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No news is bad news

Green MP Sue Kedgley today questioned the commitment of TVNZ to its new Charter in the light of its decision to scrap its flagship current affairs programme and lay off senior staff.

Ms Kedgley, the Green Broadcasting spokesperson, says Assignment staff have been summoned to a meeting in Auckland today to be officially informed that their programme will be axed and that up to 14 editorial jobs will go.

"The Charter calls on TVNZ to 'provide independent, comprehensive, impartial, and in-depth coverage and analysis of news and current affairs in New Zealand'. How will stripping $4 million off its news and current affairs budget, and axing its flagship current affairs programme, help deliver this?" Ms Kedgley asked.

"Assignment is one of the success stories of television journalism in this country," said Ms Kedgley. "Its talented staff have consistently delved beneath the headlines to analyse and explain issues that really affect New Zealanders. Its demise will leave a vacuum in in-depth investigative reporting on New Zealand TV.

"What makes TVNZ's decision even more ludicrous is that it is apparently being driven by a perceived 'need' to keep-up the dividend it pays directly into the Government's coffers.

"Clearly, Television New Zealand is putting the drive for profits ahead of its Charter obligations to deliver an authoritative and comprehensive news service.

"The new regime at TVNZ is to be applauded for agreeing to a 53 per cent local content target for TV One, though it is hoped this goal will not be achieved by the axing of more local programmes of the standard of Assignment," noted Ms Kedgley.

"However, the 17 per cent target for TV Two is scandalous. It is further evidence that TVNZ has no intention in implementing its Charter obligations on TV Two, the channel that many young people watch, but is merely keeping it as a 'cash cow' by screening a diet of imported programmes.

"How can TVNZ justify a 36 per cent difference in local content between Channels One and Two? With young people watching an average of two hours of television a day, it is even more important that they are able to see New Zealand programmes and people reflected on the screen."

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