The Television New Zealand (TVNZ) public broadcasting charter will gradually come into effect from July 1, but TVNZ will not have an obligation to reflect programs with a direct spiritual flavor as this will not be part of their objectives, unless there is a change to the charter before it becomes law.
Spirituality in the lives of New Zealanders was not included in the public broadcasting charter, which is part of the Television New Zealand Bill. The bill is a priority for Parliament to turn into law once the election is over.
However, the Select Committee have recommended changes that would consist of spiritual and ethical development in the charter. The committee recommended programming that contributes to spiritual and ethical development that reflects the diverse beliefs of New Zealanders.
The Churches Broadcasting Commission (CBC) received a very good hearing from the Select Committee, says CBC Chairperson Trish Moseley.
CBC is confident the clause will be part of the Act once passed. If the recommendations by the Select Committee are endorsed by Parliament, TVNZ will be obliged to make programs that reflect spiritual values.
An amendment, in 2000, to the Broadcasting Act, which CBC was instrumental in moving, recognized obligations to reflect the spirituality of New Zealanders through programming. CBC believes, in light of the 2000 Broadcasting Act amendment, that it is sensible and logical that a far more precise requirement and recognition of the spirituality of New Zealand and New Zealanders be included in both the Radio NZ and TVNZ Charters.
“If there is a basis for such a case,” Ms Moseley says, “then it lays not only in the anecdotal evidence but with the empirical evidence of the census, among other things, which still shows well in excess of 60% of New Zealanders are pleased to call themselves Christian when it comes to filling in their census forms.”
Television New Zealand changes from a state owned enterprise to a crown company on July 1 meaning the broadcaster is responsible for social as well as commercial programming.
The company will now be required to act as a public broadcaster reflecting indigenous and diverse content, as well as maintaining its commercial objectives.
[First published, Challenge Weekly, 2002]