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Major progress on Mäori television - Q&A

29 January 2002 Media Statement
Major progress on Mäori television

The Mäori Television Service will receive increased funding and will use a platform combining UHF and satelite transmission under decisions announced by Finance Minister Michael Cullen and Mäori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia today.

Dr Cullen said the funding increase of $7.075 million a year would give MTS an annual operating budget of $12.98 million.

"This was the amount sought by MTS and accurately reflects the cost of getting the service to air and sustaining it over time," he said.

Parekura Horomia said MTS would provide an indigneous broadcasting service that was unique and would significantly enrich the cultural fabric of New Zealand.

The advantages of the UHF [Broadcasting Corporation Limited, BCL] platform are that MTS will own and control its transmission facilities and will be able to move to a digital platform in the future. It will also mean that MTS is using the frequencies reserved for Mäori language broadcasting since 1989.

"Initially the transmission will provide coverage for 75 per cent of the general population and 70 per cent of Mäori. The second stage will expand coverage to 86 per cent of the Mäori population.

"It is important to note that this is a greater level of coverage than any other New Zealand television channel has achieved on its launch.

"An estimated 800,000 homes already have UHF aerials to receive Prime, Sky TV and regional television services. BCL has offered to work closely with the Mäori Television Service to assist with tuning and uptake for new viewers," the Ministers said.

"I commend the work of the Mäori Television Service and the Board [comprising government and Te Pütahi Paoho appointees] for the effort they have put in to get to this point. I know the Mäori Television Service will more than demonstrate its value and significance to the maturing of this nation," Parekura Horomia said.

"Mäori television will bring into our homes Mäori perspectives, heritage, culture, language and information of significance to Mäori and to all New Zealanders, which will be a vital in progressing whänau, hapü, iwi and Mäori community development," he said.


Mäori Television Service transmission: Questions and Answers

What are the advantages of the UHF/BCL platform?
The Mäori Television Service will own and control its own transmission facilities.

The UHF frequencies have been reserved for Mäori language broadcasting since 1989. Alternative proposals involved MTS leasing time or transmission facilities from another commercial broadcaster.

Access to these reserved UHF frequencies gives MTS the opportunity for transition to digital television in the medium term.

A UHF platform is flexible, allowing MTS to expand its coverage in stages.

What coverage will the UHF/BCL platform provide?
The Mäori Television Service Bill requires the Mäori Television Service to:
Provide broadcast services that are technically available throughout New Zealand and practicably accessible to as many people as is reasonably possible.

No matter whether UHF or VHF was used, satellite transmission is also necessary to meet the coverage set out in the Mäori Television Service Bill.

The first phase of UHF transmission through BCL will allow MTS to reach 75 per cent of the general population and 70 per cent of the Mäori population. Planned coverage areas include Dargaville, Whakatane and Gisborne that are areas with high Mäori populations, as well as the main centres. This is a greater level of penetration than any other New Zealand television channel has achieved on its launch.

Will this coverage be expanded?
The second phase of the proposal will allow MTS to expand its coverage to 86 per cent of the Mäori population and to target areas such as Taranaki and Hawkes Bay. This expansion will be a priority of MTS once it is on air.

What will the UHF/BCL option cost?
This information cannot be released because it is commercially sensitive. It is cheaper than alternatives offering the same population coverage.

How reliable is UHF transmission?
In New Zealand UHF transmission through BCL has proved to be a reliable and commercially attractive option for Prime, the TAB and Sky. UHF transmission is widely used alongside VHF transmission for television in Europe and Australia. There is no difference in quality between UHF and VHF.

When will MTS go to air?
It is expected to will take five to seven months to implement Phase One (70 per cent coverage of the Mäori population) and would take three more months to complete Phase Two (86 per cent coverage).

How many UHF aerials are in New Zealand homes?
BCL estimates more than 800,000 homes already have UHF aerials to receive Sky, Prime and regional television services.

Prime's coverage area now extends to over 80 per cent of the population. Prime has recently secured the sole free-to-air rights to rugby league coverage and this is likely to further encourage the uptake of UHF aerials.

How much does it cost to have a UHF aerial installed?
Aerial and installation typically costs about $200.

Will there be reception difficulties for Sky users?
MTS use of UHF frequencies should not cause significant reception difficulties for users of Sky set top boxes and VCRs, most of whom can easily avoid any difficulties by using cable connections or retuning their equipment.

The Minister of Finance has written to inform Sky the Government is free to use the reserved UHF block of frequencies reserved to promote Mäori language. Sky have knowingly chosen to use reserved frequencies, have not acquired these frequencies as property rights in terms of the Radiocommunications Act and are accordingly not entitled to the protections afforded by the Act.

Will there be assistance for viewers to tune into MTS?
BCL has offered to work closely with MTS to assist with tuning and uptake. It has offered to contribute expertise and funding to roll out a community based "tune in" campaign consisting of advertising, education and 'on the ground' assistance.

Relative merits of UHF/BCL versus CanWest/VHF proposals
Ownership and control Leased for an annual fee
Flexibility to extend coverage Extensions would require additional UHF frequencies
Targets areas of high Mäori population Is not received in areas such as Taranaki, Gisborne and the Far North
Cost effective More expensive
Allows transition to digital transmission Allows analogue transmission only

Further disadvantage of the CanWest/VHF proposal
The proposal involved the government offering CanWest two Auckland FM radio frequencies at commercial rates on a non-contestable basis. This would have compromised the general principle, followed by successive governments, that spectrum in commercial demand is allocated in an open and competitive manner.

Who has been informed?
The Chair of Te Putahi Paho (the Mäori Television Electorate College) Hone Harawira, Mäori Television Service Chair Derek Fox, BCL, Sky and CanWest have been informed of the decisions made by the Minister of Mäori Affairs.

What stage is the Mäori Television Service bill at?
The Mäori Television Service Act will establish the Mäori Television Service as a statutory corporation. The Bill is currently at Second Reading stage and will be passed early this year.

What progress has been made on studio and accommodation facilities for the Service?
Good progress has been made. The Service has commissioned a thorough investigation of potential studio and office accommodation in Wellington and Auckland and is well advanced in discussions for premises in Auckland.

What progress has been made on programming for the Mäori Television Service?
Significant progress has been made on programming. Te Mangai Paho announced, on 5 July 2002, the decisions of their first funding round geared solely for programmes for the Mäori television Service. A second funding round closed on 27 September. These proposals were considered by Te Mangai Paho and were announced January –ish.

The next funding round Te Mangai Paho is holding for Mäori Televison Service programming closes 5pm, 28 February 2003.

A total of $154.948m has been allocated to programming for the Mäori Television Service, and has been allocated as follows in 2001-02 $29.9m, 2002-03 $34.291m, 2003-04 $41.683m and 2004-05 $49.074m.

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