Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Broadcasting)
: I move,
That the Broadcasting Amendment Bill be now read a second time. First of all, Madam Assistant Speaker, in the first opportunity that I have been allowed with you in the Chair, can I congratulate you on your elevation. We are old friends, and I am pleased there is a reasonable distance between us so that your normal approach to sorting me out cannot be used. In fact, it is relatively close to another member’s approach to sorting me out, for which I got into some trouble! Also, I know that broadcasting is an area you are interested in, and for which you had responsibility for some time.
I am pleased to note that the Commerce Committee has reported the Broadcasting Amendment Bill back to the House. It examined the bill and recommends that it be passed without amendment. I express my appreciation to the select committee. Only two submissions were received on the bill. I take this as a very positive sign that the changes suggested by the bill are timely and relevant. I would like to emphasise also that the broadcasting funding agencies affected by the bill have been closely involved with its development, and are in accord with its purpose and form.
I would like to remind the House briefly of the bill’s content, purpose, and scope. The object of the bill is to bring New Zealand’s broadcasting funding agencies—New Zealand On Air and Te Māngai Pāho—into line with the digital age. Analog transmission will be obsolete within a number of years, both in a number of overseas countries and here in New Zealand. At the same time broadcasting light content is appearing on a variety of media devices or platforms, such as the Internet or on mobile phones. Those new platforms are being used by broadcasters and content creators to retain and expand their audiences and to serve them better. Under the Broadcasting Act 1989, however, the broadcasting funding agencies do not have the ability to provide funding for the content on those platforms.
Figures from the last census show that in 2006 just over 60 percent of households had access to the Internet, and 74.2 percent had access to a mobile phone. I expect that those figures would have increased substantially since that time. There is a whole generation today—the digital native generation—who take digital technology for granted. They speak a different language, and it is fair to say that the group is not confined to one generation. I think there are a number of notable people, including senior members of this Parliament, who are renowned for their texting, sometimes in a full, short, and frank manner. Some people of the younger generation, though, have grown up texting their friends and using the Internet, and it is vital that they have access to quality local content as they use these new programmes.
To summarise, the bill has three main effects on the Broadcasting Act 1989. First, it amends Part 4 of the Act, relating to the functions of the funding agencies. It permits them to fund the production, transmission, and archiving of new forms of digital
content, such as via the Internet or mobile phones. The bill extends to these new areas the Act’s existing provisions relating to the promotion of New Zealand content and the requirement for agencies to consult various interests when making their funding decisions. The bill also carries over the Act’s existing protections against ministerial interference in such decisions, and the requirement for funding proposals to be consistent with the standards of section 4(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Content on other platforms will be subject to the same set of rules that govern various non-broadcast media under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. These extend into content viewed on the Internet.
Sandra Goudie: Mumble, mumble.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Who’s that? Oh, it is Sandra Goudie. She is here. It is wonderful; the member is back again. That is the best contribution that Sandra Goudie has made in this House for at least 1½ years.
Hon Paul Swain: It must be pay week.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, it is pay day—she has turned up. The only time Sandra Goudie comes to the House to make a noise is when it is pay day and she has been out to dinner.
The functions are presented as supplementing and enhancing the delivery of the agencies’ existing objectives, which the bill deems to be primary. The essential role of the agencies—
Sandra Goudie: You can’t even speak properly.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member says that she wants to speak, but they will not let her. Well, I am with National’s whips; I would not let Sandra Goudie speak, either.
The essential role of the agencies, to subsidise content where it would not otherwise be produced and is not considered to be commercially viable, is not altered by the bill.
Secondly, the member opposite will be pleased to know that the bill adds two new terms, or definitions, to section 2(1) of the Act—the interpretation part. These definitions are “content” and “transmit on demand”. Seeing that the member has no content and that there is not much demand for her, I think it will not mean much to her. But these terms encompass types of content or producers of content intended for digital platforms that currently fall outside the Broadcasting Act’s definitions of broadcasting and programmes, because when the legislation went through in 1989, people were not thinking about digital content. The existing definitions, which also apply elsewhere in the Act, will be retained, but for the purposes of the two funding agencies, they will be supplemented by the new terms. They will allow the Act’s concepts to extend over the increasing array of interactive and on-demand forms of distribution made possible by technology.
