NZME versus Stuff gets messier, heading to court

Media have been increasingly under pressure over the past decade due to loss of revenue, with a lot of advertising being siphoned off by international Internet companies such as Google and Facebook.

An application for approval for a merger between the two largest New Zealand media companies, NZME and Stuff (Fairfax), was declined by the Commerce Commission in 2017 – details here.

Last year (November 2019) NZME tried again – StuffMe is back, but will the Commerce Commission play ball?

News that NZME has initiated a second attempt to acquire Stuff, after its first was shot down by the Commerce Commission and the Court of Appeal last year, underlines the exacting position the modern media finds itself in.

It’s been clear for some time that the media industry is in trouble. It’s also clear that the media and competition regulators have been even slower than the companies they regulate to fully appreciate the scale and scope of the change.

When the Stuff-NZMEmerger was first rejected by the Commerce Commission, it said that the synergy benefits of between $40 million and $200m a year did not outweigh the loss of a “plurality” of voices and quality in the news media.

Those questions look to be set to rest by a new proposal that would ring fence the editorial operations of the two companies, keeping them independent and competitive, whilst taking advantage of backroom synergies.

This means we could be headed back to the Commerce Commission, which is under new leadership after Mark Berry, the previous chairman, left last year.

Stuff (December 2019): Minister won’t intervene with regulator over media merger, but deal could help

Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi won’t intervene to encourage or advise the Commerce Commission to look again at the case for allowing NZME and Stuff to merge, a spokesman for the minister says.

However, he said the Government could look at a “Kiwi Share” undertaking floated by NZME that would commit the company to maintain certain, unnamed mastheads and “protect journalists’ jobs” if a takeover was allowed.

With the added pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic the possibility of a merger came up again but it has become very messy.

RNZ (11 May): NZME makes offer to buy rival Stuff for $1

NZME is insisting a deal for it to purchase media rival Stuff is still on the cards, despite Stuff’s owner saying it has wrapped up talks with no deal.

NZME said this morning it was asking the government to allow it to buy Stuff for a nominal $1.

Stuff’s owner, Australia’s Nine Entertainment, responded that it had terminated talks with NZME over a purchase plan last week and no deal was in place.

In the latest twist, NZME has since told the NZX that it believed it was still in a “binding exclusive negotiation period with Nine and does not accept that exclusivity has been validly terminated.”

NZ Herald (14 May): NZME seeks interim injunction against Stuff-owner Nine Entertainment

NZME’s bid to buy rival Stuff is heading to the High Court as it locks horns with Stuff’s Australian owner amid an increasingly bitter process.

NZME – owner of the NZ Herald – has applied to the High Court at Auckland for an interim injunction against ASX-listed Nine Entertainment to enforce exclusive takeover negotiations.

The move follows an exchange of statements earlier this week after NZME filed an urgent Commerce Commission application to purchase Nine’s New Zealand media assets for a nominal sum of $1.

Nine responded with a statement saying the parties had withdrawn from the bid last week and had terminated talks.

NZME hit back, saying it still had exclusivity and is now taking legal action to enforce it.
A hearing on the interim injunction is set down for tomorrow.

In a statement to the Herald, an NZME spokesman said the company did not accept that exclusivity had been validly terminated.

“NZME has filed an application for an interim injunction against Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Limited seeking orders to enforce this binding agreement entered into between NZME and Nine on 23 April 2020.”

NZME has spent the best part of five years attempting to buy Stuff but has previously been declined Commerce Commission clearance.

It says the media landscape has been so wildly impacted by Covid-19 and foreign digital giants such as Facebook and Google that it is the best owner in order to save newspapers and journalism jobs.

“NZME’s proposed acquisition of Stuff is important to the continued operation of a robust fourth estate and plurality of voice in this country,” NZME told the NZX on Monday.

NZME and Stuff own most of New Zealand’s daily metropolitan and regional mastheads. As well as the NZ Herald, NZME owns the Northern Advocate, Bay of Plenty Times, Hawke’s Bay Today, Rotorua Daily Post and Whanganui Chronicle.

Stuff’s stable includes the Sunday Star-Times, The Press in Christchurch and the Dominion Post in Wellington.

