Coalition for Better Broadcasting – Whose Spectrum Is It Anyway?



Four boatloads of asylum seekers have recently been liberated into New Zealand’s sovereign ether. Each vessel, a set of frequencies, has spent years adrift in the commercial sea of Sky TV. And aboard each boat are 12 digital television frequencies, refugees hoping for a rewarding, fulfilling and comfortable new life on the nearest coastline. Unfortunately for the four sets of frequencies, the current NZ government has as much regard for public service television as Australian governments have for boat people.

Last month MBIE called for indications of interest, gauging demand for the 48 frequencies. Later this year, they’ll make recommendations to Cabinet, whose decision could mean no public television broadcasting in NZ ever again! It seems extreme but it’s true. If they’re all sold off to the highest bidder, as is the standard government answer to every question, any new public service channel would struggle to afford a frequency to transmit on. The CBB suggested, reasoned, begged MBIE to set aside just one set for non-commercial, ad-free TV. Interestingly Sky TV are not against the idea.

But whose spectrum is it anyway? The radio waves that float around and through us all started out as a public space – like a vast expanse of unbroken earth. Almost all of that wasteland has been divvied up for commercial use, with a few small wedges set aside for community use such as public service radio and television. Sadly after Digital Switch Over that tiny wedge for public service television was forgotten. Small non-profit regional television channels and any future public service channels are forced into battle with the likes of Mediaworks, TVNZ and Kordia in the hope of buying a frequency at reasonable price.

The current scope of this value assessment is principally focused on financial returns and does little or nothing to challenge the occupation and dominance of vested interests and agendas. At this juncture we have an opportunity to reflect again on the government’s role. And to cast our minds back to the early days of Radio Hauraki and the ship it was forced to venture in, to broadcast on a then heavily repressed radio spectrum.

Will protest action once again be required to allow our voices to be heard?


The Coalition for Better Broadcasting is a charitable trust working to champion public service radio, television and online media. We have an active grassroots membership and regular campaigns. 



  1. Yes. The airwaves are a “common” – owned by all of us. The decision whether to sell a particular frequency or use it ourselves for a public broadcasting service is a political one. The trouble is most people don’t realize this. It is taken for granted that all frequencies should go to the highest bidder.

  2. As someone recently wrote, our Government regards the citizens of New Zealand as a commodity: something to be exploited for the best financial gain. It has always been that way – but must it always continue?

  3. MBIE is actually the brainchild of no other than a broadcaster S Joyce, currently the Minister that has financial interests and involvement still in a large network private media he founded.

    Steven Joyce began as a radio host on his own radio station back over 50yrs ago, and runs the media policy now for national and is the campaign manager for John Key.

    This is looking every day like a complete takeover of the entire media network by Government to brainwash us all on the next three year cycle.

    They have copied the NAZI policy leading up to the second world war.

    Then all media was nationalised by NAZI Minister of Propaganda and enlightenment Joseph Goebbels, and blog his method of brainwashing the German population as they prepared them for war.

    Now we see here this Government is setting about to place all control of media operations outside of any free public broadcasting, effectively gagging us all from any free speech.

    William Joyce was NAZI English speaking broadcaster used to attempt to neutralise all allied armies with his daily radio program beamed at them with propaganda, and the Mr Joyce we have today is a similar creature.

    National is a term in the dictionary meaning for the people and this government is clearly against the people with their GCSB spying onus all and now removing any public broadcasting. Heaven help us all.

    Speak up any free speaking media folk and journalists out there, please warn the public ahead of the election, so they all know who to vote for.

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