24 November 2005

Maori TV reports a successful first year?

One of our compulsory pay TV channels – Maori TV reports a successful first year.

Well, if someone gave me oodles of other people’s money to set up a business and there was little threat the supply would be cut off, I’d be “successful” too.

Its surplus of $3.2 million is much like the “profits” that the Railways Corporation made in the early 80s, because they were after enormous subsidies had been pumped in.

Of course the measure of success is that it showed vast amounts of NZ content and had a cumulative audience of 426,300 in April 2005. Note that it doesn’t mean that that many people watch it at any one time, just that many have watched it ONCE during a MONTH. Cumulative audiences are used by broadcasters to demonstrate big figures for audiences, but they show very little. It is a bit like saying 400,000 shopped at a supermarket during one month, but most of them could have only bought a bar of chocolate. Cumulative daily audiences and share of audiences at key times are better measures. I doubt Maori TV gets 1% of all viewing.

Gerry Brownlee is calling for the audience share figures to be released, but then it isn’t clear whether National would scrap funding for Maori TV – it almost certainly wouldn’t scrap NZ On Air funding for TVNZ/TV3 and Prime – and what is good for Maori TV is also good for commercial TV.

Anyway, none of this would matter a jot to me at all if it wasn’t getting taxpayer funding. There is nothing wrong with anyone setting up a Maori TV channel and broadcasting whatever they wish – just it shouldn’t be compulsory pay TV. I remember some years ago Saturn Communications (now part of Telstra Clear) offered cable TV capacity for a Maori channel, but it wasn’t taken up (it would only have covered Kapiti and Wellington then, but better than nothing).

Taxpayer funding for Maori TV should end, along with NZ On Air and Te Mangai Paho. There should be no taxpayer funding for any television on any channel.

The cost of producing television is lower now than it has ever been, with digital technology – so those who want it should pay for it and enjoy it. I am sure that with the will, there would be a commercially sustainable Maori TV channel – it might not broadcast long hours, and it might not have expensively made shows, but neither do Maori magazines or newspapers.

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