Is this the solution to NZ’s media crisis?

June 27, 2024
2 mins read

NZ media is in a state of catastrophic upheaval and could be in its death throes. PAT PILCHER wonders if Canada has found a way to keep it alive.

It’s no huge secret that New Zealand’s media is in rough shape. I’ve covered the perilous state of our media for some time. Unsurprisingly, its largest challenges are financial, driven by the erosion of traditional media revenue sources by online services such as Netflix and Spotify. Adding even more fuel to the NZ journalism fire is a recession, a soft advertising market, and the Coalition’s axing of the Public Interest Journalism Fund.

While industry insiders have long been aware of the challenges facing NZ media, it wasn’t until TV3’s Newshub was axed that the sheer extent of the problems facing NZ media became a widely known issue. With TVNZ also announcing a $28m loss and big job cuts, our media’s shambolic (and fragile state) was thrown into sharp relief. On top of that, just a handful of media outlets can claim local ownership, exposing NZ media to the changeable whims of multinational global investment priorities.

Some pundits make light of NZ media’s disintegration, but a healthy functioning democracy needs a healthy Fourth Estate to function properly. The reduced number of media outlets and their lack of diversity means fewer eyes on those in power and less insight/analysis. The net result of this is a public that is largely ignorant of policies that could have a huge impact on their lives.

Unsurprisingly, there has also been a ramping up of online abuse of journalists, which raises the spectre of “mob censorship” and affects press freedoms. With most media outlets heavily reliant on online advertising, cranking out large amounts of clickbait content designed to resonate becomes vital. That it so often happens at the expense of stories with a strong public good component is extremely concerning. The upshot of this is that media outlets, desperate for all the advertising dollars they can earn, often do not ask hard questions or provide in-depth analysis because populist clickbait pieces are simply more profitable.

As you’d expect, given the above, the number of journalists in New Zealand has more than halved. This shows not only a massive reduction in the journalism workforce but also just how unattractive journalism in New Zealand has become as a career choice.

With the newsrooms of many major media outlets sputtering and a hollowing out of the profession in New Zealand, the big question has to be, “What can be done to fix this?”. While this is the stuff of endless robust debates, a surprising answer might come from Canada. Recently, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission began to charge a fee for all streaming companies not affiliated with a Canadian broadcaster earning at least CA$25 million in revenues from Canadian broadcasting. These streaming companies are now required to put 5 per cent of their revenues towards Canadian media and content.

While the US has kicked up a stink, saying that the fee disproportionately affects US companies, the move is expected to generate a solid flow of funds towards struggling Canadian media. While critics have said that the extra costs from streaming companies will be passed onto consumers and that the law effectively forces successful companies to prop up less successful companies, the move is likely to see the Fourth Estate remain healthy despite in-roads from US-owned media companies.

Could this approach work in New Zealand? While the same criticisms are likely to apply here, a steady funding source for NZ’s media outlets could help preserve a New Zealand voice currently at risk of becoming endangered.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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