Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Broadcasting)
: I move,
That the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill be now read a first time. This bill amends the
Television New Zealand Act 2003, in line with the Government’s manifesto commitment to replace the current Television New Zealand charter with a less prescriptive list of functions, and to leave Television New Zealand (TVNZ) free to function as a competitive multimedia company. The other principal purpose of the bill is to amend the principal Act to allow for the rescreening of TVNZ’s archived pre-1989 television programmes in a process of compensation payments being made to rights-holders when the archived programmes are rescreened.
The Government’s election manifesto included a commitment to retain TVNZ in public ownership, and to provide certainty to our public broadcasters. This bill affirms that policy commitment. For many years TVNZ has effectively operated as a commercial broadcaster. The exceptions are TVNZ’s digital channels, TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7, which will be directly funded by the Government until the end of this year.
Under section 12(2) of the Act, TVNZ’s principal objective is to give full effect to its charter while maintaining its commercial performance. This dual mandate to meet detailed charter expectations and fulfil commercial objectives has proved to be totally unworkable. The introduction of the charter in 2003, and of the funding to support charter programming, did not result in appreciable points of difference between the prime-time schedules of TVNZ and other broadcasters. Indeed, the real question to ask is whether there was any appreciable difference in content on TVNZ before the charter, as compared with after the charter. The answer is that there was not. TVNZ’s charter was first reviewed in 2007-08 and was considered by a select committee, but legislative change did not result because this Government’s preference was to remove the charter altogether.
This Government is committed to public broadcasting. We have shown our support by making the funding that was formerly ring-fenced for TVNZ’s charter commitments available as contestable funding through New Zealand On Air. The Platinum Television Fund allocates $15.1 million per annum for projects to screen on any of New Zealand’s six free-to-air national broadcasters, with preference given to projects scheduled for prime-time viewing. Our view is that no one broadcaster or production company has a monopoly on the best ideas, and the Platinum Television Fund gives the best possible projects the chance to make it on to our screens.
The existing Act does not recognise TVNZ as a multimedia company. Times have changed, and clause 4 of the bill therefore amends the purpose clause of the Act accordingly. TVNZ’s online services are the sorts of services that will now be recognised and encouraged in the legislation. Clause 4 also reflects the new general statement of functions to replace the charter, and these are outlined in what will be a new section 12 of the Act, as substituted by clause 6.
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. This is a clear and succinct statement of TVNZ’s functions. 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. However, TVNZ will now have the flexibility it needs in order 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.
TVNZ’s online presence continues to grow. Its website—tvnz.co.nz—receives 1.4 million unique hits per month. The TVNZ ondemand service has been enthusiastically received, attracting 300,000 unique browsers per month, and it is now returning a profit.
In October last year, TVNZ launched its first online-only interactive drama,
Reservoir Hill, which was a massive hit with the targeted audience. This online growth has not been at the expense of traditional television viewing, and indeed television audiences reached an all-time high in 2009.
If TVNZ is to be recognised as a digital media company, other sections of the principal Act need to reflect this. Under section 28 of that Act, shareholding Ministers cannot give direction on programme content to TVNZ or its subsidiaries. An amendment is required to recognise that TVNZ now provides content on several media platforms that may not meet the definition of “programme”. Clause 9 amends section 28 to include content among the matters for which editorial independence is preserved.
Television New Zealand’s archive is a unique and valuable record of New Zealand’s historical, social, and cultural life, and it is an important part of our screen heritage. As such, it is in the public interest that publicly funded programmes be available for further viewing. Currently a significant number of programmes are effectively locked up in the TVNZ archive, because they are unable to be screened until a number of rights clearance issues are resolved. Prior to the establishment of New Zealand On Air in 1989, programmes were often produced for or by the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand, with individual contracts for each actor, writer, director, composer, or other contracted contributor associated with every episode of every programme. The contracts reflected a single channel era, and required every rights-holder to be contacted before rescreening and a payment to be negotiated with that person. That means that everyone loses out. The public is deprived of the opportunity to view publicly funded material, and those who have contributed creatively to the programmes have no chance to earn recognition or royalties from further screening of those programmes.
Under this bill, reuse of these programmes will ensures maximum value from the initial public investment and deliver attribution and a modest financial reward to rights-holders. The reuse of the works allowed in the amendment will be confined to TVNZ’s free-to-air delivery platforms, at no cost to the viewer and with no direct commercial gain to TVNZ. Clause 10 inserts a new Part 4A, “TVNZ archived works”, into the principal Act to make provision for the rescreening of television programmes produced before the establishment of New Zealand On Air back in 1989, although still recognising the rights of persons with an interest in the archived work. New section 29C will enable TVNZ to screen an archived work multiple times free of charge on its television channels, on TVNZ ondemand, and on any other delivery platform with which TVNZ may enter into an agreement for the supply of content, such as New Zealand On Screen.
New section 29G requires TVNZ to establish a TVNZ Archived Works Fund, which will be used to make payment to individuals who register their interest in an archived work that is to be screened. The processes for registration, assessment of applications, and the review process are outlined in new sections 29I through to 29P. The details about where the scheme will be administered have yet to be finalised. In brief, TVNZ will give notice of its intention to screen an archived work through public notices on its delivery platforms, in major metropolitan newspapers, and in any relevant industry or guild publication. The notice will advise when a particular archived work is to be screened. People who believe they have contractual rights in an archived work will be able to register their interest. These applications will be assessed according to the person’s role in production, and compensatory payment will be made on the basis of the assessment.
Before this scheme can be introduced, the Copyright Act 1994 also requires amendment to exclude the communication of an archived work, as defined in this bill,
from being an infringement of that Act. Clauses 13 and 14 of the bill make those amendments to the Copyright Act.
