The New Zealand Government is substantially increasing the amount of funding for public media to ensure New Zealanders can continue to access quality local content and trusted news.
In the Government’s 2022 Budget, some NZD$327 million over three years has been allocated for a new public media entity which will see a merger of Television New Zealand with its radio counterpart, RNZ, and is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2023.
“Our decision to create a new independent and future-focused public media entity is about achieving this objective, and we will support it with a significant funding increase,” said the country’s Minister for Broadcasting and Media, Kris Faafoi.
“As people change the way they get their news, information and entertainment from almost limitless sources, it is vital that there is still a strong platform for New Zealanders to see and hear themselves.”
The new entity will be multi-platform and designed to reach new and existing audiences.
“The entity is not-for-profit and we will guarantee a continuation of non-commercial programming. It will also generate commercial revenue to supplement Crown funding, making it more financially sustainable and allowing it to better deliver on its public media outcomes,” Kris Faafoi said.
The Māori media sector is set to receive an additional $40 million dollars over two years. Funding body Te Māngai Pāho will receive a total of $32 million ($16 million in each of the next two years) and Whakaata Māori (Māori Television) will receive an extra $4 million dollars for each of the next two years.
The bulk of the funding is to target innovative new Māori content for online and emerging platforms. The funding will also support the creation of te reo Māori content and content that gives voice to Māori perspectives.
Some of the funding recognises the success of an initiative Te Māngai Pāho has been trialling and it will continue to enable regional stories to be told through iwi media collaborations.
To ensure content broadcast on radio and television continues to be regulated effectively and efficiently, Budget 2022 will also commit $1.2 million to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) over the next four years.
Budget 2022 also invests in critical infrastructure by providing $4.4 million capital funding for a new transmitter for RNZ Pacific.
RNZ Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief, Paul Thompson, says the Budget 2022 funding announcement reflects the importance of ensuring public media broadcasting is well resourced into the future.
“Today’s budget announcement is an important step towards a well-resourced and viable public broadcaster. It is a welcome investment in public media objectives, said Paul Thompson.
“It is also timely. There is enormous disruption within the media sector. We have to address how we can best serve our audiences at a times of increased disinformation, the growing influence of digital giants, while also being focused on reflecting and preserving our own identity.”
“RNZ is encouraged by the budget announcement. It is an important step towards the creation of a strong flexible organisation which can serve the interests of Aotearoa New Zealand,” he said.
Paul Thompson also welcomed budget investment in RNZ Pacific shortwave transmitters.
In Budget 2022 the Government announced $4.4 million dollars capital funding for a new transmitter for RNZ Pacific.
RNZ Pacific broadcasts into the wider Pacific on shortwave 24 hours a day, collaborating with 22 broadcasting partners across the region. Its current primary transmitter is nearing end of life, and its other transmitter has in effect already been retired.
“The value of the RNZ Pacific service can’t be underestimated. Our voice reaches all parts of the Pacific, at times with critical information such as cyclone warnings. During the Tonga eruption, when the undersea cable was cut, RNZ Pacific short wave was a lifeline source of information,” said Thompson.
“This investment secures a productive future for our unique voice. The attraction of the shortwave service is its robustness, and the ability to have the signal travel great distances, and achieve good audiences,” he said.
“RNZ Pacific broadcasts enhance the Government’s Pacific strategy as we share our history, culture, politics and demographics. The strategy is underpinned by the building of deeper, more mature partnerships with Pacific Island countries, and by supporting their independence and sustainable social and economic resilience.
Since the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) ceased its shortwave broadcasting, the only other shortwave broadcaster in the region is Radio China. Thompson says RNZ can now start work on its infrastructure development with a new transmitter likely to take approximately 12 months to get in place depending subject to further project planning.