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No funding prompts Regional TV to Oust NZ on Air


PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Regional Television Broadcasting Association of New Zealand

October 2, 2002

No funding prompts Regional TV to Oust NZ on Air programmes

From October 7, regional television stations throughout the country will cease broadcasting fully funded NZ on Air programmes for minority audiences.

Programmes such as Tangata Pasifika, Asia Downunder, Queer Nation and Inside Out are affected by the decision.

The move, supported by all regional television stations except Wellington TV, is the response to a recent announcement by NZ on Air that no funding will be forthcoming to support regional television programming.

Chairman of the RTB Association Jim Blackman says the continual refusal to support and help develop regional programming is both disappointing and contradictory to the Government's stated policy on broadcasting.

The Labour Party's 2002 broadcasting says:

While the TVNZ Charter places an obligation for the broadcasting of programmes of interest to all New Zealanders, including in the regions, it is important that this is supplemented by vigorous community television and radio broadcasts such as those provided by Access Radio and regional television stations. Labour will:

* Give priority to finding ways of supporting the growth of regional and community broadcasting.

* Support growth of regional television, including through support by NZ on Air.

* Support spectrum allocation for community broadcasters as new spectrum becomes available.

Mr Blackman says NZ on Air has repeatedly said it would consider funding regional television, yet has declined to do so.

Mr Blackman, who is also Chief Executive Officer of Auckland's regional station Triangle Television, says a minimal amount of support from NZ on Air would have enabled regional stations to maintain their existing programme schedules including the fully funded programmes while allowing them to embark on new fields of programme activity including local news.

"It needs to be remembered that the cost of production of programming for regional broadcast is very substantially lower than that for mainstream television. A little goes a long way."

Without the support from NZ on Air nearly all members felt they could no longer afford to re-broadcast the fully funded minority programmes.

The stations now needed to concentrate on commercial programming that attracted a wider audience and therefore more advertising dollars. The cost of re-broadcasting NZ on Air's special programmes has in the past been met in full by the individual stations but the very nature of the programmes makes them difficult to secure commercial support in the form of sponsorship or subsidy to help cover costs.

"Given NZ on Air's ongoing dialogue with the RTB and the Government's unsubstantiated policy of supporting regional television, it's disappointing that they're reneging on stated policy just three month's into office."

Mr Blackman says NZ on Air's own research found that almost without exception the times at which minority programmes screened on the major networks posed problems for target audiences.

"Here was an ideal opportunity to ensure that these were available to a wider audience and at a more viewable time. Our members simply can't afford to subsidise NZ on Air any longer."

Regional television stations screen a mix of regional programming along with international news and information programmes. In the past year they have screened nearly 5000 hours of first run locally made programming, none of which was funded by NZ on Air, and over 13,000 hours of repeated New Zealand programming.

The RTB has advised programme producers of its decision and has told NZ on Air that its members will continue to work with NZ on Air in an effort to find meaningful co-operation.

The stations will screen explanations to viewers as to why they will no longer be seeing specific programmes and inviting them to write to the Minister of Broadcasting addressing their concerns about lack of support for regional television.

For further information please phone Gail King on 021 412 964.


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