Broadcasting policy focuses on: supporting widely available quality public broadcasting; encouraging innovation and technological change; and ensuring value for money through enhanced transparency, accountability, and competition.
A priority in broadcasting policy is support for local content through contestable funding which promotes competition for quality, content diversity and the availability of content across a range of channels and platforms. This funding is provided via the Broadcasting Commission (known as New Zealand On Air). Other priorities include ensuring early and successful digital switchover, ensuring the state-owned broadcaster, Television New Zealand has the flexibility to respond to the changing broadcasting and economic environments; and enhancing the transparency of and accountability for public funding for broadcasting.
Regional and Community Broadcasting Framework
The policy framework for regional and community broadcasting, enables a range of broadcasting services, content and formats for regional, local and community and minority audiences including ethnic minorities, communities of interest and students. The Framework is a set of objectives for government in future policy development to:
- Promote local broadcasting services (local broadcasting);
- Promote innovation and a diverse range of content and formats for different audience identities and interests (diversity);
- Facilitate wide technical, cultural and social access to broadcasting (accessibility); and
- Provide for long term developments affecting broadcasting (future-proofing).
Eligibility criteria for local licences have been developed from the policy framework and it provides scope for new local commercial broadcasters, as well as non-commercial broadcasters. The Crown has reserved AM and FM radio frequencies and UHF television frequencies throughout the country for use by non-commercial broadcasters, restricted to non-profit activities. Additional FM frequencies have also been set aside for local commercial radio.
In 2008, free-to-air digital television was launched in New Zealand, beginning a 6-10 year transition towards an eventual switch-off of analogue signals. The switch-off of analogue signals will be completed by November 2013, beginning with Hawke's Bay and the West Coast in September 2012.
Government support is provided for a combination satellite and terrestrial free-to-air digital, service delivered by a consortium of broadcasters known as Freeview. The government is providing $25 million for the Freeview platform over five years, and an allocation of digital terrestrial spectrum without charge during the transition to analogue switch-off. Digital transmission is managed by Kordia, the state transmission company,
Since the broadcasting reforms of 1988-89, the number of registered radio frequencies has increased substantially. The Radio Communications Act 1989 established a market-based system for spectrum management, with up to 20-year tradeable spectrum access rights. Such rights not only encourage investment in spectrum use, but also provide for situations where a number of users are possible.
Spectrum access rights are allocated by auction (aside from those set aside for allocation by other means, e.g. for non-commercial, Māori, and public broadcasting, and for the transition to free-to-air digital television). The registration of licences following allocation establishes the tradeable right that is recorded in a publicly accessible register. An annual administration fee is payable to the Ministry of Economic Development by all registered licence holders.
Most of the currently available UHF television, FM sound radio and AM sound radio frequencies have now been allocated. Additional licences are created, where technically possible, and allocated when there is demand for them.
In 2002 a voluntary Code of Practice was adopted by the Radio Broadcasters Association. This was aimed at raising the local music content to an average of 20% across commercial radio formats within five years. This was achieved, and the level has been maintained since.
Television New Zealand
TVNZ currently operates four national channels (TV ONE, TV2, U and TVNZ 7), and has several subsidiary companies. TVNZ broadcasts are accessible by almost 100 per cent coverage of the New Zealand population. TV ONE and TV2 broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TVNZ also broadcasts a news service to the Pacific, and operates a captioning service for selected programmes.
Māori Television was founded under the Māori Television Service Act 2003 (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori). Passed in May 2003, the act established the Service as a statutory corporation. Under the Act the Service should:
- be a high quality, cost effective television provider which informs, educates and entertains
- broadcast mainly in reo Māori
- have regard to the needs of children participating in immersion education and all people learning Māori .
These and other functions may be amended following a current review of the Maori Television Service Act.
SKY Television was New Zealand's first pay television network. It began broadcasting in May 1990 and now delivers multiple subscription channels via digital satellite. SKY also owns free-to-air broadcast channel Prime. Private broadcaster, MediaWorks delivers TV3, TV3+1, C4 and C42 channels. TelstraClear delivers subscription cable television in Wellington, Kapiti, and Christchurch.
Since 2008, New Zealanders have had access to a free-to-air digital television platform, known as Freeview. The government has supported the roll-out of Freeview with $25 million in funding. Freeview is a consortium of Television New Zealand, MediaWorks, Māori Television, and Radio New Zealand, and broadcasts via both satellite and terrestrial transmission systems. It delivers a range of channels including TVNZ’s four channels, MediaWorks’ four channels, two Māori Television channels, Radio New Zealand’s two networks, Prime, Parliament TV, Chinese Television and a number of regional broadcasters.
A number of small regional commercial and non-commercial television services operate around the country, providing a mix of programmes, from music to local and international news, community access, and tourist and entertainment services. NZ On Air provides funding for selected community and regional content on some regional services.