RNZ heading for showdown with Govt: report

Radio New Zealand bosses face a grilling at a select committee hearing tomorrow after it was reported tonight they are fighting the Government over cost cutting.

TV One News said the RNZ board was heading for a major showdown and members could be sacked if they continued to defy requests to cut costs.

RNZ costs taxpayers $38 million a year, and all government-funded organisations are being told to cut costs in the tough economic climate.

The report said documents showed RNZ board chairwoman Christine Grice was fighting the Government over radical proposals such as vacating the Auckland office and getting commercial sponsorship for its classical station Concert FM.

RNZ was understood to have considered going back to an AM frequency for most of the country and retaining FM for Auckland alone, saving about $750,000 a year, and scrapping its entire $200,000 advertising budget.

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said RNZ was not going to get any increase in funding for the foreseeable future and he had asked the board to come up with a plan for sustaining services.

The documents showed Dr Coleman and his officials had warned board members they should comply or face the sack, the report said.

"Obviously we would never want to get to that point but I've made my expectations very clear on behalf of the Government and the board now needs to come to the party," Dr Coleman said.

"We're really looking for a change in mindset that acknowledges the reality of the fiscal environment."

The report said Ms Grice had told the Government cost cutting would be damaging.

"This would result in dumbing down our service and duplication of the commercial sector's populist model."

Tomorrow's select committee hearing has been on the agenda for several weeks and is a routine financial review, but MPs can raise anything they like.

 

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