Stuff (14 May): Proposed media merger turns septic as NZME seeks injunction in bid to buy Stuff

Auckland media company NZME has gone to the High Court to seek an injunction forcing Stuff’s Australian owner Nine not to turn its back on negotiations to sell Stuff to NZME.

NZME said on Thursday it had filed an application for an interim injunction against Nine “seeking orders to enforce this binding agreement entered into between NZME and Nine on 23 April 2020”.

The injunction hearing is due to take place at Auckland High Court on Friday.

Sounds very messy, and expensive for companies that are struggling to survive.

A strong and diverse media is an essential in a healthy democracy, so this is not looking good.

NZME sacking 200 staff

Media company NZME have issued a market update this morning. This includes:

  • In accordance with offers made by the CEO and independent directors, reduced directors’ fees and CEO salary by 20% from March 2020.
  • Implemented a wide scale workforce restructuring project, resulting in the reduction of over 200 positions, including redundancies and removal of vacant positions across the business, representing over 15% of NZME’s workforce.
  • Today started the process of asking all remaining employees to continue on a reduced salary basis for a twelve-week period.

The full update:

Market Update: COVID-19 initiatives

AUCKLAND, 14 April 2020: NZME Limited (NZX: NZM, ASX: NZM) (“NZME”) continues to actively monitor the impact of COVID-19 on its business and wishes to update the market on the steps it is taking to mitigate the extent of the impact on NZME and its financial performance.

NZME’s core news and broadcast media business is operating as an Essential Service and is continuing to keep Kiwis in the know. Record audience levels are being seen on and on NZME’s digital radio platform iHeartRadio.

Operational update
NZME is operating effectively with the majority of staff operating from home. However, a number of NZME’s people are required to operate from NZME’s premises to ensure its core business continues to operate effectively, but are doing so with measures in place to protect them. These arrangements will continue to be monitored as we move down the New Zealand Government’s COVID-19 alert levels.

Cost saving initiatives
In its 23 March 2020 announcement NZME disclosed that it was implementing a number of initiatives to reduce costs and capital expenditure across the business. All operating expenses have been reviewed with a view to minimising overall costs and cash outflows. To date NZME has:

  • Applied for and received the government wage subsidy for all eligible employees.
  • In accordance with offers made by the CEO and independent directors, reduced directors’ fees and CEO salary by 20% from March 2020.
  • Implemented a wide scale workforce restructuring project, resulting in the reduction of over 200 positions, including redundancies and removal of vacant positions across the business, representing over 15% of NZME’s workforce.
  • Requested employees to take annual leave.
  • Temporarily suspended products, including a number of newspaper inserted magazines covering real estate, motoring and travel, and reduced sports coverage and publication of community newspapers.
  • Ceased broadcasting Radio Sport and reduced the size of NZME’s sports coverage teams, with the expectation that NZME can substantially transfer the revenues from these operations to other NZME products.
  • Reduced overall discretionary spend and sought rental abatement from its landlords.
  • Reduced planned capital expenditure for the remainder of 2020.
  • Today started the process of asking all remaining employees to continue on a reduced salary basis for a twelve-week period.

FY20 Outlook

With the Alert Level 4 lockdown in place, NZME is expecting April 2020 advertising revenues to be approximately 50% lower than April 2019. While it remains impossible to predict with any accuracy the impact of the pandemic on NZME’s full year financial performance, it is anticipated that revenue will be significantly down on the corresponding period in 2019. The cost saving initiatives above will partially offset the anticipated revenue declines. NZME will continue to monitor the revenue performance and the potential cost saving initiatives into the future.

The economic impact of Covid-19 was always going to hit media companies hard. They were already struggling with the massive move of advertising revenue online to global companies like Google and Facebook.

Media agreement on coverage of Tarrant trial

David posted this comment:

Kiwiblog also covers this. Its an outrage that the press has self censored itself as a collective with the government complicit.

“The Kiwi editors don’t appear to trust their readers and viewers to handle the difficult and disturbing material that’s sure to billow out of the Tarrant trial. They regard New Zealanders as children who must be sheltered from the heinous and despicable lest they become tainted with its influence.”

