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Could RNZ switch off at midnight?

Published: 6:13PM Thursday February 18, 2010 Source: ONE News

Switching off Radio New Zealand between midnight and 6am could be part of a radical new plan to cut costs.

On Wednesday ONE News revealed some of the proposals for the station and as more details emerge, the Broadcasting Minister is facing accusations of interference.

RNZ bosses have been questioned by MPs about plans to cut costs and board chairperson Christine Grice says the board has a full range of options before it.

Another proposal is to scrap FM transmission for much of the country and to bring in sponsored programmes.

"All organisations have to cut their cloth and our aim is to make sure the cloth is cut so as to preserve the dna of Radio New Zealand," says Grice.

Opposition parties claims RNZ is the victim of bullying by minister Jonathan Coleman.

"I think the minister has a conscious policy of trying to starve Radio New Zealand so that it will ultimately become unviable as a public service broadcaster," says Green Party spokeswoman Sue Kedgley.

And even government minister Peter Dunne is worried.

"To see its services cut back would be bad for broadcasting standards in New Zealand and I don't think it's a good thing," the United Future leader says.

And a visiting former Prime Minister also weighed in.

"I'm a great believer in public radio and television for that matter...commercial has its place but we've been so lucky in New Zealand to have a non-commercial alternative as well," says Helen Clark.

National is not talking about scrapping that alternative but it is asking for radical changes to the way RNZ operates. Coleman seems to believe the RNZ board has been defying him and he has made it clear that sacking them is the ultimate sanction.

Now it appears to be a question of who blinks first - whether RNZ bosses make major cuts or face the chop themselves.