Three long-running TV shows have been cancelled, as NZ On Air moves to fund new media and multi-media content.

Back Benches on Prime TV finished last week, and the TV One show Neighbourhood has been dropped. Most significantly in my opinion, NZ On Air has dropped funding for the innovation-focused farming programme Rural Delivery, which also screens on One.

The rejections are a turning point for NZ On Air, now in its tenth year of a government funding freeze - even longer than the freeze imposed on RNZ, which finally ended last year.

What seems clear is that public service programming with 100 per cent NZ On Air funding is what will get the axe. In my opinion, it's likely that the commercial shows backed by the networks will stay. Is that how the system is meant to work?


NZ On Air is caught in a squeeze as it meets pressure to expand funding for multimedia and video content, but with no extra money.

"We've been working away at the low-hanging fruit, but now things are starting to bite," said Glenn Usmar, head of funding at NZ On Air.

"Increasing numbers of people want us to increase funding for multi-platform content and the only way to do that is to stop funding shows."

Rural Delivery runs at 7am on Saturdays and is in its 13th year, focusing on farm science and innovation. It has had a good run, but isn't this unsexy show what public broadcasting is all about?

Federated Farmers said the move was disappointing, given the absence of other rural sector programming.

TVNZ spokeswoman Georgie Hills said: "We want to see [Rural Delivery] back on our screens in 2018 ... we're working with the show's producer to explore all possible funding options.

"We remain committed to reflecting New Zealand farming perspectives through our news coverage and Country Calendar."

Both TVNZ and Three are focusing on local content, to compete with overseas services such as Netflix. But as NZ On Air money tightens, the networks are using advertising partnerships to fund local shows.


The Kiwibank-funded Nigel Latta series Mind Over Money is being used as a template for a new era of information shows.

Election rules

Darren Watson, writer of the song Planet Key, who overturned an Electoral Commission ban in 2014, says the 2017 election has highlighted other anomalies about media bans during elections, and that politicians need to sort things out before 2020.

He said that while Sean Plunket's experiences over his tweets are different to his own, they still highlight the folly of trying to halt discussion around election time.

The Top party spokesman may have run afoul of the rules with two election-day tweets, and after a handful of complaints the commission this week referred the matter to police. Potentially, he faces a $20,000 fine.

In my opinion, the rules have become a joke. Plunket is a controversial figure, especially to those on the left, and he would attract complaints no matter how innocuous his tweets were.

In the middle of all this, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry appointed Plunket to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. That could prove interesting, if the police do decide to take action against him.

Movie leader

Ngai Tahu chief operating officer and former Maori TV news boss Julian Wilcox is understood to be on the shortlist to take over as chief executive of the NZ Film Commission. An announcement on the appointee is expected in two weeks.

Wilcox and commission chair Kerry Prendergast did not return calls seeking comment.

The commission's CEO, Dave Gibson, leaves at the end of this year. A former film and TV producer, Gibson has been credited with helping to boost incentives for foreign investment and developing China-NZ co-production agreements.

Wilcox is fluent in Te Reo and has a background in journalism, but not in the film industry.

He was involved in talks with the Labour Party about becoming a candidate in the 2014 election, though these came to nothing.

Bottom line?

Newshub recently highlighted Winston Peters' past promise that he would establish anti-siphoning rules, ensuring key sporting events were shown on free-to-air TV.

Like all promises, this could eventually be dropped. Certainly, it does not seem to have spooked investors in Sky TV, the company which would suffer under such rules: its shares have risen since the election.

The promise might have been good publicity, but any such move would alienate not only Sky, but also the sporting codes which would lose Sky as a bidder for rights.