The Government will help out our big, overseas-owned media, but is that a solution to the problem? PAT PILCHER thinks not.
On Thursday the Government announced financial aid packages for NZ media. Helping New Zealand’s struggling media sounds great, but the help on offer might not fix much at all.
Broadcasting Minister, Kris Faafoi, confirmed NZ’s media would get help up to NZ$50 million. This is to help them get through a slump in advertising from the coronavirus lockdown.
Faafoi confirmed that help is going to get delivered in two-stages. He unveiled the first tranche of government support.
Given their sheer scale, foreign-owned media companies, NZME and Stuff look set to get a sizeable piece of the package (NZ$11.1m). This is to take the form of the government buying advertising and subscriptions.
Transmission fees charged by Kordia for TV and FM radio will get cancelled for six months. These measures, worth an estimated NZ$21m, will benefit TVNZ, TV3 owner MediaWorks, and Maori TV. Broadcast media will also have reduced contributions to NZ On Air by NZ$16.5m for the 2020-21 financial year. Radio New Zealand’s AM transmission costs will also get covered by the Government at around NZ$600,000.
Faafoi said that he expected the relief package would give media breathing space. This would allow the Government to plan further strategies to help the media.
Keeping media companies afloat is a good thing. However, where taxpayer monies will end up, and who will benefit needs closer scrutiny.
Most of New Zealand’s media outlets are multinational subsidiaries. Propping them up will involve spending what is, for them, little more than petty cash. So why are we throwing money at them when their offshore owners could give them a cash injection? Moreover, how much of this taxpayer money will stay in New Zealand? How much will get funnelled to offshore investors where it will be of little benefit to NZ taxpayers?
Newshub reports a 400 percent surge in New Zealanders calling on food banks (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/04/coronavirus-foodbank-demand-soars-during-covid-19-pandemic.html). Many New Zealanders, unable to work, are struggling under lockdown. I cannot help but feel right now that a corporate hand-out to offshore media companies is in particularly poor taste.
Most annoying of all, the issues plaguing our media remain unchanged when we have a real opportunity for long-term fixes. I’ve already written about what the issues are and how to fix them. Could it be that throwing money at the media will not fix anything? Will the problems facing New Zealand’s media remain unchanged once the lockdown ends?