It was great to see several hundred people at Parliament yesterday, protesting the government’s freezing of funding for Radio New Zealand.
I hope this is just the first protest of many around the country. Already there are signs that the government under-estimated the level of support for Radio New Zealand, and if we keep up the pressure it may be forced to abandon its plans to destroy New Zealand’s last remaining public service broadcaster.
Make no mistake about it, the government’s decision to freeze Radio New Zealand’s funding indefinitely will be devastating for Radio New Zealand. There will be staff lay-offs, and more and more pre packed overseas programmes in place of New Zealand made ones.
And its clear that the government is deliberately freezing the funding to try to force it to become more commercial. Having stripped TVNZ of it Charter and all its public service functions, it is trying to do the same to Radio New Zealand.
But the whole point of public service broadcasting is to have a broadcaster which is free from commercial pressures – free from the pressures of advertisers and sponsors – so that it can be fiercely independent and impartial. It should also be free from political pressures – but the Minister’s heavy handed and threatening letters are coming dangerously close to political interference.
John Howard targeted Australian public broadcasting for years. The only way it survived was because there was a huge public outcry – and that’s whats needed here in New Zealand too.
Help out RNZ and join the Save Radio New Zealand Facebookpage here.