This legislation marks a new era for TVNZ. In a converging media environment, TVNZ needs to have a flexible and realistic set of statutory functions to position it as a modern, competitive broadcaster. The TVNZ archived works scheme will ensure that rights-holders will gain benefit from their work, the public will no longer be denied the opportunity to view works that are part of New Zealand’s cultural and broadcasting heritage, and further value will be gained from the public funding invested in the programmes.
At the appropriate time, I intend to move that this bill be considered by the Commerce Committee. I commend this bill to the House.
BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central)
: I am pleased to rise and make it clear that the Labour Party will oppose the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. This might be called the “Get the Coromandel off the Front Page Bill”. The bill was tabled last year. It was promised before Christmas. It comes now as a directionless bill, from a directionless Minister in a Government whose only direction in broadcasting seems to be towards Sky. This bill formalises the gutting of the already gutted Television New Zealand (TVNZ) charter, effected from the middle of last year. At that time the Minister of Broadcasting was also introducing a Radio New Zealand charter bill, which pledged that there would be no sponsorship. Now he is telling the Radio New Zealand board to get out of its mindset and to consider its options, including sponsorship. It is little wonder that thousands of New Zealanders are saying to the Minister “Hands off Radio New Zealand.”
When the Minister launched the Platinum Television Fund last year, he said it would be open to all broadcasters as a fund for premium content. Now the Minister is telling the TVNZ board to look at the Platinum Television Fund as a source of money to keep a public broadcasting option going for TVNZ. This bill closes down that public broadcasting option. If the Minister is successful in that ploy, the money from the Platinum Television Fund will not go into programmes; it will go into keeping, on a shoestring budget, a public service broadcasting option on TVNZ 7 alone. I think we can forget about TVNZ 6 continuing. We have to say private television production companies that are already feeling the squeeze have every reason to ask what on earth is going on. What has happened in the last few months? The recession has eased, but the Government has taken an even harder view of public service broadcasting.
This bill is about a lack of coherence from the Government. On the one hand it says in the bill’s preamble it is in the public’s interest to see New Zealand’s screen heritage. Yet at the same time TVNZ is providing to Sky, from the beginning of May, a channel available only to people who purchase the Sky option. I ask where the public service broadcasting option is in that. Where is the Government’s coherence? How is the public interest being served by that? Another example of this Minister’s inconsistency and incoherence was the recent instruction to the TVNZ board about the funding of TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7. He told the board that there is no further funding for those channels when the money runs out at the end of next year, because the Minister of Finance has told him that there is no money for that.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, what would you do, Burnsy? What would your Government do?
BRENDON BURNS: Well, the Government should be honest about that and not dress it up as a bill.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: No, tell the truth. What would you do?
BRENDON BURNS: I ask that Minister what he would do about it. He is the Minister, and he can do better than this. This bill fails to spell out in any way any requirements for TVNZ to screen any New Zealand content.
Let us look at the bill and some of the details included in it. Let us look at new sections 4(a) and 4(b), inserted by clause 4, in Part 1. We see the purpose of the legislation is to “(a) provide for the functions of TVNZ, the Crown entity responsible for conducting a television and digital media business; and (b) ensure that TVNZ carries out its functions and maintains its commercial performance”. What do those clauses replace? They replace the Television New Zealand charter, which actually said TVNZ had some other obligations as the State broadcaster. It was asked to feature programming across all genres that informed, entertained, and educated New Zealand audiences. In fulfilment of its objectives, TVNZ was required to feature New Zealand films, drama, comedy, and documentary programmes. What does this bill spell out about the content that must be delivered? It says this: TVNZ must encompass both New Zealand and international content. It puts absolutely no requirement on TVNZ. So under this legislation we will see a further grinding back of the content that TVNZ provides. That is what it will do.
I ask the Minister what the point was of telling the Platinum Television Fund that it should become the funder of high-end content just 9 months ago when it was launched, when now he is saying to TVNZ that the Platinum Television Fund should become, perhaps, the funding source for its ongoing provision of TVNZ 7. With that goes the end of the commitment to quality programming. This bill puts no specific obligations on TVNZ to provide any New Zealand content at all. One has to contrast that with the Television New Zealand charter, which, whatever its faults might have been, at least specified that TVNZ, as the State broadcaster, had some requirements put upon it.
New Zealand On Air is left as an organisation—
Melissa Lee: Which New Zealand programme can you name that was funded by the charter?
BRENDON BURNS: You can talk about grants; I am talking about New Zealand On Air now. I am talking about New Zealand On Air.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member is bringing the Chair into the debate on a few occasions. You cannot use the word “you”.
BRENDON BURNS: I will talk about New Zealand On Air, an issue that Melissa Lee knows something about. She has been a recipient of the largesse of New Zealand On Air.
Hon Darren Hughes: Big time.
BRENDON BURNS: Big time. That organisation has provided plenty of carrots, but no stick—plenty of carrots, but no stick. Last week, probably in anticipation of this bill, it announced $9.3 million of funding for high-end programmes: good programmes, stuff that New Zealanders will want to watch, and stuff that will make New Zealanders proud to be New Zealanders. But I suspect that New Zealand On Air is getting in ahead of this announcement, because the Minister is trying to get his hands on the fund he launched only 9 months ago for content.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Tell the truth, Burnsy. You know that’s not true.
BRENDON BURNS: I say the Minister should tell TV3 that he wants TVNZ to receive most of the money from the Platinum Television Fund. I ask him what has happened in 9 months. Why has he been unable to get some resources for his portfolio—what has happened?
The Minister is also at the same time demanding that TVNZ maximise its dividend stream to him. I ask him what that is causing. TVNZ is now in the process of a second round of job cuts. Ninety jobs were lost last year—90 jobs gone. How many job losses
will we see announced in the coming weeks? Already we have been told that $5 million has been taken from TVNZ’s budget. That $5 million is going, so where is the Minister’s commitment to TVNZ and its future? Where is the Minister’s commitment? It is just not there. This bill is an indication of that, very, very clearly. It fails on a number of fronts in terms of its delivery to New Zealanders, and in terms of content. We see the Minister scrambling around, and trying to instruct TVNZ to fund the two existing channels TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 out of a dwindling return that TVNZ is managing to deliver at the moment. We know that TVNZ is being unrealistically told to crank out the maximum possible dividends over the next 5 years. We see a second round of job cuts looming.
