Media merger bill tweaked, but falls short - expert

TVNZ/ RNZ merger

The legislation for the in limbo RNZ and TVNZ merger has been tweaked to strengthen editorial independence, but one media researcher said it still falls short.

The new organisation, aimed at future-proofing public media, will cost $327 million over three years and an additional $38.3 million for transition costs.

It’s meant to be fully operational by July of this year, but has come under criticism from the National Party as being unnecessary during a cost of living crisis.

The project is now potentially on the chopping block, as new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins reviews spending and resets the Government’s focus squarely on the economy.

A select committee report out today made changes to prevent any interference from cabinet ministers to ensure the public’s trust.

But Gavin Ellis, an affiliate of Koi Tū, the Centre for Informed Futures, said the bill was “less unsafe but still not fit for purpose.”

Ellis, who is a former New Zealand Herald editor-in-chief, said the proposed entity is still “not independent enough” and a parliamentary commissioner is needed to oversee it.

He also said it doesn’t make clear what the organisation’s aspirational goals are to convince the public it’s a necessity.

But any discussion around the future of the entity may be academic as Hipkins considers its fate.

The proposal has been in the works since 2021 when a business case was first developed. Ellis urged the Prime Minister to “move without delay” on whether it will proceed or not.

Koi Tū is not opposed to a new entity, but doesn’t support the way it’s being done.

Ellis said it should be taken off the table and a better ANZPM (Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media) be developed.

A TVNZ spokesperson said it’s pleased some of the changes advocated for were included, “particularly around the upweighting of the editorial independence of the organisation.”

RNZ said it’s taking time to review the report and is awaiting further clarity from the Government on the legislation.


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