The National Government appears to have conducted a secret and possibly illegal sale of a Crown asset by allowing Mediaworks to reduce the local content on the KiwiFM frequencies and move to become commercial, says Labour’s broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran.
“We should be getting actively behind a service that’s going to serve our nation’s young people, not conducting secret deals behind closed doors that favour one media organisation,” Clare Curran said.
“The KiwiFM frequencies were granted to Mediaworks in 2005 on the basis that they were to be non-commercial and to be used for New Zealand music only. Correspondence between the then Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey and KiwiFM confirms the deal.
“In 2011, under National, at the very same time that it was revealed that Mediaworks had been given a soft loan of $43 million to pay for its radio licence fees, another deal was done to hand over 40 per cent of the KiwiFM frequencies to Mediaworks, allowing it to reduce local content from 100 per cent to 60 per cent,” Clare Curran said.
“It appears that Steven Joyce, the man behind the soft loan to Mediaworks, was also deeply involved in this secret deal with the then Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman.
“The deal was so secret that current Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss wasn’t even briefed on it, and was left with egg on his face when he discovered what had happened.”
Clare Curran said the change on terms of the Kiwi FM licence from a non-profit to a profit making licence could be illegal.
“At the very least it’s a dodgy asset sale from the Government to one of its media mates behind the scenes. Non-profit radio frequencies are precious, and the Government had no business negotiating away a Kiwi content licence without public consultation or allowing for a public tender.
“The Government should actually be stimulating a public discussion about the issue and listening to the needs of young people, not favouring one broadcaster,” Clare Curran said.
“In its 2011 policy, Labour resurrected the concept of creating a youth radio station, stating it saw merit in the idea, especially as the potential of digital platforms emerges. Labour is also committed to establishing a new public television broadcaster and to strengthening public service radio broadcasting and regional television in New Zealand.”