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NZ TV: 'Dumbed-down dross'

By Duncan Graham - posted Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Planning a holiday in New Zealand? Keen to ski the Southern Alps, gasp at the astonishing scenery, mix with the laid-back locals?

No worries. NZ delivers on the travel agents' hyperbole and getting $1.30 for every Aussie dollar means a cappuccino a day is affordable. Local wines won't rot wallets either, even with 15 per cent GST.

Australians will find their neighbour a modern, functioning, well-organised society with all the expected goods and services, little different to their homeland. Except for one – no ABC TV equivalent.


At the end of June Channel Seven will fade to black, leaving NZ as the only country in the OECD without a commercial-free mainstream public service television station.

What's happening across the Tasman is a distressing example of what happens when the principles of public service broadcasting are corrupted by commercialism and administered by Philistines.

The National (equivalent to Australia's Liberal Party) government is refusing to maintain funding of Seven – about NZ $15 million a year - through TVNZ.

(Maori TV, the national indigenous broadcaster is still getting NZ $50 million a year. This is monocultural, not SBS-style television. Although Maori currently form 15 per cent of the population it's estimated that Asians will be the largest ethnic minority after 2026.)

TVNZ used to be organised and funded like the ABC. But nine years ago it became a Crown entity (a government owned corporation) with two roles – returning profit and maintaining public broadcasting.

As anyone who has been involved in the industry knows, the two are incompatible. TVNZ's Channels One and Two are commercial, Seven is not.


According to the Minister of Revenue Peter Dunne, TVNZ runs "the worst channel in the country … crass, superficial, lowest common denominator rubbish."

In case people didn't get the point he put in the boot by adding that One is "too obsessed with its own self-imagined `stars' and the culture surrounding them to have any credible claim on being a legitimate national broadcaster."

Every week 1,000 Kiwis shift permanently to Australia chasing higher wages and better weather. What Seven supporters call the "dumbed-down dross" of One must also be another factor in some escapees' decisions to flee.

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About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

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