The art of turning good news into a train wreck

This is an on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-hand commentary.

On the one hand, legislation forcing ‘big tech’ to pay for the news they appropriate from New Zealand media is welcome. On the other hand, fence-sitting for the past two years robbed the Ardern Government of an opportunity to give the move true international impact.

The government has had a soft approach to the social media platforms and search engines (save for the Christchurch Call on harmful content) because it relies heavily on them for direct contact with the electorate. The Prime Minister has 1.9 million Facebook followers and 1.7 million on Instagram. She may wish to suggest her 800,000 Twitter followers follow her elsewhere as Elon Musk turns it into a swamp.

The government could – and should – have collaborated with its Australian counterpart at the beginning of last year to pass identical legislation on both sides of the Tasman forcing ‘big tech’ to negotiate deals or face compulsory arbitration. Such a united front would have sent a stronger message to Meta, Alphabet et al than this country could do alone. It would also reinforce a determination to take an international approach to regulating those who believe they are laws unto themselves. Continue reading “The art of turning good news into a train wreck”

Hard call (but the right call) on hate speech

There has been understandable anger and frustration at the announcement that harm provisions in the Human Rights Act will only be extended to religious communities. However, New Zealand will be a better place if the aggrieved can be a little more patient.

Yes, the LGBT+ community, women, the disabled and other ‘targets’ have already waited a long time for the protection that is their fundamental right. I understand why they have launched a petition. Their hopes of legislative change had been boosted by recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Christchurch Mosque Attacks related to social cohesion, and by the Department of Internal Affairs’ Content Regulatory Review.

Those hopes were dimmed by Justice Minister Kiri Allen’s announcement, but not dashed. She also announced that the Law Commission has been asked to undertake “an independent and thorough first principles review of legal responses to hate-motivated offending, and of speech that expresses hostility towards, or contempt of, people who share a common characteristic” (the italics are mine).

One might question why the Law Commission is to do another review when the Department of Internal Affairs review is already canvassing overseas regulation of harmful material. I think that, while there will be overlap, the Law Commission will concentrate on the role of the legal system in achieving a balance of rights: Toleration versus free speech. Continue reading “Hard call (but the right call) on hate speech”

NZME reaches a milestone some thought impossible

NZME has reached a milestone: Its digital publishing business is now profitable on a stand-alone basis. That means it can cover its newsroom and editorial costs without relying on its print operations.

The publisher and broadcaster highlighted the landmark in an investor presentation last week that was a commendably wide and deep appraisal of the group’s current and future prospects. At the same time, it gave some useful insights into the country’s overall news media landscape.

It was common knowledge that NZME’s digital strategy was tracking in the right direction but there were still a few surprises in the two-hour session that included a 150-slide PowerPoint presentation. Continue reading “NZME reaches a milestone some thought impossible”

Back to the future to train the next generation of journalists

There was a back-to-the-future aura around a full page advertisement in the Otago Daily Times last week. “Want to be a journalist?” it asked. “We’ll help you get there!”

The advertisement stated the ODT’s owner, Allied Press, was looking for five cadets “who have what it takes to be journalists in their South Island home town in 2023”.

It signalled its return to the sort of in-house cadet scheme that was standard practice in New Zealand when I started my career in journalism in 1965. Continue reading “Back to the future to train the next generation of journalists”