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Mediageddon not the end of the world

It’s been a bugger of a week for New Zealand media.

On Tuesday, state-owned commercial broadcaster TVNZ confirmed that its ‘Midday’ and ‘Tonight’ news bulletins are to be axed, with their final on-air dates scheduled for mid-May.

It was also announced that consumer advocacy show ‘Fair Go’ – which had just marked its forty-seventh anniversary – will no longer be televised, although its brand will live on, thanks to four new roles with a focus on long-form consumer and current affairs content for digital platforms being created.

On Wednesday, TVNZ also confirmed that ‘Sunday’, its long-running, award-winning current affairs show is also being canned, while the staff that produce its online, youth-focused ‘Re: News’ will be cut by 40 per cent [from 10 to six].

This, however, was somewhat overshadowed by Warner Bros Discovery announcing that it will be going ahead with the closure of Newshub, the division that produces all of Three’s news products, including its six o’clock news bulletin and news website.

None of which should be surprising to anyone who regularly reads this column, which noted over a month ago that – despite the legal requirement to consult affected staff – these decisions were effectively foregone conclusions when the respective companies announced they were possibilities [show me a company that goes public with such a scenario without being sure there aren’t viable alternatives and I’ll show you an outfit that’s run a great deal more poorly than these two].

There’s been a predictable wave of weeping and gnashing of teeth about this not especially new ‘news’. To be sure, this is a terrible turn of events for those who are losing their jobs – some of whom this writer knows, likes, and admires – but the idea that these corporate decisions in any way represent a threat to democracy is risible [not to mention an embarrassing example of some journalists’ tendency to self-aggrandising dramatics].

Also ridiculous is the idea that Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee can pull a rabbit from her hat and somehow ‘save NZ media’ – her observation that “I’m not a magician” is possibly the truest thing a politician has ever said.

Although she is reportedly “working towards a solution”, what that might realistically entail remains a mystery given, as she rightly points out, there’s no easy fix for the range of challenges facing the media industry, which include fragmenting audiences and plummeting advertising revenue.

It’s especially galling to observe Labour leader Chris Hipkins claiming that Lee has had “more than enough time” to come up with solutions – apparently, he’s forgotten who was in government for the past six years, because these issues didn’t happen overnight, and there’s exactly zero evidence to suggest that Labour’s big idea while in power [merging TVNZ and RNZ] would’ve helped one iota. Instead, it could well have exacerbated the situation.

Indeed, Labour muffed what was probably the last chance to meaningfully reform NZ’s broadcast environment 20 years ago when it came up with its misbegotten TVNZ Charter, which required TVNZ to start behaving more like a public, non-profit broadcaster while still being commercially successful enough to pay the government an annual dividend. Neither Arthur nor Martha, this contradictory remit was a predictable disaster that only took its ignoramus architects by surprise.

In any case, one of the major issues facing media – in NZ and abroad – is something that only media can address: the public’s plummeting trust in what they produce. By all means, tune into tomorrow’s editorial for some reckons on that front.

1 COMMENT

  1. Love how labour and greens 🙄 made the media so one sided reporting just like socialism. Know we have a democracy government back and trying to make the media run like a business not a nanny state bleeding the taxpayers. We are now being told all this rubbish again 🙄 by the past government socialism attitude and media 🙄?. sorry doesn’t wash 😐 😬.

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