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Right to watch free-to-air TV not just about rugby

6 October 2009 Media Statement

Rights of Kiwis to watch free-to-air television not just about Rugby World Cup

Comments by Prime Minister John Key about the rights of Kiwis to see the Rugby World Cup on free-to-air television conveniently ignore the effects of his Government’s hands-off policies on these rights, says Labour Broadcasting spokesman Brendon Burns.

“John Key said yesterday that all New Zealanders should have a right to see the games free to air, not just the 85 percent or so reached by Maori Television, and also said the Maori Development Ministry will have to explain the use of taxpayer money to allow Maori Television to bid for rights to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

“One has to ask when Mr Key learned that his Maori Affairs Minister was telling his department to provide funding. But while Te Puni Kokiri’s funding is inappropriate, it is the Government’s hands-off approach to broadcasting that is creating such situations,” Brendon Burns said.

“Where was Mr Key’s concern a couple of weeks ago when we learned that, because of the $5m cost, TVNZ was proposing to ditch its coverage of next year’s Commonwealth Games in favour of Sky TV?

“Sky may put Games coverage on its free to air Prime channel but Prime’s coverage is no better Maori Television,” Brendon Burns said.

Brendon Burns says he has spoken to regional television companies which would be very keen to also carry the Commonwealth Games to supplement Prime’s coverage if a deal could be struck, and has raised this idea with the Broadcasting Minister and TVNZ.

“That might provide wider coverage of this iconic event which TVNZ has traditionally carried.

“The point is that we should have broadcasting policies which avoid the sort of scrambling around needed to rescue Commonwealth Games coverage and Te Puni Kokiri’s efforts to bolster Maori Television’s bid for the Rugby World Cup.”

The Government must acknowledge that its broadcasting policies are a major factor, including axing the TVNZ Charter and refusing to review the impact of the increasing competition posed by Sky on free-to-air channels, Brendon Burns said.

ENDS

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