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New channels could be graveyard for old content

15 November 2006

New digital channels could be an elephant's graveyard for old TV content

TV3's labelling of the Government's $79 million funding plan for TVNZ's digital as a bailout for a failing commercial business drew criticism today from Green Party Broadcasting Spokesperson Sue Kedgley.

"The Government funding input was hardly a bailout. This year alone, the Government will reportedly take $84.5 million from TVNZ in dividends this year. It is now giving a lesser amount back - $79 million, to be spread over six years, or just over $13 million a year in addition to the $11 million previously allocated for programming on TVNZ's free-to air service.That's hardly a bail-out. It is a paltry, back-handed investment in digital programming," Ms Kedgley said.

Ms Kedgley also called on Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey to reveal how much extra funding he will inject into New Zealand On Air to help free-to-air television channels develop new programmes for the new digital channels.

" The independent television producers are waiting for that figure to be announced, because they see it as an indicator of just how much new programming the Government expects to see on the new digital channels. Or is the Government hoping that people will make digital programmes on the cheap, and undercut the industry rates of pay and working conditions ?

"I hope that when Mr Maharey addresses the Spada conference this weekend, he will announce what level of extra funding he has earmarked for NZOA.Without a substantial increase in funding for NZOA we're not going to see very many new programmes on digital television, only re-runs and repeats, and digital channels could become merely elephants' graveyards for old and recycled content.

"Without significant increased funding for new programming the Government won't be able to entice viewers to invest in the $200 set-top boxes that we will all need to have when analogue television finally gets switched off.

"Perhaps Mr Maharey can also tell us, now that he has unveiled the jewels in TVNZ's digital crown, just what percentage of viewers he realistically expects the FreeView digital platform to attract, by opening day next February.

"The Government has said that it will only switch off analogue television when more than half the country has opted for digital. When is the Government forecasting that to happen ?"


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