Skip to main content

Advice on news and media as an essential service during COVID-19 response

News: 1 April 2020

Update: Guidance for media organisations during COVID-19 alert Level 3 has been published on 23 April. 

Essential News and Media Services during COVID-19

While New Zealand is at Level 4 of the COVID-19 alert system, only business and organisations that are designated as essential can continue to operate from their business premises. This includes some news and media organisations.  

On 31 March, the Government announced some important updates to the essential business guidance previously issued regarding news and media services.

The expanded guidance now includes the distribution of news publications that serve hard to reach rural communities with reduced digital connectivity, and /or serve non-English speaking communities.

In preparing this revised guidance the Government has balanced the New Zealand public’s need and desire for access to news and information with the need to safeguard their health and stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Media organisations that are not considered to be essential will need to explore alternative ways to deliver their services with staff working remotely from home.

Guidelines for essential news and media services during COVID-19

Updated 1 April 2020


  1. News and broadcast media functions have been identified as an essential service during the COVID-19 response and Level 4 period.
  2. Media play an important role in informing New Zealanders at a time when reliable and fast information is vital. The distribution of public health messages to the New Zealand public is critical in order to keep the public informed.
  3. This guidance aims to assist organisations:
    1. determine whether their organisation provides an essential service; and
    2. understand the government’s expectations of news and media organisations.
  4. This guidance applies during the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 period. Further guidance may be issued from time to time as circumstances change.


  1. The following principles should be read in their entirety and in conjunction with the guidelines below. The principles are organisation neutral and apply to print, broadcast and online media organisations
    1. All news and broadcast media organisations are able to continue their services, but must take all practical steps to reduce movement and ensure safety of staff and public.
    2. Media organisations will abide by all public health measures that are in place at each Covid-19 alert level, as set out on the Covid-19 webpage.
    3. In providing essential news, current affairs and up to date health information, non-physical distribution and delivery (eg broadcast and online) is the most effective means of minimising covid-19 transmission and of reaching the majority of the population. 
    4. Where a media organisation can provide a service digitally but would normally provide a printed product, it should carefully consider whether a printed product is required before proceeding with physical delivery. Considerations should include the risk associated with increasing the movement of people, transmission on physical products and the timeliness of news and information during this period.
    5. News providers need to continue to operate within existing standards (eg, media principles and broadcast and advertising standards) and are encouraged to be mindful of the mental health of viewers while New Zealand is at Covid-19 Alert Level 4.



  1. The Ministry recommends an approach based on media maintaining the minimum number of staff required for the provision of news and current affairs programming, and critical broadcast and publication continuity. Broader programming and content should only be provided where this can be done consistently with existing health guidelines.

Health measures to be vigorously enforced

  1. Health measures must be rigorously enforced at all times for on-site and off-site activities, reporting staff, and production and delivery functions.
  2. Organisations are required to provide written confirmation to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage that they will rigorously enforce health measures to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19.


  1. Reporting staff will be allowed freedom of movement to allow for effective coverage and reporting provided they observe health guidance at all times. Numbers of reporting staff should be kept to a minimum.
  2. Health measures are critical for reporting staff. This is to protect both reporting staff themselves and all those they interact with, including key decision makers and other essential services personnel.

Contracted third parties

  1. Where key news or current affairs programming is provided by a contracted third party (a production company), these guidelines will apply to those companies.


  1. Daily printed newspapers are considered to be essential services and are expected to take strong measures to ensure the safety of staff and the public.
  2. Non-daily newspapers are also considered to be essential services where their primary focus is communities that are hard to reach due to physical location and limited access to digital connectivity, or for non-English language audiences.


  1. As a physical distribution format, all practicable measures must be taken to minimise the risk of transmission via printed product.
  2. Daily newspapers may continue to deliver to the homes of subscription holders.
  3. Delivery of non-daily newspapers should be limited to distribution services that are currently operational (eg, NZ Post) and bulk drops at dairies and supermarkets. Contactless home delivery in areas that are hard to reach due to physical location may continue.
  4. Delivery of the newspaper should not be used to distribute other items (printed or otherwise) in the same package as the newspaper.
  5. Vulnerable, at-risk and young people (eg, under 18) must not be involved in the delivery of physical news products.


  1. The physical delivery of printed magazines is not considered to be an essential service, as magazines are not considered to provide up-to-date critical news.


Media organisations with queries about whether their news service meets these guidelines, can contact Manatū Taonga  Ministry for Culture and Heritage at [email protected]

Updated on 23rd April 2020