Commentators give opinions on merger between TVNZ and RNZ

TVNZ's Auckland building

Television New Zealand might have to forgo ratings and commercial income to meet the Government’s new charter, according to The Spinoff founder Duncan Grieve.

Broadcaster Minister Kris Faafoi wants to merge the publicly-owned broadcaster with Radio New Zealand by the middle of next year.

Currently, TVNZ receives 90 per cent of its revenue from advertising, while RNZ is fully funded by the Government.

The new broadcaster will be not-for-profit, but advertising will be part of its funding mix.

Faafoi said it will operate under a charter, set out in legislation, and “provide trustworthy news as a core service”.

The last charter required TVNZ to have a significant Māori voice, include the tastes and interests not generally catered for by other national television broadcasters and promote a diversity of cultures.

Grieve said the re-emergence of the charter will make TVNZ a “much more public service-orientated channel”.

He said the charter could result in the broadcaster having to “forgo some ratings and some commercial income to meet that”.

“That’s quite a change from what had been a public spirited, but still commercially orientated, organisation. Making the whole thing a not-for-profit really does increase the amount of money it has to invest."

Grieve also questioned what impact the new entity will have on the private sector media organisations.

Victoria University associate professor Peter Thompson doubts the new “monstrous behemoth” will wipe the competition off the playing field.

“Directly, I don’t think this is a terrible threat to the plurality of the news media. In fact there may be strengths in both TVNZ and RNZ’s news reporting capability,” Thompson said.

He said the merger was “wonderful” for public media in the digital ecology, but the Government needs to address what ratio of public funding the new broadcaster would receive.

“We saw this previously with Labour’s TVNZ charter experiment where they tried to make TVNZ operate both as a public service entity and as a commercial entity, but they provided minimal funding for it and it really didn’t work," Thompson said.

“The real fear here is that this new entity might have a great vision but not receive adequate funding to realise it.”


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