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Marion Hobbs Speech Launching New Radio Station

SPEECH MINISTER OF BROADCASTING, HON MARIAN HOBBS, LAUNCHING NEW CANTERBURY RADIO STATION, LIMES ROOM, CHRISTCHURCH TOWN HALL, 6PM MONDAY 8 MAY 2000

Good evening George Balani, Robin Harrison, Your worship, Garry and Pam, my Parliamentary colleague, David Carter, ladies and gentlemen.

It is, of course, always a pleasure to return to Christchurch. And it is a particular pleasure to return to help celebrate an initiative that is so in keeping with my concerns and my commitment as Minister of Broadcasting. Thank you to those who invited me to be part of the launch of this new radio station.

As Mr Balani has indicated tonight, the intention in establishing this station is to ‘return a voice to the people of Canterbury – totally local for 24 hours a day’. I am delighted to be advised that it will cover local events from a local perspective – and provide local current affairs, sport, community information and talkback, and local news bulletins each hour from 6am.

The provision of what sounds to be an excellent local service, and the responsiveness of those behind the new station to the needs of Canterbury listeners, are, I think, things that are very much to be celebrated. They are certainly consistent with my own thinking about the way broadcasting should operate.

I would like to take the opportunity now to talk to you a little bit about this, and about the reasons why – and the principles upon which - the government should involve itself in broadcasting.

Radio and television can, of course, be vital media for our own narratives and images. They have an extraordinarily pervasive presence in our lives, conditioning for better or worse the way we see our country, and the opinions and values we hold. They have an unparalleled capacity to provide a shared experience, and to make minority voices heard.

And because of this – and as was noted in the Labour Party document Broadcasting – It’s About Us, - broadcasting is an important factor in community building – and in building and defining our nation. ‘In a global society it is important to recognise what makes us different from other peoples. Therefore we need to see and hear New Zealand stories and issues, New Zealand programmes for children, New Zealand faces and accents, New Zealand sport, New Zealand landscape and New Zealand music. Local content is an integral part of our cultural identity.’

So there are compelling reasons why a responsible Government would decide that for cultural and social – and not just commercial – reasons, it needs to involve itself as effectively as possible in broadcasting.

You will no doubt be aware that last month the Cabinet approved an extensive work programme for the development of broadcasting issues. We will be consulting with the public and interested groups as the work programme is implemented.

Initially, it will involve two high-level policy papers dealing with transmission and related technology issues/ and public broadcasting objectives for content.

Once the Government confirms the policy objectives, the work programme then deals, in a co-ordinated way, with a variety of specific issues.

The platform and technology issues paper will, among other things, review transmission services such as terrestrial, cable, satellite and copper wire, as well as the new receivers of personal computers and mobile telephones; and identify regulatory issues. And among these dry matters are issues that affect regional television and radio – the issues of spectrum availability and transmission certainly do.

The second paper will be looking at the underlying objectives for government support for broadcasting.

Following confirmation of the policy objectives, specific follow-up papers will deal with local content quotas, funding mechanisms, youth radio, new directions for TVNZ, and regulatory issues with respect to digital transmission, among other things.

In considering this material, I will be bearing in mind some basic tenets that I think need to be upheld through government’s involvement in broadcasting. These include the fact that the New Zealand public deserves access to high quality content, and to a diversity of information, ideas, forms of cultural expression, sports, drama, and the full range of representation of which broadcasting is capable.

Broadcasting policies must increase choice. Policy is intended not only to meet the pre-existing preferences of audiences, because they have developed from previous experiences of broadcast content, it must also seek to establish the basis for a greater choice and variety of programming. It recognises that international and local content are complementary in achieving a greater diversity of programming.

It may come as no surprise to you that, much as I enjoy the whirl and babble of Wellington politics, I sometimes long for the voice of Canterbury! But I am well aware that nationally-focussed central government mechanisms cannot in themselves guarantee the regions their distinct voice. While, for example, a charter for a public broadcaster might place an obligation for the broadcasting of programmes of regional interest, public broadcasting cannot replicate community television and radio.

I pay tribute, then, to the people behind such initiatives as the one we are celebrating tonight. I thank them for their commitment and their willingness to exercise their skills in the regional forum, to the undoubted advantage of their audiences.

I think there is much to be said for central government and local representatives working co-operatively together towards common outcomes. In the longer term, once this Government has put in place the appropriate national superstructure, I am hopeful that we might be able to give greater encouragement to regional radio and television. I am pleased that NZ On Air has publicly indicated that it will make an exception to its general policy of not funding regional television if a regional broadcaster can demonstrate that it better services a particular audience.

Many of you who are involved with the new radio station will be inspired by the work of CHTV. This is a television channel that delivers to its community a very high degree of local content – that has as its working philosophy a commitment to being accessible to local people, to providing information about local events, and to supporting local community groups. I am genuinely impressed by this philosophy, and by what CHTV sets out to achieve.

I am advised that the channel covers a great range of local matters – from ‘Canterbury Today’ to ‘Shopping With Jo’; coverage of the arts, entertainment, food, theatre, movies; interviews with Canterbury people; sport and talkback.

As Minister I can tell you that I have received a great number of letters from people around the country, concerned that they have reduced access to free-to-air televised sport. I am delighted by the commitment to the sport of its region shown by CHTV.

I am also delighted by the fact that CHTV regularly donates advertising time to charities; and that it is a major sponsor of the Court Theatre.

This true engagement with the life and activities of a region is something to be applauded, and something to be looked for also in the new voice for the region: the radio station we are celebrating tonight.

Congratulations to everybody involved with the enterprise. I urge you to maintain your commitment to this wonderful region, and to its varied initiatives and resources. And to the listeners of Canterbury, I urge you to take advantage of this new opportunity, and to tune in from the first week of June!

I am very pleased now to formally launch… Canterbury On Air!

ENDS

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