19 May 2022

Government shows us the money for public media

From Mediawatch, 1:04 pm on 19 May 2022

Budget 2022: The new public media entity replacing TVNZ and RNZ will be backed with $327 million over three years from 2023. 

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

In February the government gave a green light to a new public media entity to incorporate RNZ and TVNZ next year - and then replace them. 

This is the centrepiece of the government's Strong Public Media programme - and the biggest shake-up of public broadcasting for three decades - but since 2019 the planning has been done almost entirely behind closed doors.  

RNZ is currently funded with $48m a year from the public purse. TVNZ currently makes around about $300 million a year in TV and digital advertising, with the costs of some local programmes covered by contestable funds from NZ on Air.

Budget 2022 anticipates the surplus from the new PME (TV and digital advertising) at $306m over its first six years - added to the $327 Crown funding for the first three years (2023-26).  

The Minister of Broadcasting and Media Kris Faafoi guaranteed in March that existing commercial-free services would remain - and the new entity would be not-for-profit and governed by a charter establishing its public service mission. 

He reiterated that in a statement today. 

“The entity is not-for-profit and we will guarantee a continuation of non-commercial programming," he said. 

"This includes providing local news, entertainment and documentaries across a number of platforms and partnering with other New Zealand media,” Kris Faafoi said in the statement.

The business case commissioned by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage said “public media entities will struggle to maintain current provision, even with increases in public funding." 

It listed $51 million in direct crown funding for RNZ and TVNZ and $14.6 million this year for “establishment and integration.” 

But all references to finance after that were redacted from the public version - and the government has not even hinted at how much public money it would commit to the project - until the Budget today. 

Earlier Cabinet papers specified that it would be partly funded by commercial revenue and partly by the Crown. That means the new entity will still depend upon TVNZ’s ability to make money from ads. 

“Getting that balance between Crown and commercial revenue is going to be one of the challenges that the new entity will have.” Faafoi told Mediawatch in March

Budget 2022 also includes funding for Manatū Taonga / Ministry for Culture and Heritage to monitor the new public media entity and "additional change and establishment funding" and $1.2m to the Broadcasting Standards Authority over four years.

$4.4 million in capital funding will pay for a new radio transmitter for RNZ Pacific.