Its worth reading the story from an outsiders point and shines a light on the paternalistic overview that our “betters” in the media exhibit. I would like to see full coverage without sensationalizing the bits that irresponsible media usually do, I want the different perspectives of a varied and uncensored free press usually give. And its appalling that the government and the press think that if we hear what this loon says we will see it as a call to arms. Bloody ridiculous.

Here are the “agreed editorial guidelines” – Reporting the Trial of Brenton Tarrant

[1 May 2019]

Senior editors of the major accredited news media companies in New Zealand (TVNZ, Stuff, Mediaworks, NZME and RNZ) have committed to a united approach in reporting the trial of Brenton Tarrant following the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March, 2019. The group of editors, representing the New Zealand Media Freedom Committee, has agreed a set of protocols to ensure that the outlets they represent cover the upcoming trial comprehensively and responsibly.

A group statement and a copy of the agreed editorial guidelines is attached for your information.

Requests for further information or comment should be directed to the respective media organisations.



We are the senior editors representing the major accredited news media companies in New Zealand (TVNZ, Stuff, Mediaworks, NZME and RNZ).

As a group and as individual editors we are committed to ensuring the outlets we represent cover the upcoming trial of Brenton Tarrant comprehensively and responsibly.

We have agreed to abide by these guidelines throughout the trial.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant is charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 charges of attempted murder relating to shootings carried out at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March, 2019.

Victims of the terror attack include citizens of twelve different countries.

We represent accredited New Zealand media organisations that plan to attend the trial and associated proceedings for the purposes of reportage.

As editors we are mindful of the public interest in the trial, in New Zealand and internationally.

We are also mindful of our role as the “eyes and ears of the public” in the context of court reporting. In this instance, we acknowledge the particular importance of this function, given the many victims’ friends and families outside New Zealand who may otherwise be unable to engage in the trial process.

We are aware that the accused may attempt to use the trial as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology.

We agree that the following Protocol will apply to our outlets’ coverage and reportage of the trial:

(a) We shall, to the extent that is compatible with the principles of open justice, limit any coverage of statements, that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology.
(b) For the avoidance of doubt the commitment set out at (a) shall include the accused’s manifesto document “The Great Replacement”.
(c) We will not broadcast or report on any message, imagery, symbols or signals (including hand signals) made by the accused or his associates promoting or supporting white supremacist ideology.
(d) Where the inclusion of such signals in any images is unavoidable, the relevant parts of the image shall be pixellated.
(e) To the greatest extent possible, the journalists that are selected by each of the outlets to cover the trial will be experienced personnel.
(f) These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties.
(g) This Protocol shall continue in force indefinitely.

Miriyana Alexander (NZME and chair of the Media Freedom Committee)
John Gillespie (TVNZ)
Shayne Currie (NZME)
Mark Stevens (Stuff)
Paul Thompson (RNZ)
Hal Crawford (Mediaworks)

This is an unusual approach for what is an extraordinary situation.

Media always make judgements about what court cases they will report on and what they will report. What is different here is agreement between all the major media organisations.

Thins could change if circumstances change – “These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties.”

Stuff sale and NZME paywall

Stuff has an article on it’s own pending sale, and also has a look at NZME’s proposed NZ Herald paywall in Stuff faces possible break-up as NZME readies its wall

Australian media company Nine hopes to have the sale of Stuff Ltd pretty much wrapped up by the end of June.

Nine is expected to put out an “information memorandum” on the business in a few weeks that should give potential buyers and tyre-kickers a clear picture of the business.

Nine’s clear preference is for a clean sale and a quick exit from the New Zealand market.

But a key question is whether Stuff might be worth less as an integrated business than the sum of its parts.

If it is, then Nine could be forced get its hands dirty to extract full value from the divestment, or alternatively it could sell Stuff to a private equity buyer that would then break it up.

Stuff has already sold or closed quite a bit of regional media.

On the NZME paywall:

NZME has reportedly been researching a $3 to $7 weekly fee for access to some “premium” content on its NZ Herald website.

That would be $156 to $364 per year! How many people would be prepared to pay that?

In August, chief executive Michael Boggs forecast NZME might convert 4 to 6 per cent of its online audience – which is shy of 2 million – into paying customers.

