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New Zealand Budget 2010 Radio Funding Review _______________________
Public Radio Funding 'Holds the Line' whilst Commercial Radio Adjusts to Recession _______________________
Publicly funded radio broadcasters in New Zealand have essentially had their funding frozen in the latest government budget for 2010/2011 announced in Wellington yesterday.
New Zealand On Air, the main funding authority has seen its budget remain the same. It's total budget is NZ$126.9m [US$84.4m] and includes TV, radio, archiving and new media responsibilities.
It funds Radio New Zealand, community radio stations, the National Pacific Radio Trust [NPRT] and a small amount of contestable hours for commercial radio.
Radio New Zealand is again funded to produce 17,520 hours of radio programs in 2010/2011, which is the same as two x 24 hour networks across the year. It is likely to continue to operate its RNZ National and RNZ Concert services and maintain its AM and FM coverage with this funding.
Fourteen existing community access radio stations and the NPRT will be bulk funded, but like Radio NZ, they'll also have to meet increases in operating costs [such as the increase in the Goods & Services Tax [GST] rate to 15% from October 1, salaries, rentals, energy] from within existing allocations.
This will put pressure on creativity to find new income sources, such as finding more sponsorship partners, increasing the paid membership base for the access stations, or increasing charges to program makers and holding back on capital expenditure such as new facilities.
NPRT operates the Niu FM Network, Niu FM 103.8 [Auckland] and 531pi [Auckland] and its budget is frozen at NZ$3m [[US$2m] with each station funded for 24 hour operation and an increase in the number of hours broadcasting in at least 9 Pacific languages.
In addition, funding for the nationwide network of Iwi [Maori language] radio stations has been frozen at NZ$11.34m [US$7.54m] to provide for 60,000 hours of Maori language and cultural radio programs. There are currently 21 iwi radio stations.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's international shortwave broadcaster to the Pacific, Radio NZ International [RNZI] sees its funding also frozen at NZ$1.9m [US$1.26m] for continued delivery of 16 hours of quality reception level of its programs to a minimum of 11 Pacific nations.
According to the Radio Heritage Foundation, the funding levels will challenge all publicly funded broadcasters. However, no public broadcasters are expected to reduce or remove existing services although there may be more music programs and less spoken word documentaries and current affairs programs.
The two major commercial radio networks in New Zealand [Radioworks and The Radio Network] have already faced declines in advertising revenue, and rationalized some local services with increased networking hours and closure of marginal stations to cope with the ongoing recession.
Another network operator [Rhema Broadcasting Group] relies heavily on membership dues and donations and has seen its donation income drop considerably in the past year.
New Zealand private and commercial broadcasters are also faced with 20 year licence renewals scheduled in 2011, over 250 FM frequency changes currently underway, and increased competition from new local commercial stations and online streaming of radio stations from overseas.
Digital broadcasting has been tested but is unlikely to be introduced within the near future.
Like the publicly funded broadcasters, private commercial radio in New Zealand also faces increased costs from the GST increase, pressure on salaries and operating costs and has the added challenge of reduced advertising expenditure.
The Radio Heritage Foundation is a registered non-profit organization connecting popular culture, nostalgia and radio heritage across the Pacific. Its global website www.radioheritage.net offers free community access to Pacific Radio Guides and other valuable resources. Annual supporter packages start at US$10 and online advertising rates are now available.