There has been some interesting blog commentary on Sky's announcement to launch Face TV on their nationwide signal. As someone who fronted SaveTVNZ7 meetings around the country and who also works on Triangle TV and will be appearing on Face TV, I thought I'd add my thoughts.
If the TV Guide was edited by Ayn Rand and put online, it would be Throng.co.nz. If Whaleoil had the EQ requirements to have a best friend, it would be Regan Cunliffe and Regan has given the issue such a lazy once over I'd suggest he give up TV blogging and try something far less challenging like a paint drying blog.
Karol on The Standard has fast become one of my daily must reads on any issue and her post this week on public broadcasting is sharp and very well reasoned.
There are some assumptions that have quickly circulated about this deal between Sky TV and Triangle TV that I think need to be dispelled however.
As someone who has spent many hours sitting with Jim Blackman staring bleakly into the future of regional TV in this country, I know first hand the difficulties Triangle TV was facing.
The Government had not provided any digital signals for any regional television station to cross over to once the analogue signals are switched off next year. While the Department of Heritage and Culture has a responsibility to provide frequencies for this type of regional current affairs, they have stood by and watched regional TV drown.
Kordia has been less than helpful, Freeview have brought little to the table and NZ on Air has given the crumbs left over from Mediaworks and TVNZs multi-million dollar costing talent shows.
Jim had to pull Stratos from Freeview a year ago because there was zero support from Government to allow public funding for Freeview stations. The deal Jim has struck with Sky allows the Triangle signal to be picked up by Sky and simulcast as 'Face TV' on Sky.
Those who are still watching Triangle on the UHF signal in Auckland can continue doing so for free until the Government switch the signal off, at which point there was no digital signal reserved for Triangle to move on to.
As a frontperson for SaveTVNZ7, I am acutely aware of Sky TV's position in the industry and the criticism they have come in for when attributing blame for the decline of public broadcasting. To their credit, they have listened to that criticism and have been the only agency out there prepared to give Triangle TV a lifeline beyond the switch off date.
I have worked in many different media over the years and I've been told on all of them what I can say and what I can't say. I've been banned from RNZ for life for criticizing the Prime Minister too harshly for crying out loud. The only two media organizations who have never told me what I can or can't say are Jim Blackman at Triangle and now Sky TV.
They are giving us a means to offer an alternative evaluation of the weeks current affairs to ten times the audience at an adult time of day like 7.30pm without any editorial restrictions.
Yes it's behind a paywall, but until 2014 when there can be a change of Government to one that takes public broadcasting seriously, this is as good as it's going to get.
The alternative for Triangle and the mix of news and current affairs it brings was to simply end next year when the signal get's cut off.
Public Broadcasting isn't dead, it's been murdered. Death suggests the possibility of a natural ending. This is no such quaint passing of a thing whose time has come, Public Broadcasting has been very purposely murdered by this Government.
Look at the tireless work Myles at SaveTVNZ7 has managed to unearth. TVNZ denied access to these official information requests for 15 months, and the reason they denied it for so long was because of how explosive the information would have been in supporting TVNZ7.
TVNZ 7 seen as 'important' by most Kiwis
By May 2011 50% of all Kiwis considered TVNZ 7 to be extremely or very important (page 19). This includes people who had never heard of TVNZ 7.
Of those who were aware of TVNZ 7, two thirds gave the channel high importance (page 20) while another 24% considered TVNZ 7 'quite important' (page 21). This shows overwhelming public support of 91% for the importance of TVNZ 7 and it's style of programming.
The previous year, May 2010, 86% of those who were aware of TVNZ 7 thought it important to some degree with 60% giving it high importance. This was before the decision to scrap TVNZ 7 was announced so TVNZ, and one assumes the Government, chose to close down TVNZ 7 despite knowledge of overwhelming public support for the importance of the channel.
The types of people who considered TVNZ 7 to be very important were not limited to Freeview or older viewers - the majority of Sky viewers and 18-34 year olds also considered the channel to be either very or extremely important.
...so more and more NZers supported TVNZ7 and TVNZ hid that. This would be bad enough if the OIAs hadn't also revealed that the Broadcasting Minister purposely led about how many NZers were watching TVNZ7...
TVNZ had figures that proved Coleman was wrong to say TVNZ 7 gets 207,000 viewers each week.
Page 28 shows that by January 2010, more than 500,000 Kiwis watched TVNZ 7 at least once a week and by January 2011 that figure had risen to almost 700,000.
I get these figures thus:
2011 projected NZ population is 4.4m of which roughly three-quarters are 18 and over so possible TV viewers is 3.3 million.
TVNZ 7 awareness in May 2010 is 60% (page 10 of survey) putting the total number of the 'TVNZ 7 Aware' cohort at 1.98 million.
Page 28 shows that in January 2010, 27% of that cohort (534,600) watched TVNZ 7 at least once a week or more frequently, and that by January 2011, 35% (693,800) were watching each week.
The research was done at different dates with the total 'TVNZ 7 Aware' determined in May and the 'Viewing Frequency' in January so I've gone with the most conservative of dates to make sure the dates are well before Coleman's statement in April 2011 of 207,000. Coleman has since admitted getting the figures wrong by accident, yet here is evidence that TVNZ knew what the channel's real weekly viewership was, and most likely, so did the Minister.
...and why does the National Government work so hard at killing of Public Broadcasting? Look at what happens when the media coverage is just left up to the New Zealand Herald, Herald on Sunday, Dominion Post and Sunday Star-Times...
Election coverage biased towards Key, National - study
A study has found four of the country's most-read newspapers were biased during last year's election campaign, with Prime Minister John Key receiving far more coverage than then-Labour leader Phil Goff.
I look forward to challenging that narrative 7.30pm Thursday nights on a larger media platform from early next year*.
*And yes, Citizen A will remain free online.