Mike's Minute: TVNZ's in trouble - blame yourselves, not Google

Author
Mike Hosking,
Section
Video,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 21 August 2019, 9:15AM

COMMENT:

The big question in media circles right now is what the Government is going to do to TVNZ and to save the media industry.

The two are connected. TVNZ expects to lose $17 million this year, and once they start losing money there is no way back. MediaWorks, which owns things like Three, already lose money. Most people in the media lose money.

My employer NZME doesn't, this place is still profitable. And I could launch quite the lecture about profitability, giving the audience what they want, and the key to success and profit, but that's maybe for another day.

Some of the thinking, and this was seemingly confirmed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday, is to make TVNZ 1 commercial-free. They would be turned into, what the pointy heads call, a 'public broadcaster'. That's where you provide a more diverse series of products designed to reflect the broad interests of the population.

This would be good for MediaWorks, which would presumably be able to grab some of the millions in advertising dollars that would no longer go to TVNZ 1.

How TVNZ 2 and Duke would make money is an interesting question. And the requirements for a return to the government would be equally interesting. Would just TVNZ 1 be exempt from commercial rigour? Or the whole company? 

What if TVNZ were merged with RNZ and Māori Television? A lot of synergies there, a true public broadcaster both for radio and television - but also a lot of job losses. And a fairly huge bill the taxpayer would foot for all the content.

I doubt many people would object. After all here's the irony: the reason so many are in financial trouble is because so few watch anymore, the markets been sliced into a million bits. Getting big numbers for television is hard, hard work.

So given few watch, would anyone really care if TVNZ 1 started showing a lot of Māori programmes, bird documentaries, foreign travel shows, and long-format interview specials? No.

But having worked for TVNZ under the charter invented by the last Labour government I can tell you for nothing it is not a recipe for any sort of success. But if success is not your guiding principle to start with, then it becomes a sort of creative outlet for the worthies and the single agenda 'artists' who have previously plied their trade at the NZ On Air application box, hoping their otherwise commercially dire but creatively fulfilling pursuit can attract a bit of public money.

But in all of this, what is, or perhaps will be, forgotten is also the cold hard truth that some of these players who make no money are in the state they are because they make bad decisions. They make bad telly and bad content, this is a commercial problem. No one brought it on them, it's not Google's fault, it's their fault.

Either way let me tell you this from 37 years in this industry: less competition is bad, government in broadcasting is bad, bailing people out because they've dug themselves a hole is bad.

If the Government are going down the upheaval track, there will be more tears and disappointment than there will be problems solved.

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