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TV Deal Has Potential To Disadvantage Viewers

Regional Television Broadcasters Association of NZ

The Minister of Broadcasting’s claim that Sky Television’s position as the gatekeeper for New Zealand television was not a crucial issue because no date had been set to switch off the analogue system, has been taken to task by the Regional Television Broadcaster’s Association of NZ

The organisation, which represents 17 mainly UHF broadcasters around the country, says that her comments do not take into account the possibility that existing UHF antenna feeds may not be reconnected by the installer of the set top box required for satellite reception. The installer could also tune over the UHF channel when making the connection

“In fact, UHF stations in a number of centres have already reported receiving numerous calls from disappointed viewers who can no longer receive their local station once “digital” television has been installed. These are not isolated in any one area.” said Jim Blackman, Chair of the Association.

“We are concerned that unless there is an obligation imposed on the supplier of the signal and its installers to ensure existing free to air channels are tuned in at the time of changeover, the monopolistic situation government has said it wishes to avoid, could easily occur.

The small regional channels provide an important alternative source of local and international information and programming which is unlikely to be screened on commercial networks. They also provide an opportunity for the development of new ideas and hands-on training for media professionals.

Regional channels currently receive no financial assistance from NZ o A or other government sources and have to rely on local advertising and programming support to meet their operating costs. While a number of the stations are already digital capable and could broadcast terrestrially in this format with little cost, none could afford to make the transition to satellite transmission at this stage.
“It is vital that viewers are not deprived of a service which they were previously able to receive free of charge and which should of right continue to be provided to them at no cost” said Mr. Blackman. “To allow this situation to go unchecked, or without the opportunity to participate in digital satellite transmission along with other broadcasters will doubtless result in many of these stations closing”.
Contact: Jim Blackman
Chair, Regional Television Broadcasters Assn
PO Box 78 034 Grey Lynn
DDI (09) 360 4610

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