A new TV channel promising to “set a new standard for Chinese broadcasting in New Zealand” goes live this weekend on Freeview. What will it offer Chinese New Zealanders - and other New Zealanders too?
NCTV launched on Freeview channel 32 this weekend for viewers in and around Auckland. Its backers say they plan to roll out the channel nationwide soon.
It's the fourth Chinese channel on Freeview, but NCTV says it will stand out from the crowd with its own locally-programmes in addition to shows from overseas. The programmes will be in English, or in Chinese but subtitled in English.
The channel is owned by Auckland-based company Asia Pacific News Corporation which says it employs about 20 local people at its Ellerslie headquarters, and is hiring more.
But at the moment there’s no website for the new channel and the Freeview schedules show only a few programmes from China repeating over and over again.
Is the new channel really ready to expand?
Asia Pacific News Corporation president Frank Peng told Mediawatch they need more time to get the local productions up and running. He said he didn't want to compromise the quality by rushing them on air but the plan is for one-third of the output to be made locally.
"We're not intending to do formal news because we are an entertainment-based television station," said Frank Peng.
He says his company will make business programmes and children's shows designed to help people learn Chinese language.
"Out target audience is the New Zealand Chinese community and Chinese tourists, as well as also and Kiwis interested in China and Chinese mainland people who want to understand New Zealand better," he said.
Last week, an Asia New Zealand Foundation survey revealed few New Zealanders felt they know enough about Asia.
"We are in the Asian neighbourhood, yet New Zealanders say they know less about Asia than about any other part of the world, apart from Africa," said the Foundation's director Simon Draper.
"Our aim to to build a cultural bridge between New Zealand and China. We want to respect both cultures and tell mainstream people what Chinese culture is . . so we will communicate better," said Mr Peng.
For now the Chinese channel CNC is supplying the programmes on NCTV which are mostly documentaries and dramas.
CNC is a global channel launched in 2010 by China's largest news agency Xinhua. Like all major media outlets in the People's Republic of China, Xinhua is state-controlled.
Does this mean NCTV viewers will effectively be getting Chinese government propaganda?
"No. CNC programmes are made all around the world. They're not only shooting Chinese stories in mainland China. From my point of view, CNC programmes are going to be all correct," said Frank Peng.
In addition to trying to build a cultural bridge, the new channel is supposed to make money.
NCTV will compete for Chinese-speaking viewers with two other channels - TV28 and TV33 - as well as the nationwide channel CTV8. Mostly they run programmes made in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, though TV33 also has local staff making news and local show like Shall We Talk.
Is it possible for his channel to be profitable with three others in the market?
Frank Peng has a broader view of 'the market' because he plans on NCTV shows being seen in China too.
"I'm very confident because we can also sell productions to China. We are co-operating with Chinese TV stations. There's 4.5 million people in New Zealand - and 1.3 billion in China. That's what we aim for," he said.