Media

Magazines seek Govt help with cheap post

MediaRoom: Will magazines get some relief from the state like their broadcasting cousins? And what can the Budget do for private media companies?

Magazine publishers, who believe they are in the 'worst-affected' segment of the media industry, want the Government to cut the price of postal bills for mail-outs to subscribers.

Citing the Government's order to one State Owned Enterprise, Kordia, to cut its transmission charges to broadcasters, saving them $21m, the magazines have asked for a similar order to another SOE, NZ Post, to halve its charges.

Magazines are thought to spend about $22m a year on posting copies around the country, so the possible saving for the 200 or so periodicals could be a combined $10 million. The industry faces a further increase in NZ Post charges from July 1.

The Magazine Publishers Association has put the postal discounts proposal to Communications Minister Kris Faafoi and hopes to receive good news in the Budget, which is expected to contain a relief package for struggling news media companies.

MPA executive director Sally Duggan said magazines had been the media hardest-hit by the pandemic and economic crisis.

"Magazines have been the worst-affected media, with the double-whammy of being declared 'non-essential', then the Bauer closure which has cast a pall over the whole industry and public and advertiser perceptions."

Magazines and many community papers were prevented from being published during the four weeks of Level 4. Early in that period, the German publisher Bauer closed all its New Zealand magazine titles, including The Listener, NZ Woman's Weekly, North & South and Fashion Quarterly, costing about 300 jobs.

Like all media, magazines have been hit by businesses cutting or reducing advertising, revenues which pay for staff costs, printing and distribution.

Duggan said the proposed cut to postal charges would be a "clean and proportional help" direct to publishers big and small. 

In a letter to Faafoi, the MPA said: "The magazine industry has faced crippling increases in NZ Post charges over recent years. A further increase, of between 3.1 and 10 percent comes into effect on July 1: just as our members are emerging from the Level 4 publishing ban and trying to re-establish themselves financially in a tough advertising environment.

"A 50 percent subsidy of postal charges would be a lifeline for our struggling industry – and would ensure Kiwis continue to enjoy the benefits of vibrant, locally produced magazines as part of a sustainable media ecosystem in the future. It would also allow community newspapers to use this 'safe' network for delivery."

Duggan said magazines often served targeted interest groups, such as franchisees or pony clubs and most publishers were scraping through. But like all media they needed help and believed a cut to postal charges would be the most effective assistance right now.

Meanwhile the Bauer magazines sales process, being run by consultancy EY, has extended its negotiations deadline until the end of May. 

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The Budget's wider media support package is unlikely to see the Government offer cash to struggling private companies, such as NZME, Nine Entertainment, the owner of Stuff, or Oaktree Capital, owner of MediaWorks.

Instead, the focus is expected to be on public funding directly for journalism jobs or types of journalism - possibly seeing an entity like NZ on Air fund roles for journalists working in media firms big and small.

NZ on Air already funds investigative journalism on digital sites such as Newsroom and Stuff, and video or podcast productions on other sites. The new money could extend that to day-to-day news reporting functions to ensure coverage of the regions, and subjects such as public health, education, social issues, the environment, Māori and Pasifika issues, infrastructure or economic development.

Politically, it would be important any funding doesn't go into a black hole of a failing private (and foreign-owned) company.

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