Business case now planned for RNZ/TVNZ merger before legislating

Plans to merge RNZ and TVNZ have slowed further, with  business case process now under way. This is expected to be completed by about mid-year, after which ‘final decisions’ will be made. With the election due in September it seems unlikely much will actually happen this year.

Minister of Broadcasting Kris Faafoi had wanted to get a decision from Cabinet last December to rush through legislation under urgency to disestablish RNZ and TVNZ and do a business case later. He was supposed to be one of the more competent ministers.

RNZ last November:  Govt to consider replacing RNZ, TVNZ with new public broadcaster

The fate of RNZ and TVNZ may soon be in the hands of Cabinet ministers, with a proposal to disestablish both broadcasters and create an entirely new public media entity.

An advisory group, with representatives from both media companies and a range of public service agencies, was set up to look at future funding options.

RNZ understands there were three options: merge the RNZ and TVNZ newsrooms, put more money into New Zealand On Air, or the third, preferred option now heading for Cabinet – most likely in early December.

17 December Government plans for RNZ and TVNZ remain up in the air

A Cabinet decision on the future on RNZ and TVNZ has been delayed until early next year.

The Broadcasting Minister will not meet his commitment to announce the government plan for public media by Christmas, because ministers want more work done before making a final decision.

Cabinet had one proposal to consider – disestablish RNZ and TVNZ and create one new public media entity.

Minister Kris Faafoi said he intended to make a public announcement by Christmas, but that was not going to happen.

“Cabinet colleagues had a few questions and I think that’s fair to go and make sure that those issues are addressed before we make a final decision.”

29 January: New details revealed as Cabinet agrees on RNZ, TVNZ public broadcasting decision

Cabinet is forging ahead with the plan to create a new, super-sized public broadcaster, but ministers have taken some convincing.

RNZ understands they have signed off on a high-level decision to proceed and to commission a business case, after the Minister for Broadcasting, Kris Faafoi, presented a revised paper on Monday.

RNZ understands there was pushback from some senior Labour and New Zealand First ministers about the way the preferred option was landed on, the implications for public broadcasting if RNZ ceased to be a standalone company, and the speed at which it had been progressing.

However, this may not necessarily change the timetable – the plan was to work towards having the new media company in place by about 2023 and that appears to still be the goal.

It’s already taken Labour most of this term to get to this point; Clare Curran’s plans for ‘RNZ+’ were canned when she lost the Broadcasting portfolio in 2018 and Faafoi took over.

Curran established a ministerial advisory group headed by Michael Stiassny that started the work on the new model; through that process and subsequent work by consultants three options would emerge – merge the RNZ and TVNZ newsrooms, boost NZ On Air funding and the third – create a substantial new media organisation.

Those three options were given to a working group to thrash out, comprising representatives of TVNZ, RNZ and a range of public agencies, including DPMC and Treasury.

Its recommendations formed the basis of the December Cabinet paper that concluded the status quo was “unsustainable” and that the working group had “collectively recommended the government agree to disestablish TVNZ and RNZ and to establish a new public media entity”.

That paper laid out guidelines for how it would operate, including having a “clearly defined public media mandate and purpose, with the core functions of a globally recognised public media entity”.

It would provide public media services across a variety of platforms, “some of which may be advertising free”.

The new entity would have a “mixed funding model” that would be funded both directly from the Crown, and from a range of “non-Crown” sources including advertising, sponsorship and subscriptions.

It would operate as a not-for-profit, and would have “statutory protection for editorial and operational independence”.

2 February:  New public media plan still a work in progress behind closed doors

Cabinet has approved the idea of a new public service outfit to replace state-owned RNZ and TVNZ by 2023 – but they want more details from the broadcasting minister. So does the public and the rest of the media. 

…the proposal went before Cabinet again last Monday and this time ministers approved it, according to Jane Patterson’s RNZ scoop.

But they still want to see more details and a completed business case.

Jane Patterson said ministers wanted it “crystal clear” that this would be a public broadcasting outfit with a charter to uphold, but it is still not clear how public funding and commercial revenue will be blended.

That point was made last Wednesday by Victoria University’s associate professor of media and communication studies Peter Thompson on RNZ’s The Panel.

