Funding appeal fails
The Radio Reading Service could close at the end of next month, after a last-ditch plea to the broadcasting minister failed.
In a final attempt to save the service’s funding, Radio Reading Service founder Allen Little wrote to Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi, in an appeal to change NZ On Air’s decision to cut the station’s funding of $110,348 a year.
The Levin-based station provides news and entertainment to the print-disabled community. A print-disabled person is anyone who cannot see, hold, understand or access printed literature.
In a letter to Little, Faafoi said he was unable to intervene in NZ On Air’s funding decisions. The letter explained NZ On Air funds several services for the disabled community, including access radio stations and audio descriptions of screen content.
He said the decision to cut funding was a ‘‘not one [NZ On Air] undertook lightly’’, but there were more services than ever competing for money.
The service has found another significant source of funding and chairman Tom Frewen said a decision would be made on the station’s future by mid-february.
If grant applications are unsuccessful, it will likely close at the end of the month.
Frewen was unimpressed by Faafoi’s response because he believes disability groups are not catered for by NZ On Air and it is not meeting its obligation to the disabled community.
‘‘[Faafoi’s] defence of NZ On Air rests on its funding for captioning and audio descriptions on television and funding for access radio, which caters for a wide range of cultural, ethnic and other minorities, but not specifically disabled groups.’’
Faafoi said NZ On Air was ‘‘fulfilling its legal obligations ... I would like to reassure the visually impaired community that I recognise their need, and the need of others with a disability, to access content.’’
NZ On Air spokeswoman Allanah Kalafatelis said there are now a wider range of accessibility services available to the disabled community, and the Radio Reading Service’s small audience made justifying funding difficult.
Radio Reading Service chairman Tom Frewen will have to make a decision about the service’s future next month.