Curran claims RNZ+ television channel still on track

While Minister of Broadcasting Clare Curran couldn’t confirm funding – this year’s budget is still under consideration – she said yesterday that Labour’s RNZ+ policy that includes a free-to-air television channel is still on track, albeit as an ‘evolution’ at some time in the future.

At this stage RNZ+ remains a policy wish rather than a confirmed reality.

There have been claims that Curran’s aims and preferences of the RNZ board are at odds, but Curran denies this.

On Q&A yesterday: (regarding Curran’s controversial meeting with Carol Hirschfeld)

Corrin Dann: The problem is here Minister is that we’ve got a situation where we know that the CEO of RNZ and the board chairman had expressed some concerns about your plans for RNZ+ being a full linear TV station, and I guess we could take the impression that you were trying to find someone at RNZ that perhaps had a different view, that you were looking to undermine the board.

Clare Curran: Well that impression is completely false, and there have been very positive discussions between myself, the chair, the CEO, and the board itself on the progression of the Government’s priorities. So you know that is completely false.

It isn’t clear from this whether Curran was saying that all of Dann’s ‘impression’ was completely false, or that she was just referring to “you were looking to undermine the board”.

But there do seem to be some differences of opinion over the TV station. RNZ –  Top level turbulence at RNZ and the Beehive:

After she was appointed broadcasting and digital media minister, Clare Curran told Mediawatch she wanted to see a comprehensive and commercial-free TV channel run by RNZ out of the $38 million Labour’s policy had pledged to boost public broadcasting.

RNZ’s chief executive and chair have both stated publicly since then they don’t favour that option and preferred to use any extra investment to expand multi-media content for several digital platforms.

And back in January – No need to fear us: RNZ (Newsroom):

A big part of his strategy has been to move closer to the commercial broadcasters and not alienate them like his predecessor did.

“Our job is not to go head to head with the TV guys, we want to do things that commercial players won’t do,” Thompson told Newsroom. 

“We are not going to re-create TVNZ 6 or 7 (public service channels that were shut down in 2012). We are a multi-media organisation and TV will be a part of what we do, like radio and digital are. Some of our programmes are already on the screen and we will be able to do more of that (with the extra money).”

Back to Q&A, on funding Curran says that “there’s a lot of things up in the air”.

Corrin Dann: Will the RNZ rollout and the money and the budget process be affected by what has happened this week?

Clare Curran: I don’t believe so, but I would also make that point that we’re in a budget process, and so that there’s a lot of things up in the air.No matter which minister you had on today you’d probably get that response.

Corrin Dann: What is the actual process in terms of money for RNZ this budget? Are they potentially in line for twenty or thirty million dollars or not?

Clare Curran: Well I can’t answer that because we’re in the last stages of a budget process. There is a plan in place to evolve RNZ to become RNZ+. Also to invest in NZ on Air so that there is more New Zealand content made available across the media spectrum. But also to turn RNZ into a more evolved multi media entity. That plan has not changed.

But if that evolution includes a full linear television channel substantial funds will be required.

Clare Curran: The quantum of the investment in this budget cycle is still unclear because we’re still in that process.

Corrin Dann: So they may not get thirty eight million dollars?

Clare Curran: I can’t comment on that because we’re in a budget process and we’re not, ask me in a few weeks.

Corrin Dann: What I can ask you is are you sticking to the view which you’ve expressed numerous times, that there’s going to be a linear free-to-air non commercial TV station run by Radio NZ?

Clare Curran: So that is in the policy that was released before the election. That is ultimately part of the longer term intention. Getting there is what I’m calling an evolution, an evolution of RNZ to become RNZ+.

It would be a major step to set up a TV channel, and it would be quite costly. It sounds like it is a wish rather than an imminent reality.

Corrin Dann: How long does that take?

Clare Curran: I can’t answer that either. I put in place, we’re five months into government, this is the biggest investment and concept around media in New Zealand for a long time, which has been starved of funding in an environment where it hasn’t been valued.