He based that on what he said was the benchmark in Australia, where paywalls have been around longer and encompass a wider range of content.

However, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism in the United States estimates the top 10 per cent of paywalled publications only succeed in persuading 1.3 per cent of readers who hit the stop sign on a paywall to then pay up.

Companies may be prepared to pay several hundred dollar subscriptions, but I doubt there would be many individuals who would.

Whoever takes over Stuff will have an obvious interest in the NZME paywall plans. If it flops Stuff will be even more wary of trying similar – in fact if NZME loses readers by paywalling ‘premium’ content then Stuff would have an opportunity to pick them up. But that will depend on what happens in the attempt to sell off Stuff.


Dumbed down news and shallow opinionating by celebrities

We all know how dumbed down the news has become, how sound bite and click bait and chat show dominated it has become. Pablo at Politico is scathing of it in detail, particularly the shallowness of editorial and opinion writing,  in Peddling drivel.

Over the last decade or so there has been a pernicious two-track trend in NZ media that has not only resulted in the dumbing down of the “news” and public discourse in general, but the substitution of informed and considered debate by shallow opinionating by celebrities and charlatans.

The ‘celebrities’ are often self made media marketing constructs.

In NZ the two big players are Mediaworks and NZME. The former controls TV3, Radiolive and various pop culture radio stations. NZME controls Newstalk ZB, the NZ Herald and various pop culture outlets. It has connections to TV One (at least when it comes to newsreaders), while the Mediaworks TV News platforms appears to episodically share personnel with Prime News. Fairfax Media is also in the mix, holding a portfolio of print and digital vehicles.

Because the NZ media market is small and saturated, the “race to the bottom” logic for getting readers/viewers/listeners in a shrinking print advertising market is akin to the “bums in seats” mentality that pushes academic administrators to demand easing up of marking standards in university courses.

Although in the latter instance this creates a syndrome where unqualified people are admitted, passed and receive undeserved (and hence meaningless) degrees, in the media realm this means that scandal, gossip, “human interest” and other types of salacious, morbid, tragic and otherwise crude and vulgar material (think of terrorism porn and other prurient non-news) have come to dominate the so-called news cycle.

This is accelerated by the presence of social media and 24 hours global news networks, which makes the push for original content that attracts audiences and therefore advertising revenues increasingly focused on sensational headline grabbing rather than in-depth consideration of complex themes.

In the editorial opinion field what we are increasingly subject to is the often inane and mendacious ruminations of celebrities, “lifestyle’ gurus  or media conglomerate “properties” who are used to cross-pollinate across platforms using their status on one to heighten interest in another.

That squeezes out op-ed room for serious people discussing subjects within their fields of expertise. What results is that what should be the most august pages in a newspaper are given over to gossipy nonsense and superficial “analyses” of current events.

It must be what people click on so they keep[ getting bombarded with it.

…The Herald also offers us the received (and sponsored) wisdom of lifestyle bloggers  (“how to have the best sex at 60!”) and buffoons such as the U Auckland business lecturer who poses as a counter-terrorism expert (she of the advice that we search every one’s bags as the enter NZ shopping malls and put concrete bollards in front of mall entrances), gives cutesy pie names to the (often sponsored) by-lines of real scientists (the so-called “Nanogirl,” who now comments on subjects unrelated to her fields of expertise) or allows people with zero practical experience in any given field to pontificate on them as if they did (like the law professor who has transformed himself into a media counter-terrorism and foreign policy “expert”).

That extended sentence oozes personal angst – Pablo is a real media counter-terrorism and foreign policy, who one might presume doesn’t get called on by media much to share his expertise.

The pattern of giving TV newsreaders, radio talking heads and assorted media “personalities”  column inches on the newspaper op ed pages has been around for a while but now appears to be the dominant form of commentary. Let us be clear: the media conglomerates want us to believe that the likes of Hoskings and Hawkesby are public intellectuals rather than opinionated mynahs–or does anyone still believe that there is an original thought between them?

The only other plausible explanation is that the daily belching of these two and other similar personages across media platforms is an elaborate piss-take on the part of media overlords that have utter contempt for the public’s intelligence.

