Wednesday, February 24, 2010

$60 a year for Radio NZ listeners to pay

Brian Rudman unsurprisingly loves Radio NZ, an outlet for the statist world view that he shares, that argues about what government should do, rather than what it shouldn't do.

He claims imposing a funding freeze is "bullying", but can't for the life of him figure out that making everyone pay for a station most don't listen to ISN'T bullying. "I like Radio NZ, I am happy to pay for it, but only if I make you pay for it too" is rather distasteful.

He throws up some strawmen, like the Ministry of Culture and Heritage commissioned study by KPMG that said Radio NZ was underfunded. Hardly surprising, since the report was part of the Ministry's wider strategy to get more state funding for its remit. Consultants can be adept at giving clients reports that tell them what they want.

The UNITEC study for the Ministry (PDF) was another strawman. Setting aside the minor mistakes throughout (like calling South Korea - "Democratic Republic"), the figures quoted on per capita spending on public broadcasting are seriously flawed. The report itself admits the figures for each country used are from different years. All of the figures are converted from local currencies into US$, with no transparency about the exchange rates. Moreover, the per capita spending is not on a Purchasing Power Parity basis. In shorthand that means the report thinks £10 buys the same in London as it does in Wellington, which is nonsense. The figures make New Zealand look cheap and nasty when that isn't the truth. The report is also full of ridiculous statements like:

there is much evidence of market failure insofar as a purely commercial model of broadcasting tends to overlook the needs of commercially unattractive segments of the audience (such as ethnic minorities),

although the US is full of minority language radio stations all commercially run.

It also has a distinctly anti-commercial broadcasting bias:

"That is certainly not to say that commercial broadcasters can never produce high quality content, but where they do so on a consistent basis there are usually factors other than market forces and commercial revenue at work.”

The word "quality" is in the eye of the beholder of course, but this sort of statement is absurd. It is like saying that without state funded books, newspapers, websites, art or music, there wouldn't be any "quality".

However, it is when Brian talks about the small cost of Radio NZ that he actually makes a point that Radio NZ supporters are closing their ears to.

He says "Of all our state-funded cultural institutions, Radio New Zealand is probably the most vital of all. It's the town hall of a community of 4.35 million people, widely dispersed from North Cape to Stewart Island.

No Brian, it is 650,000 people, given only 15% of radio listeners tune in to RNZ stations.

Then he says "It costs under $9 per person a year to run. For that small outlay we provide ourselves the only venue to hear extended and serious discussions on politics, the arts, medicine, lifestyle - you name it. We also provide for ourselves a newsroom with valuable competition for the two or three big metropolitan papers."

Well if you leave out those who don't listen, then you mean $60 per person a year. Not a lot of money is it?

So go on Brian, cough up, ask Radio NZ supporters to cough up. Stop wanting non-listening taxpayers to fund what YOU like, indeed if it is so valuable you should be jumping at the chance.

Does it just speak volumes about the hypocrisy of those who say how "valuable" it is, how much "we" should appreciate it, that THEY wont spend a dollar of their own cash to help out?

THAT Ladies and Gentleman is the difference between those who are statists and those who are libertarians. Those that think something is good, and want everyone else to pay for it, and those who think if you like something, YOU should pay for it.

I like reading the Economist and the Spectator, will you pay for my subscriptions? If not, why the hell is it any different?

UPDATE: Facebook now has a group OPPOSED to further state funding of Radio NZ.


MikeE said...

NZ Also contains loads of minority stations run on the LPFM frequencies... often on volunteer basis.

I should know.. I volunteer on one!

None of which need state funding (although it would be nice to make every pay for what we like, but hardly fair!)

Anonymous said...

I've heard many of the left complaining about tax cuts and how they don't want the extra money - well problem solved! Give your tax cut to Radio NZ!

Richard McGrath said...

Great point near the end about the difference between statists and libertarians!

Anonymous said...

Close it down!


Anonymous said...

Sure, lots of tax payers are paying for this particular service that they don't use. Lots of people have no interest in the vast majority of what the government funds. If you take away funding for all minority interests then only rich people get to enjoy them.

Do you want a society in which only rich people get what they want? Do you want a society in which independent news and current affairs is a myth? Do you want a society in which culture can only survive and grow if business is willing to invest in it?

I don't.

The world wouldn't end without Radio New Zealand. The world wouldn't end if RNZ services had to be cut back.
The world wouldn't end if RNZ Concert's programming were dictated by sponsors whims.
But it would be a much less interesting world and we'd be poorer as a result.

Libertyscott said...

Anonymous: Your premise is that without the government, only the rich get things. So only the rich enjoy an Asian language radio station in Auckland? So only the rich enjoy recorded music? So only the rich buy books? What do YOU think is the main demographic of National Radio? It certainly isn't "the poor". Concert FM isn't a station of the poor either.

Apparently forcing taxpayers to pay for National Radio is about giving poor people what they want? Have a reality check here.

Is Radio NZ the only competing source of news and current affairs, or have you not explored this internet thing that has been around for a while?

By what measure is Radio NZ independent? Many support the claim that it is quite biased towards philosophies and politics that believe in government intervention. Those that defend RNZ's "independence" are almost always coming from a centre-left point of view, which should raise questions in itself.

Why would Radio NZ be cut back necessarily? Why don't you and those who support you start donating to protect what you cherish so much?

The fundamental question is why should I or anyone else be forced to pay for what is basically a particular brand of broadcasting?

Given I don't defend the vast majority of what government funds, that is hardly an argument. Just because the state misappropriates money by force from people to spend on things that do not form its core function, does not mean it can defend anything else.

By that measure, the state should fund every magazine of every interest that people have. Why is radio special?