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Taking The Broadcasting Debate Forward

Taking The Broadcasting Debate Forward


The future of broadcasting in New Zealand is a hot topic this year. Today NZ On Air took the debate forward, releasing new research into three key areas.

NZ On Air chief executive, Jo Tyndall, said NZ On Air's research programme meant it was uniquely placed to contribute credible quantitative and qualitative analysis to the debate about New Zealand's broadcasting system and local content.

"Our core business is the promotion and funding of New Zealand's culture and identity through broadcasting. This means that NZ On Air has extensive experience, knowledge and commitment in an area which is clearly a priority for the Government."

The research projects released today are: qualitative research into Audience Preferences in local content programmes, carried out by Colmar Brunton; the 1999 Local Content Survey; and an analysis of women's television viewing behaviour in two parts: one using ratings data, and a separate literature review.

They are the latest instalment in NZ On Air's ongoing programme of research, which includes annual audience attitude research, an annual quantitative review of local content on television, and last year's major study, "Local Content and Diversity; Television in Ten Countries".

As a group, the research projects reinforce a consistent theme: that New Zealanders value local content, that diversity is important, and that we want to see more of ourselves on air.

The 1999 Local Content Survey focuses on the quantity of local content on television in New Zealand. This year's report shows that local content - programmes made by and about New Zealanders - is barely holding its own.

Ms Tyndall said she was concerned that the percentage of local content compared with imported programmes had barely changed over the last ten years.

"We hope that this research provides a benchmark for ensuring that local content is markedly increased over the next decade."

The Colmar Brunton project complements the Local Content survey by providing more in-depth qualitative analysis of how New Zealanders feel about publicly funded television in New Zealand.

"The research shows that New Zealanders are now not just accepting, but actively enjoying locally made drama, and that the old 'cultural cringe' is finally wearing off," Ms Tyndall said.

"This may be partly due to New Zealanders being generally more willing to take pride in their own culture. But it may also be a result of the constant presence of Shortland Street on our screens for the past eight years, and to a general growth in production experience."

"This could not have been achieved without the existence of a mechanism such as NZ On Air funding. It allows for more risk-taking in this relatively expensive genre than would be possible in a wholly commercial environment."

The third research project will assist NZ On Air's funding policy development, as mandated by the Broadcasting Act. The studies, into women's television viewing behaviour, show that there are subtle but significant differences between women's and men's viewing, with women generally tending more towards dramas with storylines featuring human relationships, documentaries, food and gardening shows, amongst others.

"The studies confirm, though, that women - over 50 percent of the population - can't been seen as a homogenous audience. They also show that programmes targeted to female audiences may also be watched by large numbers of men."

"Between them, these four documents contribute to our understanding of how public broadcasting looks, how it's perceived, and where it might go. It shows us what New Zealand audiences are getting, in comparison to what they want, from local programming.

"They show that we have a great deal of pride and confidence in our local programmes - but that some of the old cultural cringe remains. They show that we have strong concerns about the need for programming, particularly in the area of children's television, to be responsible and educational, but we also enjoy watching television purely for enjoyment and entertainment."

"Most importantly they show that New Zealanders want local content, they watch local content, and they look out for it. They show that there is not just one New Zealand audience, and that our interests are quite diverse."

"Currently NZ On Air funding is the sole mechanism for meeting the diverse local content needs of New Zealand television audiences. An important part of the ongoing debate is whether this will continue to be the sole mechanism, and what level of resourcing will be available to allow us to fulfil our obligations.

"NZ On Air will use the findings of this research to contribute to our own policy development. We hope that all those involved in or interested in the debate on the wider broadcasting policy development policy will read this research, and use it as they think about where broadcasting in New Zealand is going."

The research is available on the Internet, at , or from NZ On Air.


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