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Public Broadcasting In Spotlight

Media Release

Hon Marian Hobbs

Minister of Broadcasting

PUBLIC BROADCASTING IN SPOTLIGHT


20 January 2000

A programme of action for public broadcasting is contained in briefing papers released today by the Minister of Broadcasting, Marian Hobbs.

Some of it will cost money, Ms Hobbs said, and she will be approaching these issues as part of the Budget round of negotiations.

The Minister said she is also working to establish a Task Force to find alternative ways of funding NZ on Air following the abolition of the public broadcasting fee.

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage in its briefing says the abolition of the fee from next July has raised a number of transitional issues. The former government gave NZ on Air assurances it would not be financially disadvantaged and that its funding level would be maintained for the next three years.

"The Ministry is working with NZ on Air and the Treasury to ascertain what exactly will be required to fulfil this undertaking," Ms Hobbs said.

Both the Ministry and New Zealand on Air talk about the level and quality of local content in broadcasting, especially on television.

"I have been advised that the potential of broadcasting to reflect and develop New Zealand's identity is not being realised," Ms Hobbs said.

"NZ on Air talks about the system being under stress. The gradual erosion of its funding base has highlighted the ability of commercial broadcasters to play a gatekeeper role by refusing to broadcast certain types of programmes, or transmitting them only at inhospitable hours. There is a fundamental tension between NZ on Air's social and cultural objectives and the broadcasters' purely commercial considerations which need to be addressed."

Ms Hobbs said that with a multi-channel digital future and audience fragmentation the need for public broadcasting will increase rather than diminish.

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