Get The State Off The Air!

31 October 2008 21:50:00

“The state should not broadcast to the people, nor should it fund programming it thinks the people should see and hear,” announced Libertarianz Broadcasting Spokesman Scott Wilson today as he launched the party’s broadcasting policy.

The role of the state in broadcasting should be the same as its role elsewhere in the economy – provide the legal basis for private property, contract and tort law enforcement, otherwise leave well alone. When the government forces taxpayers to pay for broadcasting, it jeopardises the independence of that broadcasting. “You almost never hear a non-statist viewpoint on TVNZ or Radio NZ,” says Wilson. “It is almost always about ‘what is the government doing’ or ‘what would Party A do’, instead of ‘should the government be doing anything at all?’. Libertarianz would put an end to this nonsense.”

There is no good reason for the state to own broadcasters, and there should be double suspicion given how enthused the Green Party is for state broadcasting to push their own quasi-religious eco-collectivist agenda.

Wilson remarked, “New Zealand went a long way in the 1990s to open up its previously sclerotic broadcasting market to competition. 100% foreign owned broadcasters brought choice and competition to TV and radio despite the doomsayers of the likes of Graham Kelly. In an age when the Internet provides virtually no limits to the video and audio content available to the general public, it is time to get the state out once and for all – and let people decide what they want to broadcast and consume.”

Libertarianz would quickly give state broadcasters back to the people, remove state interference in what can and cannot be broadcast, and stop forcing people to pay for programming they don’t want to pay for.

“The social engineering agendas of TVNZ and Radio NZ should be rejected, and those who embrace both channels should buy up their shares, and determine themselves what those stations do, in an open and free broadcasting market,” Wilson concluded.

Policy Description:

Libertarianz has an eight step policy to remove the state’s involvement with broadcasting content:

  1. Privatise TVNZ. Give away the majority of shares to the general public, so that they can determine if they really want to own a TV company. A minority shareholding would be floated by tender for investors.
  2. Privatise Radio NZ. All shares would be distributed to the public, and the Radio NZ board permitted to use sponsorship, advertising, subscription or donation to fund its continued operations. As a final farewell from the majority of taxpayers who never listen to it, Radio NZ would get its final year funding as a bulk funded grant.
  3. Abolish NZ On Air and Te Mangai Paho. State funding of broadcasting would cease with no new contracts for programming to be granted. The costs of producing and editing TV and radio programming have dropped dramatically in recent years due to technology – if almost anyone can produce their own programmes, it is time that those who had bright ideas coughed up their own money to make them.
  4. Transfer all other state supported broadcasting to publicly owned trusts. All Maori and Pacific Islanders would be granted shares in trusts to hold the various broadcasters that are not currently in private hands serving those communities. Access radio trusts would also have shares distributed in the same manner within their reception areas. This would ensure those communities hold a stake in those broadcasters built up by taxpayer funding, and those with a passionate interest in these services can support them.
  5. At the termination of existing frequency management rights tender such frequencies out as full blown property rights with no restrictions on usage other than those defined within the parameters of the rights concerned. Broadcasters should hold frequencies as property, which is not far from the case at present. This includes the right to broadcasting whatever programming they wish, within the bounds of criminal and defamation law.
  6. Abolish the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Criminal law on incitement, defamation and censorship (as the extension of the commission of actual crimes) should provide the legal limits to what can be broadcast. Nobody is forced to have a TV or a radio, nobody is forced to have them switched on or tuned to a particular broadcaster. Nobody is forced to subscribe to a broadcaster or buy products advertised by such a broadcaster.
  7. Drastically curtail state sector broadcast advertising. The government spends a small fortune on advertising, much of which is driven by its Nanny State instincts. With a significant cutback in the size of the state, taxpayers won’t be propping up broadcasters indirectly.
  8. Repeal the Electoral Finance Act. It is abhorrent that political parties are prohibited from spending their own money, raised voluntarily, on TV and radio advertising in order to attract votes. It is equally abhorrent that broadcasters be forced to carry advertising dealt out primarily to the two major parties, by bureaucratic decision. Libertarianz would abolish the role of the Electoral Commission in regulating electoral advertising, and would remove restrictions on political parties from buying advertising on broadcasters.

For more information, contact:

Scott Wilson
Libertarianz Spokesman for the Deregulation of Broadcasting
Phone: 027 314 3007
Email: [email protected]

Libertarianz: More Freedom, Less Government

www.libertarianz.org.nz