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Regional TV takes swipe at NZ On Air

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Regional Television Takes Swipe at NZ on Air

New Zealand on Air is out of touch with what is really happening on television sets around the country according to a major regional TV station.

Jim Blackman, founder and CEO of Auckland's not-for-profit broadcaster Triangle Television, says that NZ on Air's claim that local production has remained static over the past year is seriously flawed because it ignores the many hours of programming produced by regional stations.

"On Triangle, locally supplied programmes regularly account for more than 40% of our prime-time programming. Last year from May to December, Wellington's not-for-profit station, Channel 7, alone produced over 100 hours of local television and around the country other regional stations produce similar amounts, if not more in some areas," he said.

"This amount of production is no mean feat and it makes us very annoyed and frustrated that NZ on Air refuses to recognise the important role these stations now play in local TV production," he said. "What's more NZ on Air refuses to consider funding programmes made in, by and for the community at a fraction of mainstream costs. These programmes are representing New Zealand's true culture and community more accurately than mainstream television."

Mr Blackman cited a series made by the Samoan Education Trust which has been broadcast on Triangle since February 10 and is now screening on Channel 7.

"This series has been made by Samoan people, in Samoan language and addresses issues such as child abuse, sexual abuse and poor educational performance, along with other problems faced by the Samoan community. It is a sad indictment that a community funded programme of such enormous social value has received no public funding," said Mr Blackman.

It has been considered so important that the University of the South Pacific has acquired the series for educational purposes.

"Show me any other programme that has screened on the major channels that has achieved this status. Yet regional stations have been told in no uncertain terms that taxpayer funding will not be provided to regional programme makers because there is no money and because our audiences are too small."

Recent audience surveys have shown that over a four week period Triangle attracted substantially more viewers than any of the Sky UHF channels in the Auckland survey area. Mr Blackman believed that Channel 7 would attract a similar proportion of Wellington viewers.

"If NZ on Air thinks that regional stations are insignificant broadcasters then it needs to rethink its dyed-in-the-wool attitude. We broadcast many programmes for many communities whose needs are not, and cannot, be met by commercial broadcasters. This includes programmes for the majority of the Pacific Island population in Auckland. We have a demonstrably huge Polynesian audience, so what evidence is there to show our audience levels are "too small" to warrant funding?"

"NZ on Air should be called to account on the levels and method of allocating programme funding. The days of 'industry standard' pricing, long accepted by production houses and mainstream broadcasters, have gone and new technologies have brought reduced production costs."

"We now see many half-hour programmes with excellent production values being made for under $7500 and many programmes which meet the NZ on Air mandate are being produced and screened for less than $2000. It is time NZ on Air got its head out of the clouds and feet firmly on the ground."

"The funding process has decayed so badly and unfairly that providing support for local programming has become the responsibility of the community at large," said Mr Blackman.

"NZ on Air has simply not lived up to its responsibilities. The fact is this organisation is not giving New Zealanders what they really want to see, nor does it reflect the changing face of New Zealand's culture. The public has been telling it so for many years. It's simply time NZ on Air maximised the production dollar to benefit all without the need for additional funding."

Ends

For further information please contact:

Jim Blackman - Founder and CEO - Triangle Television Ph 09 376-5030 - A/h 09 376-7305 - Mob 025 735-336

David Ross - Community Programme Manager - Channel 7 Ph 04 920-7777 - A/h 04 934-1177


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