By LOUISA CLEAVE
Television New Zealand should include programmes for minority interests in prime-time programmes, says a draft charter for the state broadcaster.
The charter, which says TVNZ will contribute to a sense of national purpose and identity as well as pride in the country's diversity, suggests that programmes appealing to minority interests should be offered as prime-time viewing.
But television commentators warn that the move could eat into profits and audience share.
Under the charter, released by Broadcasting Minister Marian Hobbs, TVNZ would balance its programmes of mass audience appeal with shows of minority interest.
It would also ensure a significant Maori presence in the line-up on both TV One and TV2.
The minister emphasised that there would be no radical change on television screens, but a balanced move towards the Government's objectives.
She cited Tagata Pasifika - screened at 9.30 am on Sundays - as an example of a programme that was scheduled at an inconvenient time for its target audience.
Ms Hobbs said the Government was still working out how to pay for its wish-list for more local content. TVNZ is required by the State Owned Enterprises Act to act as a commercial company first and public service broadcaster second.
Ms Hobbs ruled out a commercial-free network, saying the country could not afford a BBC-style broadcaster.
However, viewers could expect to see more drama, children's programmes, comedy, news and documentaries.
Paul Norris, head of the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch, said the Government had still not answered the key question of who would pay for additional local shows, "particularly if it involves TVNZ losing some ratings and market share as a consequence of putting these programmes into the schedules."
"There are some programmes of that sort on Sunday morning. Are we talking about putting them into prime time?"
Bruce Wallace, executive director of the Television Broadcasters Council, which represents all free-to-air networks, said the draft charter signalled that the Government was raising the bar in some specific areas of programming but was also interested in how this would affect TVNZ's audience share and profits.
"There is a lot of attention there to the interests of minorities and the interests of Maori and, if those are areas that are going to have a much higher profile on TV2 as well as TV One, that could have an impact."
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters labelled the draft charter an "essay in political correctness and cultural drivel."
By LOUISA CLEAVE