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Hawke's Bay TV "rejigged".

 

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Regional TV rejigged

New Zealand's regional TV stations have struggled in recent years, and now backing from the public purse is switching to multimedia projects instead. It also means mainstream media publishers will get public funding for news for the first time. Where's the money going and what's the plan?

Star Media's 'Daily Fix' - a local news show for Christchurch streamed online

In the 1960’s, regional TV was the only kind you could get. Separate NZBC schedules were broadcast from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

By the 1980’s, TV One was fully national but the evening news was followed by shows for the four regions - The Top Half, Today Tonight, The Mainland Touch and The South Tonight.

These disappeared when TVNZ drifted to Auckland and turned into a state-owned enterprise, but small independent local TV stations sprang up around the country.

Most were small and run on the small of an oily rag, and the programmes were often patchy. But some, such as Christchurch’s CTV and Cue TV in Invercargill, offered a genuine local alternative with reliable news which attracted viewers and advertisers. Cue TV and Stratos TV in Auckland even became available nationwide on Sky TV.

Backing from the public purse

The government gave funding agency New Zealand on Air almost $1 million in 2006 to back the regional channels around the country. NZ On Air had bumped that up to $1.5 million by 2014, but by then some of the local stations were struggling, especially with increased costs of transmission following the digital switchover.

Channels in Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty all closed down. In 2015 Invercargill’s Cue TV ceased broadcasting too.

"It is financially taxing to transmit and we are constantly searching for money. I think time is ticking for smaller players like ourselves," the managing editor Tom Conroy told Mediawatch.

Tom Conroy, Cue TV

NZOA had already raised the question: is it worth funding regional TV stations any more?

An independent review (PDF) it commissioned found the business cases of existing stations were weak and NZOA decided not to fund the local stations that still exist after this year.

Instead it asked for proposals for regional media content on multiple platforms targeting specific regions.

Last week it announced funding for four projects providing multi-media news in seven regions from its $1.3m regional media content fund.

Where's the money going?

Two of the four projects are backed by major news publishers. It's the first time they have won contestable public funding for their news.

$400,000 will go to a partnership for news in the mid and lower North Island. NZME - the publisher of The New Zealand Herald - and an independent multi-media company Very Nice Productions are calling it Local Focus. It’ll be published in a new regional section on the Herald's website.

The man in charge is former TV3 and Sky News journalist Alistair Wilkinson.

"I think what this shows is New Zealand on Air is acknowledging there are stories going untold in the regions," he told Mediawatch.

"We want to have people living in the regions. When I started in journalism, many people cut their teeth in a regional post. But with the big changes in journalism, there are fewer of those opportunities available," he said.

He says the aim is to have journalist producing regular video reports, possibly as often as every two days.

"I want our videojournalists having close association with the NZME team. That said, I want them to uncover stories other people are not," he said.

Christchurch’s CTV has teamed up with local print publishing group Star Media to provide coverage from Kaikoura to South Canterbury, and west to Arthur’s Pass. This partnership also gets $400,000. Star Media has already experimented with online local streaming shows last year such as chat show The Daily Fix.

In the lower South Island, ODT publisher Allied Press will use its newspaper websites and its Dunedin TV station Channel 39 to carry content from video journalists covering Otago and Southland, Ashburton, Waitaki and Timaru, and across to the West Coast. The comany gets just under $400,000 for what it is calling Southern Media Hub.

In the far north, a partnership between online Maori news service Te Hiku Media in Kaitaia and Whangarei’s local station Channel North will get $180,000 to cover Te Tai Tokerau.

The two already work together on channel north’s bilingual bulletins.

screenshot of the daily bilingual bulletin on Whangarei's Channel North

Is the new funding method a better way?

Channel North is a community television station in Whangarei, launched in 2008 - in partnership with a local school, local polytechnic and iwi radio station Ngati Hine FM. Its chair is Carol Peters, a former chair of the Regional Television Broadcasters Association wrote wrote a PhD on regional TV.

Channel North has been streaming on the internet since 2010. Carol Peters says its a useful tool, but she regrets that local TV stations can't be funded directly from next year.

"Whether (regional content) should be connected with mainstream places is questionable. What we're looking for is local connection," she says.