I say to members that there is a very interesting discussion document out at the moment, which I would recommend to people. This area is pretty agreed and, one might even say, dry. There is not much debate about this area. But the discussion to be had about the question of convergence and what that means for our regulatory environment is something that is very important going forward. If we do not look at it, then we do not look at it at our peril.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: If we don’t look at it, we don’t look at it.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We do not look at it at our peril. The member knows a bit about peril—the member got a bit of peril when he smoked a cigar, I think. [Interruption] Shall we go back to that? I am happy to have that debate anytime.
Chris Tremain: You’re happy to hop into that ring, aren’t you?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, I am happy to compare myself with Nick Smith, who, of course, dropped John Carter; and with David Carter, who hit Roger Sowry—shall we go through the list of National Party members?
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Marian Hobbs): No, I think we would prefer to be getting on with the speech.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, I—[Interruption] Is it? None of it was recorded. None of it was recorded at the time, I think—thank goodness!
Third, and finally, there is an important change to allow Te Māngai Pāho to fund the archiving of Māori language and culture programmes in general. Of course, this is something that should have happened originally.
To sum up, it is vital that our broadcasting infrastructure and ways of supporting local content remain relevant and effective in the digital era.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: That’s what the officials are telling us, anyway.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, some of us are slightly ahead of officials on digital matters, and some of us—I think it was Mr Swain, back in about 2000—had quite a lot to do with this area of work, working closely with the then Minister. I am not sure what has happened in the interim, but I am glad that we have made some real progress now.
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote)
: Members will notice that the Minister was rather flat when he was talking about broadcasting. He picked up a bit when he got into the personality stuff, and was back to the old Trevor Mallard that we have all come to love and admire. It was getting a bit quiet there when Trevor was trying this reform stuff. But now that he is back to his old ways I must say it returns that interesting dynamic to the Parliament.
He said in his speech that there is not going to be much debate on broadcasting. Well, he might think that, but what he is doing is going around the sector saying: “Look I’m very busy, I’ve been dumped with this portfolio, Steve Maharey is going, and actually I don’t know anything about broadcasting.” Unfortunately he cannot interject now because he is not in his seat, and he is leaving the House. The new seat that he has moved to is not his usual seat, so he cannot interject from there either. He cannot go around the sector and be credible if he is telling people that he does not actually know anything about broadcasting because, as we have heard, and as the officials have told him, we are actually facing some very complex issues in the digital broadcasting arena. National will be supporting this bill. The Minister did get this bit right—the bill will update the funding arrangements to bring them in line with new digital technology. Up until now New Zealand On Air and Te Māngai Pāho, the Māori broadcasting agency, have been able to fund radio and television programmes only. That dates back to when this Act was instituted, when we had only radio and television.
When one looks at the new environment with the Internet, mobiles, podcasting, and video on demand, it is quite clear that broadcasting material is going to be delivered on a lot of new platforms. This means that those broadcasting agencies are going to be able to fund content that is specifically made for these new platforms. So no one could really object to this bill, because it is just bringing the funding arrangements into line with the new technology.
Additionally, it will allow New Zealand On Air to archive Māori culture and language programming; Te Māngai Pāho is going to be able to fund the archiving of Māori language and culture programmes. With the increasing amount of content we have in that area that is a logical and desirable development, and National certainly will support it.
The Commerce Committee heard just two submissions on this bill, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage recommended no actual change to the content of the bill. But
one thing I think the public will need reassurance on is that if Government funds are to be used to fund programming, that programming has to be available on a free-to-air platform and that is something we will have to look at. We would not want that publicly funded content to be available only on a pay-to-view basis. That is something we need to look at in the Committee stage.
Trevor Mallard said that there is not a lot of debate in this area. The fact is that when we look at what has happened under Labour, in terms of broadcasting policy, it is quite clear that it has been a complete failure. We had a Minister of Broadcasting, Steve Maharey, who basically saddled Television New Zealand (TVNZ) with this dual remit. It is supposed to be a commercial broadcaster and it has to return a dividend for the Government, and at the same time it is shackled by the charter, and we saw what the result of that was last year. The 2007 financial result was that TVNZ, for the first time in its history, managed to make a loss of $4.5 million on $375 million of revenue. That is really quite amazing. How on earth can $375 million of revenue be turned into a loss? It almost defies belief. But we cannot actually blame the executives and management at TVNZ; it comes back to the problems with the Government’s broadcasting policy that is making TVNZ produce this charter programming and at the same time it is insisting on a commercial return.
