Treatment of state-funded broadcasters smacks of political expediency.

It is a tale of two broadcasters. Finance Minister Bill English gave Maori Television a $10.6 million boost in the Budget, although it has a $12.9 million nest egg built up over years of taxpayer funding.

Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand is floundering in the eighth year of a funding freeze.

Maori TV gets about $33 million a year from the Crown and from the funding agency Te Mangai Paho combined. Radio NZ gets about $35 million of state funding. For both broadcasters, those sums have not changed for eight years.

But this year Maori TV got another $10.6 million over four years.


Politics plays a role in the public broadcasters' funding. The Government is obliged to reward the Maori Party because of its support.

Maori face many issues, some of which were addressed in the Budget. But Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell must have set a high priority on Maori TV, to get it the extra funding.

Maori TV said the money was to be used for new digital operations and a new high definition service.

Yet in the past Maori TV has said that its "reserve" - $12.9 million as of June last year - was earmarked for such digital developments.

Maori TV head of corporate development Rick Osborne said $5.4 million of the $12.9 million was set aside for working capital and the remaining $7.5 million was allocated to projects he declined to specify. He said these were distinct from the projects that would be funded by the latest Government top-up.

In my opinion, political expediency is the reason the Government has given money to Maori TV and left out RNZ. Spokespeople for the Ministers of Broadcasting and Finance declined to clarify the reason for the decision.

National has a long-standing antipathy towards Radio NZ, which it has dismissed in the past as "Radio Labour".

Radio NZ has been spending up on high-profile staff and on projects such as televising Checkpoint and Morning Report. The combination of the funding freeze and RNZ's investment in popular digital services has cut deep into its budgets.

High hopes for Rio

For Sky TV, a lot is resting on the success of its Rio Olympics coverage - not so much as a profit-maker, but as a boost to the broadcaster's brand.

Troubles caused by competition and new technologies have come home to roost in 2016, and Sky needs the Olympic buzz to help put negative perceptions behind it.

Sky insists that its sponsorship and advertising packages have been selling well (ANZ is the major sponsor) and expects the Rio excitement to really start building next month.

From a commercial perspective, there are special issues. "With the time difference it's the worst time to draw viewers," said advertising consultant Martin Gillman.

The other issue is over the relationship between Sky TV and other media which rely on Sky providing free news clips.

Last week this column reported tense relations between Sky TV and TVNZ, over what Sky sees as TVNZ's excessive use of Sky clips in its news and online coverage.

Other online media are said to be concerned that any Sky crackdown on "fair dealing" could harm their access. Other media will have people on the ground in Rio, and there will be plenty of news services. But the clips the New Zealand media will want most will be of New Zealanders crossing the finish line.

Niche works

There is much dark muttering about the future of free-to-air television, but that has not stopped interest in niche channels on the Freeview platform.

TVNZ is claiming success with its purportedly male interest channel, Duke, and next month MediaWorks' Four will become a joint venture called Bravo.

The people who own Choice TV are starting HGTV - Home and Garden TV - and I'm told another niche channel is planned for Freeview.

At one time there seemed to be little demand for free-to-air channels on the platform, which was dominated by ethnic channels and delayed versions of the big three - TV One, Two and TV3.

Freeview general manager Sam Irvine said Freeview's reach helped make projects viable for advertisers. He said 72 per cent of homes used at least one Freeview-capable device and 45 per cent of homes had Freeview-only TV reception.

Incidentally, a survey by Freeview (see graph) gives some intriguing indications on the uptake of subscription on demand services. Estimates in February suggest the steaming market is dominated by Netflix. The players themselves do not provide subscriber numbers.

Life let yet in TV adverts

Last week I mentioned that we were seeing fewer television commercials leading branding campaigns.

Lo and behold, House of Travel launched a new campaign on Sunday featuring a 60-second ad and five 30-second commercials.

Its agency is Colenso BBDO, and they've done a rather nice job.

House of Travel marketing director Ken Freer acknowledged that though the campaign was not purely about television - other aspects include digital and print - the travel firm had deliberately moved beyond a focus on digital and retail ads, which he said had been seen across the whole sector, meaning there was less differentiation between brands.

"The last branding ad we had was five or six years ago."