AUCKLAND — To howls of protest from Kiwi indies and broadcasters, the New Zealand government has abandoned the funding of broadcasting through license fees in favor of general taxation.
The Screen Producers and Directors Assn. (SPADA) reacted angrily, claiming that the move was an election ploy.
“No other country in the world treats its broadcasting system, its audiences and its culture with such disregard,” said SPADA chief exec Jane Wrightson. She raised the possibility of political interference in broadcasting and said reduced funding for local programs and increased bureaucracy were likely in the wake of the change.
Free to air broadcasters felt the fee funding system worked well.
“Now that direct government funding is being introduced, broadcasters are determined to maintain their independence from the political process,” said Bruce Wallace, exec director of the New Zealand Television Broadcasters’ Council, which reps free to air stations.
A government spokesman said new funding would not be “ring-fenced” to protect it. He emphasized that the move had been made for the sake of efficiency –collection of fees cost an estimated $5 million-$6 million but under general taxation the funds could be collected at one tenth the cost.
He added that TV received only about 45% of the fee funding through New Zealand on Air, the body which will continue to dole out broadcasting money.