There is this problem at TVNZ because now with digital television we have these two channels, TV6 and TV7, that have been funded with $79 million of taxpayers’ money and an extra $25 million on top of that—$104 million in total—and which, if they are going to be successful, will suck audiences away from TVNZ’s Television One and TV2 channels. That will further decrease the audiences of those channels, which will further decrease advertising revenue. If TV6 and TV7 are successful, it is really going to hit Television One and TV2. Then again, if they are a failure, well they are a failure and they will have been a waste of taxpayers’ money.
So at TVNZ, as a result of this Government policy, we have developed almost the perfect storm for destroying revenue. If we talk to people from TVNZ in select committee hearings, they cannot reassure us that the situation will improve because the whole platform is fragmenting: there are audiences viewing stuff on the Internet, and there are things that can be downloaded in terms of on-demand television programming—if people have access to the right software and the right websites. The old model of people being glued to just one channel to see all their television content has been outdated. It creates a problem for TVNZ, and the people there do not know how they will manage to improve things from here. It will be pretty tough for them; they have launched TVNZ ondemand but they say they do not know whether it will be successful. They are putting a big punt on digital television, and this is where this digital review of regulation, which the Minister was so keen to refer to, comes into play.
When we look at it, it is a pretty big document; it is three volumes—about 300 pages. I am sure no one other than officials, broadcasters, and academics have read it. This is the plan of the Government and the Minister for back-door regulation in broadcasting. They are delaying this thing because they do not want it to be discussed before the election; it is 4 months behind schedule already. But it will mean that if the Government is going to make FreeView a success, it will end up having to regulate in some way. That is something it knows will be unpopular with New Zealanders. The Government has just dressed this up in the guise of consultation, it is laying out the options, but at the end of the day Labour has a secret agenda to regulate broadcasting.
Mr Mallard is smiling, but he would love to do that. He has taken over Mr Maharey’s portfolio and it is well known that Mr Maharey, from the hard left of the Labour Party, would love to completely socialise broadcasting—there is no question about that—and this is the danger that the public has to be aware of.
The charter is one of the roots of the problem at TVNZ. Basically the charter is a pretty meaningless document, but TVNZ is saddled with it and it has to deliver on it. But it shows what a farce Labour’s broadcasting policy has been. Steve Maharey said that when we got the charter things would be much, much better.
Russell Fairbrother: Turn the volume up a bit!
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I ask the burnt-out former member for Napier, Russell Fairbrother: is the content on television, after the charter, any different from what it was before the charter—yes or no?
Russell Fairbrother: Far better—it’s far better. It’s a working man’s channel; a working man’s culture.
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: There we go. I think that is the measure of Russell Fairbrother. We essentially have this dilemma that TVNZ has been placed in, by this failed, tired, burnt-out Government of failed academics, old unionists, and party hacks. This Government has shackled TVNZ with a charter, which means it has to deliver so-called public service broadcasting and at the same time return a dividend. That has created tension, together with the whole way TVNZ has set up its digital broadcasting service. It means that this Government has set up TVNZ to fail. It is getting desperate for them and those at FreeView, because unless it switches off the analog signal, or gets some compelling content on those FreeView channels, it knows they will fail. This is Labour’s secret agenda in broadcasting. It knows that unless it can regulate through this digital review of broadcasting, FreeView will fall over.
Trevor Mallard has announced that in 2012 he will make a decision on an actual, final analog switch-off date. But he has not announced any plan for what will happen to the 800,000 people who will not have digital television.
Hon Member: He won’t be here.
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Of course, that is quite likely. Trevor Mallard may well have taken the honourable option of retirement by that point, and then the whole problem—[Interruption]—Oh, no; he is not retiring. He has nowhere to go.
Hon Trevor Mallard: What! You’re joking!
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No, I would not joke. OK, we are going to be entertained by the Minister, as the previous Minister, for many years to come.
But to summarise, National supports this legislation because it is going to bring the funding arrangements into line with technology. It has some sensible new arrangements for the archiving of Māori broadcasting content, and National supports that. We have great concerns about Labour Party broadcasting policy; it has just about been the ruin of TVNZ. I can tell members that the next Government will have to come in and sort out this situation, because the failed left-wing policies of Steve Maharey, cobbled together with some bizarre commercial theory that he has had about broadcasting, have just not worked. TVNZ is on its knees. The charter has delivered only job cuts and financial failure. I can tell members that in broadcasting, as in every other portfolio, it is definitely time for a change of Government.