“If you look at other entities overseas like Ireland’s RTE or Canada’s CBC, successful and sustainable hybrid models of public broadcasting require at least 50 percent of their funding from public sources,” he said.

“It is high time the government announced its blueprint for the new public media entity, and sought public feedback to ensure the best outcome and informed debate before the 2020 election,” Dr Thompson said in a statement issued by the pressure group he chairs, Better Public Media.

7 February: Work to begin on business case for new RNZ, TVNZ public broadcaster

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi has confirmed work will begin on a business case for creating a new, super-sized public broadcaster.

He said Cabinet has approved a business case to examine the viability of establishing a new public media entity as an independent multiple-platform, multi-media operation.

When asked about the impact the proposal would have on the commercial market, Faafoi said he would need to wait for the business case.

One could wonder why a business case wasn’t sought in the first place. Faaafoi had wanted a decision on the merging from Cabinet last year.

Final decisions about the future of RNZ and TVNZ will be made once the business case is completed.

Faafoi said he wanted the new entity to be more nimble and designed for a digital 21st century environment.

He said PricewaterhouseCoopers will conduct the business case, and it is expected to report back by the middle of this year.

While Labour may want a proposed plan in place before the election it seems unlikely legislation will happen in time.

New Zealand First broadcasting spokesperson Jenny Marcroft said her party supports the decision to commission a business case.

“We need to see what the options are, the design and cost, and the likely timeframes.

“In a media environment that is increasingly dominated by digital platforms, and people receiving their news from dubious sources. It is clear that the future of organisations such as TVNZ and RNZ are preserved”, Marcroft said.

Sounds like NZ First weren’t keen on Faafoi fast tracking the merger. And natikonal aren’t keen on the proposal at all.

In the lead up to the election, the National Party has already made clear it does not support the idea of having one big public broadcaster.

The National Party’s Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media spokesperson Melissa Lee criticised the Government for leaving the future of public broadcasting in a state of uncertainty.

“There is no plan still, this is almost three years down the line [and] we are no clearer as to what they are going to do,” she said.

Lee was also unhappy with what was known about the proposal so far.

“We want plurality of voice in the media space and anything that reduces that voice is something we would be very concerned about,” she said.

Faafoi said the future of RNZ and TVNZ will become a political football whether the Government liked it or not.

I wonder why he thought he could rush it through.

Last month RNZ reported that it understood Faafoi’s original plan presented to Cabinet in December was to prepare legislation under urgency to disestablish RNZ and TVNZ, and then proceed with a business plan later this year.

That seems a crazy way to go about things – rush the changes through, and then see if it’s a good idea later.

Faafoi has been seen as one of the more competent Government ministers, but this isn’t good for his reputation.

 

RNZ propose dumping Concert programme and targeting ‘youth’

Someone at RNZ thinks it is a good idea to turn off an older audience and cater for younger people by dumping the Concert programme (and 17 staff), and converting to something targeting a younger audience (who tend to live online).

This has stirred up protest by older people, including Kiri Te Kanawa and Helen Clark.

RNZ: RNZ set to cut back Concert and launch new youth service

In the biggest overhaul of its music services in years, RNZ is planning to cut back its classical music station RNZ Concert and replace it on FM radio with music for a younger audience as part of a new multimedia music brand. Mediawatch asks RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson and music content director Willy Macalister to explain the move.

The broadcaster is proposing to remove RNZ Concert from its FM frequencies and transform it into an automated non-stop music station which will stream online and play on AM radio.

It would be replaced on FM by a service aimed at a younger, more diverse audience as part of a new multimedia “music brand”.

RNZ Concert would be taken off FM radio on May 29 and the youth platform would be phased in ahead of its full launch on August 28.

RNZ’s music staff were informed about the proposed changes this morning in an emotional, occasionally heated meeting with the RNZ music content director Willy Macalister, head of radio and music David Allan, and chief executive Paul Thompson.

According to documents for staff, the move would eliminate 17 jobs at RNZ Music, including all RNZ Concert presenter roles, from late March.

