Public broadcasting in New Zealand

Public broadcasting in New Zealand

Public broadcasting in New Zealand has undergone many changes since the first radio broadcast on 17 November 1921.


Professor Robert Jack made the first broadcast from the University of Otago physics department on 17 November 1921. [cite web|url=|title=Dashing heroes of a harbour crossing|date=6 September 2008|publisher=Otago Daily Times|accessdate=2008-09-20] The first radio station, Radio Dunedin, began broadcasting on 4 October 1922, but it was only in 1925 that the Radio Broadcasting Company (RBC) began broadcasts throughout New Zealand. In 1932, its assets were acquired by the government, which established the New Zealand Broadcasting Board (NZBB). This would later be replaced by the New Zealand National Broadcasting Service (NBS) and the National Commercial Broadcasting Service (NCBS).

In the 1950s, these merged to become the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (NZBS), a government department. In 1962, this gave way to the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC), an independent public body modelled on the BBC in the UK.


Television was first introduced in New Zealand in 1960. The annual television licence fee was NZ£4.

Initially, programming was done on a regional basis, with different services broadcasting from the main cities, AKTV2 in Auckland, being the first, followed by WNTV1 in Wellington and CHTV3 in Christchurch in 1961, and finally DNTV2 in Dunedin in 1962. Today, however, all programming and scheduling on the main channels is done in Wellington.

It was not until 1969 that the NZBC's first live network news bulletin was broadcast. In 1973, NZBC TV was networked nationwide, and colour television was introduced. Full-time colorcasts were launched with the Eurovision Song Contest 1979.

The NZBC had asked the government for the approval of a second TV channel as early as 1964, but this was rejected as the government considered increasing coverage of the existing TV service to be of greater priority. By 1971, however, two proposals for a second channel were under consideration: that of the NZBC for a non-commercial service; and a separate commercial channel to be operated by an Independent Television Corporation.

Although the Broadcasting Authority had favoured the Independent Television bid, the incoming Labour government favoured the NZBC's application and awarded it the licence without any formal hearings beforehand. (Eventually, Independent Television was awarded NZ$50 000 in compensation.)


The introduction of a second TV channel in 1975, also saw the reorganisation of broadcasting in New Zealand. The NZBC was dissolved in April of that year, with the two television channels, Television One and TV2, run separately from one another, and Radio New Zealand (RNZ) taking over responsibility for radio broadcasting. The NZBC Symphony Orchestra was to be known simply as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. TV2 was renamed South Pacific Television in 1976.

In 1978, the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand (BCNZ) was established, and in 1980, TV One and South Pacific (known once again as TV2) were merged into a single organisation, Television New Zealand (TVNZ).


In 1988, following major economic reforms to the state sector, the BCNZ was dissolved. TVNZ and RNZ became separate 'State-Owned Enterprises' (SOEs) which would have to compete commercially and return dividends to the Crown.

Rather than continuing to be used to directly fund TVNZ and Radio New Zealand, the licence fee, now called the broadcasting fee was to be used for local content production and the government funding for non-commercial broadcasting in radio and television on a contestable basis. As part of wide ranging reforms in the broadcasting sector, the Labour Government of David Lange established the Broadcasting Commission, which became known as and finally called New Zealand on Air.

Restrictions on television advertising were removed in 1989, so that TVNZ channels could show advertisements on Sundays and public holidays. In that year, TV3 became the first privately owned TV station in the country, finally ending the state monopoly. Restrictions on foreign ownership were also removed, and TV3 was subsequently sold to Canada's CanWest. SKY Network Television, in which TVNZ originally had a small stake, began broadcasting New Zealand's first pay TV service on three UHF channels.

Other free-to-air commercial television operators now include TV3's sister channel C4 and Prime TV. Sky TV remains the dominant pay-TV operator, now operating on satellite, although TelstraClear also operates cable TV services.

Although TVNZ had to compete with its commercial rivals through the 1990s, it maintained a dominant market position and paid a significant amount of its profits to the Crown in dividends. By 1998–1999, the National Party-led coalition was moving to privatise TVNZ and announced that the broadcasting fee would be discontinued.Since the 1970s, the licence fee had been capped at NZ$100 a year, and was not allowed to increase with inflation. In real terms, this meant that public funding of broadcasting in New Zealand was greatly reduced by the time of the broadcasting fee's abolition.

However, the 1999 election saw a Labour-led coalition gain office. Over its next two terms, attempts were made to reintroduce public service functions to the sector. In 2003, TVNZ was restructured as a Crown-Owned Company with a public service Charter. The Charter receives a small amount of government subsidy, but TVNZ remains predominantly dependent on commercial revenue and is obliged to continue paying dividends to the Crown.

It can apply to NZ On Air (funded directly from the government since 2000) for support in local content initiatives, such as drama and comedy, funding of programming for minority groups such as gay, Christian and rural New Zealanders, The funding of Maori programming has since passed to Te Mangai Paho the Maori broadcasting commission.

In 2004, the Maori Television Service was established to promote Maori language and culture. MTS is funded partly through direct government funding and partly through commercial advertising, but is eligible for contestable programming funds from Te Mangai Paho.

In 2006, the Government announced the introduction of two new non-commercial digital television services operated by TVNZ, offering drama, arts, documentary and children's programming called Freeview


External links

* [ New Zealand on Air]

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