Does TVNZ serve a public purpose? Most certainly – its board offers job opportunities for veteran Nats

Alf has huge sympathy for the plonkers who run Television New Zealand, even though their outfit has egregiously failed to ever interview him.

These people are arguing they should be allowed to drop some of the election coverage that is required by law because of terrible ratings.

This concern to maintain high ratings does not square with their disinclination or refusal to interview Alf, which he is confident could only lift their ratings hugely.

Even so, there is something objectionable about being forced to broadcast something.

Especially speeches by Labour and Green Party leaders.

Yes, Alf is a great champion of our right to freedom of speech (within certain statutory constraints). But this right is meaningless (he contends) if there is no right for broadcasters to choose whose speeches should be broadcast.

Being free to separate the wheat from the chaff would allow them to broadcast The Boss’s speeches and toss those from the other party leaders into the trash can.

But our electoral laws are at odds with this and (according to the NZ Herald)… 

The broadcaster has long been required by law to broadcast political parties’ opening and closing election addresses.

But it says viewing patterns have changed and a sharp fall in ratings during the presentations – once central campaign events – justifies a change.

Alf supposes the people who go to the polls without having heard the opening and closing election addresses, or any other political addresses, nevertheless have been well informed by the soap operas and reality shows that nowadays dominate our screens.

Viewers’ rejection of state-prescribed programming shows up in the ratings.

During the last election the opening addresses had ratings that were 38 per cent lower than the average for the six previous Saturday evenings.

“TVNZ has a commercial mandate … based on this we believe the requirement under the Broadcasting Act for us to provide free time to parties for opening and closing election statements, during primetime, is out of step,” a spokeswoman said. “Ratings support this point … we suggest that Parliament TV is better suited to this specific function.”

In a submission to the justice and electoral select committee, the broadcaster says it wants its obligations removed or similarly heaped on its commercial rivals.

The rise of the internet and social media has diluted television’s role as the key method of communication with voters, TVNZ notes, and audiences are increasingly uninterested in the opening and closing statements, the spokeswoman said.

“RNZ [Radio NZ], which is also required to provide free broadcast time for opening and closing statements … is still defined as a public radio company.

“TVNZ and RNZ may once have been stablemates … but they are now chalk and cheese. It makes no sense that they should face the same obligations.”

Alf is tempted to agree.

Moreover, it is neither here nor there whether TVNZ is the chalk or the cheese – the point is that the Government might just as well sell it off and be rid of it.

The only good it does for the Government nowadays is provide opportunities for some of our party mates, after they have been put out to pasture, to be appointed to retirement jobs on its board of directors.

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