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Children's Television Foundation AGM - Hobbs

Hon Marian Hobbs
24 August 2000 Speech Notes

Broadcasting is important to community building. Children are part of that community. We live in a global society and it is important to recognise what makes us different from others.

We do need to see and hear New Zealand stories and issues, NZ programmes for our children, the faces and accents that make up our society. Local content is an integral part of our cultural identity.

NZ on Air research (Attitudes to NZ on Air-Funded Tv Programming and Local Content,January 2000) told us that participants want children's programmes to add to a child's upbringing, and, at the very least, are non-damaging to a child's development. They believe children's programmes should be:
 Educational
 Stimulate thought and action
 Have positive role models
 Have high values and moral standards

The Children's Television Charter adopted by the World Summit on Television for Children in Melbourne in 1995, spelt things out. I won't go into it in detail because you're no doubt very familiar with it but it talks of:
 Programmes of high quality, made specifically for them and which do not exploit them
 Children being able to hear, see and express themselves, their culture their languages and their life experiences through television programmes which affirm their sense of self, community and place.
 Programmes which are wide-ranging in genre and content.

Are we measuring up? As I've said before the problem in New Zealand broadcasting is one of under-performance – not so much by individual broadcasters, but by the New Zealand model of broadcasting as a whole. We do not believe that the true reality and diversity of New Zealand life are well enough represented in New Zealand broadcasting. We think that the contribution broadcasting can make to democratic participation and public debate is under-developed. We recognise, as do you, that the quantity and depth of achievement in local content are not what they ought to be, particularly in such key genres as drama, documentary and children’s programmes.

TV2 and TV3 are the only free-to-air national broadcasters running children's programmes.

Let me tell you how these two channels performed in 1999, according to NZ on Air. For Tv2 there were 655 hours of children's programming of which 277 hours, or 42%, was locally produced. And that figure includes 30 hours of repeats.

Tv3 provided more children's programme time, 1664 hours of which 329 hours or 20 % was local and 288 hours (out of 329) were repeats.

Network Local hours Foreign hours Total
TV2 277 (30 repeat) 378 655
(42% local)
TV3 329 (288 repeat) 1335 1664 (20%)

Of course, whenever we get into statistics you get discrepancies. TV2 tell me that in the last 12 months they've increased local programming by 41%, 298 hours to 421.

Now compare New Zealand television with the latest Australian figures for commercial networks for 1998, where a children’s programming quota operates. These figures also include repeats.

Network Local hours Foreign hours Total
7 397 41 438 (90%)
Nine 401 14 415 (96%)
Ten 395 36 431 (91%)

NZ on Air is a substantial supporter of children's and young person's programming and only one programme screened in this genre which did not have substantial NZOA funding (Buzz and Poppy). Broadcasters will not commission this genre without financial assistance. Therefore the overall reduction in children's hours was directly connected to NZ on Air's funding constraints.

Last May the Government announced an increase in funding for NZ On Air. It is important for several reasons.

 Since 1988 the hours of locally produced children’s programmes have halved from 1,265 hours in 1988 to (the low point) of 613 hours in 1998.

 The new children’s drama Being Eve on Tv3, the result of the NZ On Air children’s drama initiative, is the first New Zealand made children’s drama since 1996.

 NZ On Air’s research on attitudes to NZ On Air funding tells us that feepayers and viewers regard this as the most important use of NZ On Air money.

 Further qualitative research also stressed the value of quality children’s programming.

The Government’s increase means an additional $600,000 can be allocated to children’s programming on an ongoing basis. In 1999/2000 $9.6m was allocated to children’s programming; in 2000/2001 the figure is $10.2m.

But there's more. A further $2.1m can now be allocated on an ongoing basis to children’s drama. This ring-fencing was only possible due to a combination of re-allocating funding from the Documentary to the Drama category and making a slight increase in the overall Television budget as a result of savings over the previous year.

The Government’s May 18 funding increases, enables this children’s drama allocation to be funded on an ongoing basis. But in 2000/01, the current financial year (but not beyond) the children’s drama budget is being doubled to $4.2 million as a result of the surplus NZ On Air was able to generate last year.

NZ On Air has instigated a major review of its funding for Children’s programmes. As a result the children’s round has been moved to December to allow for research, policy development and feedback to stakeholders to occur.

The research will focus, among other things, on whether NZoA's achieving the right balance in its funding between “one-off” shows and the high volume-linking shows it also funds. The research will also try to establish what sort of programmes, among those that an NZ On Air gap-analysis shows are missing, children would most like to see.

This research and resulting policy analysis will also assist NZ On Air in developing a policy on sponsorship, merchandising and other commercial activity in relation to children’s programmes. NZ On Air has already researched parents views on these issues and studied the Australian experience.

(TV2 has also announced plans for a review of children's TV with the objective of providing greater depth and substance.)

Under the current environment and funding constraints NZ On Air is taking a pragmatic approach. NZ On Air intends to develop guidelines for responsible merchandising and multi-media initiatives, that enrich children's experience of the programme and result in a boost to the programme (e.g. through funds back into productions and/or increased promotion of the programme).

