Friday’s Pro email:Why two mega-mergers can’t save public interest journalism
In the political economy, Winston Peters will back an NZME proposal to buy Stuff with a 'Kiwishare' guarantee the merged news company will keep regional news and separate websites for at least two years.
Cabinet will consider the plan next Monday, along with another hail Mary pass aimed at boosting public interest journalism and saving TVNZ from the ravages of Google and Facebook: a combination of Radio NZ and TVNZ.
Sadly, in my view, both attempts to 'save journalism' will prove costly distractions from the two main tasks: increasing public subsidies for the public good of public interest journalism and re-engineering commercial news businesses away from advertising and towards reader revenues from subscriptions and donations.
NZME and Stuff have already wasted the best part of three years trying to merge to solve their problems. Rightly, the Commerce Commission and the courts ruled this would reduce media plurality and create a monopoly. It would do so again without a Fonterra-style change in the law, which would itself waste the best part of a couple of years.
Here's two charts that tell the story of why a couple of mergers won't solve the problem.
The first from New Zealand advertising standards authority data shows how $500 million of newspaper advertising (the green line) shifted to TradeMe, Google and Facebook (the light blue