Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No more Scrutiny confirmed

The CEO of Triangle Television has confirmed that the current affairs interview show Scrutiny has been cancelled. Here is the reply I received from Jim Blackman of Triangle TV/Stratos

"Hi Joe – Thank you for this supportive email – we really appreciate it – and I have to say I was delighted to read your Scrutiny column. We are sorry to have lost Scrutiny too, but unfortunately it is a sign of the times

News and current affairs are a priority for us – but unlike the “major” players we are tightly constrained by the almighty dollar – especially in these times – to give you an idea – the TOTAL NZoA funding available for 13 regional channels last year was about 850,000 – and thats paper thin...OOOOH But thats been raised for next year they will say – to 1.5 million ---- still of course among the 13 channels....... thats the equivalent of about an hour and a half of prime time doco on the main broadcasters!!!!

The problem is that we need to try to make cloth fit and we have to assess costs all the way along.

I want to assure you that we are working on a replacement show which we hope you will find equally thought provoking – all I can say is “watch this space”

So while it is pleasing that Triangle are working on a replacement show, it still can not hurt to let Triangle know why the format of Scrutiny was appreciated, as this may influence the makeup of any new show. So let them know at

The meagre funding of regional television stations suggests too little consideration is given to the non-profit television sector. While the previous Labour government gave TVNZ additional charter funding it still required TVNZ to operate as a profit making entity. Indeed it was said the Government provided the funding for 'public service' broadcasting along with an expectation Treasury would take it away again. The new National government plans to transfer this money back to New Zealand On Air (NZOA) so it can be accessed as a contestable fund that TV3 and others can also access. They are wrong to assume public service broadcasting can be delivered in a platform neutral way - I can already hear the profit seeking turkeys starting the next great gobble gobble.

While public broadcasting advocates should always hope for the day we get a Government with a commitment to public broadcasting and a real policy to carry it out, there remains a question of how we might respond in the current environment. It may be worth advocating for National to at least modify their policy so that providers with fewer avenues for alternative funding, that demonstrate prime time public service values, could be given greater priority for funding from NZOA.

In the current environment there is a danger regional TV stations may be squeezed - some may even have to close. On the other hand, one can only hope that such stations do not begin to slash and burn their greatest assets - good quality programming that people want to watch. Too much focus on the immediate bottom line can sometimes be a recipe for ever decreasing circles.

In March Peter Thompson published a thoughtful column on the prospects for public service broadcasting in New Zealand, pointing out that while Labour's broadcasting policy was flawed, the plans by National to dispense completely with the TVNZ charter risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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