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What's Around the Corner for NZ Broadcasting?

What's Around the Corner for New Zealand Broadcasting?

As the Government opens the debate on the future of public broadcasting in New Zealand, new NZ On Air research indicates that similar discussions are happening elsewhere in the world. The Future of Public Broadcasting: The Experience in Six Countries, a study that updates a report NZ On Air commissioned in 1999, has just been published.

The updated report has been prepared by the same research team responsible for the 1999 study, led by New Zealand Broadcasting School Head, Paul Norris.

"There are similar issues facing public broadcasters globally, not the least of them, a blurring of the lines between commercial and public service providers, with growing competition for ever-fragmenting audiences as more and more listening and viewing choices become available," said NZ On Air Chief Executive, Jo Tyndall.

"We're still seeing an overwhelming belief in the value of public service broadcasting in the results of this research, but universally there are questions about just what it means in the 21st century," she said.

"A good example is the response from BBC Director General Greg Dyke when he was asked if the BBC would have considered commissioning the reality TV series Big Brother. He replied that the decision would have been an agonising one, but the answer would probably have been yes – that it was an original piece of television. But is Big Brother what people think of when they think of public service broadcasting?

"Also interesting to note in this report is the conclusion that as we look at rebalancing public service broadcasting here with developments such as a charter and some direct Government funding for TVNZ, several of the countries studied are looking at rebalancing their broadcasting economies in our direction – towards an element of contestability and more independence in the allocation of funding for public broadcasting."

The report surveys the broadcasting landscapes in the UK, Australia, Ireland, Singapore, Canada and Finland, and seeks to define the key issues facing Governments and broadcasters as they contend with questions of funding and whether public service broadcasting fulfils social and cultural objectives or is supported largely for economic reasons.

"These are all issues I discussed with broadcasters and producers during a recent visit to the UK and to MIPCOM - a major television market in France," said Ms Tyndall. "The individual concerns are varied, but there are underlying threads that pull them all together, including the explosion of specialist digital channels, and the effect that has in fragmenting traditional free-to-air television audiences.

"All public broadcasters are facing questions around costs and benefits, measuring quality or value, and what the future holds as countries inevitably face the move to digital broadcasting.

"This report doesn't just describe the policy environments in these six countries, but it also explores broadcasting themes from philosophical, economic, programming and audience perspectives. For those of us who watch programmes like Big Brother, and wonder if that's public service broadcasting, it is timely research as we consider the future of broadcasting in New Zealand."

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