Message brought to you by the New Zealand Government – Part 2

Last week the fateful letter from the government arrived in the local mail marked in very large all caps: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION IF YOU WANT TO WATCH TV AFTER 1 DECEMBER.”  I haven’t opened the letter yet because I’m still fuming over Freeview and must explain a few things before I see what sort of a shit sandwich is inside.  Warning: this is going to get sweary.
The man at Harvey Norman was reassuring. There’s built-in Freeview with all the TV sets now – you don’t need to buy a separate box. That’s good isn’t it.  Because to be TV it’s got to be free… right.  That’s what uncle Pio on the ads has been telling us for the last year.  And then the man says… ‘Oh, where do you live’?  Well what’s that got to do with it?  I get TV now where I am, the whole town and most of the district does.  So what? I get a new TV with FV built-in and whacko.  Eh.  Just plug in the aerial as per and she’s apples.  Right.  Right?  And then it begins…
If… That’s usually how the public trying to eat a would-be government/corporate shit sandwich begins – with an ‘if’.  Oh, he says, if you live in the Eastern Bay – and he sort of waved his hand in the general direction of the 10,000+ people and the 20,000+ square kilometres to the east of Whakatane – you can’t get FV on UHF.  OK.  Can’t.  So…? So you need to get a FV box.  Right… But, the FV is built in.  Yes.  Yes that’s for UHF.  You need a FV box for satellite. But… it’s built in.  Limply I point to the FV label on the TV set.  Yeah, he says, but you can’t get UHF there, you have to buy a FV box.  OK, so I have to buy a FV box separately for the TV set with built-in FV…  Yeah.  But, why isn’t the satellite tuner built-in too?  He looks at me blankly: they don’t, they don’t do that – none of them do he says.  But, if that’s the only way we can get TV after the 1st of December, what is the point?  You’re telling me I need to buy, for about $80, a FV box for a TV festooned with the assurance it is already FV.  Yeah.  So I might as well stick with the olde worlde TV set and get a FV decoder because all of the scores of different TVs on display are just basically monitors for all they’re worth for everyone down the coast.  Yeah. Mmm, yeah… this sorta shit is a bit bigger more of a substantial disappointment than a mere sandwich though isn’t it – more like a shit roll, or a shit burger, perhaps even a shit picnic.
How is this fucking Freeview fuck fest working out? Oh, sure it’s supposed to be better than the old system; but what is the value of the technology if you can’t receive it? Like having a fridge when there is no power.
We are being forced into a reduction of service while it is being sold as an enhancement.  Throw those sammies, rolls and burgers and the entire hamper in the pot together, stir, and we are looking at a steaming big crock of it.   Just like the planned postal delivery cut-backs.  The government is withdrawing services and we slip, by definition, into what we have derisively referred to as the Third World.  The government is acting as agent and regulator of the corporates, and together with the government’s own commercial interests (in this case Kordia – the transmission company, and TVNZ, and the  non-commercial interests of RNZ and MTS – the state broadcasters ) the government has become conflicted.
Last week I traversed the difficulties with satellite coverage – that the digital signal is worse than the analogue signal and the temperamental “rain fade” interruption with the satellite service is an aggravation beyond anything like the supposed horrors of ghosting and snowing on analogue reception. To be told that satellite is the only method of getting FV – for much of provincial NZ by the sounds of it – is to have that crock emptied all over the viewer.
It is Optus and Inmarsat or PRISMsat or MegaSat that will distribute TV to us now – not KiwiSat or MaoriSat.  It is being farmed out to foreigners.  As the farms in this country are increasingly being farmed by foreigners. And that is just distribution.  Content is already locked up – by Hollywood.  Last week we learnt that the Mediaworks restructure has ran into Fox playing hardball in making them take all of their product.  Forcing America up our arses.  And Vodafone this week have announced their TelstraClear cable system will link up with Sky to coat-tail on the government’s UFB fibre subsidised roll-out (which is itself a back-door subsidy to the Telecom corporate hydra).
This is what happens when the core service is diluted: the government’s mates start creaming it.  This is market manipulation.
The conclusion is that FV is designed to be less.  FV is planned to be shit.  It’s shit so that Sky looks good and so that Igloo – the connivance between Sky and TVNZ – can exist in the crawl space between subscriber and free-to-air television and circumvent the Commerce Commission kicking their arses.  It’s shit so it assists the uptake of the government’s fibre roll-out.  It’s all a massive have.
Like the wailing tsunami siren that echoed out last week around the Eastern Bay the FV hype may be a message brought to you by the NZ government, but it is a false message.  So… now I am seated, now I’ve had a cuppa, and taking a calming deep breath, let’s open this letter proclaiming the rapidly-approaching abolition of TV as we know it.
Two items.  A one-sided, single-page letter and a glossy folded pamphlet.
The letter:
“Dear TV viewer, [blah blah blah…] Going digital frees up the airwaves for next-generation mobile phone services  [no mention of how much money is involved and what the costs between the systems are of course so we cannot judge what the government – the viewer – is getting in return] and will mean everybody will be able to get better pictures and more channels no matter where they live.  [Lying bastards.  The channels are closing on FV not opening.  The range is spectacularly underwhelming.  The pictures are not better either, they are worse where I am – worse.]  You don’t need a new TV, as almost any TV set can go digital with the right equipment.  [No details on costs of the right equipment – because it doesn’t matter to whoever is writing this.] [blah, blah, blah…] Yours Sincerely, Greg Harford, National Manager, Going Digital.”
That’s how the abolition of TV goes down, eh.  Someone called Greg from the government – without apology, without even the slightest hint this is a cunting, costly hassle imposed on everybody – matter-of-factly informs you six times what you will need to do.  Wankers.
The brochure:
Plenty of capitalised headings.  A Japanese robot dog, a kid looking like an egg wearing a dorky cycle helmet – all apropos of nothing.  Free ads pretty much for Sky and Igloo as you would expect – how convenient. Only inside do we see the fine print: “UHF aerial options. Available to 86% of New Zealand homes.”  And the other 14%?  How much of that 14% used to enjoy free-to-air TV on terrestrial and now won’t?  No, they aren’t going to disclose this are they.  “Satellite dish options” it says.  But it isn’t an option for the 14% is it – it is a necessity.  Saying they are options when they are either needed or aren’t available at all is not an option.  They are lying wankers.
We are supposed to be, what?  Grateful?  Happy?


