Damien Grant: Taxpayers' millions poured down free-to-air gurgler

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File photo /  Doug Sherring
File photo / Doug Sherring

TVNZ7 IS an awful channel, which is why no one watched it and why the Government did not want to fund it. Peter Dunne can rail about insulting the intelligence of the TV-watching public but no one wants to endure documentaries on the portrayal of gay people on television or watch Sarah and Jeremy at Awapuni Donkey Stud.

If they did, advertisers would fund it or we'd buy it on DVD. But we do not care. Hearts In Crafts with Tamsin and Justin, anyone? I'd rather eat a live rat.

But why stop at TVNZ7? Is it time to sell TVNZ and cancel our subscription to NZ on Air?

Free-to-air is a dying medium being consumed by media's digital fragmentation. US networks have seen evening viewership fall from 52 million in 1980 to 27 million today. The decline in NZ is not yet as steep but it is coming. Time to sell while we still can.

In its attempts to delay extinction, TVNZ invests in digital platforms.

It lost $17 million in Australia on TiVo and is likely to be just as successful with its latest product, Igloo, unless the Commerce Commission does taxpayers a favour and keeps TVNZ out of it.

The state broadcaster expanding into digital makes as much sense as NZ Post trying to become an ISP.

TVNZ claims it made a profit of $2.1 million last year, but this is after counting $36 million of direct Government funding as revenue. Still, this is a better result that in 2010, when, despite getting $41 million in direct Government revenue, it reported a loss of $26 million.

More embarrassing is that much of its production costs are picked up by NZ On Air - $47.6 million, which makes the $2.1 million profit look sick.

If you want to see an example of spectacular Government waste read the annual report of NZ on Air. It has $130 million to spend, so it spends it.

If you like the new Annah Mac song you should - $50,000 of your taxes went to the album. Never listen to the angst-fuelled drop-outs on bFm? Never mind. They received $190,000, roughly the annual tax bill of 17 Affco meat workers.

There is nothing trivial about the cost of Nothing Trivial - $6.9 million spent there, another $6.8 million on Go Girls and $6.9 million on the Almighty Johnsons. We spend $7 million on the Serious Fraud Office. We could have cancelled Go Girls and doubled the SFO's budget - then Adam Feeley could afford his own champagne.

- Herald on Sunday

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