NZ On Air will tread lightly into new media

Maharey's bill allows funding for internet content, but NZ On Air does not have plans to take the plunge into the web world

Web and mobile developers shouldn’t bank on a development bonanza from NZ On Air any time soon.

Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey has proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act that will allow NZ On Air to fund projects outside its traditional areas of television and radio.

Maharey has just introduced a bill that will allow funding for other types of content, for the internet and mobile phones, for example. However, NZ On Air does not have any immediate plans to take the plunge into the web world, says chief executive Jane Wrightson.

The organisation will watch the progress of the bill and develop its policy during 2008, she says.

“The bill is quite clear that any new functions given to NZ On Air and to Te Mangai Paho are secondary. The primary function is still funding for broadcasting,” she says.

Wrightson suspects the proposed changes could see NZ On Air focusing on the online adjuncts of broadcast programmes (for example, websites attached to programmes), which the organisation struggles to fund at the moment. But no decisions have been made yet, she says.

The current Broadcasting Act only allows funding agencies to allocate money to programmes and other content which is to be watched on television, whereas the Broadcasting Amendment Bill would allow funding for a wider range of content, in different forms, Maharey says in a statement.

The bill aims to keep government funding up to pace with the changing face of broadcasting, whose move to digital is imminent, he says.

“The amendment will allow the agencies to fund such things as video-on–demand on the internet, and to adapt programmes and other content for alternative platforms, like the internet and mobile phones,” he says.

However, Wrightson says that if and when NZ On Air investigates projects outside the traditional broadcasting area — for example, video-on-demand — she suspects they will be very small.

“We may well try some innovative ideas, but I doubt they will be a significant part of our portfolio for a while yet,” she says. Wrightson says the very first question NZ On Air asks of any application is: does the project need a subsidy?

“If it’s a commercial idea that is designed to make money we almost certainly won’t be there.”

Wrightson doubts that her organisation will be funding web content such as games in the near future.

“But that’s not to say we wouldn’t in the long term,” she says.

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Tags broadcastingweb contentSteve Mahareynz on air

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