Block director: TVNZ7 was savable

ADAM DUDDING
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2012
Julie Christie
PETER MEECHAM/ Fairfax NZ
SHUFFLE: Julie Christie believes with a fresh take on TVNZ7 programming, the channel could have been saved.

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The director of TV3's hit reality TV show The Block says the free-to-air TVNZ7 channel needn't have been closed, and she suspects Television New Zealand may have let the highbrow channel die to “make a point” about funding cuts.

Julie Christie, whose knack for selling reality TV formats has made her a millionaire, said TVNZ7 could have continued with a few changes, even though the Government refused to fund it.

Replaced by a “Plus One” channel rebroadcasting TV One an hour later, it had been running since 2009, and the closure sparked protests and a "Save TVNZ7" Facebook campaign.

“With some clever integration, it could easily still exist. You have to wonder if TVNZ was making a point. If I'd been in charge I'd have absorbed costs and kept it going.”

She said the channel could have used TVNZ local programming that airs in poor slots on TV One and TV2, in prime time.

“What are your choices at 7pm? It's current affairs or Shortland St. What would you rather have?

"That's what I'd be looking at. There's some good fringe stuff on the mainstream channels that's better than what was being made for TVNZ7. There are 5.30pm fishing shows, and little travel shows. Something that goes at 10pm on One could easily have gone at 7pm on TVNZ7.”

Her version of TVNZ7 would have a different character, but “in a country this size, we can afford only so much niche TV”.

She said TVNZ7 had carried shows that "didn't deserve to be on” but she liked political chat-show Back Benches. “That's a show I'd really like to make, its quirkiness is fantastic. NZ On Air should fund it for TV One at 9.30pm.”

Christie said TVNZ7 could also have done “a lot more news-wise", but she suspected it would have been difficult with the “we-will-not-change” attitudes in news.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said the point of a public service channel was that it supplied material to meet the needs of a country's many niche audiences.

"What public broadcasting is not, is another channel to rerun shows that already have a place in a commercial mass broadcaster's schedule. TVNZ is expected to make a solid return on investment. It would not have been possible for us to justify diverting our profit into subsidising a channel that gave no financial return.”

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