The Government has allocated a few million dollars more to Radio NZ, but the $38 million splurge previously proposed by Labour remains elusive.

Budget 2019 documents show RNZ will receive a budget of $14.5 million as well as a capital investment of $3.5m to upgrade infrastructure over the next two years.

This is only slightly higher than the $15m allocation announced in the last Budget, and well shy of earlier suggestions by former Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to lift RNZ funding to $38m a year.

In last year's Budget, the allocation was broken down into $4.5m for RNZ, $4m for NZ On Air and $6m for an innovation fund shared between them.

Advertisement

This year's Budget simplifies the allocation and sees RNZ allocated $7.25m and NZ On Air $5.25m in each of the next two years.

Overall funding for public broadcasting services has dropped around $2m to $147m in the 2019/20 Budget.

Speaking to the Herald, RNZ head of audience strategy Stephen Smith said he was not disappointed with the Budget.

"We're receiving an increase for the third Budget in a row," he said.

He also said he was encouraged by the fact the Government had acknowledged the importance of public broadcasting by injecting further funds in this year's Budget.

He said the additional money would be used to expand RNZ's coverage of smaller, under-represented groups — particularly Māori and Pasifika.

Victoria University's Dr Peter Thompson, who chairs the Better Public Media Trust, was not as optimistic about the latest Budget allocation.

"It's disappointing," he said.

"It's not enough to offset years of under-investment."

Thompson noted that the three recent increases for public broadcasting followed years during which Radio NZ funding was frozen. He said the small increases introduced now would not be enough to rectify the big issues facing public broadcasting in the face of intensified competition and the growing influence of tech giants Google and Facebook.

"I'd like to see a complete review of the settings for the digital media environment," he said.

He said he remained hopeful that current Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi, who inherited the portfolio from Curran, would still introduce some forward-thinking policies but feared he may be running out of time.

"I hope the Government comes up with some ideas very quickly," he said.

"They've only got one year left in office and we don't know if they're going to be there for a second term."

Thompson added that a failure to invest appropriately in public broadcasting was also against the spirit of the Wellbeing Budget, given the important role that journalism plays in society.

"There's still this perception that broadcasting is a nice-to-have, an afterthought," he said.

"And if you see it as that, then you're not looking at the important role it plays in ensuring the health of your democracy."