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Tough times for journalism

The media is entering a tough period. There’s the Government’s ongoing effort to merge RNZ and TVNZ, and then there are the Stuff reporters planning to strike.

RNZ reported that the Government was paying private consultants working on the public media mega-merger as much as $9000 a week. The average payout to consultants was about $6000 a week.

Meanwhile, journalists were being paid between an average of $1700 at Radio New Zealand [RNZ], and $2100 at TVNZ a week — amounts that were inflated by a few high earners. 

To continue the shaky ground of the media world, NZ Herald reported earlier this week that Stuff reporters were to take strike action after rejecting a pay offer from the company. 

“Union members overwhelmingly voted for industrial action in a secret ballot which concluded today [Monday].”

It said the company appeared to be hiring for many management and executive roles but was refusing to give journalists a cost of living increase.

Back at the RNZ-TVNZ merger, an RNZ report said an OIA response from the Culture and Heritage Ministry shows the most costly weekly contract for a programme director was $393,000 over 44 weeks, or $8900 a week.

It said a change management leader is on an $8000-a-week contract.

“Most contracts are worth $5000 to $6000 a week, with an administrator the cellar-dweller on just $2900.”

The turbulence in the media world points to two problems, over-saturation of upper management and the desperate need to rebrand to keep up with what the public wants from the media. 

First, as alluded to in both stories, is a large number of higher-paid executive roles when compared to reporters.

Reporters reportedly are not highly paid, but they hold the publications together. If you don’t have reporters, you don’t have news. 

Upper management, of course, has a role to play in any company, but it seems like there is a “too many chiefs” situation. 

Stuff’s chief content officer Joanna Norris pointed out in the Herald article that the company was facing a 30 per cent increase in the price of newsprint – something all print publications were grappling with.

Increased operational costs, to the perceived view of union members, should not exempt the company from fair pay.

A key difference between Stuff’s industrial action and the RNZ-TVNZ merger is their interactions with the Government.

RNZ and TVNZ are state-owned, meaning the funding for the entities relies less on advertising. 

The merged entity will be established legally in March 2023 and get its first government funding next July of $109m per year for three years.

With the addition of advertising income, total revenue is expected to be about $400m a year.

The second issue, that companies need to rebrand to keep up with what the public wants from the media, is arguably harder to navigate.

What consumers demand from journalism should be a better view of the world around them, but much of it leans into entertainment.

Journalism needs to push into new formats and platforms to stay relevant, which can be difficult for an industry that has held the same standards for decades.

 

 

 

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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