I think that a significant part of it is that intelligence isn’t the target market. People who don’t see things critically. and don’t think much about what is shovelled in front of them, are more susceptible to being sucked in by all the advertising.

The evening TV news and weekend public affairs shows are still run as journalistic enterprises, but the morning and evening public affairs programs are no longer close to being so. “Human interest” (read: tabloid trash) stories predominate over serious subjects.

The Mediaworks platforms are particularly egregious, with the morning program looking like it was pulled out of a Miami Vice discard yard and staffed by two long-time newsreaders joined by a misogynistic barking fool, all wearing pancake makeup that borders on clownish in effect.

Its rival on state television has grown softer over the years, to the point that in its latest incarnation it has given up on having its female lead come from a journalistic background and has her male counterparts engaging as much in banter as they are discussing the news of the day.

The TV3 evening show features a pretty weathergirl and a slow-witted, unfunny comedian as part of their front-line ensemble, with a rotating cast of B-list celebrities, politicians and attention-seekers engaging in yuk yuk fests interspersed with episodic discussion of real news.

Its competitor on TV One has been re-jigged but in recent years has been the domain of–you guessed it–that NZME male radio personality and an amicable NZME female counterpart, something that continues with its new lineup where a male rock radio jock/media prankster has joined a well-known TV mother figure to discuss whatever was in the headlines the previous morning.

What is noteworthy is that these shows showcase the editorial opinions of the “properties” on display, leaving little room for and no right of rebuttal to those who have actual knowledge of the subjects in question.

They are largely talk shows promoting ‘personalities’/properties, using selected news as props.

These media “properties” are paid by the parent companies no matter what they do.

It’s part of their job description. There is nothing on the line but ratings and future employment negotiations.

Non-affiliated people who submit op ed pieces to newspapers are regularly told that there is no pay for their publication (or are made to jump through hoops to secure payment).  That means that the opinion pages  are dominated by salaried media personalities or people who will share their opinions for free. This was not always the case, with payments for opinion pieces being a global industry norm.

But in the current media environment “brand” exposure is said to suffice as reward for getting published, something that pushes attention-seekers to the fore while sidelining thoughtful minds interested in contributing to public debate but uninterested in doing so for nothing. The same applies to television and radio–if one is not a “property,” it is virtually impossible to convince stations to pay for informed commentary.

Should expert analysis of news and current affairs be a paid for commodity? That risks getting the opinions of the lowest bidders.

…people of erudition and depth are increasingly the exception to the rule in the mass media, with the  editorial landscape now populated in its majority by “properties” and other (often self-promoting) personality “opinionators” rather than people who truly know what they are talking about.

Rather than a sounding board for an eclectic lineup of informed opinion, editorial pages are now increasingly used as megaphones to broadcast predictably well-known ideological positions with little intellectual grounding in the subjects being discussed.

I thought that editorials were either the opinion of the editor, or more commonly a composite opinion of the editorial board or team. Has that changed?

With over-enrolled journalism schools churning out dozens of graduates yearly, that leaves little entry room and few career options for serious reporters. The rush is on to be telegenic and glib, so the trend looks set to continue.

Style over substance, with new recruits being a lot cheaper than seasoned old hacks. With radio and print media branching out into video presentations, and with the multi-tasking across platforms of the personality properties, and with the continued fragmentation of media, this is likely to continue.

This is not just an indictment of the mass media and those who run and profit from it. It undermines the ability of an educated population to make informed decisions on matters of public import, or at least have informed input into the critical issues of the day.

Perhaps that is exactly what the media and political elites intend.

I don’t think it’s a plot involving media and politicians, it just suits both their aims to dumb things down.

Most of it revolves around marketing. They are selling sound bites and trivial entertainment in order to buy business or votes.

Modern capitalism doesn’t work well with news telling or informing democratic choices.

Media merger canned by ComCom

The Commerce Commission yesterday confirmed it would not allow the merger of Fairfax and NZME. There was a quick and anguished response from many journalists, with some exceptions – understandable when their jobs and the future of journalism and news in New Zealand is at stake.

