By Lloyd Burr
The TVNZ Charter was abolished by the Government last night, meaning the state-owned broadcaster will not have specific provisions to show a wide variety of New Zealand-made content.
The Television New Zealand (TVNZ) Amendment Bill passed its third reading by 64 votes to 56 and replaces the Charter with a “less prescriptive list of functions and leaves the state broadcaster free to concentrate on being a successful television company without the constraints of an unrealistic dual mandate,” Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said.
“The removal of the Charter will have little impact on what is shown on the screen. TVNZ will still screen content of relevance to a broad cross section of New Zealanders, and they will still screen high levels of New Zealand content.”
The Charter was a list of objectives for TVNZ which outlined that it must show a diverse range of home-made content that represented the identity of New Zealand.
Some of these provisions were:
Having the presence of a significant Maori voice, including programmes promoting the Maori language and programmes addressing Maori history, culture and current issues;
Include the tastes and interests not generally catered for by other national television broadcasters;
Provide independent, comprehensive, impartial, and in-depth coverage and analysis of news and current affairs;
Promote understanding of the diversity of cultures making up the New Zealand population;
Feature New Zealand films, drama, comedy and documentary programmes;
Provide for the informational, entertainment and educational needs of children and young people;
Observe a code of ethics that addresses the level and nature of advertising to which children are exposed.
The Charter was introduced by Helen Clark’s Labour Government in 2003 and it applied to all TVNZ content but predominantly its free-to-air broadcasts.
Labour’s broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran says National has made the wrong decision and the abolishment of the Charter is a “huge shame for New Zealand”.
“Public service television in New Zealand died last night. The Government has failed to see the need and importance of state media.
“They are requiring TVNZ to be solely commercial and, in my opinion, they are preparing it for sale,” Ms Curran says.
Labour was in the process of reviewing the Charter in 2008 but National axed the review when they were elected into Government.
Ms Curran says National introduced their bill without an in-depth review taking place.
“Independent public media, not captured by vested interests, is critical to the health of a nation. New Zealanders deserve more than just ‘popular’ television. They deserve well-made, quality programming that reflects them and their communities.
“Labour introduced the charter to do exactly that. A corporate mainstream media concerned first and foremost with profit won’t.”
Mr Coleman says the dual mandate at TVNZ, having both commercial obligations and public service obligations, shackled the company.
He says removing the Charter means TVNZ has “the flexibility it needs to effectively pursue commercial objectives”.