11 May 2015

TVNZ tries to scrap election address obligation

1:47 pm on 11 May 2015

Television New Zealand is trying again to scrap its obligation to screen political parties' opening and closing addresses during elections.

The broadcaster has asked Parliament's justice and electoral committee to remove the requirement from legislation.

Under law, TVNZ is required to screen opening and closing statements for all parties contesting the election.

After the 2011 election, it made a bid to have the obligation scrapped, arguing it was forced to show the low-rating addresses during prime advertising time.

In a submission to the review of the 2014 General Election, it mounted the same argument, saying the obligations dated from a time when TVNZ was publicly funded.

"In its current form, as a wholly commercial operator, the ... obligations are no longer appropriate, and do not reflect a level playing field."

Voters were increasingly disinterested in the broadcasts, the submission said.

"Voters have many more sources of information about parties' manifestos including the parties' own websites, online news sites and aggregated news sites."

Viewer numbers declined sharply during the broadcasts, TVNZ said.

"For Election 2014, the opening addresses on Saturday 23 August rated 38 percent lower than the average of the six previous Saturday evenings."

That placed TVNZ at a commercial disadvantage, it said.

It suggested the addresses were broadcast on Parliament TV instead.

"[Parliament TV] is a natural home for party political broadcasts as a channel dedicated to coverage of the New Zealand Parliament."

In its response to TVNZ's submission in 2011, the select committee said it appreciated TVNZ's concerns but did not recommend any changes.

The Labour, Green and New Zealand First committee members recommended the Government invest in public broadcasting so that all networks had some degree of responsibility to broadcast the opening and closing addresses.

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