In the 1999/2000 funding year NZ On Air received 17 applications for children’s programmes. Funding was granted to 16 children’s programmes. One application was turned down because of late withdrawal of broadcaster support. NZ On Air policy in children’s programming, as in all other areas, requires broadcaster support before we will accept an application. This policy was developed in response to section 39 (b) of the 1989 Broadcasting Act which requires NZ On Air to take into acount “The potential size of the audience likely to benefit from the project to which the proposal relates.”

Likely new programme developments on TV2 include:
(i) a children's drama series
(ii) an expansion of our current affairs commitment for young people - currently limited to the critically-acclaimed Wired which plays twice a week.
(iii) new children's animation.
And TV3 will be screening the new children's drama "Being Eve".

I don't get much time to watch television, let alone children's television. But at my office we did manage a video snatch of "The Dress Up Box" and "Five Wild Piglets" which won the Qantas Media Awards children's section. Well done Papageno Productions, producer Sue Wolfenden and director Felicity Williams. That tune (Five wild piglets) is catchy!

I know the Children's Television Foundation is delighted with the NZOA plan to provide a drama for children as a specific new output. You have been
concerned with the decline in range and diversity of local production
for primary children in particular. You tell me that ultimately you would like to see
something closer to the Australian requirement that free-to-air channels
provide at least 3 hours of new children's drama per week as a condition
of their right to broadcast.

And now to another issue of concern:
Advertising- the Advertising Standards Authority has just called for
a second series of comments on their Code for Advertising to Children,
these comments close on 31st August.

What is not dealt with in this code are the number of advertisements in children's
time zones, (and questions about the content of those advertisements
-issues of product saturation, questions governing merchandising etc.).

These issues have been referred by the ASA to the Television Broadcasters Council for incorporation in their Code instead.

Perhaps television broadcasters should consider a buffer of 5 minutes or more advertisement-free time on either side of the preschool times (which are currently advertising free) -this is done overseas. I know you (CTF) have asked for a similar buffer of up to half and hour.

How much revenue does advertising generate in children's time slots? The recent ruling of the ASA on the dietary medicine Xenical ( an Advt for the product
was incorrectly advertised during a children's time slot) was very revealing. In that ruling it was revealed that the Company had not paid for the slot - it was one of the bonus advertisements allocated to the Company. Not only CTF would be very concerned if children's advertising zones were treated as "dumping ground" times.

In line with the UN policies on Children and the media, we must ensure that children are recognised as potential citizens first rather than as consumers - and in this light it's really important that they get a range and diversity of programming.

Children's television sits inside the whole model of broadcasting we're working on. I have a considerable work programme to get through and I get frustrated at the time it is taking. But it is a big job, and after nine years of hands-off/market rules approach, we must get it right and make sure the new era is made secure.

The message is getting through that broadcasting policy is changing. It is interesting to see the subtle changes/responses starting to show through.

To guide us as we refocus public broadcasting, the Cabinet approved five broad objectives:

 Ensuring all New Zealanders have reasonable and regular access to broadcasting representing the uniqueness and diversity of New Zealand life; recognising that the histories and stories of whanau, hapu and iwi are integral to any description of that life;
 Meeting the information and entertainment needs of as many interests as reasonably possible, including those that cannot be met by commercial broadcasting;
 Contributing to public awareness of and participation in the political and social debates of the day;
 Providing for minority interests and increased choice; and
 Encouraging innovation and creativity in broadcasting while aiming to continually increase audience satisfaction with the quality of the content.

The Cabinet also noted that when implementing these policy objectives and delivery mechanisms, the government will ensure that appropriate account is taken of its significant investment in public broadcasting.

I've carried out a major reconstruction on the TVNZ Board

I intend to present an outline charter and options for wider consultation to Cabinet shortly, with the intention that, following that consultation, we would have the Charter in place in the latter part of this year.

I have written to various industry members to invite them to speak to the broadcasting officials group, now that we have the context of the introductory papers to work within.

Plan to introduce the Charter first through TVNZ's Statement of Corporate Intent. Then, following decisions on quota and funding, have a more permanent legislative framework.

While we are beginning with work relating to the future of TVNZ, the consequential questions also need to be addressed. How will quota fit with a Charter for TVNZ, for example? And, most crucially, who should pay for a greater range of content and how?

To help us answer such questions, Cabinet has directed that a further piece of work should be carried out related ultimately to the quality of broadcast content. This is a review of funding mechanisms. It is intended to:

 Review the current funding structure of NZ On Air
 Consider alternative, including existing overseas, methods for funding public broadcasting; and
 Identify possible approaches to changes to the current funding model in New Zealand.

This work is of course closely related to the issue of quotas and new directions for TVNZ. These complex and interconnected questions will be addressed in the most effective sequence. While some people I meet in broadcasting are already impatient for the outcomes of this work on quotas and funding, I have to tell you that these outcomes will be the fruit of extensive and rigorous research and consultation, but you can expect to see considerable progress this year.


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