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Iraq war highlights importance of public broadcast

Iraq war highlights importance of public broadcasting

The war in Iraq has demonstrated the critical importance of public service radio and television in informing New Zealanders, Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Speaking to a New Zealand Media class at Victoria University of Wellington, Steve Maharey said public service radio and television have obligations to provide comprehensive, impartial coverage of current affairs free from any constraint.

Steve Maharey said in times of heightened national and international tension New Zealanders turn to their public service broadcasters for information and the war in Iraq was again bearing this out.

“New Zealanders are global citizens and, as a particularly mobile population, are very much in touch with world events. In times of international crisis we turn to public service radio and television for comprehensive and impartial news coverage.

“Public service broadcasters have a particular role to play in times like these. As independent entities with public funding, they have a mandate to operate in the public interest. Unpopular messages and brutal images can turn off advertisers, yet it is even more important that all sides of the story are told.

“On the first day of the Iraq war One News attracted a huge number of viewers with an audience share of 64 percent. Television One was able to remain commercial free during the day to extend its coverage. It also approached its advertisers well ahead of time informing them of its on air plans so they could cancel or reschedule their commercials.

“Radio New Zealand has boosted its current affairs content to fully report the conflict. Just as they did in the wake of September 11 and the Fiji coups, RNZ news and current affairs staff have put high-quality information to air.

“Both public radio and television have focused entirely on the need for New Zealanders to gain access to a range of opinion and analysis. The charters which govern Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand ensure that this focus is paramount,” Steve Maharey said.

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