Media

Govt explores case for new public broadcaster

The Government will explore the case for a new public broadcaster cobbled together from the existing two, Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, Marc Daalder reports

The Government will complete a business case examining the possibility of creating "a new public media entity as an independent multiple-platform, multi-media operation," Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi has announced.

Final decisions about Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand won't be made until the case has been reviewed by Cabinet. Faafoi said he expected to receive the report, which will be written by consultancy firm PwC, around the middle of 2020.

The announcement comes as Three, the country's private, free-to-air broadcaster, has begged for the Government to rein in TVNZ. TVNZ competes commercially with Three but has not had to pay dividends this year. MediaWorks has put Three up for sale but intends to keep hold of its profitable radio division.

There are also worries that, if it cannot find a buyer, MediaWorks will simply shut down Three.

NZME and Stuff, which between them own the vast majority of the country's newspapers and the other half of New Zealand's for-profit radio stations, have also been encouraged to merge by New Zealand First. The first attempted "StuffMe" merger was canned by the Commerce Commission over concerns about media diversity.

Faafoi referenced the fraught media environment in his announcement on Friday.

"It’s well known that New Zealand’s media sector, both public and private, is facing unprecedented challenges with competition from the likes of Google and Facebook, declining revenue shares, and changes in when and how audiences access their information and entertainment," he said.

"The Government must ensure New Zealanders have a strong independent public media service for decades to come, which means ensuring public media assets are fit for the future and able to thrive amid the changing media landscape."

Faafoi said that NZ On Air, which funnels some Government money to commercial and non-commercial media outlets alike, will continue to operate. It was not immediately clear whether Faafoi planned to boost funding to NZ on Air. New Zealand has the second-lowest per capita public subsidy for public broadcasters in the world, at about $20 per person. Only the United States, which funds public broadcasters to the tune of $3.50 per person, is lower.

Newsroom will update this article as more information becomes available.

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