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The Churches Broadcasting Commission (CBC) is going to put in a submission to the government over local broadcasting coverage.

A draft charter has been released recommending avenues New Zealand broadcasting could take.

What is missing in the charter is a clause that has become law earlier this year which recognised the spirituality of New Zealanders.

CBC Chairman Rev. Ray Oppenheim does not know why this has happened.

“If we can make some inroads in getting some term like Wairotanga into the charter this would basically say to the nation what the Maori are saying. You cannot separate out the spiritual side of a human being.

“It’s not a question of having religious programmes as much as it is saying to keep the issue of the spiritual welfare of the individual,” Mr. Oppenheim says.

The CBC is going to be considering the implications of the omission of the clause out of the charter. Mr. Oppenheim says the Minister of Maori Affairs will also.

Mr. Oppenheim explains that CBC fought hard and unsuccessfully to introduce Wairotanga into the act.

He agrees that broadcasting is motivated by commercial concerns, but he is adamant that the reason you have public broadcasting is to protect the interests of minorities.

The purpose of public broadcasting is that the needs of the entire population are met, he says.

He says that in Maori terms, you cannot compartmentalise spirituality on the shelf as it is part of the whole person.

Mr. Oppenheim is, however, enthusiastic with progress so far. He says religious broadcasting is very achievable as the charter is not in its final form yet.

CBC has an excellent relationship with TVNZ and it is improving. “There’s a great deal of goodwill coming in the direction of CBC from one from the major broadcasters. There’s no sense of negativity here. There’s just a question of the financial restraints. We’ve got to be able to find some funding from government or elsewhere to get a share of things.”

Some programmes are already funded. NZ on Air is funding television coverage of the Celebrate Jesus 2000 event in Wellington and Christian music programme Fish.

However, the government spends three dollars per person on public broadcasting whereas Great Britain spends $144 per capita. “Good quality, unfortunately, has to be paid for.”

Although government has provided money for some projects the problem is a question of a steady income. “That’s what I don’t see forthcoming at this stage. By doing away with the broadcasting fee they have put public broadcasting at the mercy of each Parliament”.

Mr. Oppenheim says this position of power as unhealthy and prefers to see protection from political interference.

“You’ve got to have an independent voice if you going to have good public broadcasting.”

Mr. Oppenheim says as part of our Christian duty to the rest of the nation is to consistently keep before them the important Christian values we find so important and put these in a presentation and form that is going to be not only palatable but attractive.

[First published Challenge Weekly, 2001]

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