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  1. I have to politely agree. This is hardly news though, broadcasting in NZ is totally munted. The government is increasingly irrelevant and it is now flagrant corporate interest…We only think it is a demockary.Or are we now in a dumockracy?

  2. It’s also a ploy to privatise one of the most useful parts of the spectrum (the VHF band). Even the grand old US-of-A doesn’t have privately-owned spectrum, but little old New Zealand does now.

    Signals in the VHF band will travel further and around obstacles (eg trees, hills, buildings) better than UHF, while the UHF band has more channels available and is less prone to interference. On the old analogue system, TV 1, 2, and 3 were broadcast on the VHF band while most of the others (Four?, Maori, Prime) were broadcast on the UHF band.

    In many rural areas, or areas with a lot of buildings/trees/hills, the channels in the UHF band were received with a lot of interference, if they were received at all, while those in the VHF band were generally able to be received in those areas. Since Freeview is on the UHF band, it’s not possible to receive it in many areas which aren’t in the middle of large towns for the same reason as Prime and Maori weren’t able to be received. Of course, I’m fairly sure the Government is shutting down some of the transmitting stations as well, which certainly doesn’t help either…

    Back to my original complaint, these VHF bands (the ones which TV 1, 2, and 3 were broadcast on) will be sold, not allocated to companies. My understanding is that, in many other countries (and in New Zealand, earlier), the spectrum was owned collectively by the people and the Government allocated (for lease, or free in some cases) blocks to companies which needed them. Now, frequency blocks are being auctioned off to private companies (not even telecommunications companies, necessarily).

    Like in many cases where highly scarce resources are privatised, you can guarantee that a reasonable number of people/companies are purchasing these blocks purely to either resell later on for a profit, or to lease out themselves for a reasonable income source (and with something as limited as the spectrum is, you can guarantee that large sums of money will be gained). Therefore, we will not have spectrum allocated according to the greatest needs of New Zealand (which may very well be mobile technology at this stage). Rather, the market demands it be allocated according to the people who have the biggest purse.

  3. costly hassle imposed on everybody

    It’s not imposed upon everybody. Those of us who don’t watch TV aren’t affected at all 😛

    Actually, my suggestion is to dump the TV altogether anyway. Get your news and watch programs off the net. Without the TV you may find that the social areas of your home may actually become social again. Most importantly, you’ll no longer be affected by the advertising which is spammed across the broadcast spectrum inducing unnatural wants and desires and thus tying you to the unsustainable consumption economy.

