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Digital TV good news but local content essential

15 June 2006

Digital TV good news but funding for local content essential

The announcement of free-to-air digital television in New Zealand is being welcomed by the Green Party for the great opportunity it provides explore ad-free, genuinely public broadcasting, but concerns remain about the impact on local content and potential costs for consumers.

"Digital television will spawn a plethora of new channels, and there is a serious concern that New Zealanders will be swamped with overseas television," Green Party Broadcasting Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"The government is investing $25 million in direct costs to upgrade the infrastructure to enable a free to air digital television service, and this should be matched with increased funding for local programmes.

"As the number of free to air channels increases (and the government expects there will be at least 20 new free to air digital channels on top of the existing 50 Sky channels) it is essential that there is a substantial increase in funding for local content, and quotas introduced for local content. We need to guarantee that television about New Zealanders, which reflects our society and contributes to our national identity, will still be available.

"This is why TVNZ needs to take this opportunity to differentiate itself from all these new channels by having a genuinely ad-free public service channel," Ms Kedgley says

The Green Party also has concerns about the cost of the new service to consumers, which requires the purchase of a new set top box and either a satellite dish or a UHF antennae.

"This will cost around $200 dollars and many New Zealanders will simply not be able to afford this," Ms Kedgley says.

"What will happen to those who have not been able to purchase a set box and make the change to digital before the analogue switch-off in 6 to 10 years time? It is essential that no one loses access because of the cost of the upgrade.

"We've been told that the cost is likely to go down, but if this doesn't happen, the Government should provide assistance to New Zealanders who cannot afford to buy the new equipment

"I am pleased that New Zealand is retaining the option of New Zealand based terrestrial infrastructure and not relying exclusively on satellite transmission owned by an overseas company. We wouldn't want to see our entire television network relying on an foreign-owned satellite," Ms Kedgley says.


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