Carol Peters, founder and co-chair of Channel North.

"Some really wonderful people have put their hearts and souls into similar operations and gone off burned out, tired and disillusioned because the idea of local people telling stories hasn't been treasured - not by legislation, not by policy and not by funding," she told Mediawatch.

She is grateful for funding received so far and she acknowledges that some local stations aren't widely watched, but that's not necessarily a reason not to back them.

"The participation in making community TV is really important. You're funding something more. In other countries this is valued - and recognised in broadcasting policy," says Carol Peters.

Television Hawke's Bay to screen Seaweek programme

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Image caption: From left, Tara Churchwell, Jake Brookie, and Luke Pell,

the team responsible for the Hardinge Rd rocky shore programme screening on Television Hawke’s Bay on Friday.

This Friday a marine gem of Hawke’s Bay gets its moment in the spotlight, thanks to National Aquarium of New Zealand Educator Jake Brookie.

Hardinge Road’s rocky shore is profiled in a special programme screening on Television Hawke’s Bay (TVHB) at 6pm this Friday (4 March).  

The timing couldn’t be better, as it’s Seaweek until this Sunday. Jake has been part of the Seaweek planning team for several years and wanted to try something a little different to publicise this annual event. “While there have been many TV series with a New Zealand focus, there really hasn’t been anything which Hawke’s Bay residents could go and see for themselves, without having to travel outside the region,” he says.Jake, along with co-presenter and Aquarium aquarist/keeper Tara Churchwell present the programme, about the environmental challenges rocky shore dwellers face, with an underlying conservation message. The footage was shot and edited by Luke Pell, who works at MTG Hawke’s Bay but worked on this job in a private capacity.

The Aquarium also runs rocky shore visits for schools, so this ties in nicely with their work, says Jake, who is looking forward to Friday.

Other episodes, still in the planning stages, include a look at ocean pollution, the Ahuriri estuary and environmental monitoring in the Bay.

The Aquarium is an official supporter of Seaweek, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Seaweek 2016 began last Saturday and runs until this Sunday (6 March). This year’s theme is  “Toiora te Moana - Toiora te Tangata - Healthy Seas, Healthy People”. Local events include the Seaweek Poetry reading night, Gannet Beach Adventures Beach Clean Up on Saturday, and Children’s Day at the Aquarium on Sunday. It also leads into the Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans Festival in Napier from 11-21 March.

TV Hawke’s Bay is free to air on Channel 48 for Freeview and igloo users.

HOY in the City Showcase in Hastings: video

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Around 250 people were on hand to watch demonstrations from Tumanako "Tui" Teka on Kingston and extreme bare-back riders Alycia Burton on Goldrush, and Talia Allison on Mustang Shelby at the HOY in the City showcase at Civic Square in Hastings on Sunday afternoon, before the start of Horse of the Year on March 1. 

One of the country’s top free riders performing in the centre of Hastings tomorrow.

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Having one of the country’s top free riders performing on her horse in the centre of the city has got to be a highlight of this Sunday’s Horse of the Year Showcase. (Feb 28)

Alycia Burton rides her mount without saddle or bridle. Horses have always been part of her life, growing up in the Far North. Her career as a public performer started out by accident, when she posted a photo of her jumping her horse without any of the traditional aids. That led to a video, and the rest is history. The horse she will have with her on Sunday is Classic Goldrush, a horse with an “extra dose of personality”.

Another special guest, from Gisborne, is Tumanako “Tui” Teka. His horse Kingston, who he has described as “a real character” sits, bows, lays down and rolls over at the smallest signal from his show partner.

Really piling on the action will be the Mounted Games riders, who take gymkhana sports to a whole new level.

The horsey highlights coming into the city for the Horse of the Year Showcase, being held in Civic Square, do not end there. For those who want to get up close and personal, there will be petting horses, from the littlest miniatures to a Clydesdale.

The afternoon kicks off at 1pm with music (Headlock and Mia Sohnge), face painting, crafts, a bouncy castle and the “Great Wardini”.

From 3pm the horse action will include demonstrations by Burton, Teka and the Mounted Games team, as well as a presentation on the work of the Leg Up Trust, which uses horses to help at-risk youth.

Timber by EMSIEN-3 LTD