    • It’s easy to say, “dump the TV,” however there are who prefer a couple of hours of idiot box over the expense of a broadband connection, plus those with children are less likely to inadvertently expose them to porn if they stay off the net. I agree with Tim, obfuscation provoked sweariness is in order as, with most government initiatives involving technology, people and the word “free”, there’s many a slip in the offing.

    • While I agree that Draco has offered a solution it’s not so useful for seniors (and others) with vision problems. The larger screens are more useful for both watching TV and playing DVDs from the library (if you have one nearby.)

      And those are often the people who will be adversely affected – seniors, folk with mobility challenges, folk who are, for some reason, shut in at home. Not the casual or after-work viewers. People who are most vulnerable to dodgy advice and ‘service providers’.

      If this was ‘thought through’ – some people have nasty minds indeed.

  4. I used the 90cm dish that I had left over from my old ihug satellite “broadband” connection. We do not suffer rain fade but I have heard of cases with the 60cm regulation dish. scoffed and said that we would not receive FV uhf where we are so we bought a satellite PVR/decoder.

    It turns out that we can receive uhf from the opposite direction to that recommended. Now we have a bit of expensive kit that can only record in HD, not Full HD and requires a satellite feed.

    In the rare event of something worth watching actually being filmed in Full HD we can watch it through uhf and record in lo-fi through the satellite. Half-baked technology for the Third Millenium.

    We could all have Full HD through satellite but it is the Sky satellite and they wouldn’t want to upstage their own service would they?

    The rollout has been a terrible mix of govt and private interests all jumping in to get what is best for themselves. Cowboys everywhere.

    There has been very little regard for the taxpayer in all of this, but then wasn’t Joyce involved? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    A tip about decoders and analogue TVs – I experienced a lot of unpredictable behaviour with my PVR/decoder until I bought a digital TV. So there is more expense to add to the misnomer Freeview.

    • The problem is, they’re severely limited to how much bandwidth they can use on the satellite. The satellite itself is owned by some Australian company, and Sky owns a heck of a lot of the bandwidth on it, so Freeview is severely limited.

      They could probably either broadcast 6 channels in HD or broadcast 18 channels in SD (the latter would be preferable for most people). Of course the best solution would be Sky coughing up part of the massive spectrum they own, but we all know that will never happen…

      • The satellite is Optus D1.

        Any ideas on why Freeview chose D1 rather than a satellite that did have enough bandwidth for a signal as good as the terrestrial signal?

        By not surpassing Sky’s transmission standard the easy choice for non UHF customers is to pay for Sky and receive the Freeview channels through them. (The dish is already aligned.)
        There’s nothing free viewing about that. More money for the Sky coffers though.

  5. My theory about why TV is being changed to a unified thing is that one day in the future (mark my words) there will be One World totalitarian govt coming into everybody’s house via their TV, interrupting programmes, and broadcasting propoganda – just like in George Orwells book. TV is the greatest mind control instrument there ever was. Look at how much it already has shaped culture and shapes peoples thinking, beliefs and behavior!

    (And if you think that’s far fetched, did you ever think a day would come where mass surveillance would be an established thing? And it’s only early days …)
    I’m happy without TV, and won’t be updating.

  6. Good on you, Tim. The govt has sold us a crock.
    My area did the switch-over on Sept 29 and now my picture breaks up when it rains heavily. It never did that with UHF.
    Also I’ve discovered my trusty old VCR is useless and I’ll need to buy an expensive new recording device if I want to record anything. WTF??? No-one mentioned that.

  7. Forcing America up our arses, Freeview is planned to be shit.
    Aha, so that’s it, a Gotcha like Fly Buys and Lotto.
    Will it show Big Brother? I would love Freeview etc to record my actions muting the TV, changing the channel, and turning it off. That would keep the computers busy!

  8. Gone in the past 6 months –

    1. BBC News on TV1 in the wee small hours – replaced with mindless ‘unfomercials” that are re-broadcast 1 hour later on Ch 6 (is it?).

    2. CCTV documentaries on Channel 29 – replaced with a blank screen 24 x 7.

    Freeview? Ha Ha Ha!

    I too have now given up on TV.

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