A new suit cut from old cloth

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The public media entity Establishment Board announced last week by broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi is well placed to successfully amalgamate Television New Zealand and RNZ. Sadly, that is all it will do.

The board has a full complement of experienced broadcasters, broadcasting executives, and board members from both existing organisations. It will be chaired by former New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin, who ably led the body that examined a business case for the new entity.

Faafoi says their job will be to “oversee the detailed design of the new entity and the change required to create it”. He also states that the new entity would be built on “the best of Television NZ and Radio NZ” but would be future-focused to meet the challenges of technology changes and global competition.

While they are beavering away, the government will be introducing the legislation that will govern the future organisation. I have no doubt that a draft already exists, given the timetable to have the Bill introduced by mid-year and through all its readings before the end of the year.

This suggests that much of the form of the new organisation will be pre-determined and the Establishment Board will be dealing with internal structures and functional issues. It will be watched over by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage which is charged with providing assistance, and with reporting independently to the minister.

We are witnessing a mechanical process – the merging of two Crown agencies, no more than that. The only unique aspect is an imperative that the public service broadcasting mandate of RNZ is not lost in the re-organisation. The Establishment Board has all the necessary credentials to successfully see through that process.

There is no real aspiration in the announcement and, indeed, in anything we have seen recently on the proposal. There is no sense that the new entity will usher in paradigm change and realise untapped opportunities. Continue reading “A new suit cut from old cloth”

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”

New snap and crackle in breakfast radio

Santa has already sent my Christmas present, and I confess to taking a sneak peep. I can’t wait to fully unwrap the 2022 Breakfast Battle Royal.

Before we have vacuumed the sand out of the car and packed away the folding chairs, New Zealand broadcasters will be hard at work finessing the line-ups they offer in the most hotly contested and crowded part of the market.

It is the space where not only do the two broadcast television networks fight each other for audience but must also compete with radio stations that are determined to hook morning listeners before they start their commute to work. And, somewhere in that mix, newspaper publishers and news sites also are vying for eyeballs. Continue reading “New snap and crackle in breakfast radio”