New Zealand on Air

NZ On Air
Current NZ On Air logo
Country New Zealand

NZ On Air (or the Broadcasting Commission) is an independent New Zealand broadcast funding agency. It is an autonomous crown entity separate from central Government and governed by a Board of six appointed by the Minister of Broadcasting. NZ On Air is responsible for the funding of public-good broadcasting content across television, radio and new media platforms.

NZ On Air is a major investor in television production mostly made by independent producers for free-to-air television channels. The agency also fully funds public broadcaster Radio New Zealand, an intervention to protect the state broadcaster's independence from central Government, and several access and community radio stations. NZ On Air was the name taken by the Commission in an attempt to promote its activities and encourage payment of the broadcasting fee. The public broadcasting fee was abolished in 1999 and NZ On Air now receives its funds through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Programmes funded by New Zealand on Air would often have the announcement: This programme was made with the help of your Broadcasting Fee - so you can see more of New Zealand on air (later This programme was made with funding from New Zealand on Air, once the Broadcasting Fee had been abolished). More commonly, at the end of a broadcast, a programme will state: Thank you, New Zealand on Air, for helping us make (name of the show).


NZ On Air's activities can be broken up into several areas:

Public-good broadcasting

NZOA funds New Zealand-focused radio, television, NZ music and digital media production for a range of public and private broadcasters and platforms. This includes drama, documentary, children's programmes, and programmes for special-interest groups.

Cultural promotion

NZ On Air focuses on "local content" - New Zealand programmes that are expensive or risky to make which the broadcaster market cannot fully pay for. These programmes are primarily drama, documentary, children's programmes and special-interest programmes.


Funding for audiovisual archiving is now administered directly by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Centralising such archiving funding was a key recommendation of the seminal Horrocks review led by NZ On Air and published in 2009. In 2008 NZOA funded the establishment of NZ On Screen to enable easy online access for past New Zealand screen production. NZOA has since funded a similar NZ music history site Audio Culture which will launch in 2013.

Promotion of New Zealand music

Aimed at increasing the diversity of New Zealand music on diverse platforms including radio.

Broadcasting fee

The Broadcasting Commission was established under the Broadcasting Act of 1989, and initially was funded by a television licence fee, known in New Zealand as the public broadcasting fee of NZ$110, payable annually by each household with a television.

A strong campaign developed in the late 1990s from a section of the public against the Broadcasting Fee. The reason behind the campaign was to prove "whether the broadcasting fee is a tax and the legality of applying GST to this tax". In the end the fee was scrapped in 1999, and the Commission has since been directly funded by the government. The fee was collected from those people who owned a television set although the fee was funding much more than television work, especially radio. Some campaigners believed this was unfair.

Music production

NZ On Air produces and distributes the Kiwi Hit Disc to showcase new funded music. NZOA provides "Making Tracks" funding for recording songs and their associated music videos. Funded music is chosen by a monthly, rotating panel of broadcast and music professionals.

Controversies and criticism

NZ On Air has attracted criticism over claims of misuse of its funds. In mid-2010 it spent $75,000 on two events celebrate 21 years of activity[1] and between 2006 and 2011 it gave $80,000 in funding to help produce recordings and music videos for Annabel Fay, daughter of one of New Zealand's richest men, Sir Michael Fay.[2][3][4] The Fay controversy contributed to the scrapping of the NZ on Air Album funding scheme in December 2010.[5] NZ On Air was also criticised in 2012 for helping fund the production of The GC, a TV3 documentary series about young Māori New Zealanders living on Australia's Gold Coast[6] and for granting $30,000 to assist recording by Titanium, the winner of a radio competition to create a boy band.[7]

In early 2012, Labour MPs accused NZ On Air of a potential conflict of interest when NZ On Air board member and Prime Minister John Key's electorate chairman Stephen McElrea questioned the timing of the NZ On Air-funded documentary Inside Child Poverty, broadcast four days before the 2011 New Zealand general election.[8] Two days after the broadcast, NZ On Air CEO Jane Wrightson had written to broadcaster TV3, expressing her disappointment with the show being broadcast days before the election. Complaints were laid with the Electoral Commission, which found the documentary did not come under its jurisdiction so it could not rule. The Broadcasting Standards Authority also received a complaint, but found the documentary did not break its rules on fairness, and law and order.[9][10]


Further reading

  • Anti-TV Licence Campaign Crusaders Celebrate
  • Sounds Like Us 2010 independent discussion paper on the organisation
  • [1] History of NZ On Air 1989 - 2011 by Paul Norris and Brian Pauling

External links

  • NZ On Air
  • pt 3
  • pt 3
  • Blog on The Tracks 19/04/2011 - Blog on The Tracks Article on The Annabel Fay Funding controversy.
  • The Corner July 22, 2010 by Hussein Moses - Article and comment on a private investigation into misleading official figures distributed by the organisation on how well it was doing.
  • The Broadcasting Act 1989 - The governing document for NZ on Air. Where it gets its direction and directive from.
  • NZ government house debate on NZ on Air conflict of interest Feb 2012 - Clare Curran to the Minister of Broadcasting re conflict of interest at NZ On Air
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