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Why Freeview should be on Sky

Why Freeview should be on Sky

Paul's Blog

TVNZ has now launched two new digital channels – TVNZ 6 began in September 2007, a multi-service channel aimed at children in the daytime, families in the early evening, and adults in the late evening. In March 2008 TVNZ 7 was launched, a factual channel with news on the hour and offering a broad range of news, current affairs and documentary material. These channels are largely funded from public money – the Government gave TVNZ $79 million to cover the first five years.

They also contain a considerable amount of what would normally be seen as public service programming, especially the news, current affairs and documentary content on TVNZ 7. They are commercial-free channels, significantly different from all the other free-to-air channels we can watch. But most notably different in that most of us cannot watch these new channels. They are available on Freeview, for which you need a set-top-box, and there are only about 100,000 of these in homes at this point. Unlike all the other free-to-air channels, they are not available to Sky subscribers, because TVNZ and Sky have not reached a deal on terms.

This is simply not good enough. Public broadcasting, and publicly-funded programmes should be available to as wide an audience as possible. You might argue that TVNZ is in breach of its Charter by not ensuring that these channels are available to Sky viewers. How can TVNZ possibly be serious about its mission to “inspire New Zealanders on every screen” when its programming is denied to the 45% of householders who have Sky?

For its part the Government has been notably silent. How can it tolerate the spending all this public money for a mere handful of viewers? Why has it not threatened to impose “must carry” rules requiring Sky to carry the new channels? It should use its power to bring Sky and TVNZ to the negotiating table. That would be acting in the public interest.


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