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We’re getting election coverage – but only in Chinese

We’re getting election coverage – but only in Chinese

By Lindsay Shelton

The dismal state of New Zealand’s Freeview television system is being sadly demonstrated today – its only live coverage of the US elections is in Chinese.

Freeview used to transmit Stratos, the service originated from Auckland’s estimable Triangle, with a 24 hour roster of live international news. But Stratos went off the air when it couldn’t afford the government’s monthly transmission charges. And the government didn’t think such a service was worth supporting.

The consequences were visible to all this morning. As the US elections began, New Zealand viewers who weren’t paying for their television channels were given nothing. Nothing, that is, except:

cooking lessons (on TVOne’s faltering Good Morning show), Maori language lessons and then an Australian soap opera on TV2, an American talk show and then Entertainment Tonight on TV3, American infomercials on Four, more Maori language lessons on Maori TV, infomercials on U, music videos on C4, home shopping on Prime, racing on Trackside, shopping on the Shopping Channel, Australian surfing on Choice, nothing at all on Parliament TV, sermons on FirstLight … and finally the two Chinese channels.

Free to air television in New Zealand must offer the narrowest choice of any country in the world except for North Korea.

The government’s decision to let Stratos disappear from the Freeview mix means that viewers who don’t want to pay for the privilege of looking at television have been deprived of any international news and current affairs. Except from midnight to dawn when TVOne carries BBC World.

Still, the wasteland of free to air television does have one good result. It encourages viewers to leave their TV sets and move to their computers – where Al Jazeera’s top-rating live coverage of the US elections is being streamed by Triangle TV.

Triangle really does deserve official acknowledgement – it’s the country’s only genuine 24 hour a day public service broadcaster. Without any public support.


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