I’ve put in place an interim media advisory committee to provide advice to the Government on how any division of money should occur, but also how a permanent commission could offer quality advice to the Government in the long term. So it’s still too early to say.

Corrin Dann: So an evolution. Some years.  Do you still want a stand alone TV station that will effectively be in competition with TVNZ, Mediaworks and everyone else. Eventually.

Clare Curran: Um well ‘in competition’ is a curious way to put it…we’re talking about non-commercial television which we don’t have in New Zealand.

What about Maori television?

Corrin Dann: Will there be a non commercial TV station? Will there be a TV station one day?

Clare Curran: Yes. That is, well, don’t forget we have digital media, so we already have audio-visual happening with RNZ. It is not adequate. It needs to improve.

Corrin Dann: So does it need to be on a linear platform though, so people can go to the TV channel?

I presume that means broadcast type viewing rather than on demand.

Clare Curran: That is the intention in the longer term, yes.

Corrin Dann: So you’ve got a problem though don’t you? The current chair od Radio New Zealand, and the CEO have expressed some concerns about that, they don’t see a fast evolution to that, from the language that’s certainly been reported.

Clare Curran: So um the ah can I just reassure you and the listeners that there is no division between RNZ and the Minister on this issue. There is an acknowledgement that evolving RNZ into RNZ+ is going to take time, and the focus will be on moving the platforms multimedia in a gradual way depending on how much money is available to do it.

It’s going to take time. I just urge everybody to hold your horses and wait for the evolution of those plans to start to unfold.

So Curran has confirmed:

  • She still wants a non-commercial broadcast/digital television station as part of RNZ+ ‘evolution’.

But she can’t confirm:

  • What funding will be available in next month’s budget or in the future.
  • When a TV station might climb down from the RNZ tree and walk, albeit aided.

What I’d like explored more is whether a television channel is the best approach, given that on demand services like Netflix are growing while broadcast type models like TVNZ, TV3 and Sky are struggling to keep their old style models alive and thriving.

Labour’s policy related to RNZ:

Labour will:

  • Transform Radio New Zealand into RNZ+, a truly multi-platform provider dedicated to quality New Zealand programming and journalism, including a free-to-air non-commercial television service
  • Provide $38m a year in additional funding for quality New Zealand programming and journalism, independently apportioned between RNZ+ and NZ On Air. NZOA could use this funding for content promoting New Zealand’s national identity or investigative journalism

More than a share of $38 million may be necessary to set up and operate a full non-commercial television service.




Leave a comment


  1. David

     /  2nd April 2018

    Not sure what problem Curran is trying to fix, there is hardly some massive hole in the market begging to be fixed by dollops of taxpayer money. Its ridiculous to say that its not competition to existing TV companies unless you are setting something up that will have no viewers. Hope she stays on as a minister though she is a complete idiot.

    • Kimbo

       /  2nd April 2018

      Here, let left-winger Chris Trotter tell you how he and the likes of Curran view the “problem” public broadcasting is meant to solve – necessary taxpayer funded left-wing broadcast propaganda to “even up the odds”. Yes, that’s really how they think about privately-owned, supposedly anti-left media!:

      “That was how Labour rolled back in the 1930s. Its socialist leaders understood what today’s Labour politicians do not. That the media – be it print, electronic and/or digital – is crucial to the success or failure of any government; and that without the support of at least a very substantial fraction of that media, the government’s ability to implement its policies will be severely compromised.

      Savage was well aware that his right-wing opponents could rely upon the unwavering support of the daily newspapers. That is why he was so keen for the new Labour Government to take control of the airwaves and appoint someone he could trust to run them. The Left needed to even-up the odds.

      It still does”.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  2nd April 2018

    Usual socialist screwup. Misdiagnose the problem and make things worse.

    In the midst of technological disruption try to turn the clock back 80 years.

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  2nd April 2018

    ‘You’ve got a problem, DON’T you ?’ OUCHHHH !

  4. alloytoo

     /  2nd April 2018

    ummmmm……….who’s actually watch this channel?

    oh….right it will be compulsory won’t it.


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