ACT-driven reform carried on last week, this time with changes the party negotiated for the rental market. The new Government is now restoring fixed-term tenancies with 90 days’ notice, 42 days’ notice for landlords moving into their own house, and 21 days’ notice for renters to end a periodic tenancy. The net effect is that more people will rent out homes, which is good for all landlords, would-be landlords, and tenants alike.


New Zealand got its first FM radio broadcast in 1983. The technology had been developed in New York in 1928, and used in the rest of the world since the 1930s.

New Zealanders were stuck with the crackly whirr of AM radio because successive Governments would not license FM. They included three Governments of the ‘free-enterprise’ National Party, ruling for 28 of those fifty-odd years. The 1983 broadcast was a trial in Whakatane, presumably they thought it a safe place to test new-fangled technology.

Through New Zealand’s ‘golden years’ of the fifties, sixties and seventies, broadcast media was a monopoly. There was one TV channel, a couple of choices of Government radio, and your local paper.

It was 1980s Broadcasting Minister, and friend of Free Press, Richard Prebble who deregulated broadcasting. Radio spectrum was auctioned off, giving us choice. Iwi got spectrum for the Iwi radio network, a major step forward for preserving the Māori language. TV3, whether they like it or not, will always be a symbol of New Zealand’s free market renaissance. At last, a private TV station meant choice for New Zealanders.

All of this suppression and revolution has happened before. The printing press wasn’t invented by Government, in fact the powers that were at the time tried hard to suppress that, too. The New Zealand Government’s attempted control of radio and TV was quite predictable.

Now comes the internet, and more choice. Sure, it’s taken advertising revenue off traditional media, but that’s not the only injury it’s done them. It’s also let people see another side of their stories, or stories they wouldn’t cover. People hear direct from politicians, direct from companies, from rogue opinion makers, and from individuals. #MeToo uncovered scandals that traditional media failed to report for decades, because individuals had their own social media accounts.

We say all this because for most of our history, the New Zealand Government has suppressed media. Now, as traditional companies collapse, the call is for Government to help somehow. But what can history tell us? The best thing Government has done so far is get out of the way. It has an infrastructure role that’s largely done.

Infrastructure includes supporting the build of a fibre network for the internet (done), and a system of radio spectrum auctions (also done). For the most part though, people are getting more information than ever thanks to better technology, not Government.

If people are happily getting what they want, and it’s not New Zealand channels anymore, what’s the problem? Right now, YouTube and Netflix dwarf the rest of the New Zealand media. TVNZ doesn’t stand a chance against them when it comes to attracting daily viewers. Neither of them are offering much in the way of ‘New Zealand’ content though.

If New Zealanders don’t want to watch films and documentaries about New Zealand, or care much about watching media, should anyone care? We’ve never been better served with information, since the Government stopped blocking us from getting it.

The only remaining question is; what is the purpose of the quarter billion a year of taxpayers’ money spent on arts, media and culture now the Government has stopped blocking us from getting information and the internet has given us all the information in the world?

That's it for this week, be sure to stay tuned next Monday

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