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TVNZ Could Be Kneecapped By Charter Objectives

TVNZ Could Be Kneecapped By Cost Of Meeting Charter Objectives

National's Murray McCully has today revealed that meeting the Government's 'Charter' objectives for TVNZ could cost the taxpayer owned broadcaster over $100 million a year.

"Broadcasting Minister Marian Hobbs has suppressed a report, prepared by top TVNZ executives, since it was completed in October last year, and she almost certainly never wanted the public to know its contents.

"It contains credible scenarios which show adhering to the Charter could cost TVNZ over $100 million per year. That's a huge price tag for political correctness, and there are no prizes for guessing who picks up the bill.

"Hobbs' public consultation on the Charter late last year was a sham, because she knew full well that the Charter could come with a giant price tag. She deliberately avoided letting the public know that - instead taking steps to ensure the Report remained secret," Mr McCully said.

The report, prepared by a group of TVNZ executives headed by Shaun Brown, examines the costs of additional programmes TV1 would have to buy as part of it's Charter obligations. It also forecasts how much advertising revenue TV1 would lose, on the basis of diminished ratings due to complying with the Charter.

"I am told the report calculates the cost of delivering more Maori, cultural and minority programmes, in accordance with the Charter, at over $50 million a year.

"In addition the TVNZ report is said to scope the amount of revenue TV1 would lose because of decreased ratings, due to playing the programmes Marian Hobbs wants, instead of playing the programmes viewers want. Some scenarios in the report estimate that will reduce TV1's advertising revenue from $150 million a year at present, to $100 million a year.

"Hobbs and some of her colleagues knew this report was political dynamite. They knew that if the public got wind of these facts it would erode support during the sham public consultation they planned. So circulation of the Report was limited to a small group of Ministers, a handful of officials in Finance Minister Michael Cullen's office and several Treasury and CCMAU officials.

"Michael Cullen left officials with the distinct impression that he thought the report was self-serving and he would appreciate their efforts to discredit it.

"I have been told that the assumptions and conclusions are broadly credible and that the manner in which the Government proceeds will determine whether the Charter will cost some tens of millions of dollars, or over $100 million per year.

"I have also been told that this decision will have a huge impact on TVNZ's value, assessed several years ago as being close to $2 billion. Proceeding to implement the Charter in the assertive manner Hobbs has outlined would, I am told, reduce the company's value by over $1 billion.

"There is no justification for the continued suppression of the TVNZ Report. The Minister must release it and explain to its owners, the taxpayers, what she is planning to do to their company," Murray McCully said.


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