Television New Zealand has defended its spending on public service television station TVNZ7 after Labour accused the state broadcaster of not being accountable for $79 million of taxpayer funding.
TVNZ7 ends transmission at midnight tonight and at 7am tomorrow the free-to-air station will become a TV One Plus 1 channel after the Government decided not to extend funding.
The former Labour government provided $79m over six years, $70m of which came from a special dividend from TVNZ, to set up TVNZ6 and TVNZ7.
TVNZ6 stopped broadcasting in February last year and the following month it was turned into a commercial youth channel called U.
Labour broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran said TVNZ was using the frequencies of both channels for its own purposes. "How is that accountability back to the taxpayers?"
TVNZ had been "quite adept" at hiding its spending on the two channels, she said.
"There hasn't been separate reporting on TVNZ7. Who would know if it actually has been spent and how they can account for it all being spent on what it was intended for, which was the two new digital commercial-free channels?
"It just seems to have been absorbed into TVNZ's bottom line."
Any money left over from the $79m should go back into public service television, Curran said.
However, TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said there had been no lack of accountability.
The state broadcaster could not say how much of the $79m funding would be left over because there were still costs involved.
Up until the end of the last financial year, TVNZ had spent $63.6m of the money. "By the time all the bills are paid and everything is settled up we don't expect there to be a great deal left."
Although $15.4m remained to fund TVNZ7 until today's end of the financial year, the station had cost more to run because it had also been airing TVNZ6 programmes, she said.
If there was any money left over, TVNZ would consult its shareholder – the Government – about what to do with it.
"The channels were never standalone; it was always an integrated model."
Richards acknowledged that TVNZ had never separated out the costs for the two channels but said its spending had been made public in its annual reports.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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