Two figures juxtaposed explain why the Government was right to stop funding TVNZ7, Television New Zealand's only non-commercial public service channel.

The first of these is the $15 million cost of running the channel each year. The second is the mere 207,000 viewers a week that it attracts.

This really is television for minority interests taken to extreme. By way of contrast, TVNZ's One News attracts 600,000 viewers each and every night.

That has not, of course, prevented condemnation of the Government's decision, which consigns the channel to closure in June next year. TVNZ7 programmes, such as The Court Report, Back Benches and Media7, are said to have reached a maturity that demands their continued screening.


But no matter how worthy they may have become, this has not been recognised and reflected in sufficiently strong viewing figures. In any event, such programmes can compete for a share of the $81 million NZ On Air funding pool if they wish to continue.

That is as it should be. The NZ On Air commissioning model has proved itself. It is facile to say the TVNZ7 shows will lose out automatically to reality television programmes and other more populist competitors in such a contest.

The current affairs shows and documentaries on the commercial channels prove otherwise. It is in these channels' interest to screen good locally made programmes.

It is not in New Zealanders' interests for money that could go towards this to be frittered away on a barely watched channel.

CORRECTION: This editorial quoted viewer figures for TVNZ7 that were based on an incorrect figure (207,000 a week) provided last year by the office of former Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman. According to Nielsen, TVNZ7 attracted an average monthly cumulative audience of 1.1 million last year. In December, it achieved a record 1.47 million viewers.