I've often wondered why we don't bother with a proper TV public broadcaster. We do pretty well with Radio New Zealand (which now has, at last, a decent website).
There's no particular reason why we shouldn't. There are two major things which one would change, in my view, about TVNZ to make it a "proper" public broadcaster:
- Remove all advertising from One, and limit the way advertising is treated on Two. Don't let it drive the ratings race. Yes, the stuff needs to be popular and quality TV on both channels, but there'd be no need to bid to the lowest common denominator by chasing ratings endlessly.
- Fund TVNZ through taxes. You do not spread money around if you want a decent public broadcasting service; you keep it in the public broadcaster. So NZ on Air would not hand out TV funds any more - TVNZ would get that money. NZ on Air would do radio etc. There'd need to be more tax payer funds as advertising revenue would decline - it would not vanish but it would decline.
More money worth spending. Telling our news and stories and life in our own way, in our own voices, unmediated by commercial values, is an integral part of every sustainable national culture in the world. Some countries have this with commercial systems: US stories and values dominate their media thoroughly. That isn't the case in a small country on the edge of the world. It's not even true of a big country like the UK which spends billions on the BBC.
I'm not proposing a new BBC. Any public service network would still play overseas TV; still use other networks for news etc. The difference would be in what was driving it: values, not dollars, to pervert an ACT slogan from 1996. We are not going to create a worldwide broadcasting and publishing empire like the BBC, we don't need it and we cannot afford it.
We can afford to invest in our national future. A public service TV broadcaster is a key part of that. If New Zealand wants to accelerate the amazing cultural progress of the past thirty years, then we need to build on those foundations and expand the space where our stories, in our voices, are heard.