12 Nov 2018

NZ planned Pacific TV service not what is needed - expert

9:56 am on 12 November 2018

An analyst of Pacific issues says New Zealand's planned TV service for the Pacific is disregarding the needs of the region.

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Photo: 123RF

The government plans to spend $US6.6 million in the next three years expanding its Pacific Cooperation Broadcasting service.

Earlier this month, RNZ Pacific revealed New Zealand will use the channel to promote its investment in the region.

Tess Newton-Cain, of TNC Consulting, said the push for New Zealand content, including stories produced under Foreign Ministry guidance, is concerning.

"That obviously starts to set off a few warning bells because there's a very fine line between editorial independent and politically independent broadcasting that is designed to inform and educate or entertain, and something that could quite easily look like government propaganda."

On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government would expand Australian commercial TV into the Pacific.

This would include lifestyle programmes, news, current affairs, children's content, drama and sports, he said.

"This is an initial step towards providing more Australian content that is highly valued by the Pacific community."

However, Ms Newton Cain said this move by Mr Morrison had gone against official advice from Australia's Foreign Ministry, as well as the wishes of Pacific regional leaders.

"What people want is stuff that politically and editorially are independent," she said.

"They want good quality news are current affairs coverage and they want content that is tailored to them as a specific audience."

Australia and New Zealand were pushing TV content in part because they were facing increased competition in the region in soft power uses, including media content, Ms Newton Cane said.

China Radio International (CRI) last year came into the spotlight when it took over frequencies formerly used by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's short-wave service into the Pacific Islands.

In July, Viola Kuo Huang, researcher and translator at CRI, told RNZ Pacific the service's expansion into the Pacific would not provide targeted content to the region.

Ms Newton-Cane said this had provided an opportunity for New Zealand and Australia to differentiate themselves from China's strategy in the Pacific.

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