An overhaul of NZ on Air is becoming more urgent following revelations that it has provided a totally misleading impression of the growth of local content on our television channels, says Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran.
“Last week, NZOA told media that ‘local content increased by 3.1 per cent on 2010 figures -an extra 338 hours of home-grown TV’. But it neglected to say that any local content growth last year was entirely driven by a phenomenal 16% increase in the hours of New Zealand programmes being repeated. Repeat screening jumped from 2660 hours in 2010 to 3094 hours last year.
“The total amount of original ‘first run’ local content on our major channels actually decreased by 1.2% from 8,200 hours in 2010 to 8,124 hours last year. But NZ On Air’s contribution to that total fell much more dramatically.
“NZ On Air funded original ‘first-run” local content on the six major channels last year decreased by just over 34% – or almost 596 hours last year. That’s astounding given that the agency’s contestable funding pool has been boosted by the $15 million Platinum Fund.
“NZ On Air’s total contribution to local content – first run and repeats – also fell significantly – from 20.22% in 2010 to 15.73% last year. So they are spending more and achieving less.
“The total decrease in first-run local content comes despite extended news coverage of the Christchurch earthquake, free-to-air broadcasts of Rugby World Cup games and special programmes associated with the general election.
“NZ On Air has some explaining to do. These figures do not look good. In the year ended 30 June 2011, the funding organisation reported that it had stacked another $3 million into its funding commitments for local content production – effectively 3.8% more than the $81 million committed in the previous financial year.
“They are simply paying more and more to produce ‘commercially-attractive’ local programmes. And NZ On Air’s recent decision to commit $1.6 million to help TVNZ to make a local clone of British broadcaster Simon Cowell’s international shows is only going to make the situation more difficult for local content producers.
“NZ On Air has told local producers that it is likely to have very little capacity for considering new projects at its final meeting of the current financial year in June and any remaining funds are likely to be prioritised for returning and planned programmes
“We can expect more bad news when local content figures are produced for 2012 and the impact of NZ On Air’s focus on expensive “commercially attractive” content increases. Meanwhile, government funding for our only public television broadcaster TVNZ 7 runs out at the end of June.”
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