The proposed merger of RNZ and TVNZ ill-timed and ill-advisedImage Courtesy: RNZ
For the last four years, the Labour government has been on a prolonged pathway scattered with millions spent on reviews, working groups and several overlapping Ministerial portfolios trying to determine the future of the media sector in New Zealand.
Their latest decision has been a proposal to disestablish RNZ and TVNZ and create some sort of a quasi-commercial and non-commercial hybrid to replace the current entities.
How this will operate and whether it is feasible has been put in the hands of yet another working group, the Governance Group on Public Media led by Tracey Martin, one of the former Ministers of the Labour-led government who lost her seat in the September 2020 general election. Her only credible tie to being an ‘expert’ on public broadcasting is her three years in charge of New Zealand’s Censorship laws.
Model risks failure
For a start, National is extremely concerned that this ‘ Expert Governance Group’ will be yet another failed model in a long line of reviews, working groups and Ministerial consultations over the past several years, some of which have yet to even begin their work in earnest.
It is also important to note that lack of a clear cut time frame for the Governance Group’s work will no doubt see it be yet another bureaucratic waste of Ministerial resources rather than championing a best practice approach for the future of media.
We can see significant problems in the government’s attempt in proposing a new Charter for this entity if it is to try and amalgamate the non-commercial aspects of RNZ and the commercial role of TVNZ in an environment with many other media organisations that are precluded from receiving similar support and funding.
Frankly the disestablishment proposal also comes at a time where RNZ is due to be reviewed before Parliament’s Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee; as the Member of Parliament who was Chairing this committee back in its old iteration, the Commerce Committee in 2016, it is incredibly disappointing that the Minister is choosing to disrespect important Parliamentary processes on a deeply divisive issue.
Fresh thinking needed
To tackle these issues, we need fresh thinking.
We need a real review of the sector, not piecemeal attempts at media mergers of Crown entities, ad hoc funding announcements without specific commitments, over regulation of the digital sector let alone the growing wider community questions globally of de-platforming and international freedom of speech and expression.
We need a real conversation and I am here to start it.
National is currently meeting with stakeholders across the sector to determine the best approach to the future of all media in New Zealand, we committed to a comprehensive all-encompassing review of the media sector and despite us not being in government, I have started this discussion as National’s Spokesperson.
We also wrote to Indian Newslink and hope to hear from the team soon.
We strongly encourage the Minister to join us in developing a comprehensive plan for the future of New Zealand media rather than continue down the piecemeal path this government has undertaken.
Have your say please
Now is not the time to merge or disestablish RNZ and TVNZ when we need a far harder look at the wider media sector of New Zealand.
I am talking about what you want to see in our media landscape; whether you are a traditional Sunday radio listener, a retired music teacher, a young gaming innovator, a media watcher or a TV content creator, I want to hear your views live and unabashed.
Please call my office and make an appointment, write me an email or a letter – I want to hear your views. More money than ever is being given to the media sector of our tax dollars, we need to know that it is being spent right, we need to know the regulations are up to date and platform agnostic and above all we need our public media to trusted and work for our nation.
Let us talk about the future of New Zealand media, you are funding it, you know it needs fixing and you know National can get this done.
Melissa MP is a List MP of the National Party from Mt Albert, Auckland. She spent more than two decades in the media before entering Parliament in November 2008. She is the Party’s Spokesperson for Broadcasting & Media| Digital Economy and Communications and Ethnic Communities.