Michael Stedman, the managing director of international programme maker Natural History New Zealand, has criticised TVNZ plans to seek more taxpayers' cash for commercial television shows.
New Zealand On Air money is meant to be for non-commercial shows but TVNZ's 2001 annual statement of intent ratified by the Government said: "TVNZ will continue to commission and produce commercially-viable local programming and we will continue to participate in the NZOA contestable funding to support this aim.
"However, we face two challenges. Firstly, we need to increase our share of overall funding. In doing so, we need to direct more of our efforts towards securing funds for commercially-attractive, peak programming.
"Secondly, we need to engage NZOA to broaden the availability of funding for commercially-attractive genres.
"Genres that demonstrate the greatest commercial potential are drama, comedy, entertainment and popular factual, yet only about 50 per cent of NZ On Air total awards support peak programming across these categories," the TVNZ statement said.
In a keynote address to the television production industry this week, Stedman said it was disturbing that NZ On Air money was being targeted for what are clearly commercial aspirations.
He asked if the approach was because TVNZ needed support to achieve a respectable bottom line, or because an unregulated Sky TV was able to muscle out other players negotiating for programming rights.