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Reinvented TVNZ Will Have A Place For BCL

The Government’s hand was not forced in today’s decision not to split off Broadcasting Communications Ltd (BCL) from Television New Zealand, Finance Minister Michael Cullen said at the post-cabinet press conference.

Broadcasting Minister Marion Hobbs had earlier said she favoured splitting off the profitable broadcasting infrastructure arm, to protestations that the split would force TVNZ to go cap-in-hand to the Government for funding, opening up opportunities for political interference in the broadcaster’s news coverage. The Green Party argued the split would pave the way for a National led Government to sell the state owned enterprise.

Dr Cullen said the decision to keep BCL as part of TVNZ, reinvented as a new crown owned company, was made within the Government.

Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton said the Alliance was not supportive of a split and said the arguments for a split didn’t stack up.

Dr Cullen said ministers were satisfied that BCL could continue to operate as a fully independent organisation within the TVNZ group.

He said the arrangement will be reviewed in two years to see whether BCL should stand alone.

TVNZ will still have to make a profit and return a dividend to the Government, Dr Cullen said. How much the new TVNZ was expected to return would be considered in the 2002 budget round.

Dr Cullen dismissed National Broadcasting Spokesperson Murray McCully’s claim that the TVNZ charter, to be implemented in July 2002, would cost $100 million annually. “There’s much that can be done that doesn’t necessarily have an impact on profit. The improvement of quality doesn’t necessarily cost more.”

Dr Cullen said he couldn’t put a definite timeframe on the implementation of the charter objectives, but said we’ll know we’re getting there when the answers to Paul Holmes’s question’s are longer than the questions.

The balance between commercial and charter objectives would discussed between Broadcasting Minister Marion Hobbs and the TVNZ board, Dr Cullen said.


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