NZ Herald’s editorial today unsurprisingly complains about the decision: Blocking this merger is a big mistake

The Commerce Commission’s refusal to permit a merger of New Zealand’s two newspaper-based media companies is a fateful one for the supply of news and information in this country.

The commission’s decision is wrong, we believe, because it appears to believe the status quo is an option. It is not.

The merger proposed between our proprietor, NZME, and Fairfax, owner of other metropolitan dailies, was a considered response to a rapidly changing commercial environment.

But it’s not clear what a combined media company would have done to address the huge challenges facing traditional media, apart from allowing them to cut some staff and make some cost savings. If they did nothing else it would have probably just delayed the inevitable.

Everywhere in the world, companies that have invested in gathering and publishing news and information of public interest have been losing advertising revenue to the internet, with its facility for targeting audiences more precisely and offering auctions online.

If this revenue was going instead to support online journalism it would be less of a worry, though online advertising has yet to produce the earnings required to maintain the news gathering resources that newspaper advertising so long sustained.

The greater problem today is that too much of the advertising is going to the likes of Google and Facebook that do not do any news gathering of their own.

In fact they cannibalise the costly news gathering, features and investigative work of newspapers, broadcasters and websites that create their own content.

But a larger company would  have done nothing to deal with how Google and Facebook are siphoning off a large amount of advertising revenue without spending much on news gathering or journalism.

The merger was proposed for that purpose. Blocking it does not remove the problem or make it any less necessary for the industry to cut costs and find news to survive.

So they admit the merger didn’t really address the problem.

This newspaper will survive in print as well as digital form so long as readers value it, but that cannot be said for all newspapers in New Zealand.

Sadly, fewer newspapers might now survive than a merger might have sustained.

That seems to signal a threat to the smaller regional newspapers owned by NZME.

Reliable news – factual information published under the name of news services that have a reputation to protect.

Without them, democracy will be left with rumour, speculation and political and commercial promotions. That is our fate if the news business fails.

A problem is that rumour, speculation and political and commercial promotions are rife in media already. When the going got tough to much media got trashier and more opinionated.

Blaming the Commerce Commission won’t address that.

Also at the Herald Fran O’Sullivan says Media merger should be buried:

The proposed NZME-Fairfax merger is effectively dead and should now be buried instead of chewing up more time and funds in legal appeals.

Then both NZME and Fairfax Media can concentrate on their own quite divergent media strategies and examine other partnership options to reach the scale that is necessary to successfully play in the big pond with Facebook and Google.

NZME is also in a stronger position than in was when the merger application was announced a year ago. It has disengaged from its former Australian parent company, listed on the stock exchange in both countries and posted credible financial results.

This does not shield the company from the challenges posed by Facebook and Google. But it does place it in a stronger position for the next marriage attempt.

Why look for another marriage? A lot more radical thinking is required, propping up a dead media model won’t work.

Fairfax-NZME merger ruling today

The Commerce Commission will be announcing it’s decision this morning on whether Fairfax and NZME will be allowed to merge.

If allowed this would combine most of the country’s newspapers into one company, as well as the Stuff and NZ herald websites.

Stuff: Regulator set to rule on Fairfax, NZME merger

Publishers Fairfax New Zealand and NZME will find out on Wednesday whether the Commerce Commission will let them join forces.

If the merger is allowed, what would the combined company own?

The Stuff and NZ Herald websites, almost all of the country’s major newspapers with the exception of The Otago Daily Times, a raft of community newspapers and magazines, and about half the country’s commercial radio stations, including Newstalk ZB, The Hits and ZM.

It would also own daily-deals site GrabOne, video entertainment site WatchMe and majority stakes in fast-growing community site Neighbourly and internet provider Stuff Fibre.

The traditional media business model has been under severe pressure for years due to the competition introduced by widespread Internet use and dramatically diminished advertising revenues. Online advertising is dominated by Google and Facebook.

And printed newspapers are struggling to survive.

It’s easier to do crosswords online now as well as get a wide variety of news.

Whatever the decision today NZME and Fairfax face challenging futures.

Regardless of the decision this may not be the end of it.

If the ruling is ‘yes’, could it be appealed?

All the interested parties that attended a Commerce Commission conference in December would have the right to appeal.