All that the Minister can do is to introduce a long-awaited bill that does absolutely nothing for public service broadcasting whatsoever. He has also suggested that the two channels TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 be funded from the Platinum Television Fund, and we know that it will not deliver that funding. The Minister has told the chair of TVNZ—
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: You’ve got to tell the truth.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry to interrupt the member. I say to the member to my right, Jonathan Coleman, that the phrase “tell the truth” is deemed under Speaker’s ruling 43/1 to be unparliamentary. The member has used that phrase a number of times. I ask him to desist from doing that.
BRENDON BURNS: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am certainly not going to lose my cool and storm out of the Chamber, like members opposite have done to relieve some time when the pressure told on them.
This bill confirms the Government’s view of broadcasting. The Government sees TVNZ as nothing more than a cash cow—nothing more than a cash cow. The obligations enshrined in the charter, in terms of trying to deliver some sense of public service broadcasting objectives, are absolutely obliterated by this bill. They are absolutely obliterated.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: You’re 30 years out of date, Brendon.
BRENDON BURNS: What is wrong with State service broadcasting? What is wrong with public service broadcasting? The Minister is telling TVNZ that he wants it to deliver public service broadcasting objectives, because belatedly he has woken up to the fact that actually New Zealanders do value those things. They do value those things, and they have shown that very, very clearly in the response to his instructions to the board of Radio New Zealand in the last few weeks—very, very clearly. By the thousands and thousands, they have said very clearly to the Minister they do not like his instructions to Radio New Zealand. I suspect that they will not like what he is saying to the TVNZ board, either.
The Minister’s instructions are really part of the whole strategy of lining TVNZ up for sale, by stripping it of any requirement to be anything other than like any other broadcaster out there in the commercial space. That makes it very easy for the Government to say TVNZ is no different from any other broadcaster, so why should the Government keep it in public ownership? That is the strategy. It is very naked, and the Minister’s language about that has been quite explicit. He has said to the TVNZ board that it should let Television One and TV2 be “nakedly commercial”. I think that was the phrase that he used. He said we should let them be “nakedly commercial”. The Government is to fund a tiny shoestring operation at the back end to try to deliver a tiny little sense of a public service obligation, and then it will sell TVNZ. It will simply have a shoestring operation, funded out of the Platinum Television Fund and anything else that TVNZ may be able to cobble together after it has paid its dividend stream to the Government. That is the Government’s strategy. That is what this bill is about.
I also want to comment about the fact that the Minister has included in this bill references to New Zealand content derived before 1989. The bill proposes that TVNZ pay $300 per half-hour to broadcast such content—$300 for half an hour of programme content. What a derisory sum that is. What an insult that is to New Zealanders.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie)
: I rise to support the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. Unlike the previous speaker, I will be speaking to the bill and the specific clauses within it. As the Minister of Broadcasting has already noted earlier this evening, the bill amends the Television New Zealand Act 2003. It does three things. Firstly, it replaces the Television New Zealand (TVNZ) charter with more generic statutory requirements; secondly, it amends the prohibition on ministerial direction to TVNZ to cover the multiple platforms, including websites, that TVNZ currently operates on; and, thirdly, it enables the screening of pre-1989 TVNZ archived works, which previous speakers have referred to.
The Government aims to replace the TVNZ charter with a brief and less prescriptive statement of functions, which enables TVNZ to determine its own priorities against a general set of functions. The Minister has already noted that it specifies that TVNZ is to provide content for a range of media. It does so now, and it will continue to do so into the future. The other purpose of the bill is to allow for the rescreening of television programmes produced before the establishment of the Broadcasting Commission, or New Zealand On Air, in 1989. These works, which are held in the archive, are not currently able to be shown in their entirety because, with the passage of time, some rights-holders cannot be located or tracked down. It is in the public interest that these programmes be seen again, as part of New Zealand’s screen heritage.
Clause 6 repeals section 12 of the Act and substitutes new section 12, which states, in subsection (1): “The functions of TVNZ 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”—I emphasise this—“maintaining its commercial performance.” In carrying out these functions, TVNZ of course must provide high-quality content that is relevant to, and enjoyed by, all New Zealanders. It should also encompass both New Zealand and international content, and reflect our unique Māori heritage and history. So TVNZ’s services must include the provision of channels that are free of charge and available to audiences across this nation.
In terms of archived works, the bill sets out a mechanism and the circumstances in which TVNZ may screen pre-1989 archived works without having to negotiate individually with those who were interested in these works. It provides for TVNZ to grant the Māori Television Service the right to screen such archived works, and for TVNZ to enter into negotiations with New Zealand On Air and screen archived works. Works screened under this section, of course, must be screened free of charge. If an archived work is screened in a way other than free of charge, TVNZ would be obliged to provide for the normal legal rights and privileges of the interested persons, which we referred to.
The bill provides for the establishment of a TVNZ Archived Works Fund for the purpose of making payment to those who register their interest in archived works that are to be later screened. As the Minister has already noted, this is about honouring our election promise to replace the current TVNZ charter with a less prescriptive list of functions and to leave TVNZ free to determine its own priorities within its desired goals and outcomes.
TVNZ and its predecessor effectively operated as a publicly owned broadcaster without a charter. It has largely fulfilled this public broadcasting function through access to New Zealand On Air funding, and Mr Burns has kindly reminded us of that. But the problem with the charter money was that often it ended up funding programmes
and services for which it was not intended. There is no doubt that it ended up subsidising other types of commercial operations.
