Jesse Mulligan: Cuts to New Zealand Today, 7 Days highlight bigger problem with NZ media

OPINION: Here at Three we got some really shitty news today.

Some of our biggest shows have been cancelled and others have been completely scaled back.

Usually when a show gets dropped it's because people aren't watching - but that's not the case this time.

New Zealand Today is number one in its time slot.

7 Days is the most popular New Zealand comedy programme ever made.

The axe is even swinging over blockbuster Married At First Sight NZ.

So what's the problem?

Well Three has a big competitor, its name is TVNZ.

They do everything they can to take viewers off Three, and that's what they should do. But it's not a level playing field.

TVNZ do what we do: They make the highest rating shows they can and sell advertising.

But unlike Three, if their budget doesn't add up they say to their owner, the Government, sorry we're going to lose $17 million this year.

In the toughest market in media history, the Government has allowed our competitor to turn into a not-for-profit, and wished the rest of us good luck.

The Government is in competition with a private business, and with an unlimited pot of taxpayer money to dip into, who do you reckon is going to win?

Three has to be like any other commercial business.

If our numbers don't add up we have to cut our costs, cut our shows, cut our staff.

Well, we're out of costs to cut.

It's not unrealistic or an exaggeration to say the next move could be for Mediaworks to close down the entire station.

And then you'll be back to the way it was in the '80s with only one choice of TV news.

When you look at the sort of stories Newshub has broken over the past few months, you wonder what a government might get away with if we weren't there.

And don't expect to get much light relief either. There'll be a hole in the Kiwi comedy landscape - less Dai Henwood and Paul Ego, more Charlie Sheen.

Kris Faafoi has said he'll announce a new policy on broadcasting before the end of the year.

Well this week's news shows he's already waited too long. If you want Three around to keep New Zealand laughing, and to keep all these guys honest, the time to act was yesterday.

Jesse Mulligan is a host on Three's The Project, weeknights at 7pm.