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"Better Radio & Television Programmes Are Coming"

Media Release

Broadcasting Policy - Embargoed until 2pm Sunday 17th October 1999

"Better Radio & Television Programmes Are Coming"

New Zealand First wants New Zealanders to enjoy a quality publicly owned radio and television system that reflects their culture and national identity.

Radio and Television should exist for the community and New Zealand First believes that the current structure of these organisations prevents them fulfilling their necessary obligations.

Radio New Zealand, which relies entirely on public funding, and tries to broadcast quality programmes, limps along in a perpetual state of near bankruptcy.

By contrast, Television New Zealand, which receives both public funding and considerable commercial revenue has developed a culture in which programming appears to be subservient to the interests of highly paid employees.

Many of these people have been receiving hugely inflated salaries.

In TVNZ's 1998 annual report, one hundred and ten employees were listed as receiving salaries of more than one hundred thousand dollars.

Fourteen of them received more than $200,000 - three more than half a million, and of course one received three quarters of a million.

In other words, the taxpayer owned TVNZ paid 110 of its people a total of nearly eighteen million dollars a year while the Government reduced pensions.

To put it another way, if TVNZ had reduced the salary of its highest paid performer to five thousand dollars a week - that's 260 thousand a year - and put the money towards public health, it could have paid for 12 more public health nurses to work on the TB and meningitis epidemic in Auckland and Northland.

We don't mind people getting paid well for doing a good job. However, by no stretch of the imagination could we say that these highly paid TVNZ people made quality programmes for the rest of us.

There have been no intelligent current affairs programmes on TVNZ in recent years. When did we last see a memorable documentary or drama series?

True, there have been good natural history programmes, but many TVNZ programmes were mindless rubbish - and when good overseas productions were shown, they were constantly interrupted by advertisements and puerile pieces of self promotion.

Interestingly, in the past year, something happened to 94 of these highly paid TVNZ employees. They seem to have either disappeared, or have taken a huge pay cut.

In the 1999 Annual Report, there are only sixteen people listed as receiving more than a hundred thousand dollars.

We have to ask ourselves, are we seeing noble self sacrifice that is an example to every other state employee - or is there something sneaky going on in Shortland Street?

We regret to say that it's probably the latter.

TVNZ was probably too embarrassed to reveal its exorbitant salary structure again in an Annual Report so it appears to have either have changed the way these people are employed, or has not stated their full annual salaries.

They will most likely be there somewhere - hidden in a different part of the balance sheet.

Why is TVNZ not fully disclosing employee annual salaries?

What does that tell us about the culture of TVNZ?

New Zealand First intends to restore accountability to the Television culture of this country as well as improving the programmes.

It will retain TVNZ and Radio New Zealand in public ownership, and will combine them under one state owned enterprise known as New Zealand Broadcasting, modelled on similar broadcasting organisations overseas.

Its board will be made up of people with expertise, experience and appropriate representation from industry and consumers, and not from political patronage.

This Broadcasting organisation will operate under a charter of public obligations, similar to the existing Radio New Zealand Charter.

The focus of Television One will be on quality programming, promoting New Zealand's unique character and coverage of events of major national importance. It will carry reduced advertising.

Television One will provide "free to air" coverage of cultural and sports events as stipulated by its Charter.

Television Two will continue as a fully commercial channel to provide funding for both Television One and Radio New Zealand.

Both channels and Radio New Zealand will share a common news service to enhance coverage - and there will be savings in a reduced administrative structure.

Sharing a common news service means that when senior journalists are sent on overseas assignments, (such as East Timor) they will provide coverage for both radio and television.

We want the money to be spent on quality programmes, quality news coverage and events of interests to all New Zealanders. After all they own these companies!

Ends

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