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When a state broadcaster loses its mind

28 August 2019

Many countries have a state-funded broadcaster which is not reliant on advertising for revenues and therefore (in theory) is not subject to commercial bias or pressures.

In the USA it's PBS, in Australia it's the ABC and in the UK it is the BBC.

Here in New Zealand we have RadioNZ but all our TV channels are commercial, although there has recently been talk of turning TV One into a taxpayer-funded ad-free broadcaster.

So is it worth burdening taxpayers (or license-fee payers) with the costs of a state-broadcasting organisation? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Obviously some countries think there is value in this model and NZ kind of sits on the fence, choosing to fund RadioNZ whilst leaving its state-run TV channels to operate on a strictly commercial basis, paying an annual dividend back to government.

My own opinion is that governments should stick to the basics and that does not include running *commercial* entertainment services in direct competition with privately owned broadcasters.

There is value to non-commercial state-funded broadcasting (such as RadioNZ) but no government should be competing directly with private businesses on a commercial footing.

One only has to compare the "quality" of NZ's two state-run broadcast entities to see the stark difference between the commericial and tax-funded options.

RadioNZ is an excellent service, providing a wide range of programme content without commercial imperatives. I can't stand listening to commmercial radio stations with their constant advertising interruptions and manic DJs. NatRad delivers good solid news reporting, interesting documentary content and a decently wide range of music (albeit this is the least attractive element of its composition).

By comparison, last time I watched TV1 it was just the same old tedious crap that we see on the other non-state-run channels. Mountains of ads, endless self-promotion and content clearly designed to prove that PT Barnum was right.

But today's column isn't intended to be a pitch for (or against) state funded broadcasting.

Today's colum was actually inspired by this BBC story.

What the?

Why on earth are the BBC reinventing the wheel by developing their own version of services already offered by Google, Amazon, Apple and others?

More importantly... what does this have to do with broadcasting and content creation... which are the raison d'etre for the BBC's actual existence?

Is this just another indicator that the BBC has lost not only its direction but its sanity?

In recent years it's been conclusively demonstrated that far from simply being a benign, impartial, producer and broadcaster of high-quality content on radio and TV, the BBC has become a haven for paedophiles, tax-dodgers and the like.

Most recently it was decided that UK pensioners, who used to get a free TV license, are now going to have to pay, just like everyone else, a move that's gone down like a lead balloon.

Could it be that this extra money-grab by the BBC has been made necessary by its crazy decision to start competing in the smart-speaker market? The development costs can't be trivial after all.

I guess this simply proves that any organisation which has a government-mandated right to pick people's pockets (in this case via a legally enforced license fee) will have scant regard for how it spends its money, nor the value that they return to those who must pay.

Oh how the BBC has fallen from its peak.

These days it publishes fake news just like the rest of the media, grossly overpays its presenters and management, and now it rapes the purses and wallets of the elderly in order to follow flights of fancy at the public's expense.

Perhaps state-funded broadcasting has an evil side after all.

What do readers think? Has the BBC fallen into the gutter in recent times?

Do you think that NZ should hve a state-funded television broadcaster or is broadcast TV just too "last century" to be bothered with?

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