TV show loses funding at bad time, says Milne

By Mike Barrington

The Rural Delivery television programme faces an uncertain future after losing NZ On Air funding. Photo / TVNZ
The Rural Delivery television programme faces an uncertain future after losing NZ On Air funding. Photo / TVNZ

The Rural Delivery television programme highlighting farmer ingenuity and innovation may have missed out on the latest round of NZ On Air funding, but TVNZ wants it back on our screens next year.

Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne said: "One has to question the decision-making at NZ On Air. From what I know their programming is supposed to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture. Rural Delivery surely meets that criteria and has done for the past 13 years - so what has changed?"

Ms Milne said the show had been attracting on average over 50,000 viewers per episode, which was pretty reasonable for screening at 7am on weekends.

"Our challenge, as farmers, is to tell our story and we rely on programmes like Rural Delivery to help get that message across."
Katie Milne

The timing of the funding cut was also unfortunate as the agriculture sector, especially farming, was becoming increasingly concerned about its image among urban Kiwis, highlighted by recent political campaigning.

"We've been saying this for some time now, the need for urban and rural New Zealand to reconnect. Our challenge, as farmers, is to tell our story and we rely on programming like Rural Delivery to help get that message across," Ms Milne said.

"I'm not convinced that NZ On Air's decision reflects the opinions of most Kiwis. This type of programming is still popular with the mainstream and if it can't be saved it will be a sad day for New Zealand broadcasting, as was the case with the A Dog's Show."

NZ On Air head of communications Allanah Kalafatelis said a decision to stop funding Rural Delivery and some other programmes had been regretfully made last month.

"We have not had a funding increase in 10 years, costs have risen in that time and so has demand for funding. In order to be able to fund new projects we must unfortunately let some go.

"Rural Delivery has enjoyed funding support from NZ On Air for just over a decade. It was one of a handful of programmes that were 100 per cent funded by us. In order to spread taxpayer dollars further we are trying to move away from 100 per cent funding, where there is not a strong cultural case."

Ms Kalafatelis said there were several media outlets providing content for the important rural audience without NZ On Air funding, such as: On the Land, online news hub with 24/7 rural news; NZ Herald rural section, The Country; Stuff's NZ Farmer; Radio Live's Rural Exchange (REX) - live and on demand; Interest.co.nz's rural section; and Farmers Weekly online.

"In addition, we fund Country Calendar on TVNZ 1, and Radio NZ [funded through NZ On Air] provides Rural News daily, and Country Life weekly," Ms Kalafatelis said.

TVNZ corporate communications manager Rachel Howard said: "We would like to see Rural Delivery back on our screens in 2018 and although the series missed out in NZ On Air's latest funding round, we're working with the show's producer to explore all possible funding options.

"We remain committed to reflecting New Zealand farming perspectives through our news coverage and Country Calendar, which is one of the country's most watched shows in primetime."

- Northern Advocate

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