The repeal of the charter frees TVNZ from an unworkable dual mandate, and leaves it to set high-level statutory functions in order for it to be a competitive multimedia company. With this new high-level function and its own strategic direction, it will retain its vital role as a willing broadcaster of local content, which is contrary to Mr Burns’ view, of course. This role is essential to the contestable funding model that, in order to succeed, needs broadcasters who are willing to commission and screen New Zealand content.
The previous speaker referred to the Platinum Television Fund. We as a Government have shown our support for the contestable model by making the funding formerly ring-fenced for TVNZ’s charter commitments available as a contestable fund, through New Zealand On Air of course. This amount is not insignificant, at $15.1 million per year. It is for projects to screen on any of New Zealand’s six free-to-air national broadcasters, with preference for prime-time viewing programmes.
I note, in case Mr Burns has forgotten, that successful applications in the first funding round included funding for historical documentaries to be screened on Television One and for
Q+A, which, no doubt, Mr Burns watches religiously every Sunday morning. Subsequently, funding has been approved for two dramas, a documentary, and a special-interest programme to be broadcast across a number of channels, including our very own Television One.
At this point I should note that the charter also contains clauses relating to Māori audiences and content. It states that TVNZ will, in its programming, enable all New Zealanders to have access to material that promotes Māori language and culture, and it should feature programmes that serve the interests and information needs of Māori audiences, including programmes promoting Māori language, history, culture, and current events. The bill expects TVNZ to provide content reflecting these unique Māori perspectives.
As the Minister has already pointed out, this bill is to be commended to the House, and I look forward to discussing its specific clauses at the Commerce Committee. Thank you.
CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South)
: I rise to strenuously oppose the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill 2009. Labour is opposed. This country needs a strong, modern public media service. Instead, we are getting a weak, regressive media that has no coherence, that is about propping up monopolies, and that pays lip-service to New Zealand content. This Government has no commitment to public media or to public broadcasting. This bill is about erosion, and it is a disgrace. It mirrors the gutting that is happening to Radio New Zealand and it reveals the true agenda of this Government, which is to erode public broadcasting services, both television and radio. Public broadcasting is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy. It reflects us back to ourselves. It enables robust, quality public debate that is unencumbered by the imperative of just the ratings dollar, and it enables a level of scrutiny and high standards in the context of news delivery that only a true independent public broadcasting service can deliver.
Tonight I am talking about erosion and confusion, and I want to focus on two things. The first is the replacement of the Television New Zealand (TVNZ) charter. Here it is. There are 24 points being replaced by three. That is a shame; it really is. I want to read a few of those 24 points and what they signify. They say that TVNZ will “feature programming across all genres that informs, entertains and educates New Zealand audiences.”, and it will “strive always to set and maintain the highest standards of programme quality and editorial integrity.” It should “provide shared experiences that
contribute to a sense of citizenship and national identity; … ensure in its programmes and programme planning the participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Maori voice; … play a leading role in New Zealand television by setting standards of programme quality and encouraging creative risk-taking and experiment. … 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 “support and promote the talents and creative resources of New Zealanders and of the independent New Zealand film and television industry”.
What is it being replaced with? That it should “provide for the functions of TVNZ, the Crown entity responsible for conducting a television and digital media business;”, and “ensure that TVNZ carries out its functions and maintains its commercial”—commercial!—“performance;”, and that it establish “a process that will enable TVNZ to screen, in specified circumstances, programmes made before 27 May 1989 and held in the TVNZ Archive;”.
Brendon Burns: That’s it.
CLARE CURRAN: And that is it.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, what’s wrong with that? What difference did the charter make to what we see on TV? That’s the real point. If you can answer that, you’re getting somewhere.
CLARE CURRAN: The Minister of Broadcasting talks about aspiration. Aspiration for what, I ask. It is small and quite pathetic.
The second point I will talk about tonight is enabling the screening of TVNZ’s archived works. I think there is a big question mark over what that means, and this goes to confusion. I do not think that the Minister has worked out what he means in relation to this. The question is whether this work will be available to all New Zealanders via free to air. There is a failure to spell out any requirements for Television New Zealand to screen New Zealand content. I think that a lot of questions need to be answered on that issue.
I want to talk about the future and, as I said at the beginning, the importance of having what Labour thinks is a strong, modern public media service. I will refer to a couple of items that I think clearly go to this matter. The first one is a bit sad, but it is from a conference that was held in August 2007 in Wellington entitled “New broadcasting futures: Out of the box”. This was where the future of our broadcasting system in this country was being discussed and a lot of things were out on the table. I will read to members what that conference was about. “Just what will a fast-changing digital landscape mean for audiences, content creators, broadcasters, platform providers and policy makers? If we peer into a crystal ball, is there a broadcasting-led but happily converged future, giving boundless content, with viewers increasingly in control of their own digital communities? Or is this the sad end of free-to-air broadcasting as we know it, with audiences splintered across multiple platforms and Kiwi voices drowned in a sea of global content? What do we need to do to get it where we want to be?” Unfortunately, I think we are being left with the latter.
The second item I will read to members is from an article that was produced by an Australian online organisation called Inside Story. It is entitled “Public broadcasting looks for a future. The pay TV industry has opened up a new front in its battle with free-to-air”. It was written by Margaret Simons and published in January 2009. It was written in response to the review of public broadcasting in Australia. She wrote: “changes of ‘lifestyle and technology’ are the very reason why public input is more than ever necessary. They constitute the main challenge to public broadcasting, and also the main opportunities … The public broadcasters are being challenged to redefine their purposes and their claims on the taxpayer’s purse. The challenge is coming not from
government, not from the cultural warriors of the right (or not only from them) but from pay television, … Channels Nine, Seven and Ten are almost irrelevant in this. The pay television sector understands that the commercial free-to-air business model is broken. Commercial free-to-air television cannot afford to compete with pay television in providing multiple channels of specialised content to niche audiences. To do so would fragment the audience and remove the motivation for mass market advertisers to spend their bucks on television commercials. Public broadcasters are a different matter. They are, potentially, the main competition for pay television. The ABC doesn’t have to worry about advertising. For Auntie, there is nothing but opportunity in the capacity to provide more and more choice. She already has two digital television channels, and plans several more—a dedicated children’s channel, a public affairs channel, an education channel, and a ‘best of overseas’ channel. SBS also has multiple channels, and plans more. So in the new battle between pay television and free to air television, the ABC is in the front line. This is why it is the ABC, not the commercial channels, that has taken the lead role in the Freeview organisation, which is leading the free-to-air sector in its marketing efforts. Channels Nine and Seven have not even announced what they plan to put on their new multi-channels. In fact, they give the impression of wanting the whole multichannel thing to go away. This battle between public and pay is not only about government money, but also about spectrum and government favour.”
