New Zealand is to offer its national TV services to a privately owned company, a move that would allow the Government to sell the broadcaster for a profit.
Key points:The TV licence would be sold for a premium in a bid to revive New Zealand broadcastingAfter the Government cancelled the plan, it said it would seek a third-party buyer for NZ TV, as the public broadcaster was privatisedBy Peter Byrne and Nick RitchieThe Government has said it will seek a private bidder for NZTV, the nation’s national broadcaster, after a government-backed plan to privatise the broadcaster was blocked.
The Government’s decision on Tuesday to abandon its original plan to sell NZTV to private investors for a discounted price was seen as a victory for those who believe the public interest has been served by the broadcaster’s privatised status.
The move will allow the NZTV board to raise a premium for its licence, which would be auctioned off for a nominal sum to a third party, the Government said in a statement.
“We have taken the decision to offer NZTV for sale in a private transaction, to enable a third company to bid on the licence, rather than the Government and other interested parties taking on the contract,” it said.”NZTV remains a public broadcaster, and will continue to operate as such.”
Under the original plan, the public broadcasters licence would have been sold to a consortium of private investors.
However, after the Government scrapped the plan in May, it was announced the Government would seek to auction off the broadcaster.
The decision has prompted concern over whether the Government is able to sell off the national broadcaster for profit.
In July, the Minister for Communications, Mark Bell, announced the sale of NZTV would be abandoned after public support for the public broadcast of the country’s TV shows had diminished.
The plan to auction the broadcaster, which has been in the public domain since 2002, was approved by the Government on Tuesday, as part of a series of measures to improve the national broadcast of TV programs.
The move has been criticised by the opposition Labour Party, who said it was a “shameful” decision.
“The Government should sell NZ TV and other broadcasting assets for good and not let it be sold to the highest bidder,” National broadcaster chief executive Richard Harrison said in the statement.
“We are confident the Government can now work with private investors to develop the assets for the benefit of the public.”
This is a bold step forward for NZ, which is one of the few democracies in the world that allows private ownership of our public broadcaster.
“Mr Harrison said the Government’s plans to sell broadcasting assets were in line with the National Government’s commitment to a new national public broadcaster.”
These changes will enable the Government, in the coming months, to work with a private company to develop an improved public broadcaster,” he said.
‘We want to keep our TV licence’Prime Minister Bill English said the decision “showed the Government was willing to listen to the public”.”
We want NZTV back and we want to make sure it remains a national public service.
“It will give us an opportunity to work on the future of the broadcaster.”
“It’s a real opportunity for us to have a national broadcaster with a public face, and it’s a big asset that will help the Government in the future.”
The Government is also seeking to attract a third private bidder, the statement said.
Mr Harrison’s comments followed a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Cabinet ministers, including Treasurer Gerry Brownlee, Communications Minister Tevita Hegde and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher.
Mr Harrison was asked to respond to the Government-owned broadcaster’s future by Mr Brownlee and Mr Fletcher.
“There will be a decision on this soon, but the Government wants to make it a priority and we have got to get that done in a way that makes the public service run,” Mr Fletcher said.NZTV’s director of news and current affairs, Graham Smith, said the sale would allow New Zealand to focus on “doing what we do best, which are delivering content that matters”.
“New Zealanders are fed up with being left behind,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
NZTV, which covers a broad range of local and regional affairs, is part of the Government broadcaster’s news coverage, as well as regional radio and television.
It is currently the only broadcasting organisation to be publicly owned.