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Labour—Rimutaka)
: I rise to support the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, which everyone agrees with. It says that the Broadcasting Commission can fund programming that appears not just on television but in a wide range of formats, and everybody knows that is a sensible thing to do. I will ignore the slightly uncharitable comments that the Minister of Broadcasting made about my time as Minister of Communications, and say that this is just a little nibble at a much bigger issue that will in time come back to this Parliament.
One of the sensible things the Minister said was about convergence. It is a huge issue around the world, and it is something that I hope the continued Labour-led Government can grapple with. It is a problem that only a Labour-led Government can grapple with,
because it is so complex and so difficult. If it was left to members of a Tory Government, I am sure they would not get the concept to start with, and if they did, I am sure they would want to compartmentalise it.
The real issue is that in this century we have a number of regulatory models. We have a Broadcasting Commission and other institutions that regulate broadcasting and television. We have a Telecommunications Commissioner, who regulates telecommunications, and we have an Electricity Commission, which regulates electricity, but potentially there will be a time when telecommunications go down electricity lines. It will interesting to see whether the Telecommunications Commissioner or the Electricity Commission will regulate that.
Then we have the Internet. There is a strong international push to ensure that it is not regulated. The nature of the Internet is such that people want it to be unregulated and free of international intervention, to keep the spirit of it. Net neutrality is one of the big issues in the United States and also Europe, to ensure that content is not restricted by, for example, telecommunications network providers, which may want to put their own content down at the expense of someone else’s.
So we have a huge number of issues where a number of regulatory regimes are all trying to deal with a problem, and that raises the issue of whether broadcasting can be regulated at all. When we start to see different types of broadcasting formats, whether they be cellphone, the Internet, television, or potentially, as I said, down an electricity line, it raises huge issues about how Governments will deal with the issue of convergence. Although it goes without saying that the Broadcasting Amendment Bill slowly brings Parliament into the 21st century—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It’s more the late 20th!
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, the late 20th, yes—we are probably at least 10 years behind, but that is often the way of this place when it comes to new technology.
The real issue that Parliament will have in the future is how it deals with the range of mediums and how they will be regulated. Parliament will have to decide whether to have a single regulator, which some countries are trying to head toward—one regulator that deals with all these formats—or whether there will continue to be a range of different types of regulatory regimes, and, in the end, whether one can ultimately regulate things like the Internet, which people are saying the Government should keep its sticky hands out of.
This tiny little bill is pretty simple, and I imagine everybody will support it because it legislates for a necessity. It raises a huge issue about convergence. It is an issue that all international agencies, in my experience from having travelled around the world, are grappling with. No one has the answer. Everyone is trying to deal with it in a different way. Given the nature of the Internet and telecommunications, its internationalisation and its ability to flow across borders, there will have to be a way to deal with this issue. It will be a huge issue. It will be something that Parliament has to deal with in the future. To future Ministers of Broadcasting, Ministers of Communications, and Ministers of Energy, I say that these are matters that will tax their minds as we move into a much more complex broadcasting arrangement.
I support this legislation, but I think this will not be the last time that we deal with the simple little issue in this bill. The next bills that will potentially come back will be much more complex for Parliament to deliver. During that period I will be watching from the sideline, urging members on, and I will possibly be thankful that this issue, which I grappled with in 2001, is left to finer minds than mine.
LINDSAY TISCH (National—Piako)
: As Jonathan Coleman has said, National will support this bill. It is not a big bill; it has only 16 clauses. If we take out the title clause, the commencement clause, and clause 3, “Principal Act amended”, which are
three clauses out of 16, the substance of this bill is very, very small. As the previous speaker, Paul Swain, has said, the bill is needed at this stage, but it is probably 10 years behind the times, and we accept that. However, National supports this bill as it is a move in the right direction.
The Commerce Committee received only two submissions on the bill, and we received advice from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which did not recommend any changes to the bill as presented at the first reading. It said that the bill stood as it was and that there were no changes to be made. Subsequently, we see at the second reading stage the bill that was first introduced back in September of last year.
The bill provides that funding will be available for a much larger range of digital programming, including programming on the Internet, mobile phones, and video on demand. That is important because we need to keep up to speed with funding for Māori television, and this is one way in which that will be achieved. It also allows for funding for the archiving of Māori culture and language programming. Currently, the Broadcasting Act allows for Te Māngai Pāho and New Zealand On Air to fund only programmes for television, and this is where the change comes. With other media and the way in which technology has moved over the years, this bill will move in the right space. It will allow for rapid advancements in technology, and that is what we support. However, we want to ensure that the funding content will be available to all of the public and not just to certain sections.
