Radio New Zealand under review

New Zealand’s public broadcasters are being reviewed by the government as it seeks to decide how to structure them for the future.

Radio New Zealand (RNZ) and TV New Zealand (TVNZ) are separate government business entities. The government is considering many options for them in the future, perhaps a merger or possibly even closing them both and opening a new converged public broadcaster.

Many years ago, RNZ was forced to sell its popular and profitable stations and was left with three networks under its public service mandate: National Radio. Concert and RNZ International (RNZI) now known as RNZ Pacific. It is funded through money from a government trust called NZ On Air, and some of the tv and radio outlets are allowed to supplement income by taking limited advertising.

A report by RNZ News says the government has “signed off on a high-level decision to proceed and to commission a business case,” after the Minister for Broadcasting presented a revised paper to Cabinet this week. It is understood that the proposal to “disestablish” the current public broadcasters and start again is now off the drawing board, but a merger of the existing broadcasters is still in active consideration.

The plan now seems to be to beef up the public service broadcasting mandate, perhaps with a charter similar to the BBC model and to make content available across many platforms if the two organisations are merged. It is not known if advertising will be allowed.

The impetus for change comes as the country’s media grapple with the challenges of increased competition from international competitors in the new media age. “The plan was to work towards having the new media company in place by about 2023 and that appears to still be the goal,” reports RNZ News.

The National Party is believed to oppose any plans to merge the radio and tv operations, but is aware of the challenges facing broadcasters in the new media era. According to a report from competitor NewsTalkZB the Nationals believe “something’s got to be done. We cannot just stand by in all these new circumstances with the media fighting for their lives against international competition…We are against any big mega giant merger of two entities that will become so big they will basically eat the other media outfits up.”



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