, and he has been monitoring TVNZ since 1999, looking at how it balances its public service and commercial responsibilities. He said John Key has got his facts wrong. Oh, what a surprise! John Key got his facts wrong. Mr Thompson said there was only ever one inquiry, and that inquiry did not say the charter was not working. Actually, it said that New Zealand content had increased.
I love how National does not like looking at history all the time. Under the last Government the Commerce Committee, which was chaired by National’s very own Gerry Brownlee, actually did review the charter, because there is a statutory requirement to do that. Unlike the 15 submissions that the current Commerce Committee received, that select committee received 286 submissions—286 submissions that actually said the charter was working well. The charter was endorsed by the Commerce Committee. I love this quote: “any sensible Government in a democratic society should embrace, not eschew the broad cultural and civic aims of the Charter.” But that is not what the other side of the House likes to do. They like to throw things out with the bathwater. That quote is from this particular paper.
Peter Thompson also says in his paper that “National’s drive to dismantle the centrepiece of Labour’s public broadcasting initiatives appears to be motivated by ideology, not empirical evidence,”—surprise, surprise—“and it is currently proceeding with indecent haste in the hope that the Charter will be dead and buried before anyone gets round to generating a rational debate on the issues.” I guess that is what we are engaged in at the moment—a rational debate. Well, one would hope we are, anyway.
From our perspective, I think we have been very clear in articulating that this legislation is very much about money, which is what National is all about. This legislation is about privatising a State asset, which we are obviously completely opposed to. Why are we opposed to it? Because for us, the opportunities our State broadcaster provides are actually a framework for a whole industry that enables New Zealanders to reflect the diversity and the depth and breadth of our New Zealand identity. It encompasses Māori culture; it encompasses Pacific culture. In fact, it is really interesting to look at some of the wonderful programmes the charter has delivered, such as
Face to Face,
Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson.
Under the charter we have also—historically—been able to see the memorial proceedings for Sir Edmund Hillary. Imagine if we were to reflect the commercial imperative today. I wonder what corporate would actually want to publicly fund the Sir Edmund memorial for all New Zealanders to see. That is a really interesting question to ask. If this legislation goes ahead and TVNZ becomes a commercial entity, who will pay for that? Who will pay for coverage of the Māori Queen or the Unknown Warrior? There have been many, many opportunities for New Zealanders to see ourselves because of the charter.
I will skip to the final paragraph in Peter Thompson’s very informative analysis. He says: “Ultimately, then, the shortcomings of the TVNZ Charter arrangements do not constitute an excuse to reject the desirability of the values and outcomes it aspired to. That’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The government may claim a mandate for change, but its mandate is to fix the mistakes of the Labour government’s broadcasting policies, not to abandon public service ideals and revert to the commercial excesses of the 1990s. The cheap and cheerful rhetoric about an exciting hi-tech media environment and policies for the future and the casual dismissal of academic objections as unworldly idealism is intended to stifle open public debate. Because National knows … that empirical evidence and reason will demonstrate that its broadcasting policies cannot deliver the public outcomes it claims, and that the real impediment to establishing public service television in New Zealand is the chronic deficit in political vision and will.”
We see that chronic deficit in political vision and will across that side of the House every single day. We have seen it in the Minister of Broadcasting; we see it in the Government’s leader. I love that term: “the chronic deficit in political vision and will”. The Government has no regard for who we are as New Zealanders. I do not think those members care. I do not actually think they care.
That is me, I think. I think I have given it a good go. Hopefully, Trevor will be marking me highly. I’ve mentioned a few of the things that are very important to us. Thank you very much.
MELISSA LEE (National)
: I would call that the nail in the coffin of a terrible speech, but I would like, first of all, to welcome that member back to Parliament again. Actually, the kicker was to quote a submission saying that Labour had failed in its broadcasting policy and that National has to fix it.
The Television New Zealand Amendment Bill amends the Television New Zealand Act 2003, and there are three main areas of focus. Firstly, the bill replaces the TVNZ charter with a more generic statutory requirement—for the television company to focus on being a successful company without the burden of the charter obligation. Several speakers have actually talked about the charter and how it is supposed to be a wonderful thing. I tell Miss Louisa Wall, the new MP who has just joined us in Parliament, that she should not listen to the rhetoric of her party. She should not listen to the propaganda of her party, which comes from people who do not understand what public broadcasting is about, or who do not even understand which programmes were in fact funded by charter money.
Speakers before Miss Louisa Wall actually said that we will lose Asian, Pacific, and disability programmes; Miss Wall apparently said that. Where are the programmes that were funded by the charter? The disability
Tagata Pasifika, and
Asia Downunder—all of the special interest programmes people have talked about here—were funded before the charter was available. Charter money never went into those programmes.
The charter money going does not actually mean that public broadcasting or local content will suffer as a result. The $15.1 million is going from charter programming to the New Zealand On Air Platinum Television Fund, which has funded some of the very, very good-quality current affairs and documentary programmes so far. It is my belief that New Zealand On Air is fulfilling, and will continue to fulfil, its mandate to put New Zealand on air—not overseas on air but New Zealand on air. The charter-obligated funds transferred will only boost the quality and quantity of programmes in the future. We already fund $230 million out of New Zealand On Air to put programmes on radio and television. There is $81 million worth of contested funds for television
programmes. I do not understand where the Opposition is going with this issue about losing local content.
Let us talk about television. Television is very expensive to produce. Under these difficult economic times where would Labour find the money to produce television with all local content? Where is the money? Where is the money? The second aspect of the bill frees up TVNZ to be more than just a television company. Traditionally, TVNZ had to function only as a broadcaster. However, with the advancement of technology and this superhighway of the internet, TVNZ has had to change its functions and its business model to be a more broader-scope multimedia company working on a multimodal platform. TVNZ Ondemand, as my learned colleague Katrina Shanks said, has had 1.4 million unique hits on its platform. It has been a very popular platform, as well, for Kiwis overseas who want to keep track of news and programmes from home. For people who cannot be home to watch traditional television, then the internet, the online option, and time-shifted viewing have become very popular through MY SKY and TiVo. That is an example of how viewers’ demands are quite different to those of the bygone era of terrestrial television. It means that TVNZ must change to adapt to the changing appetite.
The third aspect of the bill, which took up significant time in the select committee, was about archive programmes—programmes made before 1989—for rescreening. Some concerns were raised that TVNZ would simply count those as local content programmes and not commission new ones. The public demands new programmes; even when money was not available for the charter, TV3 commissioned local content because people demanded it. But having said that, in this fast-paced world we live in I think it would seem a real shame to lock up the old programmes, never to be seen or enjoyed ever again. I would not mind taking a little nostalgic trip back down New Zealand’s history with some of the programmes to be unlocked; I would welcome that. I commend this bill.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; Independents: Carter C, Harawira.
|Bill read a second time.