Karl du Fresne weighs in on National Radio.
If I thought the National government was seriously trying to hobble the state broadcaster or force it to adopt a commercial model, I’d be one of the first volunteers to man the barricades outside Radio New Zealand House. Notwithstanding my occasional whinges about it (mostly to do with pervasive political bias, which is not nearly as marked now as it used to be), RNZ is a national treasure. My quality of life, and that of virtually everyone in my circle of friends and acquaintances, would be greatly diminished without it. It follows that if Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman does anything to disembowel the institution, as some of his critics (such as the Greens’ Sue Kedgley) allege he is plotting to do, National can expect a savage backlash – much of it from people of a centre-right disposition who are otherwise broadly National-friendly.
But having followed the flurry of alarmist publicity about the possibility of budget cuts, I’m left wondering what all the fuss is about. It seems RNZ has simply been told it must get by on its current funding for the foreseeable future – which is no more nor less than other government departments are doing. If that means having to curb some of its aspirations, such as opening an office in Gisborne, that’s surely a relatively small sacrifice at a time when the government is borrowing a hair-raising $250 million a week to prop up an anaemic economy.
It’s a pretty typical center-right response. National Radio is a quality station, and delivers a news product that can’t be compared to commercial stations in spite of some left-wing bias.
The typical left-wing response seems to be a hyperventilating sort of conspiracy theory that the government wants to shut down the station to prevent the last bastion of critical media in this country.
Sue Kedgley was even cut down on Morning Report yesterday by Geoff Robinson himself when she tried to scaremonger about National Radio on-selling it’s news. Geoff of course remembered that the stations used to do that in the past – one is left wondering why they stopped.
Then there’s the Labour party.
Ms King said it would be like living in a Third World country if National Radio had to shut down between midnight and 6am.
Of course, what’s more likely is that they simply switch to re-broadcasting the BBC World Service. Hardly a drop in quality by any measure. Not opening a new regional office is hardly going to make much difference either.
(That’s not to say that some of the measure won’t be a backwards step. The introduction of FM signal was a boon to my morning commute way back when, as the signal didn’t get constantly interrupted.)
Back in the 90’s when I got into politics, this is the sort of issue that drove me to the right. You have on the left politicians hyperventilating and inventing silly stories, while on the right, you have people firmly grounded in reality.
It’s no contest really.