One question we will ask during the Committee stage is how widely this funding will be available. It needs to be available to all of the public, no matter where they live, whether it is through analog television, the Internet, or FreeView. We would, of course, be concerned if this funding was used for programming that could be viewed through only, say, pay-per-view or cellphone platforms, and we would hold the Government to account on that issue. So that is one of the questions we will be asking in the Committee stage. We want to make sure that everybody will have access to this funding and that it is not available just through pay-per-view or cellphone platforms.
Another thing that does not help Television New Zealand is its charter, and Jonathan Coleman mentioned this earlier on. What has it achieved over the years? It is meaningless. Its objectives cannot be measured. What will come out of the charter review? We will want to see what happens with regard to these questions. It has been mentioned that there are programmes that would meet the criteria for Māori television. It was mentioned, for example, at the Māori Affairs Committee last year that programmes like
Location Location Location and
Police Ten 7 satisfy the requirements for Māori programming. I was not on the Māori Affairs Committee, so I do not know, but I wonder whether the old programmes I used to watch, such as
I Love Lucy,
Mister Ed, and
Bonanza, might be suitable programmes. [Interruption] I am sure that there are plenty of programmes that we could identify with.
The public should be worried about all the taxpayer money going into FreeView and Television New Zealand’s new channels. What is the Minister’s plan to make these channels succeed? Those are the questions we will be asking during the Committee of the whole House. It is interesting that although Television New Zealand has had its challenges over a number of years—and Jonathan Coleman mentioned that revenues have fallen, viewership has fallen, and those sorts of things—in the area that I represent, in Matamata, we have a television station, and members of this House have been on its programmes. In fact, this channel, which is now known as tvCentral, has been so successful that it has expanded to take in the whole of the Waikato, into Rotorua, Hamilton, and parts of the Bay of Plenty.
Now, there is lesson there that the Minister might like to pick up on. We have seen that a private enterprise, which has had to go out there and source its funding, has been
able to expand over the last few years, and has been very successful in doing so. Yet here we have a Government agency that has great difficulty with funding, with improving its viewership, and with achieving the credibility that a Government-funded television station should have. Once again, we will be asking a lot of questions during the Committee stage.
National supports this bill. We believe that it is a move in the right direction, even though it has been a long time coming. It is a unique opportunity for us to fund those important things in Māori television, and also the cultural side. During the bill’s next stage our side of the House will be asking a lot of questions to make sure we are satisfied in our own minds that this will be money well spent. We really want to know what the Government’s intention will be in terms of broadcasting, because at this stage it certainly has fallen very short of what one’s expectations and the public’s expectations should be of publicly funded television.
DAIL JONES (NZ First)
: I was not going to say very much on the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, because everything has been said. It is very simple legislation. No amendments were made at the Commerce Committee, and only one amendment seems to be proposed for the Committee stage. Perhaps there is something else on its way in a minor fashion.
But I listened to Dr Coleman’s speech when he was talking about Labour’s secret agenda on this matter. It made me think, as a member of New Zealand First, about what National’s secret agenda might be for Television New Zealand. I am sure that National’s secret agenda for Television New Zealand is to flog it off to the first foreign buyer it can find. It is such a secret agenda that Dr Coleman does not know about it yet. But everyone else in the country knows about it, and I say to Dr Coleman that if we are going to talk about secret agendas, and if he wants to widen the debate on an issue, he has to expect someone to respond in a similar way. If he wants to be so inexperienced as to allow someone to take advantage of doing that, I will respond to his comments briefly.
There is a difference between New Zealand First and the National Party. We support the retention of New Zealand assets for New Zealanders. We support the retention of Television New Zealand for the benefit of New Zealanders. We oppose the National Party’s secret agenda of flogging off Television New Zealand.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It’s not that secret.
DAIL JONES: Well, it is not very secret. Dr Coleman seems to be surprised, though.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Any intelligent person knows about it.
DAIL JONES: Dr Coleman is an intelligent person, and I am sure that he will now grasp the fact that it is the National Party’s policy to flog off Television New Zealand, along with Auckland International Airport and the few things that are still left in the ownership of New Zealanders, if it becomes the Government. But I can assure the House that New Zealand First will do everything possible to prevent that from happening in the next parliamentary session, when it is also returned to Parliament.
