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Regional television gives budget black mark!

Regional television gives budget black mark!

The Regional Television Broadcasting Association of New Zealand (RTBA) is outraged that the Government in today's budget has once again failed to deliver on its repeated promises to provide funding support for the country's regional television stations.

RTBA chairman Jim Blackman says the lack of budget funding is particularly galling when successive Labour Governments and Ministers have continually promised the struggling channels that support would be forthcoming.

He says this latest slap in the face makes those promises even more hollow when support for regional TV has been highlighted as important and published as part of the party's broadcasting manifesto election after election.

This lip service claim of support is clearly a smokescreen and verges on dishonesty.

The current Minister of Broadcasting has claimed repeatedly that he supported a funding application to Government but despite several comprehensive submissions from the Regional Television Broadcasting Association, there has been no support at all.

"We were certainly not expecting the level of taxpayer assistance that has been showered on Maori TV by this Government ($57million) or the ex gratia TVNZ top-up of $12 million to help it 'meet its charter obligations'," says Mr Blackman.

"Many of our stations currently meet and exceed charter requirements and have been doing so for years. Our members operate far more economic operations on shoestring budgets than other broadcasters. All we are seeking is assistance to provide local news and current affairs services. This is not unreasonable given the massive amounts these other channels have expediently received."

A small amount of support would also enable regional television channels to significantly increase the quality of programming.

"Twenty per cent of the people surveyed in recent research undertaken by NZ on Air watch regional television. If a television programme on mainstream television attracted 20 per cent of viewers, that would be cause for celebration. Perhaps regional television and its viewers are not elitist or 'trendy' enough to be considered important."

Mr Blackman says that the increasing number of people who tune into regional television channels is proof of the value and popularity of a viewing alternative. While many seek safe, family viewing, others gain a sense of participation and reinforce their New Zealand or ethnic identify or their own values and experiences - aspects of television broadcasting that mainstream broadcasters continue to struggle to deliver.

"It is clear this Government simply does not intend to recognise the worth of regional television. But a national regional television service can survive in the long term only with some assistance from the Government. If stations fail, the Labour Government can only blame itself."

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