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Digital television funding falls short of vision

14 November 2006

Digital television funding falls short of vision

Green Party Broadcasting Spokesperson Sue Kedgley welcomed the Government's $79 million digital television funding package for two new commercial free channels, but questioned whether the amounts set aside for new programming can possibly deliver on the digital vision announced only a few short months ago.

Ms Kedgley was commenting on Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey's announcement that TVNZ would begin screening a news and documentary digital channel by late 2007, with another channel dedicated to children's, family, drama and arts programming starting in early 2008.

"I am delighted the daytime programming for the new channel targeted at children will be commercial free, since research has shown that advertisements influence children's preferences and subsequent desire for purchasing products. The Green Party would like to see all children's television programming commercial-free, and this is an important first step towards this.

"However, the delivery is falling short of the vision. With one hand, the Government has said it will take $84.5 million from TVNZ as a special dividend this year - yet it is now giving with the other hand a $79 million input that is supposed to pay for six years of new programming. Plainly, that is not enough. There is no point launching new digital television channels if there is not enough funding for new programmes to ensure it will succeed.

"Earlier this year, the Government was promising four new TVNZ channels on the digital Freeview platform. What has happened to the other two? " Ms Kedgley says.

"The Government cannot afford to short change digital television in this way. It gave only $25 million to create the Freeview digital platform and expected the broadcasters to provide the rest. Now, it seems to be taking the same tight fisted approach to the programming for the platform..

"It is false economics to short change digital television. The Government needs to entice people to invest in the $200 plus for the set-top boxes necessary to receive the digital signal, because the days of analogue television are numbered. While there are some welcome features about today's announcement, the Government has not gone nearly far enough to convince people to make the digital transition."

ENDS

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