This is a simple bill. I just took the opportunity to respond to Dr Coleman’s comments. Thank you very much.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare.
Hon Shane Jones: Oh, again!
HONE HARAWIRA: Tēnā hoki rā koe e te whanaunga.
[And to you especially, the relative, greetings.]
I am sorry that the member was not here during my speech on the last bill. I had some very complimentary comments to make about the Labour Party Māori caucus.
Hoi anō, the broadcasting assets case was a watershed moment in Māori broadcasting, when the High Court ruled that the Government was obligated to protect te reo Māori me ōna tikanga. The decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeal in 1992, and that led to the formation of Te Reo Whakapuaki Irirangi in order to “reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture by promoting Māori language and culture”. The rest, of course, is history—and this Broadcasting Amendment Bill today addresses both the historical framework and the future strategic priorities for Māori broadcasting.
The Māori Party welcomes the amendments intended to ensure that Te Reo Whakapuaki Irirangi—or Te Māngai Pāho, as it is most well known—can fund the archiving of Māori language and culture programmes, in the same way that Māoridom welcomes the challenge that the Māori Party has put before this House to introduce simultaneous translation so that Māori can truly be a living language in this Chamber, as it should be, and indeed as it can be in every house in Aotearoa. We also welcome the amendments to enable Te Māngai Pāho to fund video on demand, interactivity projects, and the re-versioning of content for non-broadcast platforms like the Internet and mobile phones.
But I was particularly interested in the comments from Te Maumako August, manager of Moana AM and Tahi FM, and chairperson of Te Whakaruruhau o Ngā Reo Irirangi Māori o Aotearoa, the federation of Māori radio stations, who asked the Commerce Committee whether these new digital, non-broadcast platforms would also be subject to the same Māori language benchmarks already laid down by Te Māngai Pāho. It is a very interesting thought that I doubt has been given much consideration, and a proposition that I would love to hear the Minister’s thoughts on later.
But what we will not find in this bill is a clear commitment to the ongoing funding of Māori radio broadcasting or a clear commitment to the ongoing funding of Māori programming, despite a clear statutory direction to funding te reo Māori. And this is from a Government that boasts of an operating surplus of billions of dollars. How come, despite years of budgetary surpluses, operational funding for Māori radio has had only one increase in 20 years—with that increase being a one-off—and there is still no firm commitment to fund Māori language programming as directed by the Act?
While we are considering amendments to the Broadcasting Act, we wonder whether perhaps we should also be considering the ways in which Te Māngai Pāho and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori are appointed. Last night the debate raged over the Māori Trustee and Māori Development Amendment Bill. There was particular concern over the political nature of appointments to that role, with Dr Sharples challenging the Government to reconsider the way in which the Māori Trustee is appointed, because the office can never be truly independent if the Government’s hand is firmly attached. That is a useful point to consider when one thinks of the ministerial appointments to Te Māngai Pāho and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori.
An alternative model was set up for the oversight of the Māori Television Service, in which the power is shared between ministerial appointments and those chosen by
Te Pūtahi Paoho, an independent
Māori electoral college. It is a model that has been copied in other areas as well—including the fisheries—and I am interested to see whether the Minister will take a call to share his views about the appropriate time for the Government to allow both Te Māngai Pāho and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori to break free from the suffocation of Crown control. Tena koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Huri rauna. Kia ora tātou katoa.
Dr RICHARD WORTH (National)
: This is a heady time in the broadcasting sector, and I express regret on behalf of the National Party that the opportunity was not taken in the context of the Broadcasting Amendment Bill to touch on some of the issues
that the previous speaker referred to. Quite clearly, in an environment that is hugely uncertain, the certainty of funding flows to enable broadcasting activity to continue on a broad, rich basis has not been seized upon.
This is a tricky time in the sector, and no one would dispute that. I think we saw that most recently in a discussion that took place on the Copyright (New Technologies and Performers’ Rights) Amendment Bill. One aspect of that legislation is relevant to the issues that confront the House on this second reading of the Broadcasting Amendment Bill. That is because in that copyright legislation the Government seized on two issues to advance. Those two issues related, first, to amending the existing rights to broadcast, or to include a work in a cable programme service, in order to provide a technology-neutral right of communication to the public, and also to extend copyright protection to a technology-neutral category of communication works. The second, and highly controversial, aspect in that legislation was the proposal to repeal section 88 of the Copyright Act, which allows cable programme services to retransmit free-to-air television broadcasts without the permission of the broadcaster.