The only thing that I can say is sensible about this bill is that it states that Television New Zealand is both a TV and a digital media business. I am all for a multi-platform digital media company; that is convergence. But there is no mention of a public broadcasting service. The bill before us tonight is driven purely by commercial imperatives, and we oppose it.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: The Green Party will certainly not be supporting the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill, which will strip Television New Zealand (TVNZ) of any public service functions and of any public service obligations or responsibilities, and will turn it into a nakedly commercial broadcaster—in the Minister of Broadcasting’s words—indistinguishable from any other commercial broadcaster in New Zealand. It is sad to sit here and watch one of the last remaining public service broadcasters disappear, because that is what this bill will bring about. It is particularly sad when we consider the media landscape in New Zealand.
New Zealand has one of the most deregulated broadcasting environments in the world. We have no laws limiting cross-media ownership. We have no regulations restricting the amount of foreign ownership of the media, as a result of which only a handful of media outlets in New Zealand are not foreign-owned. They are the
Otago Daily Times, a couple of papers on the West Coast, Radio New Zealand, TVNZ, and Māori Television. We are one of the only countries in the world that has no local content quotas, and as a result we have the lowest amount of local programming on television of any OECD country. Most of Europe has about 90 percent local content. Australia has one of the lowest rates, with only 55 percent mandatory local content. As for New Zealand, on Television One we have 10 to 20 percent local content, and there is a rapidly diminishing percentage of local content on TV2. Once this bill goes through, we will be the only country in the OECD that does not have a public service television broadcaster, and soon, no doubt, we will be the first country in the world to sell our public service television broadcaster. Obviously, that is the underlying hidden agenda here—to ready TVNZ for sale. What is the point otherwise in having a publicly owned broadcaster that has no public service functions or responsibilities whatsoever? As others have pointed out, the bill strips TVNZ of its charter, its public broadcasting responsibilities, and any pretence of having any.
The Green Party is 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, and to have high-quality news and current affairs programmes, and it set out a list of programming that it was expected to have, such as drama, children’s programming, and so forth. All of this has gone, and TNVZ is simply to exist to be nakedly commercial, and focused solely on pursuing ratings and advertising revenue. Essentially it will exist to sell audiences to advertisers. Once the bill goes through Parliament, as it undoubtedly will, TVNZ will exist for the sole purpose of returning a profit and a 9 percent dividend to its shareholder, the Government. The board already has a mandate of returning a dividend at all costs, and it is looking at ways of lifting its profits by $30 million to $40 million a year, which is no small task when one considers that there was a 90 percent drop in profits last year and a $17 million fall in advertising revenue.
But with no charter in place and absolutely no requirements to screen any particular programmes, TVNZ will be able to do whatever it wishes to try to lift its profits by $30 million to $40 million. It will have, as the Minister said, complete flexibility to do whatever it wants, and no requirement to screen local programmes, documentaries, dramas, children’s programmes, or minority-interest programmes. Inevitably, therefore, we will see even fewer New Zealand programmes, less and less news and current affairs, and we probably will not see any documentaries, because those programmes are more expensive to produce. It is more expensive to produce New Zealand programmes than it is to import cheap packaged action programmes, and so forth, from overseas. So we will see less and less current affairs and news, less and less New Zealand content, and this is happening already.
Last year TVNZ slashed its budget by $25 million, made 90 staff redundant, and cut 100 hours of local programming. This year, around June I am told, it is talking of making a further 75 staff redundant. It is making savage cuts to news and current affairs by cutting 12.5 percent from the $40 million news budget. It is even talking about reducing TVNZ news broadcasts to half an hour, downgrading the Wellington and Christchurch news offices, and centralising control in Auckland. Soon we will have the Auckland news, not the New Zealand news.
Obviously this is an idiotic strategy, because 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. is considered the flagship news hour when channels compete for audience share. Slashing the news budget, as is being proposed, will inevitably reduce the quality of news and therefore people will migrate to other channels, such as TV3. TVNZ will lose audience share and, therefore, advertising and, therefore, revenue. It is an idiotic strategy. But, even leaving that aside, the reduction in news and current affairs and in New Zealand programming is an inevitable consequence of stripping TVNZ of its public service charter.
The Government is stating clearly that TVNZ should be solely focused on naked commercialism. So what we are really seeing is a return to the commercial excesses of the 1990s. This is just a rerun of the 1990s, with TVNZ solely focused on maximising returns and dividends, and being prepared for sale. It is finishing the unfinished business. In the 1990s the intention was to sell TVNZ, but it did not succeed then, so, clearly, the Government is out to finish that unfinished agenda. However, I must admit there is a problem, and the Minister has spoken about this issue in an interview. He said that the problem is there are unlikely to be any buyers out there. The value of TVNZ has dropped from $330 million to $184 million, and he lamented that if one looks at the equity, no one would want to buy it.
The question that media commentators are asking is that other than stripping TVNZ of its charter and its charter funding, and starving Radio New Zealand of its funding, what the Government’s broadcasting strategy is. The media commentator John Drinnan
said that after barely a year in the job Mr Coleman has “created such a muddle”—I repeat, such a muddle—“that it is impossible to discern the direction of the Key Government’s broadcasting policy, if indeed it has one.”
