Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran is still wedded to the idea of a public television channel run by Radio New Zealand despite independent advice that the wider media sector does not support it, and non-committal from RNZ.
Curran announced today the allocation of $15 million in this year's Budget to implement the recommendations of a ministerial advisory group on public media.
RNZ will receive $4.5m to further develop its multi-media platforms and NZ on Air will receive $4m to boost content for under-served audiences such as Māori, Pasifika and children.
The two crown agencies also share $6m for a joint venture in which RNZ will commission content for its platforms from the commercial production sector.
Another $500,000 will go towards researching what level of funding is needed for an effective public media sector, a request that came from Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
In their report to Curran, the advisory group said there was strong support across the sector for more funding for RNZ's online and radio content, as well as the current Freeview channel content.
But: "We wish to note that it became apparent in our conversations with sector participants and stakeholders that a new full-service RNZ+ public television channel is not supported," group chairman Michael Stiassny wrote.
But a television channel is still in the mix in the future, with Curran telling reporters the plan had not changed and today's announcement was the beginning of the process.
"It can't all be done in one Budget and there's more work to be done. My vision remains the same."
Stiassny said the stakeholders were those in the industry. "You would expect that to a person, they probably did not want another competitor."
The Better Public Media Trust, which campaigns for quality, diverse local content, said it had found strong support for public television.
"The BPM/ActionStation People's Commission into Public Media And Broadcasting last year found strong support for a public television channel – whether stand-alone or linked to other platforms. In fact, audiences are desperate for it," said chairman Peter Thompson.
The trust called on the Government to ensure its manifesto commitment to an expanded multi-platform RNZ+ including linear scheduled public television services was not compromised because of lobbying from vested interests in the private media sector.
RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson, who has previously said RNZ was not looking to turn RNZ+ into a full-blown television channel, reiterated that position today.
"At present the concept of any kind of formal linear station being the centre of RNZ+ is not on our horizon, it's not where our thinking is," he said.
The funding of $15m in this year's Budget is nowhere near the $38m a year promised by Labour in the lead-up to last year's election.
Curran said her instructions from Robertson had been to use some of the $15m to find out what level of funding was needed for public media.
Asked whether the Government was still working to a figure of $38m a year for four years for public media funding, Curran said that without the work, it was difficult to say yes or no. "It could be more, it could be less."
The Better Public Media Trust noted that the long-term success of the new funding model depended on the Government's commitment to additional funding in future budgets.
"Coming up with the new funding model is half the solution but the other half of the equation is allocating sufficient funds to deliver on the policy vision set out by Labour in its manifesto," Peter Thompson said.
National's broadcasting spokeswoman Melissa Lee said today's announcement had
simply produced more bureaucracy for those at RNZ and across the broadcasting sector.
"Ms Curran's own advisory group has told her there's no appetite for RNZ+, yet she's still pushing the line that RNZ+ will be a fully digital multi-media platform.
"RNZ already has a strong digital presence and this announcement adds nothing new to their portfolio. RNZ's leadership already indicated it was cool to the idea of taking on a completely different model," Lee said in a statement.