Scoop News: TVNZ Considers 24 Hour Digital News Channel
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Media co-editor
Television New Zealand is considering a 24/7 dedicated news channel to plug into the planned Digital TV platform. Scoop understands the outcome of a feasibility study is being kept confidential but considerable research has already taken place that considers the pros and cons of TVNZ pushing ahead with a dedicated news channel plan.
In response to Scoop's questions, TVNZ's Public Affairs Manager Megan Richards said: "The situation is that TVNZ is not yet in a position to discuss the detail of its plans for Digital television, and this is where consideration of a News channel would fit.
"It's fair to say there's been a bit of speculation along these lines, and the overseas experience is that News channels are a high priority, but I'm afraid I can't offer you anything concrete just yet," Megan Richards said.
Answers remain elusive as to what will be the mix of domestic news to offshore news? When would a dedicated news channel be launched? What is the thinking of TVNZ's board of research that examined the feasibility of a dedicated news channel? Questions issued to TVNZ's chair Rick Ellis were returned with the above response.
On June 15 2006, the Freeview consortium was announced. It tagged together five broadcasters: TVNZ, Canwest, Maori TV, Trackside, and Radio New Zealand. The 'tight five' has significant Government backing to the tune of $25 million in set-up and feasibility commitments.
It was reported that Digital TV could be beaming into Kiwi homes within 18 months and TVNZ's Rick Ellis in June indicated TVNZ was already working on new programming and channel options.
He said: “As New Zealand’s public television broadcaster TVNZ cannot ignore what other broadcasters and new technologies offer. In fact, we need to lead the way in transitioning off the ageing analogue system and onto a digital system,” Rick Ellis said, adding, FreeView would give TVNZ the opportunity to start new branded services that meet the expectations New Zealanders rightly have of their public television broadcaster.
Background: The Government announced it would help set up digital television in New Zealand, backing the creation of Freeview. The statement read: "Freeview is the platform from which free-to-air digital TV will be delivered to New Zealanders. It has involved collaboration between New Zealand's free to air broadcasters, including Television New Zealand, CanWest, Maori TV, Trackside and Radio New Zealand. Freeview will operate on a non-profit basis, with open access for new services."
The Government agreed in principle to provide up to $25 million to help set up Freeview. The deal with the Government's 'tight five' broadcasters means they get free access to digital frequencies during the transition to digital, by the Government's own estimate to be worth up to $10 million.
The statement continued: "Digital removes the current constraint on number of channels and amount of content delivered under analogue transmission. New channels and services could include specialist channels (such as a children's channel), widescreen formats, and access to New Zealand’s television archive heritage. Viewers will be able to navigate their way through the new services using an on-screen electronic programme guide."
Interactivity is also a major plus for Digital – a move that current broadcast platforms struggle to embrace.