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March 1, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Public Broadcasting to be pruned by Parliament?

Dunne Dunne Dunne… (he was there!)

Over 200 supporters of public broadcaster Radio New Zealand (RNZ) descended on parliament with portable radios last week to protest a cost-cutting directive aimed at RNZ by Broadcasting Minister Jonathon Coleman.

The Save Radio New Zealand action was part of a nationwide movement organised on Facebook by Jake Quinn, with the Wellington leg of the protest organised by Wellington musician Luke Rowell.

“I’d simply like a showing that the public don’t believe in treating RNZ the way Dr Coleman is suggesting,” Rowell says.
Rowell, better known as Disasteradio, stressed the importance of RNZ as a supporter of the arts in New Zealand.

“I believe that the critical analysis and support that people like Nick Bollinger, Kirsten Johnstone, Sam Wicks, Robbie McEwan and the rest of the team involved with Music 101 has been indispensable for musicians like me.”

In his address to the crowd, Labour MP for Wellington Central Grant Robertson emphasised the Labour Party’s commitment to RNZ, reminding people that the Labour Party increased funding in 2007, following a report showing RNZ was severely underfunded.

“National has stopped that funding, and now they want to go further, and cut back on what Radio New Zealand can offer.”

He queried the National Party’s commitment to maintaining public broadcasting in New Zealand.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that the National Government will return to the rhetoric of the 1990s, which involved them getting ready to sell [RNZ and Television New Zealand].”

Robertson instigated a collective volume increase of the protestor’s radios at the end of the MPs’ speeches.

While there was no representation from the National Party, or its coalition partners, United Future leader, Peter Dunne was present. The sole representative with any ties to the National Party, in the form of a Confidence and Supply Agreement, Dunne also presented himself as a firm supporter of RNZ.

“I have been a supporter of RNZ for over 40 years, and I will continue to be so.

“I think that if RNZ is in any way inhibited from doing its job then the standards we have come to associate with it, in terms of professionalism, integrity, quality news and quality programming, will similarly diminish.

“What we will see will be our national radio broadcaster reduced to the same lowest common denominator status as our national television broadcaster.”

Dunne’s comments echoed RNZ Chief Executive Peter Cavanagh’s statement earlier in the week, where he said “inevitably there will be some degradation of quality as the funding squeeze comes and resources are stretched”.
Emphasising the underlying importance of public broadcasting in New Zealand, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said, “this isn’t just one more cut. This is the basis of our democracy itself”.

Norman encouraged protestors to text the Jim Mora show on RNZ in a show of support.

“Radio New Zealand is the only public broadcaster, really, that doesn’t have any need to please commercial sponsors, so I think it is worth protecting. It’s a cultural icon. It’s a tiny portion of our budget…probably less than they spend on bottles of wine on their credit cards.”
Phil O’Brien

“New Zealand would be so much weaker if we didn’t have Radio New Zealand. I think it’s really important to support it.”
Gabor Hellyer

“It’s a national treasure and we will see a rise in trash radio if it has to follow a commercial imperative.”
Anna Sutherland

“It’s National Radio, not National’s radio”
Russel Norman: Green Party Co-Leader


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