The closest thing I found to the Minister discussing his strategy was when he said in an interview that now that Television One and TV2 were nakedly commercial, the plan was that people would be able to turn to TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7, the new public service channels, to get what he said most people would describe as “quality broadcasting content”. If they then flick to Television One and TV2, they would get whatever is served up.
TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 are basically not public service broadcasting channels with high-quality programming; they are niche channels. TVNZ 6 basically delivers news update repeats on Television One, and a handful of local shows. It is basically just reruns, reruns, and reruns of programmes. We cannot call that quality broadcasting. By 2012 it will have no more money. The Minister has said that its funding runs out then. There will be no more money. The Government will expect TVNZ to fund it, and TVNZ has made it plain that it will not be funding it. So the truth is that there is no broadcasting strategy. The Government does not believe in public service broadcasting.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker, kia ora anō tātau katoa. I te tuatahi me pēnei rawa te kōrero, kei te tautoko ake te Pāti Māori i ētahi o ngā kōrero o tērā mema o te Rōpū Kākāriki i a ia e kōrero ana, he aha kei te pūtake o tēnei pire? Ko tā mātau he tautoko ake i te kī mai, ko te pūtea te mea nui, kaua ko ngā hua o te mahi. Ko tā te Pāti Māori ko te kī ake, e hia kē nei ngā painga o tētahi pepa pēnei i te whāinga matua, arā, te tūtohinga pāpāho. E hia kē nei ngā painga o tērā momo pepa. I ngā tau kua hipa, arā noa atu te taumata kōrero hei whāinga mā Te Reo Tātaki. I kī mai te tūtohinga i ngā tau kua hipa, “TVNZ shall: … ensure in its programmes and programme planning the participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Māori voice;”.
Kei reira tonu te kōrero. Ko te pai o tērā kōrero, ko tāna whakarite i ngā taumata pāoho, ā, ko te kite anō hoki mēnā i ekengia e Te Reo Tātaki ōna ake taumata. I kī mai tētahi pōrangi, ko
Police Ten 7
Game of Two Halves
ētahi hōtaka hei whakatinana i te kōrero i roto i tērā tūtohinga. Kātahi te kōrero rorirori ko tērā. Ko tā Te Reo Tātaki he hūnuku i a
Waka Huia ki ngā hāora o te ruru, he whakaiti rānei i ngā hāora o ngā mea pēnei i a
Marae. Ahakoa pēhea, ko te mea pai o te tūtohinga, he taumata kei reira, he whakarite i ērā momo taumata kia āhei ai tētahi ki te whakamātautau i a Te Reo Tātaki kia kitea mai ai mēnā i eke a ia ki ōna ake kōrero, ki ōna ake taumata. Ki a mātau, koinei te pai o te tūtohinga.
Me pēhea hoki ināianei mēnā ka whakakorengia tēnei āhuatanga. Me pēhea hoki mēnā kāore a Te Reo Tātaki e hiahia pāoho paku āhuatanga o te ao Māori, te reo Māori, te whakanui rānei i ngā mahi e mahia nei e rātau ināia tonu nei. Me kī, ko wai te pirihimana? Ko au, ko Parekura Horomia, ko te Whare Pāremata? Ko wai hoki? Ko wai te pirihimana hei whakamātautau, hei tohutohu rānei i Te Reo Tātaki?
Kei te pātai au i tēnei i te mea ki tā Peter Thompson o te Whare Takiura o Unitec, nui ake ngā hōtaka taketake nei o Aotearoa muri mai i te whakatinanatanga o tēnei mea te tūtohinga. I kī mai ia, nā te tūtohinga ka kite tātau i tā Willie Jackson
Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson,
te tangihanga o Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, te tikanga whakamaumaharatanga i te Unknown Soldier, tae atu ki te tangihanga mō Tā Edmund Hillary. Nā te aha i pērā ai? Nā te tautohe. Mēnā ka noho kore tūtohinga, ko tā mātau e kī nei, he moni te take nui.
Ko tētahi mea ohorere ki a au, ko te whakaaetanga kia tukurua, kia tukutoru rānei ngā hōtaka tawhito. Kia mōhio mai e te Whare, i te Rātapu kua hipa, e hia kē nei ngā mea i waea atu ki tētahi o tō mātau rōpū o te Pāti Māori, ki te pātai mēnā kua taka anō ia
ki te raruraru. Nā te aha i pērā ai? Nā te mea i pāoho a
Marae i tētahi uiui, tētahi hōtaka, nō te tau kua hipa. Ka kite mai ngā tāngata i runga i te pouaka whakaata ka pōhēhē, ē, kua raruraru anō tērā Māori i roto i te Pāti Māori. Engari, ehara.
Nō reira ko te āhua nei, ka taea e Te Reo Tātaki te pāoho ngā hōtaka tawhito i tēnei wā tonu nei. Nō reira, he aha te take nui o tērā? Kei a mātau ētahi āwangawanga mō te pire nei me te mau tonu ki te whakaaro, kia noho a Te Reo Tātaki me te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa ki roto i ngā ringaringa o te motu, pēnei i tā Sue Kedgley i kōrero nei me noho ki roto i ngā ringaringa o Aotearoa whānui tonu. Engari, ko te mea nui ki a mātau ko tēnei, me pēhea e taea ai te tiaki tētahi wāhanga Māori, ko ngā tūmanako Māori, ko ngā mea e whakanui nei i tō tātau noho ā-Aotearoa nei, ki te kore e whakairi i tētahi tūtohinga, hei kupu ārahi, hei kupu tohutohu, hei kupu arataki, i te āhuatanga o Te Reo Tātaki.
