Paris, 2022-03-10 08:35:46. New Zealand integrates public television and radio as audiences change
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Noting the rapid changes taking place in how people consume news and entertainment, the New Zealand government said Thursday it will combine public television and radio broadcasters into one new organization that it hopes will be in a better position to reach younger audiences.
The merger marks a major change in the country’s media landscape, and is likely to affect around 1,000 employees across TVNZ and RNZ. The two broadcasters have been dominant players for decades, often setting the news agenda and providing cross-cultural moments.
But they also played different roles, with TVNZ selling advertisements and following a business model, while RNZ operated without advertisements and worked in public service roles, particularly in crises such as earthquakes.
The new organization is likely to focus increasingly on growth areas such as video-on-demand, online news, and podcasts. It will operate under a legal charter obligating it to provide trustworthy news as an essential service.
In the announcement, Broadcasting and Media Minister Chris Favoy gave some details of how the merger would work, saying those decisions would be left to a new board of directors that will be formed next month before the merger is completed in July next year.
Favoy said inclusion is vital to ensuring that people continue to have access to reliable, trusted information and local content. He said the merger is not about job cuts, and the new entity’s budget will be announced later.
The changes have been in the works for more than two years but have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. If anything, Favoi said, the challenges facing traditional media have only intensified during that time.
“When the government started looking into this issue, television and radio ranked first and second for the largest daily audience in New Zealand,” Favoy said. “And now, they are 2 and 4.”
The highest ranking, he said, went to video-on-demand watched via services like YouTube, while the third came through subscription streaming services like Netflix.
TVNZ has about 690 employees and last year it made a small profit. RNZ employs more than 300 employees and is paid annually by the government of approximately NZ$50 million (US$34 million).
TVNZ cautiously welcomed the changes.
“Creating a public media entity for the digital age is an exciting opportunity and we look forward to participating in this process and providing our expertise,” said Simon Bauer, the new CEO of the broadcaster.
But many private media organizations were nervous.
Duncan Grieve, media commentator and founder of online news and entertainment site The Spinoff, said the priorities for any big new media organization would be to find talented staff and increase audience participation, both of which could hurt private media operators.
“It is an absolute counter to the media in the private sector, especially those in the digital space,” he said.
Gref said the government was right to identify some of the problems facing RNZ and TVNZ, but he said there were also potential hurdles in its plan.
He said the new organization may be subject to budget cuts by future governments. He said audiences were splitting away from the major media organizations, with some embracing individual newsletter writers or podcast creators like Joe Rogan.
Opposition lawmaker Melissa Lee said the merger was pointless and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“New Zealand needs more high-quality voices in our media sector, not less,” she said.
The new organization is expected to give a voice to marginalized groups and indigenous Maori. RNZ’s ad-free offerings will be required to stay that way.
Discovery Channel Three, TVNZ’s main competitor, said what it knows about the merger so far looks good.
“Making it a not-for-profit is absolutely the right choice, as it allows the new consolidated entity to focus on the common good rather than the commercial best,” said Glen Kane, General Manager of Discovery New Zealand.
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