They include Television New Zealand, Three-owner MediaWorks, and Allied Press, which owns The Otago Daily Times.

However, the costs and risks involved mean an appeal might not be a given.

And if the ruling is ‘no?

Fairfax NZ and NZME could appeal and may already have identified possible grounds.

Those grounds centre on whether it can reject an application solely because of concerns that it can’t put a value on, like media diversity.

But the appeals process on a point of legal principle could go on for years. Both companies told the commission in March that when it came to the merger “later will be too late”.

Lawyers may fiddle while newspapers burn.

Name the merged media company

It was confirmed today that talks are under way of a possible merger between Fairfax and NZME, two of New Zealand’s largest media companies and in control of many of the country’s newspapers.

I have concerns about this if it goes ahead. Monopoly media is not good for news, analysis or democracy.

And there’s talk that the pay wall stand off between the two will disappear so news will be by subscription. That’s the choice of companies but it will reduce access to a major chunk of news.

But on the lighter side:

Best Fairfax [Stuff] and NZME media merger names via @caffeine_addict

  • FaxMe
  • F-Me
  • StuffMe

Some more:

  • Heruff
  • Stuffald

Any more?

UPDATE: Emmerson with a similar idea, put more graphically:

The one that didn’t pass the taste test – now ok’d by Ed for use here

Announcer arses

Why do some radio stations, and to a lesser extent TV channels, think that it’s a good thing to have announcers acting like arses?

NZ Herald reports that two announcers (Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells) have been ‘suitably reprimanded’ and will be off air today, but then said “they are flying to Las Vegas for a work-related project”. That doesn’t sound like much of a reprimand. It sounds more like ‘get stuffed, we’ll act like arses if we want to’.

Radio Hauraki hosts reprimanded for on-air stunt

Radio Hauraki hosts Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells have been reprimanded for an on-air stunt when they aired an interview with the mother of England cricketer Ben Stokes despite assuring her it was off air.

Deborah Stokes called Radio Hauraki to complain about comments made about Ben, who was hit for four consecutive sixes by West Indies batsman Carlos Brathwaite in the final over of the World T20 cricket final on Monday morning.

Stokes, who was born in New Zealand, became the brunt of some jibes because of comments he made ahead of the final in which he said he enjoyed “the big moments in games”.

Mrs Stokes asked to speak to someone off air at Radio Hauraki and, after being assured by Heath she was, said she was “brassed off” about the attacks on him.

NZME group progamme director Mike McClung said Heath and Wells had been rebuked.

“Matt and Jeremy are famous for identifying where the line is and then ignoring it, however putting Ben’s mum to air without her knowledge, albeit defending her son, was obviously well over that line,” McClung said in a statement.

“They’ve been suitably reprimanded, and are off-air tomorrow.”

Heath and Wells are flying to Las Vegas tomorrow for a work-related project.

That comes across as a very poor ‘rebuke’. The Herald and Radio Hauraki are both owned by NZME.

Media rival Stuff also reports on this, saying that Stokes has not received any apology.

Radio hosts Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath in trouble over call from Ben Stokes’ mum.

Deborah Stokes, the mother of English cricketer Ben Stokes, said she she has received no apology after controversial radio hosts Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath broadcast a conversation with her after telling her she was off air.

While Radio Hauraki said the pair had been “suitably reprimanded, and are off-air tomorrow,” sources close to the pair said they were never due to be on air on Thursday as they were headed to Las Vegas on a promotional jaunt. Deborah Stokes said she was unaware if Wells or Heath had been punished because no-one had contacted her.

On Wednesday evening Wells and Heath posted a photo on Hauraki Breakfast Facebook page of them at the airport with champagne and a message, “Feeling really remorseful for what we done. On route to Vegas for that important business trip.” report says Heath twice told Deborah Stokes she was off air – but continued the conversation despite discovering she was the mother of the English allrounder.

Stokes said on Wednesday night no-one from NZME had spoken her to say they were sorry for the prank.

“The first I knew about it (Wells and Heath not working on Thursday morning) was when a friend said it (the story) was online,” Stokes said. “It might have been nice to get one (an apology).”

Announcers bagging sports people seemingly for fun and for ratings looks bad enough.