Those would be replaced with 13 jobs at the new youth platform, while four remain in the downsized RNZ Concert service and RNZ Music in Wellington.

The documents for staff say the proposed changes are aimed at securing new audiences for RNZ.

While its listenership is predominantly Pākehā and skewed towards older people, the new music brand would target people aged 18 to 34, including Māori and Pasifika audiences, the proposal says.

If they are after new audiences, why not ditch news and current affairs programmes and replace them with talk back about trivial topics?

Why not ditch radio altogether and switch to streaming? That’s where the growth in audiences is.

Some dismay has been expressed.

Stuff: Axing of Concert FM ‘disenfranchising’ for older RNZ listeners

According to RNZ, the weekly cumulative audience for RNZ Concert is 173,300 – or 4 per cent of the population aged 10+.

A Facebook group named Save RNZ Concert had more than 5000 members, and a change.org petition had more than 2000 signatures as of Friday morning.

Arts Centre of Christchurch chairwoman and the former chairwoman of Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Felicity Price, said it was a “bizarre decision”.

“To sack all its engaging hosts and use taxpayers’ money to instead set up an Auckland radio/online radical sharing alternative that would be more appealing to the non-white youth market is simply absurd, short-sighted and surely in breach of its charter of ‘reflecting New Zealand’s cultural identity’ and ‘recognising the interests of all age groups’,” she said.

Many Concert FM listeners were elderly and enjoyed interacting with the presenters. Having an automated service would disenfranchise that sector of society, she said.

University of Canterbury senior lecturer Patrick Shepherd said there was a ground-swell of protest against the proposal.

“The musical community are up in arms and I think rightly so … Having a contemporary and classical music station doesn’t make the books balance but as a society we want that there because it has value in our community and is a vital part of our culture. It’s like closing down an art gallery because not enough people are going there,” he said.

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi said he was working on a plan to address concerns raised by “loyal listeners”.

He met with RNZ’s chief executive and chairman last week and “made some concerns clear to them” about aspects of the plan.

A spokesman for Faafoi said the concerns were reminding RNZ of its charter and ensuring it understood the feedback of all listeners.

The organisation was struggling to attract a youth audience, and the proposed youth station was one way to address that.

They may still struggle to attract a youth audience, and turn off the audience they currently have.

Stuff: Dame Kiri te Kanawa calls RNZ proposal to dial down Concert an ‘inestimable blow to the arts’

New Zealand opera legend Dame Kiri te Kanawa is leading the chorus of outrage over a proposal that will gut RNZ Concert in favour of a youth-focused radio station.

In a statement, the world-renowned opera singer said losing the station would be “an inestimable blow to the arts in New Zealand”.

“So many of our young artists have become known to a wide audience thanks to broadcast on RNZ Concert. I sincerely hope that the powers that be in RNZ will reconsider the backward step announced in the media today.”

Clark, who held the arts and culture portfolio during her nine years as prime minster, said the decision was a “severe diminution of the cultural services available to New Zealanders”.

“The plans to decimate the Concert programme need to be seen in the context of the National Library no longer wanting to have an overseas collection and the National Archives deciding to drastically reduce its opening hours,” she said.

“What will be next? Such decisions raise serious concern about the level of support for cultural services available to New Zealanders.”

NZ Herald: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark wants Ministers to scrap plans to ditch Concert FM

She tagged Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi in the tweet.

Clark even went as far as saying there was a “pattern here of destruction of cultural services available to New Zealanders”.

In response, Robertson said he was looking into the issue.

“I am advised it is still a consultation and we will be talking to RNZ about their options.”

Speaking to media this morning, Faafoi said he was also looking at ways to mitigate some issues around Concert FM.

Faafoi said that he met with RNZ’s board last week and outlined some of his concerned about the proposed move.

Maybe it’s an RNZ decision and not up to the Government, but I guess the current Labour leadership can just blame this u-turn on NZ First.

Save RNZ Concert on Facebook now has 6,910 members.

The Minister, please Save RNZ Concert AND fund the new youth network petition currently has 4,083 signatures.

 

Tsunami of coverage of Climate Change Now

It is not a matter of whether measures will be taken to try to combat climate change, it is how much will be done, and how quickly. Momentum is building in New Zealand, with a burst of media activity this week.

