Radio New Zealand (and other media) have justifiably been praised for their coverage of the earthquakes this week. In times of disaster most trivia gets sidelined as media rises to the occasion (except for a few diversions on cows and paua).
RNZ is state funded and the Government purse strings have been tightened over the past few years. Their funding in relation to their earthquake coverage came up in Parliament yesterday.
Garth Hughes took the opportunity to push for more money for RNZ – at a time when Government funding of things like rescuing Kaikorai from devastation and isolation and fixing a few roads and railway lines may be a tad more important.
Bill English responded by saying that RNZ had used the money it does receive wisely, and demonstrating the ability to use the money it receives well does not on it’s own justify giving them more money.
Media—Support for Media and Radio New Zealand Funding
9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Will she join with me to acknowledge the work of all media in New Zealand, which is so important in times of natural disaster and crisis; if so, will she consider increasing our public broadcaster Radio New Zealand’s funding in Budget 2017?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: Yes, I do agree with the member. The media has done an excellent job of the vital task of keeping the public informed about what they should do at a time of stress. In terms of Radio New Zealand’s (RNZ’s) funding—and, of course, Radio New Zealand, uniquely among media organisations, has a guarantee of revenue for future years, something that many media organisations would regard with envy. However, any bids will be considered in due course as part of the usual Budget process.
Gareth Hughes: How long does the Minister think our only public broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, can continue to provide the high standard of broadcasting we have seen in the past few days, when its funding has not been increased for 8 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, clearly up until now it has done a very good job. I have not seen any noticeable deterioration, in fact, I have seen some improvements in the broadcasting of Radio New Zealand on the guaranteed funding that it has, which, as I said, makes it unique among media organisations, a number of which are fighting simply to stay alive.
Gareth Hughes: Given the Minister’s comments around the ability to lodge a Budget bid, is the Minister concerned Radio New Zealand did not put in a funding bid in the last Budget round, with the chairman describing it as: “pointless beating your head against a brick wall of reality.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I was not disappointed at all. I know for public organisations it can be a sort of automatic reflex that they bid for more money just because they had some last year and think can do more good next year. In the case of RNZ though, over a number of years it has changed with the times. I am particularly complimentary of its website development. It sees itself now less as an owner of a broadcasting system and more as a content provider. I am sure that the wider media sees benefit in broadcasting content of the quality of RNZ’s.
Gareth Hughes: Given the excellent work that Radio New Zealand has done in the last few days despite a real-term funding cut of $4 million since this Government came to office, would the Minister encourage Radio New Zealand to put in a Budget bid for the next funding round?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, not on that basis. I mean, we do not give a public organisation more money just because it has demonstrated its ability to use the money it has. If there is a greater need for the long-term sustainability of the organisation then I am sure the board and executive of Radio New Zealand will see merit in putting up a bid. Equally, we also try not to give money to organisations where their services habitually fail, because that would also be rewarding organisations, rather than just applying money to obvious need.