Friday, May 20, 2011

Radio New Zealand has budget frozen


New Zealand's international shortwave broadcaster, Radio New Zealand International [RNZI] has again had its annual budget frozen in the latest government budget for FY 2011-12 announced here today.

This is the third year in a row that RNZI's budget has been capped at NZ$1.9m [US$1.5m) but the buying power in US dollars has actually increased by almost 20% because of the stronger New Zealand currency.

The budget is forecast to stay the same in future years through to 2015, so the good news is that core shortwave services to the Pacific continue to be funded, but the bad news is that increased wages, costs and inflation [around 2-4% in the coming few years] will effectively put greater pressure on the broadcaster.

Again, no funding is provided for a replacement of the 21 year old 100kW analog transmitter, but RNZI must achieve 99% transmission service on both this and the more recent 100kW digital capable transmitter.

To reduce costs, RNZI often cuts the power down to 50kW on both transmitters, whilst making sure it also delivers daily news bulletins able to be rebroadcast by a minimum of 17 Pacific region radio stations.

Currently, RNZI provides FM quality news bulletins and its flagship 'Dateline Pacific' program to some 19 Pacific stations, and rebroadcasts by the BBC Pacific program stream reach another 11 local stations across the Pacific region.

In addition, RNZI provides live audio feeds, podcasts and audio on demand news, current affairs and other programs from its website

RNZI also continues to provide emergency tsunami, earthquake and cyclone warnings for much of the region between French Polynesia and the Solomon Islands and also works with New Zealand and Australian aid programs to upgrade the shortwave broadcasting capacity of local broadcasters such as VBTC Vanuatu and SIBC Solomon Islands.

The budget freeze is in the context of government budget expenditure reaching 8.4% of GDP this year because of the world economic climate and the massive economic and social cost of the Christchurch earthquake in February. All government agencies have had budgets frozen or reduced for FY 2011-2012.
(Radio Heritage)