It’s time to ditch TVNZ


death of TVNZ
Serious question: is TVNZ a public broadcaster? In the spirit of the BBC, PBS and ABC?

With the death of TVNZ 7, Maori TV (MTS) is the only non-commercial public broadcaster. TVNZ is the public broadcaster – technically at least – while MTS is the Maori broadcaster.  That should change.

MTS is committed to public interest television. TVNZ’s commitment to the same is waning, if non-existent. MTS screens and has screened Native Affairs, Songs From The Inside, the Sunday night documentary slot (including He Toki Huna New Zealand in Afghanistan), the Tuesday night film festival slot (including The Shock Doctrine) and other public interest shows including rolling coverage on Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day. I can’t point to a similar commitment at TVNZ.

MTS receives $16.6m in direct funding from the government, $16.1m from Te Mangai Paho for in-house productions and approximately $20m from a contestable fund administered under Te Mangai Paho. TVNZ 7 (the former non-commercial broadcaster) cost approximately $15m a year. When TVNZ 7 was decommissioned, the $15m it cost to run could have been transferred to MTS. After years of on a funding freeze, MTS could have created a separate channel, but it was an opportunity lost.

It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. MTS lacks the funding to produce the quantity that New Zealanders expect from a public broadcaster, but with extra funding MTS could reach critical mass. The culture and expertise needed to sustain public interest television already exists, the money doesn’t.

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In 2009 an economic impact report prepared by Business and Economic Research Ltd found 84% of New Zealanders thought MTS should be a permanent part of the New Zealand broadcasting landscape. The report also found that each year from 2004 to 2008 the activities of Maori TV and associated production companies resulted in the 500 to 600 full-time equivalent jobs. MTS makes economic sense, doesn’t it?

But public interest tv isn’t about the economy. Well, not in a strict sense. The government’s broadcasting policy should serve the community. A fully funded public broadcaster under the management and governance of Maori Television would deliver a channel that serves the community better than TVNZ.


  1. The Government has killed public service broadcasting. Giving MTS the money from killing off TVNZ7 would not make MTS a Public Broadcaster. This would change, or expand, and potentially confuse the role of MTS, which is not the issue for those concerned about the lack of a quality PBS in Aotearoa. A spanner is a spanner, and is not ideal when used as a hammer!

  2. There are other options to preserve and expand public television in NZ. We are trying to keep Face TV afloat in a sea of denial of an affordable Freeview frequency and government handouts.
    We cost far less than those 10s of millions a year and provide a much wider cultural and political service than TVNZ or MTS can or want.

  3. Ditch TVNZ but NOT its assets!
    As we know, the Natz agenda is to privatise it – its just that its not that attractive a proposition at the moment for a buyer.

    TVNZ has been sabotaged, its organisational culture is completely wrong, and has been for quite some time. Many/most of its senior management (if they can be called management) really don’t even understand the concept of public service broadcasting, and the culture has percolated through the ranks.

    Joyce and Key would be hatcheting RNZ if they thought they’d get away with it – instead they’re trying to strangle it slowly with underfunding.

    Freeview has been kneecapped too, and Natz mates allowed monopoly positions (SKY, etc).

    Kordia and MCH have also made some pretty stupid and incompetent fcukups – they can be resolved quite easily. (I’m not going to detail them now because I’m damn sure certain vested interests would work to entrench their positions.

    There are ways back of course – they won’t be liked by the beneficiaries of the current system, but that is necessarily what will be required to give back a NZ public one of its most fundamental democratic institutions.
    NZ CAN afford PSB. Given a commitment to the concept, there are various options for funding (using options outlined by the likes of Peter Thompson ), and certain mechanisms used overseas.

  4. No. The gutting of channel 1 has been done to make it irrelevant with a view to selling it. National does not like public service TV, or anything else. Once it is gone we will not get it back. We should demand that the next govt restore intelligent programming to TV1, funded by the cheap reality shows, cooking shows, singing competitions, nasty American cop shows and other baloney on channel 2.

  5. Making Maori Television the national broadcasting channel would simply be a case of appropriating the station for the benefit of non-Maori. PBS in America was established in the 1960s to be the channel for Afro-Americans and other poorer groups in the United States but ended up being controlled by the liberal middle classes, and not focused on its original intended audience.

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