A number of speakers before me have spoken about the Television New Zealand charter, and I wish to talk about that, albeit only briefly. It is an interesting document in a number of respects. The legal position is that under section 12(4) of the Television New Zealand Act 2003 the charter, or, if one likes, the base or governing document of Television New Zealand, is required to be reviewed by this House at 5-yearly intervals. The first review was due to commence before the end of February 2008. We are now beyond the end of February 2008, and the review has not commenced yet. There are a number of deficiencies in the current charter. Other members have spoken about that, but the current charter has been the subject already of revision, submission, and, now, a redraft.
The charter is structured under a number of headings, and they include “An Informed Society”, and “National Identity and Citizenship”. There is a section on Māori interests. There are sections on “Diversity”, “High Standards”, “Innovation”, “New Zealand Talent”, and “Presenting New Zealand Overseas”. All of that is captured in some four pages of material. In looking at the charter, I think one is struck that there is something in it for everyone. It contains lofty aspirational sentiment, without any measurable goals, at all. I think that is a significant shame, because for charter documents to have any meaning at all there should always be appropriate evaluative criteria.
I will take, as an example, just the first chunk of that material. It is headed “An Informed Society”, and it states that the goal is “To provide impartial and comprehensive New Zealand and international programmes that are essential to having an informed and educated society …”. How will Television New Zealand achieve that? Well, under that heading it proposes to provide a range of programmes; strive for the highest standards of quality; provide independent, comprehensive, impartial, and in-depth news and current affairs; promote democratic participation; provide programmes of an educational nature; and provide programmes that extend the range of ideas and experiences available to New Zealanders.
All of that significantly reinforces the proposition I have advanced that just in looking at that section on “An Informed Society” one sees there is something for everyone. It is meaningless material in the context of meeting charter obligations. So it will never be possible for Television New Zealand to say it has fulfilled the charter obligations. They are, in themselves, not capable of fulfilment. All that can be said is that Television New Zealand thinks it has fulfilled the charter obligations. What a pity that is. Why do we not put some hard goals in the charter, so that those who have a responsibility in terms of putting much-valued data into society can say they have achieved their goals and fulfilled the aspirations set out in the charter?
So we come to look at this bill, which, as I have said, is supported by National. It gives effect to the Government’s decision to enable the broadcasting funding agencies to be able to support the production, transmission, and archiving of digital content, with the development of digital broadcasting in New Zealand and internationally. The funding agencies are the Broadcasting Commission, known as NZ On Air, and Te Reo Whakapuaki Irirangi, known as Te Māngai Pāho. If one looks at the two annual reports—those of NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho—one sees there is not a great deal to be gleaned from them, except in respect of the financial information that is contained within their covers. But there is interesting comment in the annual report of NZ On Air, touching on the very critical issue of funding for archiving. The point is made there by NZ On Air that it funds the New Zealand Film Archive to provide television programme archiving services, and funds Sound Archives to provide radio programmes and archiving services.
Not a great deal of money is spent on that significant task. This year, apparently, $1.26 million was spent on radio and television archiving services. The New Zealand Film Archive archived 1,440 hours of television programmes and carried out preservation work on another 210 hours of programmes. The Sound Archives archived 1,983 hours of radio programmes and carried out preservation work on another 2,003 hours. Those who have written the annual report note that as well, NZ On Air supported the New Zealand Film Archive to purchase digitising equipment so it could move forward with its strategy. There is reference to “options explored arising from opportunities offered by digital developments.”
In looking at the issues, though, we see that apart from the question of archiving digital content, what this bill does is to amend the Broadcasting Act 1989 in order to enable the broadcasting funding agencies to fund some types of content and transmission likely to be integral to digital radio and television platforms. Of course, the bill allows the broadcasting funding agencies to fund those types of activities to supplement and enhance the delivery of their primary functions. There are significant philosophical issues that touch the broadcasting sector generally, but what can be said about this bill, I would say, is that the amendments it proposes will permit the broadcasting funding agencies to fund such developments as video on demand, interactivity between broadcaster and audience, and the re-versioning of content for non-broadcast platforms, such as the Internet or mobile phones. I have already commented on the amendment in the legislation in respect of the archiving of Māori language and culture programmes.