But lying to someone ringing up with what sounded like reasonable concerns, saying they were not on air when they were speaking live, is a particularly arsy thing to do, and Radio Hauraki and NZME seem to be taking the piss with their report of a Clayton’s reprimand and no apology.

As well as being prats on Radio Hauraki  Heath and Wells are also contracted by NZ Cricket “on a season by season basis as part of radio’s Alternative Commentary Collective”.

I’ve never listened to the alternative commentary, and certainly have no interestbut with behaviour like this I think NZ Cricket should carefully consider what sort of arses they support.

The Herald also published this:


It’s not a surprise to see heath and Wells still acting like arses, but it’s a very bad look for the Herald to be acting like arses on this as well.

I think the Herald owes the stokes an apology as well – a proper one.

Media changes

There’s been a number of media changes lately, indicating companies are looking at ways of reducing costs and trying to get sufficient revenue to survive in the modern media world that has been turned upside down by the Internet..

The Spinoff has been promoting themselves madly on Twitter. There are some familiar names amongst them.

The Spinoff is a New Zealand website covering television, sports, books and more. Founded in 2014 as a television site, in September 2015 it relaunched with a broader remit, but the same sensibility.

We also have a business-focused division, The Spinoff Custom, which creates content for brands, with the ability to generate high quality text, video or audio in a variety of formats. Our products include 1972 magazine, created for Barkers, and premium travel writing for Flight Centre. are major sponsors of the television content on this site, and we are incredibly grateful to them. Part of their sponsorship involves us covering their shows – but only those we genuinely love. They understand for a site like this to work we need to be able to cover the entire TV universe, too. Which we do – and always with complete editorial independence. That’s a big part of how we can bring The Spinoff to you for free, while still paying our writers.

Our sports coverage is sponsored by PGA Tour Live and Premier League Pass. So we’ll pay extra attention to golf and the EPL, while also discussing the wider sporting landscape. Books are brought to you by Unity Books. Without any of these sponsors we simply wouldn’t exist, so please support them whenever you can.


  • Editor & Publisher: Duncan Greive.
  • Commercial Director: Fraser McGregor
  • Television Editor: Alex Casey
  • Sports Editor: Scotty Stevenson
  • Books Editor: Steve Braunias
  • Politics Editor: Toby Manhire
  • The Spinoff Custom Editor: Catherine McGregor
  • Staff Producer: José Barbosa
  • Staff Writer: Calum Henderson
  • Staff Feature Writer: Don Rowe

MediaWorks with Rachel Glucina launched Scout, an entertainment/celebrity news/gossip website on Monday.

The most entertaining thing about the launch was seeing non-Mediaworks journalists rubbishing it, which gave Scout some helpful promotion.

Midweek Scouts New Zealand announced that they were completely unassociated.

And on Friday Scout actually broke some news – about media competitors NZME:

Redundancies expected at NZ Herald

A huge shake-up is under way at the New Zealand Herald with several high-profile names facing redundancy, SCOUT has learned.

On Wednesday, staff at NZME – owners of the Herald – were invited to attend a company presentation announcing expansion plans to integrate its print, digital and radio news teams in a 24/7 operation. Lunch was served and staff were feeling positive. 

The next day, however, the restructure axe fell and several consultation meetings were held in offices off the Herald newsroom floor with employees affected by the redundancy news.

SCOUT has been told high-profile columnists John Drinnan, Brian Rudman and Michele Hewitson are facing redundancy.

NBR has expanded on this:

It’s now understood that other senior staff at the NZ Herald being ‘consulted’ about the proposed plans to facilitate the creation of NZME’s “world-class integrated newsroom” (ie, more than likely being made redundant) also include Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon, feature writer Alan Perrot and columnist John Roughan.

One NZ Herald staff member says, “It’s a bloodbath.” Another tells NBR that 30% of editorial staff are getting the chop. The number is unconfirmed, but would still mean editorial is getting off more lightly than sales where sources suggest that up to 40% of staff could receive their marching orders.

This looks like a major culling of staff and restructuring of a mutli-faceted media company.

So print, broadcast and online media are going through major changes.

But no sign of any action from Freed since a minor sign of something insignificant from them a month ago.