Heoi anō, ahakoa ēnei āwangawanga, ēnei mānukanuka, ka tukuna tēnei pire ki te komiti whāiti kia taea ai te wānanga i te pire nei, kia taea ai e te hāpori, e te motu pea te wānanga i tēnei o ngā kaupapa, ā, ka mutu, mā rātau anō mātau e ārahi hei muri ake nei. Āe, he huarahi kua whakatakotohia, ko tā mātau ko te kī atu, kei reira tonu ētahi paku āwangawanga. Heoi anō i tōna mutunga mai, tāria te wā kia rongo i ngā kōrero o te motu. Kia ora tātau.
[Greetings to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to us all again. Firstly, let me say that the Māori Party endorses some of the comments made by that member for the Green Party during her address, when she asked what was this bill’s rationale. We support the response that the main focus is on money and not the benefits from programming. We, the Māori Party, say that there are many advantages in having a primary aims - type document like a broadcasting charter—yes, very many advantages. Television New Zealand in past years was set many standards to meet. The original charter set the benchmark high. It stated that “TVNZ shall:… ensure in its programmes and programme planning the participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Maori voice;”.
The statement is still there. The good thing about it is that it sets broadcasting standards and enables us to assess whether Television New Zealand is meeting its own standards. Some mindless person suggested that
Police Ten 7 and
Game of Two Halves were akin to the presence of a significant Māori voice, but the nation thought otherwise. That was sheer nonsense. What a load of rubbish! Television New Zealand then shifted
Waka Huia into the depth of night, to the hour of the morepork, or reduced the hours of a programme like
Marae. Nevertheless, the good thing about a charter is that it sets a standard; it determines the types of standards so one can assess whether Television New Zealand is achieving its standards and how it said it would do it. That is what we like about having a charter.
What would happen now, should a charter be abolished? What will happen should Television New Zealand decide that it no longer wants to broadcast programmes that reflect anything to do with Māoridom and the language, or increase the content of what it is doing right now? Who will oversee all that? Will I do that? Will the Hon Parekura Horomia do it? Will it be Parliament? Who will, indeed? Who will oversee, assess, or advise Television New Zealand?
I am asking this because Peter Thompson from Unitec Institute of Technology has said that the level of local content increased after the introduction of the charter, to the extent that there is more local content screened on Television New Zealand channels. He said that because of the charter we began to see programmes like Willie Jackson’s
Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson, the funeral of Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, the memorial ceremony for the Unknown Soldier, and Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral. What
brought that about? Debate did it. Should there not be a charter, it will mean to us that money has become the primary consideration.
The thing that startles me is the provision to screen archived programmes, and allowing them to be repeated two or three times. I want the House to know that last Sunday many people rang a member of our Māori Party to ask whether he was about to get into trouble again. What caused that? A repeat programme, an inquiry from last year, was screened on Marae. People saw it on television and mistakenly assumed that the member of the Māori Party was in trouble again. But he was not at all.
So it seems that Television New Zealand will be able to continue what it is doing right now. What is the big thing about that? We have some fairly strong misgivings about this bill. We strongly believe that Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand should remain in public ownership. Sue Kedgley advocates a similar view. But the greatest thing for us is to ensure that Māori perspectives and aspirations, as well as those of all the people of New Zealand, are not enshrined in a programming strategy to lead, direct, and guide Television New Zealand.
However, despite these misgivings and concerns we support this bill going to the select committee so that we can hear the views of the people. We will be guided by them afterwards. Yes, there is a process in place, and we say to them that while some minor areas remain a concern, we look forward to the time when we can hear their thoughts. Thank you all
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth)
: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. We continue to live in times of unprecedented technological development, and the speed of change is accelerating. This bill enables Television New Zealand (TVNZ) to keep abreast of that change by replacing the Television New Zealand charter with a briefer, less prescriptive statement of functions, enabling TVNZ to freely determine its own priorities against more general sets of functions. Added to this, the economic downturn, which has affected the advertising revenue of TVNZ substantially, has highlighted the need for TVNZ to implement this strategy in an accelerated manner.
This amendment bill will enable TVNZ to develop its strategy of moving forward as our publicly owned broadcaster. I quote from its 2010 statement of intent, which was released in May 2009: “This strategy was about moving TVNZ from being a traditional advertising driven analogue broadcaster to being a multi-platform television and digital media company with diversified revenue streams.”
We live in times when change is about us all the time, regarding the digital media world in which we live. TVNZ needs to keep up that change in order for it to remain competitive, but competition is not a dreadful thing. We heard discussions tonight about naked commercialism. Competition has the positive effect of bringing better quality at a better price. It becomes efficient in all sorts of different ways. The Television New Zealand Amendment Bill also specifies that TVNZ provide content through a range of media in addition to the conventional television channels, so this bill is keeping step with the statement of intent.
One thing that was touched on by the previous speaker, Te Ururoa Flavell, was the archived works that this bill will unlock. The other purpose of this bill is to allow for the rescreening of television programmes produced before the establishment of the Broadcasting Commission—on or before 27 May 1989. These works, which are held in the TVNZ archives, are not currently able to be shown in their entirety because, with the passage of time, some rights-holders cannot be found. It is in the public interest that they be seen again, as they are all part of New Zealand’s screen heritage. The Government has had to strike a balance between the public good of allowing these works to be reshown and acknowledging the rights of contract holders. The regime does
not allow individuals involved in the making of programmes to object to their rescreening or to individually negotiate payment for reuse of content. As a practical matter, it is not feasible or worthwhile for TVNZ to track down every such individual to seek clearance and negotiate a fee for shows made in some cases more than 30 years ago. Instead, the regime introduced by the bill involves general notification and some modest but equitable payment for those who respond.
The bill limits use of the content to free-to-air use—that is, TVNZ cannot charge people to view the content. TVNZ may screen pre-1989 archived works without having to negotiate with each individual. It provides for TVNZ to grant to the Māori Television Service the right to screen archived works and for TVNZ to enter into arrangements with New Zealand On Screen to screen archived works. Works screened under this section must be screened free of charge. If an archived work is to be screened other than free of charge, TVNZ would be obliged to provide for the normal legal rights and privileges, if any, to these interested persons. The bill provides for the establishment of the TVNZ Archived Works Fund for the purpose of making payment to those who register their interest in an archived work that is to be screened.
