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Difficulties Ahead Says NZ On Air

"NZ On Air faces increasing difficulty in meeting its responsibility to ensure New Zealand's culture and identity are reflected and developed by the nation's broadcasting services, " said NZ On Air Chairman, David Beatson, releasing NZ On Air's 1998/99 Annual Report.

"This Annual Report marks the tenth year of operations by NZ On Air. Over the decade, we can look back at some major achievements. The hours of local content on the free-to air television networks has more than trebled. New Zealand documentary hours have grown spectacularly from 43 hours in 1988 to 334 hours in 1998; and ambitious documentary series like The New Zealand Wars and Hillary: A View From The Top have proved that in-depth explorations of our history and people are enthusiastically received by the public.

"Radio New Zealand's public radio services have been established as strong independent entities and New Zealand music is achieving a growing presence on local radio," said Mr Beatson.

"However, we can also look around and see some worrying signs that we no longer have adequate funding to sustain the quality, diversity and quantity of New Zealand radio and television programme production.

"The average level of local content in programmes screened by our three main television networks is just 24% - and even that comparatively low level of local content has been boosted by a 96% increase in repeat screenings of local programmes since 1995, including a 16% increase in repeats in the last year alone.

"The local content of prime time programming on our television networks has actually declined 10% since 1994. The hours of home- grown children's programmes on screen have plummeted more than 51% over the last seven years - and dropped 24% last year alone. Other funding pressures have forced us to peg back our support for New Zealand drama and comedy on commercial radio.

"We have reached the limit of what is achievable with the funding available and we are forecasting a reduction in the number of hours of NZ On Air-funded local content in the year ahead. We do not expect that the television broadcasters who already fund 70% of the local content on screen will be able to increase their investment to any significant degree.

"We are at a point where some further serious consideration needs to be given to the manner in which we ensure that New Zealand broadcasting more actively reflects and develops our own culture and identity as we go forward into an era in which our exposure to significantly cheaper mass media productions from other nations is increasing at exponential rates," Mr Beatson said.

ENDS....

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