I may be biased, but it was an excellent show last night and Rachel did a stellar job at schooling former Broadcasting Minister, Jonathan Coleman, on why his 207,000 weekly viewers for TVNZ7 figure was so incorrect. Nielsens even weighed in, calling the numbers that were twice repeated by the NZ Herald editorial as “rubbish”.

The performance of TVNZ7 is obviously significantly better than has been touted so perhaps it is time for the new Minister of Broadcasting, Craig Foss, to review the channel’s future.

I’ve been asked to be on the panel for this week’s Media7 on a discussion about the public broadcasting service.  

One of the things they were interested in were my thoughts on the statistics quoted by the NZ Herald in two editorials:

“[TVNZ7] attracted just over 200,000 viewers a week. That number could never justify the station’s $15 million cost… This really is television for minority interests taken to extreme. By way of contrast, TVNZ’s One News attracts 600,000 viewers each and every night.”

Russell Brown writes that that the “just over 200,000 viewers a week” figure in the column “does not have this right”.  Unfortunately he does not provide the corrected figure for the weekly cumulative viewership but instead quotes a different measure that is usually reported for channels like Maori Television and Stratos: the monthly cumulative viewership.  

“The average monthly cume for TVNZ 7 in 2011 was 1.1 million. The channel finished the year with a record 1.4 million viewers in December, according to Nielsen.”

I like that Russell has quoted the statistic clearly: he’s provided the time period (average for 2011 and December 2011) and the source (Nielsen).  

In contrast the Herald does not provide the time period (for example, were the 200,000 viewers a week from the low summer period?) or the source so it can be verified. 

I’ve been asking Media7 for the average weekly cumulative viewership for TVNZ7 in 2011 so we know what it actually is.  Even if the weekly cume is not what they normally report, it would be good to clear this up rather than try and compare apples with oranges.  

Comparing a minor channel’s weekly viewership with the highest rating show on the biggest TV channel is not a fair comparison and clouds your judgment about what exactly is a “big” number.

Let’s just assume the Herald is correct.  200,000 is a big number.  It’s about the size of the crowd who turned up to Auckland’s Christmas in the Park recently.  Is that big crowd what you’d define as a “minority interest”?  And this is the number turning up each week to TVNZ7.  200,000 is about is about 1 in 20 New Zealanders tuning into TVNZ7 in a week. 1 in 20. 

I’m curious as to how many people does the channel need per week to justify its funding for the NZ Herald to be satisfied? 

The taxpayer funds plenty of other arts programs and far less people are turning up for those.  For example, 4.4 million was given to the NZ Ballet in 2010 and 69,000 people saw them at some stage during the entire year (and paid for the privilege).  

So it can’t just be about the numbers.  When reading the thoughtful book Monoculture, I was reminded that government has evolved to run more and more as a business and things created for the common good have been devalued.  

I don’t think there’s been enough thoughtful discussion about the future of public broadcasting in New Zealand.  It doesn’t appear to be in the media’s interest to discuss it in a non-partisan way since they are in competition, nor in TVNZ’s interest to have had TVNZ6/7 succeed: more viewers for those channels would be at the expense of their commercial channels.  There hasn’t been much of a political fuss either.  The most vocal campaigns have been via Facebook groups to save Kidzone and TVNZ7.  

I’ll be sad to see the end of TVNZ7.  I still miss Kidzone.  

I may not tune in each week but I support there being a place for Kiwis to learn their craft, share their stories, our accents and our culture and it not being behind a paywall.  


Plenty of content for discussion from last week’s Media7 if you didn’t see it.