Media marriage on the rocks? Public weigh in on RNZ-TVNZ merger

Tue, Jan 31
TVNZ/ RNZ merger

The merger of TVNZ and RNZ is expected to be one of the first policies on new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins' chopping block and public support for it is flat, according to an exclusive 1News Kantar Public Poll.

Behind the scenes of the media merger, nearly $15 million has been spent to bring TVNZ and RNZ together.

"We have a cost of living crisis, a Government that spends $327 million to create a mega structure," National's Melissa Lee said.

Now the Government could put it on ice.

In the latest 1News Kantar Public Poll, we asked: "Do you support or oppose the merger?" — 28% said they were for it, 41% against and the rest didn't know or didn't answer.

"There's been a lack of information about what this new bill is actually proposing. The Government has to take some responsibility for not explaining that more clearly," Better Public Media Trust's Peter Thompson said.

Stuff's chief executive Sinead Boucher said: "We support public media but we oppose the merger in the way that it was conceived and drafted because it was really unclear what the impact would be on the rest of the media ecosystem."

Official explanations for the merger have been wide-ranging.

The broadcasting minister Willie Jackson in September last year said it was needed because the public no longer had trust in the media. He later clarified his comments.

Former prime minister Jacinda Ardern gave the potential "collapse" of RNZ as a reason for the merger.

"This is about projecting into the future, their listenership is declining," she told the AM Show.

Thompson said the message politicians needed to send was that a single public media entity is "not a nice to have".

"This is an intrinsic pillar of our democracy, other countries invest far more heavily than New Zealand in their public media. We are lagging way behind and it's about time we caught up."

The Government under Hipkins is re-prioritising spending but hasn't made a call on the merger yet.

Thompson said scrapping it would take New Zealand back five years.

"We're at base camp. We're not at the summit. But if we turn around and go back to the bottom, we're left with what? Let them watch Netflix? I don't think that's an adequate response to the needs of the public in the digital era."

In December, Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson, defended the Government's merger of TVNZ and RNZ in a contentious interview with Q+A host Jack Tame.