PMA makes submission on New Zealand’s new public media entity

28 September 2022
In our submission to the New Zealand Government, we outline our concerns with the legislation which would establish the new public media entity, the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media (ANZPM). 
The Beehive, New Zealand's Parliament
Outside the Beehive: New Zealand's Parliament in Wellington, where earlier in 2022, anti-vaccine protesters occupied before being dispersed by police. Credit: Harry Lock.

The Public Media Alliance has made a submission to the New Zealand Government outlining our thoughts and concerns on the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill. The new entity is scheduled to be established by the middle of next year.

Our main points: 

  • Public media is an invaluable service to society and is being challenged across the world in many ways, e.g. funding insecurity; threats against its independence; increased competition when fighting for audiences.
  • PMA supports the reasoning behind the establishment of a new public media entity – one that is progressive, digitally-minded, and flexible.
  • However, we are concerned about the level of the new entity’s independence. The legislation provides fewer protections against government interference than RNZ and TVNZ are currently guaranteed. This manifests though heavy ministerial involvement in the appointment of the board, limited oversight of that board, and only four references to “editorial independence” in the bill.
  • There is a lack of clarity and detail around how digital technology will be used to reach audiences and achieve its chartered function. Plus, there is no mention of the new entity’s relationship with social media platforms, on either an ethical or financial basis.
  • While diversity has been prominently centred within the legislation, there needs to be metrics by which diversity and inclusion goals are measured.
  • The bill mentions the possibility of charging for first broadcasts, a proposition PMA opposes as it infringes on the equitability of public media and the principal of universal access and could lead to a prioritisation of content for those who can afford it.

Our Summary

PMA supports the reasoning behind the establishment of this new entity and recognises the government’s forward-thinking and attitude to this. However, ultimately, it is our fear that the timeline to ensure such robust mechanisms and legislation is too tight. As it stands, the Bill fails to deliver on the necessary protections for organisational and editorial independence, sustainability, and fails to clearly outline how ANZPM will be accountable to the public that it serves. These core values must be protected if the entity is to fulfil its essential democratic role in holding power to account, and countering mis- and disinformation. Consequently, we fear that the opportunity to progressively ensure truly independent, digital-ready, protected, and sustainable public service media will be missed. 

PMA has been actively monitoring the developments of the new entity throughout this process, and will continue to report on developments.

Read more: Paul Thompson: “A bold and unique step to strengthen public media” [Insight]

Listen to RNZ’s CEO, Paul Thompson, speak about the new entity on Episode 2 of PMA’s podcast, Media Uncovered