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Better Public Media reaction to Melissa Lee Member’s Bill

Better Public Media reaction to Melissa Lee Member’s Bill

Better Public Media Trust warns that the Member’s Bill from Melissa Lee is really an attack on low-rating public media content – especially Māori content.

“The title may seem innocuous,” said BPM Trust Chair, Peter Thompson, “but here’s the giveaway clause:

This Bill would ensure that television shows, visual online media, and non-music-based radio programming would be reported on and tracked, in order to safeguard public funds for appropriate content that New Zealanders care about while also encouraging better funding analysis by the agencies before projects are confirmed or renewed.

“Clearly, National thinks it’s a waste of public money to fund content that doesn’t have mainstream appeal and rate well. That’s ironic given that Melissa Lee received millions of taxpayer dollars to make the low-rating public service series Asia Downunder for many years,” Thompson said.

The rationale behind this Bill could be to attack Māori screen content.

“National knows that the ratings for a lot of Te Mangai Paho funded content is low, especially te reo only content, and there are some folk who would doubtless use ratings data as a pretext to question the funding. Quite apart from the Crown’s Treaty obligations, however, you cannot gauge the public value of content made for specialist demographics using ratings alone.”

Better Public Media Trust does not view this Bill as important, but suggests a useful addition to the Bill would be to include qualitative measures as well.

“There has to be consideration of the intended audience, there has to be consideration of content diversity, and the publication of this information should not be used as political leverage to inhibit creative risk-taking,” Thompson said.

“Using ratings as the primary gauge of public value would pervert the whole point of having public content funding agencies because it would expose them to precisely the commercial performance criteria they were set up to avoid!

The other problem with this Bill is that the ratings themselves are widely regarded as inaccurate.

“The efficacy of ratings, especially in respect of statistical validity and the composition of the Peoplemeter panel (age, gender, ethnicity, the need to be a homeowner) is not a reliable measure of audience numbers.”

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