Churchillian view of public media’s future

 The New Public Media Entity has turned into a Churchillian quotation, and it is not “their finest hour”.

Following last Thursday’s Budget, the project to replace Television New Zealand and RNZ has become “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

The Budget told us the project would receive $327 million of Government funding over three years in roughly equal annual instalments. The total appropriation for the “Strong Public Media” project over the next four years is $370 million, meaning $43 million will be used to establish the new entity and for the Ministry for Culture & Heritage to “monitor’ it.

That is a sizeable chunk of money, but the Government does expect some pay-back from the commercial operations of what is now Television New Zealand. It estimates a dividend of $306 million over six years.

And that is where the detail ends. Continue reading “Churchillian view of public media’s future”

Fundamental flaws in public media plans call for big fixes

The proposal for a new entity to replace Television New Zealand and RNZ has two fundamental flaws that must be fixed if it is to gain the public’s trust.

The first flaw is the assumption that an existing legal structure – the Autonomous Crown Entity – is an appropriate form of governance. The second is that it has provided inadequate protection from political interference. The two issues are related.

Let me say at the outset that I support the restructuring of public service media. It is an idea whose time has come. It is an opportunity to create, almost from the ground up, a public organisation designed to live up to a digital incarnation of BBC-founder Lord Reith’s dictum that public media should inform, educate and entertain (now, however, in a creative and clever mix).

My concern lies in the need for this new entity to demonstrate from the outset that it will be free-standing and free from influence. By treating its formation little differently from a stock-standard Autonomous Crown Entity (ACE) into which existing organisations are dropped, the government is sending the wrong signals. From Day One (i.e., right now) it needs to be treated very much as a special case. Continue reading “Fundamental flaws in public media plans call for big fixes”

A four-letter word spells trouble for media

New hate speech laws are heading our way and we may have grounds to dislike them. In fact, we might hate them.

Communication Minister Kris Faafoi has provided Cabinet with an indication of what we can expect in legislation that was flagged following the Christchurch mosque attacks. We will see legislation that seeks to change the incitement provisions of the Human Rights Act and make incitement a criminal offence under the Crimes Act.

The thinking in Faafoi’s 11-page Cabinet paper parallels some of the thinking in proposed British legislation that is considerably more wide ranging. The UK Bill attempts to regulate harmful digital communications in way that far outstrips our own laws in that area by imposing on the likes of Facebook and Twitter a ‘duty of care’. Continue reading “A four-letter word spells trouble for media”

Elusive ‘second package’ of media assistance

Finance Minister Grant Robertson delivered a budget with big numbers this afternoon but, for Covid-affected media organisations seeking assistance, it was decidedly small on detail about what would be spend to help them and where.

Last month, when Communications Minister Kris Faafoi announced a $50 million media assistance package overwhelmingly aimed at broadcasters, the prospect of a second package in the budget was held out to the industry.

“I want to be very clear,” he said, “that this first phase of support alone will not be sufficient to see the sector through a prolonged period of restrictions and reduced advertising.  A second package of support is being developed and will be submitted for the COVID-19 budget discussions in May.”

It may, indeed, have been submitted but there was no indication today what that ‘second package of support’ might be. This was all the finance minister said in his Budget speech on the topic: “Media industry assistance is being developed over coming months”. And, as I write this, I am still waiting for any amplification from Kris Faafoi. Continue reading “Elusive ‘second package’ of media assistance”