TVNZ7 off to seventh heaven, as Shine and Freeview introduce new frontman Fergus

The goals have been achieved and the speculation was correct: public broadcasting is largely deemed a ‘nice to have’ by the current Government. And, having already turned TVNZ6 into a commercial youth station, TVNZ7 is next on the chopping block after it missed out on the next round of funding. 

Some weeks ago TVNZ Megan Richards told StopPress there had been no formal announcement and the rumours than TVNZ7 was off to the knacker’s yard were purely speculative. TVNZ received an extra $79m in 2006 to run TVNZ7 and TVNZ6, but the government rejected a request to renew funding for the free-to-air digital channel and, being unable to support itself, it will die a dignified death in June next year.

This means TVNZ7 shows like Media7, Back Benches, and the Law Report will now have to contest for funding against local shows screening on privately-owned networks to get their slice of the $81 million NZ On Air budget.

TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis said it was not a surprise decision as funding was only on offer until next year and the conception of the channel was to draw attention to the joys of digital television (the full digital switch over starts in September 2012). That goal has largely been achieved (according to one survey it’s already at 72 percent digital penetration), and Going Digital has been launched to tell the rest of the populous to follow suit (slightly ironically, the campaign is thought to be costing about $13 million, or about the same amount as it costs to fund TVNZ7 for a year).

Swinging the axe on a channel many felt was a salve for the array of low-brow reality shows dominating the commercial channels just after the recent furore over the government ‘loan’ of $43 million to MediaWorks isn’t particularly good timing for the Government. And it’s also fairly bad timing for TVNZ, which has just announced the lost of a few more jobs as Good Morning heads north to Auckland. Ellis was hopeful TVNZ7’s 20 to 30 employees would be redeployed within TVNZ, however.

In other digital telly news, Freeview has announced another 160,000 homes around the country will be getting HD quality TV before the RWC, which means 86 percent of the population will have access up free HD TV, up from the current 75 percent.

Shine won the Freeview account recently and the first new TV ad, created with the help of Assembly, features a Flubber-esque frontman called Fergus. Freeview’s a pretty tough gig, but it’s fair to say that this ad is certainly more watchable than TBWA’s weird campaign featuring the overly excited salesman.

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