So here this legislation now sits, ready to pass to the Committee stage in this House. National supports the bill. The bill could have gone further; it could have been better.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West)
: I listened with interest to the previous speaker, Richard Worth, and also to his colleague Lindsay Tisch, along with other speakers in the House. I have to say I found Mr Worth’s contribution very interesting, thought-provoking, and concise. Certainly, I think there are challenges for all of us in terms of this bill.
I am not in any way being uncharitable about Mr Worth’s comments about the Television New Zealand charter, but one of the most important aspects of the charter would be to have some guarantee that a future Government would never sell off Television New Zealand. One has to say that given the prevarication that was shown by the leader of the National Party in the last day or two in terms of Auckland airport, I think all bets are off. It is a bit of a worry, because if he is so inconcise about that strategic asset, I would imagine that if National becomes the Government—if, shock, horror, National and its allies get a majority of seats in this House—it would be like Howard winning the Senate and the House of Representatives. It would be a shock-horror doomsday scenario for this country. Believe you me, all bets would be off, and I would say that hocking off Television New Zealand would definitely be up for consideration.
But I will move on, because I do think, in fairness, that Mr Worth and others have made some very constructive and very positive comments. I know that Mr Worth would be one of those who would be absolutely defending the right of Television New Zealand to remain a public entity, but I think he would be rolled in his caucus.
Believe it or not, I think this bill is quite exciting because it is the legislative means by which we recognise, through the means of public funding and community funding, that broadcasting is moving beyond the traditional analog transmission—through the air to a TV with an aerial on the roof—and that there are other means by which people are now receiving information and entertainment.
I want to take this opportunity, because I have not been able to do so before, to congratulate a former Minister of Broadcasting, the Hon Marian Hobbs, on her appointment as an Assistant Speaker. So far, in the short time she has been in the Chair, she has been doing a very, very good job. I know that she, particularly, in terms of her previous involvement with that portfolio, along with the current Minister, will certainly be very enthusiastic about this bill, in that it takes us forward to the next step. Indeed, it means that the funding agencies can now start to look and do a critical and calm assessment of the changes in broadcasting, and adjust their own funding policies in a flexible and considered way. I make the point that the agencies are not required to fund digital content; the bill merely allows them to do so if and when the need arises. I think, personally, that it will be a case of when the need arises.
The bill also introduces new definitions of content and transmission on demand that fall outside the current definitions of broadcasting and programmes. I want to mention two Waikato developments. First of all, I noted that Lindsay Tisch—and I am sorry that I did not hear the complete content of his speech—was talking about tvCentral, which is a Matamata based enterprise. It has done fantastic, wonderful work, and he is correct—it has been very much a labour of love, energy, and passion. As far as I am aware, that enterprise has not had public funding to do that. It was my pleasure, as a Waikato Government member of Parliament, to personally launch a while ago the Hamilton studios and the Hamilton broadcast for tvCentral, so that it now truly is covering the greater Waikato, and parts of the Bay of Plenty as well.
Again, as I read this bill, I would say that as an organisation like tvCentral starts to develop, say, web content and video on demand, and starts to look at the other means by which it can transmit its whole range of very, very good local programming, indeed it means that the funding agencies could consider it. I have a personal message for the funding agencies, particularly NZ On Air. I think that, historically, regional television in this country has had a really hard row to hoe in terms of accessing and attracting adequate NZ On Air funding.
Certainly, I acknowledge that there has been assistance with Stratos, and I think that the group of regional broadcasters that has now come onto the platform is a very good development. I think that we are now seeing a movement towards much greater involvement in and much greater assistance for regional broadcasting, which I know the Minister is very enthusiastic and keen about. I think that there is the ability to reflect and talk to local communities and regional communities, and they are a very important strata of broadcasters.
On a much more localised level, I will also talk about this bill and the implications for community Access Radio. It is my pleasure to be involved with Community Radio Hamilton, and I believe that this bill will assist that. I acknowledge and give a big bouquet to NZ On Air for all the funding it gives to community Access Radio around
the country. My good colleague Barbara Stewart is nodding, because she is involved with the station as well, along with all the Waikato MPs. Again, I think that this bill opens up the opportunity for extra funding in that area.
So without further ado—and I know I have the firm support of my good colleague Jill Pettis—I say that we are enthusiastically supporting this bill in its second reading. It is good that we have multiparty support on this bill. I am looking forward to the Committee stage, and I think we will get a very good piece of legislation out of it. We will do our bit to assist the ongoing development and evolution of broadcasting and new technologies in our country.