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”

Heavy work ahead on Public Media Bill

Today the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill will be introduced to Parliament. It will have a long journey before it is fit for purpose.

The Bill gives effect to the Government’s plan to replace TVNZ and RNZ with a new entity designed for the digital age, but the legislation as it stands does little more than cement the two public broadcasters together.

On first reading (mine, not Parliament’s), it looks like a legislative instrument to give effect to the merger, but its stated intent and functions are much wider. This is supposed to be the legal foundation upon which a new age of public media is to be built.

The general policy statement accompanying the Bill says: “This Bill seeks to strengthen the delivery of public media services by establishing a new public media entity.” It may achieve the latter, but it falls far short of guaranteeing its objective. Continue reading “Heavy work ahead on Public Media Bill”

An open letter to the incoming media minister

Dear Minister,

Congratulations on assuming the Broadcasting and Media role.

The announcement of your new portfolio put me in mind of Hercules as King Eurystheus told him there were a dozen small jobs he would like done.

Like Hercules, you will find that the tasks ahead are challenging. Some will seem insurmountable. Yet, the underlying message of that particular piece of Greek mythology is that nothing is impossible.

I would hesitate to suggest that success will lead to immortality, but you will certainly make an enduring name for yourself if you are able to ensure that New Zealand’s media ecosystem is fit for purpose.

In order for that to happen you must undertake, if I may be so bold, the Twelve Labours of Willie Jackson. Continue reading “An open letter to the incoming media minister”