Speech to the Better Public Media Trust AGM

  • Hon Clare Curran
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

The last time I was in this room was probably about 2 and a half, maybe three years ago, and it was to hold a forum on public broadcasting.

It was in my role as opposition spokesperson for Broadcasting.  Among those  attending the forum that day was David Beatson and Lesley.

It was a really interesting discussion. It helped form the policy that the Labour Party took into the election last year.

I did a number of those forum around the country and they really did help inform the discussion.

I also really want to acknowledge the Better Public Media Trust because you have also really helped inform the discussion on these matters and informed the policy that the Labour party took into the election.

Thank you Geoff  (Lealand) for your inaugural David Beatson Memorial Speech. 

I really do want to acknowledge David Beatson’s significant contribution to the media in New Zealand and to me personally.  I considered David a friend, a bit of a mentor and certainly a font of knowledge and wisdom.

I attended his funeral on September 27 last year in Auckland during that limbo period between the election and the announcement of the new government.

I feel very sorry that he isn’t here now to offer his wisdom and perspective during this really exciting, challenging and somewhat difficult time.

I am, and always have been, a firm believer in the value of independent public media – both as a means of holding our institutions to account, and for its contribution to our national identity.

Media is an integral part of our culture, of its sense of place and purpose. 

It is absolutely vital that we see and hear ourselves and our stories reflected in our audio-visual content across media platforms.

And having the right framework for a resilient and sustainable New Zealand broadcasting system is crucial to our strong modern democracy.

This Government has an ambitious work programme in the public media space. 

We want to ensure our investment in public media is sustainable and produces high-quality, diverse content. 

It is also important this content is accessible for all New Zealanders.

My focus right now is on transforming RNZ into RNZ+, a truly multi-platform provider dedicated to quality New Zealand programming and journalism; to expand the funding for New Zealand On Air as the provider of quality publically funded local content on other media platforms; to take another look at how NZOA does that but to ensure it has an important role to play in our expanding investment and emphasis on public media in New Zealand.

The evolution of RNZ to RNZ+ is a significant investment in the quality and voice of independent public media and will support a greater diversity of New Zealand stories.

It’s the most significant discussion and intent by government in decades.

Of course it hasn’t happened yet and it’s creating a lot of discussion and controversy.

That investment is aimed to support greater diversity of NZ stories and I know you’re going to ask me so I am going to put that straight right now.

How much will that significant investment be? Is the figure of $38m still on the table? I can’t answer that here today. We’ve got a budget and that hasn’t happened yet.

I wish I could answer that here today to passionate supporters of RNZ and public media.

But the reality is that I can’t even give you a hint of what might be coming up in the Budget.  While the process goes on, I am sworn to secrecy.

I would emphasise however that I am committed to transforming RNZ into RNZ+, a truly multiplatform, multimedia entity.

Moving RNZ’s platforms so they are multimedia will be a gradual process. That evolution won’t be instant – it will take some time and will be dependent on funding.

The long-term goal is that RNZ+ will include a free-to-air, non-commercial television service.

New Zealand’s level of public media funding is low compared to similar countries – it’s a shame, it’s an outrage. And it has affected us as a country.

And the current contribution of public and private media to supporting an informed democracy is not as strong as it should be.

My focus on expanding RNZ into RNZ+ and increasing funding for NZ On Air will strengthen New Zealand’s public media system.

To help facilitate this, I am very pleased we have a ministerial advisory group to investigate the establishment of a Public Media Funding Commission.

The Commission is aimed to be an independent, non-political voice advising myself as Minister and Parliament on the state of the media and the resourcing needs of public media agencies.

There is nothing in New Zealand at the moment that goes anywhere near to doing this. And it’s time we did.

It will also provide much needed analysis of sustainable funding levels for investment in public interest media.

Its early steps and it has yet to give me advice on these matters.

I’m sure the members of the group are well known to many of you – Michael Stiassny, Sandi Beatie, Josh Easby and Irene Gardiner.

Together they offer considerable governance, public sector and broadcasting experience.

There are gaps, I acknowledge that, but this is the beginning and there is a broader plan that is coming.

I look forward to receiving their advice on the potential establishment of a permanent Public Media Funding Commission and the functions, role and scope such a body could have.

And I welcome your feedback and your continued support for strong, resilient public media.