Speech: NZ On Air 25th Anniversary Event

  • Amy Adams

I am very pleased to be here today to help celebrate this milestone for NZ On Air.

It’s fair to say that New Zealand television has come a long way in 25 years.

In 1989, only 2000 hours of local content were making it onto our televisions every year.

The New Zealand Film Commission had already been around for eleven years and was fostering some big screen productions. But New Zealand content had yet to secure a significant presence on our smaller screens and our radios.

The late 80s and early 90s were a time of dramatic change in our broadcasting landscape. Deregulation enabled new television channels and radio stations to get started and opened the door to independent programme makers. Community radio was emerging up and down the country.

The establishment of NZ On Air in 1989 ushered in a new era for local content. 25 years on, we can enjoy over 13,000 hours of New Zealand programmes on television every year. And the portion of local music on our radios has increased from just 2 percent to peak at around 20 percent in recent years.

NZ On Air can be very proud of its contribution to these achievements.

When NZ On Air was established it was a unique model in the world – and it still is. The fundamentals of a contestable model working across platforms remain unchanged, even though the platforms are changing.

The model continues to be successful because it delivers three key things for New Zealand.

It contributes to cultural outcomes by making sure New Zealand’s stories and songs can be heard amid the best of what the world has to offer.

It contributes to the health and growth of the sector, underpinning thousands of skilled jobs.

And it has economic value, investing in content that has an excellent return in terms of audience engagement – and encouraging co-investment and international sales.

NZ On Air is just as necessary today as it was back in 1989 – some would say more so because of the fast-changing global media environment. The Internet – which was also arriving on our shores around 25 years ago – has both enlivened and challenged the ways in which we create and access content.

Today’s audiences have choice on a scale that could not have been imagined twenty five years ago.

The big challenge now is to ensure New Zealand content can still find a voice in this much bigger and more complex environment – and to ensure New Zealanders can continue to access it.

A recent Colmar Brunton survey for NZ On Air made some interesting findings about the ways in which we use and access content. It confirmed that the traditional media forms of linear television and live radio still attract the largest audiences in New Zealand, with 83 percent and 67 percent respectively.

However, online audiences are growing, especially among the younger demographics. 12 percent of those surveyed said they used On Demand services daily to watch programmes and 6 percent used overseas online television sites.

And 97 percent of respondents in the 15-24 age bracket had listened to music online.

These statistics indicate that while New Zealanders are not necessarily abandoning one platform for another, we are consuming more content overall from a variety of sources. Digital platforms are playing a bigger part in our lives.

NZ On Air has already been responsive to these changes. Its Digital Media Fund – a world first – explores the potential of the new technologies, funding innovative projects that are finding new ways to engage audiences in non-traditional formats. NZ On Air’s recent deal with the Canada Media Fund to extend opportunities for digital content creators will be a space to watch in coming months.

NZ On Air has also put funding into local web-series, which may not currently have huge audiences but which allow for experimentation and innovation. This willingness to branch into new media formats exemplifies NZ On Air’s continued relevance in a changing world.

I understand NZ On Air has more research due out early next year which will provide a timely update on where New Zealand children are finding content. We need to pay attention to our youngest viewers and listeners who will inevitably be pointing the direction for the future.

What NZ On Air’s funding schemes will look like in another 25 years is probably beyond our wildest imagination, but what will not change are the principles of championing local content and ensuring its accessibility to New Zealanders.

I congratulate NZ On Air on its silver anniversary and all it has achieved for New Zealand audiences, and wish it all the best for the task ahead.

I will now hand over to the Chief Executive of NZ On Air, Jane Wrightson.