ODT

…the Otago Daily Times has joined an international news media initiative in the run-up to the UN Climate Action Summit.

More than 250 newsrooms representing 32 countries with a combined monthly reach of more than a billion people are co-operating under the banner Covering Climate Now.

During the week leading into the summit, we have agreed to share resources and focus coverage in a way that does justice to the defining story of our time.

Also:

RNZ

Newsroom

The Spinoff

Stuff

Stuff has a section devoted to Climate Change News

NZ Herald

Media watch

14 June 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Media watch

13 June 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Media watch

12 June 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Media watch

11 June 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Media watch

10 June 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Gavin Ellis on Whale Oil book: “a harrowing slaga” but enduring long form journalism

RNZ media commentator Gavin Ellis applauded what Margie Thomson’s book Whale Oil

Margie Thomson’s investigation into the Whale Oil blog suggests that books may be the most enduring type of long-form journalism.

Transcript (from 6:22)

Great cover on that book, it’s not a whale so much as a sort of a monster of the deep coming up from the bottom of the book.

I think it was Margie who said that a whale was inappropriate, too nice to depict Slater and the dirt he is infamous for.

I think the monster comes from Matt Blomfield’s famous wrestler grandfather Lofty, who created an octopus hold.

Whale Oil by Margie Thomson really is a harrowing tale about a man, a businessman called Matt Blomfield and his decade long fight to clear his name after it was besmirched in a pretty serial fashion by Cameron Slater on the Whale Oil blog.

The book itself, I thought Finlay Macdonald summed it up perfectly, let me just read you one sentence of what he said. he said:

“Many readers will need a shower after a session with this book, and and Margie Thomson is to be applauded for her willingness to go where only trolls and the spiritually misshapen could feel at home.”

And that’s really, this is a, when I say it’s an awful book, it’s a very very good book. What it said is really quite awful about the ability of social media to basically destroy the reputation of an innocent person, and she sets about disproving virtually everything that appeared on the Whale Oil blog.

Of course Matt Blomfield has won defamation cases against Cameron Slater over it, but it’s a harrowing slaga, saga, but the thing that impressed me most I think is that it shows, with books like this it shows that this sort of excellent very long form journalism, you know the book chronicles a saga over ten years.

It may be that the most enduring form of journalism that we have.

The work that we do as daily journalists is ephemeral, you know it’s here one day and gone the next. I used to hate people saying that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish wrapper, but there’s an element of truth in that.

This sort of deep investigation, and of course she’s not alone, we have a number of other journalists who’ve written books about different subjects, Rebecca McPhee, absolutely, and I think that they do us a real service by having an enduring form of journalism.

Now of course books are not regarded as a news activity, which is a problem under the Privacy Act, which makes them vulnerable, more vulnerable than a daily journalist would be.

Whale Oil was carefully vetted by lawyer Stephen Price to avoid possible legal actions.

Even with proposed changes to the Privacy Act I don’t think that this form of journalism enjoys the same protection as news activities do.

However books have an advantage of time to check out their accuracy and reduce risks.

But nonetheless I really commend not only this book but the whole process of committing to books.

This sort of long form investigative journalism, it really is great reading but also the lessons in them remain for the future, and that’s something in daily journalism we’re in danger of losing, particularly with the avalanche of material that we have bombarding us every day that is so ephemeral and this sort of anchors it with a degree of permanence. let’s hope so anyway.

It’s true that newspapers are published and sold one day, and disappear off the newsagents’ shelves by the end of the day. Books remain for sale on bookshelves for weeks.

But publishing news online means that it does endure far more than it used to. It can be just a Google search away. Enduring news – and blog posts – provide a lot of readily available research material for books like Whale Oil.

The difference with well researched and written books like Whale Oil though is that they collate and filter and edit a vast amount of material – and there is a vast amount of material in the Matt Blomfield story.

One of the successes of Whale Oil is that Margie took a huge amount of information and made it interesting and readable, while putting on record an awful campaign of attack that took place over many years.

It was, as Ellis says, a harrowing Slater saga, or saga.

Media watch

9 June 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.