Under Investigation: The Fate of Current Affairs Under a Public Service Charter
Margie Comrie, Dr Susan Fountaine.
Public service broadcasting around the world has been under siege in the last 15 years and nowhere more so than in New Zealand, arguably one of the most deregulated broadcasting markets. State owned TVNZ, required to make a profit, retained its ratings and advertising income but became almost indistinguishable from its private competitors.
Amid growing concerns that New Zealand television short-changed its citizens, the government restructured TVNZ and in 2003 introduced a Charter to restore public service values. The Charter emphasises social obligations and content that reflects New Zealand culture and prioritises quality news and current affairs.
However, while the government has provided $12million for charter programming, TVNZ remains overwhelmingly dependent on advertising funding. So far, current affairs seems to be the first casualty of a struggle to meet Charter obligations while retaining ratings. TVNZ axed a costly investigative programme, while funding the commercially-oriented "Sunday". It also attempted to plug the local current affairs gap with relatively cheap interview programmes. Meanwhile, "Holmes", the oft-criticised but successful daily entertainment current affairs show, stays unchanged. This paper reviews the changes to current affairs programming and asks whether the New Zealand experiment of commercially funded public service broadcasting can succeed.
Margie Comrie (New Zealand)
Dr Susan Fountaine (New Zealand)
Department of Communication and Journalism
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)