The charter contains clauses relating to Māori audiences and content. It states that TVNZ will, in its programming, enable all New Zealanders to have access to material that promotes Māori language and culture and feature programmes that serve the interests and informational needs of Māori audiences, including programmes promoting the Māori language and programmes addressing Māori history, culture, and current issues. The bill expects TVNZ to provide content reflecting Māori perspectives, with or without a charter. TVNZ has had a longstanding commitment to Māori programming. I am very happy to commend this bill to the House. Thank you.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I rise to speak on the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill; I have done some work on this area in the past, as the previous Minister of Broadcasting. I did not think I would be speaking tonight; I thought my time would come at some stage in the future. I thought we would hear from the Hon Sir Roger Douglas on this matter, as he is the sole ACT member in the Chamber and has had a lot of interest in Television New Zealand in the past. I thought that he would want to discuss why he is so keen on voting for a bill to keep Television New Zealand in State control, because generally he takes quite the opposite approach to Television New Zealand. Generally, he pushes the National Party to privatise. Although my colleagues see this bill as a step towards privatisation, I am sure it does not go far enough for Sir Roger. I am very, very surprised that he is not prepared to stand up in this House, vent his views, and say what he thinks. As Jonathan Hunt would say, 10 to 10 at night is peak listening time, and it would be an opportunity for him to get his views across.
There are some points in this legislation on which there is agreement. I think we need a method of freeing up the archive material. I am not sure that we have quite got it right. It might be a sign of my age but I think that archive rights-holders from the 1980s still have a significant interest in the material that they produced. We need a mechanism for ensuring that their rights can be identified and delivered to them, and that there can be some discussion, especially where people have significant rights in this material. There is a treasure trove of material within the archives and it would be good to get it out and make it available. We are seeing a lot of replaying of some of that older material on NZ on Screen and it is very, very good. One might say that although the technology was not nearly as good, some of the intellect that went into the programming, and some of the movies that are now being made available, well outstretch some of the things that are being made today.
The other point on which there is a lot of agreement—and I am not sure yet that this Minister of Broadcasting has his head around it—is the question about what is happening in the media world generally, and the fact that a massive convergence is occurring. Frankly, I do not care how the stuff gets to the screen in my living room. I do not mind if it comes via broadband, via broadcast, or via a Vodafone card, although I get slightly unhappy when Darren Hughes appears on my television screen, as I always question the colour settings. I am never sure that the colour is right when Mr Hughes appears on the screen. When he and Mr Hipkins are on the screen I generally have to ring up Sky to see whether someone can come and adjust the picture, because it just does not look human.
Seriously, convergence is occurring, and it is occurring at a very fast pace. Although I have no doubt that the value of Television New Zealand has gone down over recent years, I also have no doubt that a significant factor in that is that people are able to get their news through many other broadcast channels. More important, fewer and fewer people rely on television for content—for news content or for their entertainment content. Many people now use systems other than broadcast television. Many of us get much of our news and our entertainment by way of our computers, and that is the way of the future. I think it is fair to say—and I say this even though I was the Minister for a year—that I do not think that Television New Zealand has done a good job, over the last 15 years, of staying ahead of that sort of trend. It is an organisation that might be said to be at the higher cost end of the production. It pays very little when it is buying material, but if we look at the size of the organisation compared to similar organisations, we see that it is very big. I am sure that will cause it some problems going forward. This bill does not really address any of that area at all.
I come back to the matter of convergence. Many of us are just beginning to get our heads around the way the new media works. A number of the communications companies, phone companies, and similar organisations are quite a long way ahead of Television New Zealand in their understanding of the possibilities of the new media. It is fair to say that even in this House, without going too deeply into Melissa Lee’s personal interests, we have someone who has shown that one can set up a television company with not a lot and produce material that is competitive in particular niche markets. I think we will find over a period of time that more and more people will do that and, as the shift is made from analog to digital, the ability for many more people to do so will occur. I think that will mean that much more variety is available to people; I think a lot of us draw our material internationally.
All of that has implications for the television organisation that, frankly, is not much different from the one I started watching television on in 1961 when I lived in Wainuiōmata.
Hon Darren Hughes: Are you still there?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have gone a long way: I have gone 100 yards round the corner. I am not sure that the organisation that we are expecting to be our primary provider of unbiased—
Hon Christopher Finlayson: You were a Khandallah boy.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Wainuiōmata in 1961.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: I thought you went to Onslow College.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I did go to Onslow College, but I assure the member that that was well after 1961. He might not have been born in 1961, but I went to secondary school well after that.
The point I was trying to make is that Television New Zealand will have to be a nimble organisation, and I am not sure that anything in this bill helps it to do that. I say to the Minister that as far as his Platinum Fund, or whatever it is called, is concerned, I
was the Minister who shifted the charter money to New Zealand On Air. I shifted it. I am a sports nut, but pretending that an Olympic Games production is an iconic New Zealand production and deserving of charter funds—it was won in a competitive tender; no one else could have used charter funding for sports production out of Beijing—is wrong. For me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused me to take from Television New Zealand the control of its charter funding. I do not think that it was using it well. I do not think it was using it properly or in New Zealand’s interests. I think, though, that the Minister has gone too far in his approach to put it out for open tender. It is my opinion that such an approach—I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought I had about another 40 seconds to speak. Is that not the case?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: 4 seconds.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Another 40 seconds; thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker! The point I was making is that this bill just—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry to interrupt the member, but his time has expired.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I think it is about 15 seconds before 10 o’clock. I wonder whether this might be an appropriate opportunity for the House to rise and come back tomorrow.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is no objection.