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TV @ Evolution Conference - Hobbs Speech

Hon Marion Hobbs Speech Notes

"TELEVISION @ EVOLUTION" CONFERENCE, Copthorne Plimmer Towers Hotel, Wellington 9am Tues Feb 13

Thank you for the welcome.

You're here today to consider the changing face of television, how interactive Tv will effect advertising and marketing, how you should prepare to make the most of the opportunities.

My focus since becoming Minister of Broadcasting has been in the area of television content, although the manner in which the message is transmitted is also very invaluable. But, although the medium can be the message, in the first place, the focus is on the message.

The future directions for TVNZ are being set with a new Charter spelling out programme content expectations. Other issues being addressed include funding and the relationship with BCL. As you will know from media comment, TVNZ has been working in anticipation of the final charter.

You'll hear later from other speakers that there's customer demand for television-based e-mail and Internet access. But there's also customer demand for locally made programmes. Research for NZ on Air shows New Zealanders want more locally-made TV programmes.

Television can be marvellous for stimulating the intellect. I see it as an important tool in contributing to democracy, in helping form opinions as we move to decisions.

I wasn't here on Waitangi Day but I'm told Tv One mounted an absorbing discussion about the Treaty and its relevance to all of us.

That is a role public service television must take up more and more.... to create platforms where important issues can be examined, dissected, challenged, where we can be exposed to a range of views. This contributes to a better-informed community.

Public service broadcasting should be capable of establishing benchmarks for the rest of the media.

That education is a life-long process is no mere truism. It is an essential ingredient of an intelligent society.

And that is one role for inter-active television—as an education tool, opening up new pathways to knowledge, a modern version of the encyclopaedias which parents of generations past felt compelled to own for their children's benefit.

Its possibilities are limited only by our own imagination. (For example a programme on the Antarctic might include links to other sites on diverse topics such as animals, climate change, oceans etc).

The Government and representatives of some of our leading information and communication technology and related companies, including TVNZ and Sky have spent six months developing a partnership to help bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity.

And last Thursday the Prime Minister and the Education Minister announced four education-based pilots to help us embrace the economic and social benefits of information technology.

I saw some of what's possible in Tv interactivity when I was in London briefly last year and visited some of the major broadcasters.

Convergence of television and the Internet clearly has the potential to revolutionise the way that content is produced, packaged, delivered and consumed.

Some believe interactive digital TV may be the key access route to the Internet and electronic commerce services because it is a cheaper medium than access via the PC. And television-based technology may be more accessible for some consumers than PCS. Another thing, while most homes would have TVs, fewer would have computers.

Public broadcasters in the UK see themselves playing a key role through driving digital takeup, widening access to the Internet through their own broadcasts and in building web literacy and literacy through the web.

I was impressed with British television education projects. For example the BBC told me that 70 per cent of GCSE students used its "Bitesize" GSCE revision service. BBC "Webwise" programmes reached 17 million and over 280,000 people went on to have taster sessions.

Another public broadcaster, Channel 4, has "Homework High" and is getting between 5000 and 6000 people every day.

Apart from education opportunities television also enhances citizenship providing access to and consumption of news and information.
You will hear later from TVNZ about its aspirations in the digital, interactive age but the BBC spoke of plans to develop interactive learning journeys made accessible through 'cultural magnets' such as sports, arts and music and innovative delivery.

It would use 'building blocks' based on audience need and government priorities such as work skills, citizenship, parenting and family, health living, and lifeplanning.

The planners visualised programmes where audiences would be drawn into the toolkit through a systematic schedule of stimulating and accessible major multimedia campaigns.

The campaigns would be given airtime on mainstream channels and networks as well as reaching out to audiences through other media and learning support. In some cases the campaigns would reach out through mainstream programming such as sports, music soaps and consumer programmes making full use of the interests and passions of those the BBC describe as "target tribes".

Speculating on the future is a dicey business. It invites challenge and contradiction. But it is exciting.

A recent article in The Guardian talked of the possible end of the couch potato. You'll still be able to sit glued to the screen but interactive TV will allow you to write your own plot.

The BBC's aptly named Fiction Lab will air its first experiment with what it calls "immersive drama" later this year. Ultimately it's the audience who decides the fate of the characters.

The Guardian reported that The Lab is also exploring what they call "multilevel drama" in "The Affair" devised by novelist Emily Perkins, covering the breakdown of a relationship. The audience can navigate its way through a sequence of events which form the main storyline but at the same can 'mine vertically' through a scene to view it through the eyes of different characters and deepen their understanding.

So, an exciting future, one to keep us all on our toes. I hope you find your day rewarding and informative.

I am not a marketer, but if you enjoy the activity surrounding buying and, if it is a familiar activity, you will buy more.

Therefore it is important that interactivity using a Tv be not confined to banking and shopping, but also linked to sports and drama and activities that we link with a good time.

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