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It Could Never Last

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Until recently I have been fairly generous to New Zealand’s National-lead government. Maybe that was because they didn’t really try to do anything. Maybe having no government is the best form of government, but that really leads to libertarianism (or anarchy) which creates a whole new set of problems, so I won’t follow that logic here.

You can always tell when the right-wing agenda is being unleashed on the country: the government starts doing things which are contrary to expert advice, ministers become an enemy to the people they are supposed to represent, the bean counters start cutting funding and changing the structure of services which work extremely well already, and the politicians start talking in meaningless sound bites.

I have already addressed some of these issues in previous posts (such as “Bullies and Thieves” on 2010-02-11) but I did want to mention the latest controversy which has recently appeared. It involves proposed cuts (or lack of funding increases to cover inflation, etc) to our public radio service, Radio New Zealand.

The whole system (multiple stations, news, reporting, the web site, shortwave service, podcasts, etc) is run on government funding of $34 million per year. That’s about $8 per New Zealander per year. That’s 2 coffees, or a week of cheap broadband or cell coverage. Its basically nothing. And what do we get for that: a pretty good service which has reasonably unbiased reporting and a general level of intelligence well above the garbage we get on the commercial stations.

Sure, I know that National Radio isn’t everybody’s favourite station but it is an important information source for the more intelligent demographic in New Zealand.

The RNZ board have been resisting the minister’s demands and he has responded by threatening to fire them if they don’t cooperate (of course he didn’t use those exact words but that’s what he meant). Should RNZ do what they are told by an elected minister who is in charge of that public service? Well you can look at it two ways: first, the minster was elected by the people of New Zealand to organise broadcasting services and RNZ should do what they’re told; and second, the RNZ management is there to provide the best radio broadcasting they can and if they think the minister has got it wrong they should say so.

I think its fair to point out the deficiencies in the government’s plans but at a certain point the only option is cooperation, otherwise total chaos will ensue. Where that point is I don’t know.

I have to say that the chairperson of RNZ has been fairly courageous in how she has fought back against these cuts. She has suggested that the government wastes too much on funding programs for commercial TV and the clear suggestion is that what is spent there might be better invested in our national radio system. She’s right, of course, but I don’t think many people in her position would have been brave enough to point that out!

In the end the government controls the money and they will do what they want. They’re so arrogant that its unlikely they would ever reconsider any policy just because its shown to be unfair or contrary to the best interests of the country as a whole. They seem to be determined to give tax cuts to the rich and that has to be funded some way, after all.

So its standard right wing ideology in action apparently: the private sector siphons most of our funds off overseas while providing terrible services (Telecom, banks, etc), the organisations which do provide good service get underfunded, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Well at least now we know where we are, because I was quite confused with the first year when this government actually acted sensibly. It could never last!

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