About the initiative

A key focus of the first package of support for the media sector in response to the impact of COVID-19 was to provide near term cashflow relief.  Of particular importance is providing this relief to organisations that are independent national news sources that are relied on by New Zealanders, so that we support media plurality.

Under this initiative Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH), on behalf of 32 government departments and 4 departmental agencies, will fund subscriptions or memberships from news services for these government departments for the 2020/21 year. This will bring forward up to $1.3 million worth of payments to small to medium New Zealand organisations producing broad public interest journalism at a national level and delivering it via subscriptions and memberships, from June 2020.

Applications closed on 22 May 2020.  The eligibility criteria is below.

A second part to this initiative is encouragement of Crown entities and non-Public Service Departments (NZ Police, NZ Defence Force, Parliamentary Counsel Office, Parliamentary Service and Office of the Clerk) by their relevant Ministers, to initiate or extend their uptake of subscriptions and memberships to New Zealand independent national news sources.


Amongst the range of initiatives within the first package of immediate support for the media sector, at a high level this initiative serves to reach those media organisations that:

  • Are New Zealand independent national news sources that provide public interest journalism via a subscription or membership service
  • Have been impacted by COVID-19 and have taken steps to address that impact.

More specifically, subscription products that fit the following criteria will be eligible under this initiative:

  1. the product provides broad public interest journalism

  2. the product focusses on New Zealand news at a national level

  3. the product provides quality journalism, either as print or digital media

  4. the product is produced by an independent small to medium New Zealand business

  5. the business producing the product can demonstrate it has been economically or socially impacted by COVID-19 and that they have taken reasonable efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on their business

  6. the subscription product or voluntary membership must have existed prior to the commencement of level 4 lockdown at 11.59pm on 25 March 2020

  7. the terms and conditions of the subscription or membership are acceptable to the New Zealand Government or can be agreed with minor amendment.

Estimated timeline

Below are the key stages in the roll out of this initiative.

Note - the below target dates are subject to change.

  • Applications are now closed 
  • Applications assessed:  2 June - 5 June 2020
  • Applicants advised of the outcome of their application: 2 June - 5 June 2020
  • Subscription numbers identified and media companies updated: Week commencing 22 June 2020
  • Subscription allocated to Government Departments: 24 June - 30 June

Applications are now closed

Applications closed on Friday 22 May 2020 at 5pm.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers - FAQs

What is ‘broad public interest journalism’ at a national level’?
For the purpose of this initiative ‘broad public interest journalism’ means:

  • it seeks to inform and engage the general public about important issues of the day  
  • It investigates, reports on and explains public policy or matters of public significance, engages citizens in public debate, or informs democratic decision-making.

How will you measure quality journalism?
Quality journalism is demonstrated by membership to the New Zealand Media Council or if the principles of the New Zealand Media Council are evident in your work.

How will you be classing a small to medium New Zealand business under this initiative?
For the purpose of this initiative a small to medium New Zealand business means:

  • Your business will need to have originated in New Zealand (not being a New Zealand subsidiary of an offshore business)
  • Your business will need to be majority owned or controlled by New Zealanders, and have its principal place of business in New Zealand
  • Your business will need to be independent and able to make the principal decisions
  • Your business will need to employ between 1 and 50 FTE staff members on a permanent basis.

What does economically or socially impacted by COVID-19 mean?
For the purpose of this initiative, economic or social impact means your business has experienced:

  • A decline in revenue
  • A decline in predicted revenue
  • Letting a staff member go, staff are on unpaid leave or have reduced hours (since COVID-19)
  • Can only produce a third of their previous content
  • Have had a drop in the number of new subscribers in April 2020 compared to previous months
  • Have received the wage subsidy

The business must experience this economic or social impact between January 2020 and 9 June 2020.

Definition of revenue - Revenue means the total amount of money a business has earned from its normal business activities, before expenses are deducted.

Determining a decline in revenue - To determine a decline in revenue, the business must compare one month’s revenue against the same month the previous year (e.g. February 2020 compared with February 2019). The revenue of the month in the affected period must be less than it was in the month it was compared against.

Businesses operating for less than a year or have high growth - New businesses which have been operating less than a year or high growth businesses (e.g. that have had a significant increase in revenue) can apply for the subscription initiative. To determine whether these businesses meet the decline in revenue assessment, they must compare their revenue against a previous month that gives the best estimation of the revenue decline related to COVID-19. E.g. loss of revenue attributable to COVID-19 comparing January 2020 to March 2020.

What are active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?
For the purpose of this initiative a business must take active steps to mitigate the economic or social impact of COVID-19 on their business. This could include:

  • Drawing from your cash reserves (as appropriate)
  • Activating your business continuity plan
  • Making an insurance claim
  • Proactively engaging with your bank
  • Seeking advice and support from:
    • the Chamber of Commerce
    • a relevant industry association
    • the Regional Business Partner programme.
  • implementing initiatives to retain staff such as reducing hours (since COVID-19)
  • Any other mitigating actions.

My subscription product has a voluntary payment plan. Am I eligible?
Voluntary memberships will be eligible under this package. The voluntary membership must have:

  • Existed prior to the commencement of level 4 lockdown at 11.59pm, 25 March 2020. 
  • Additional benefits for the purchaser over and above that offered to the non-paid model (for example, access to premium content).

When/how do I submit my subscription product for purchase under this initiative?
Once a media company has established if it is eligible to take part in the initiative (see the eligibility criteria above) complete the Application Form and send it to [email protected] by 5pm 22 May 2020. Applications are now closed.

When will I find out if my application has been successful and could I expect payment to be made? 
All applicants will be notified of the result of their application between 2 and 5 June 2020. 

For successful applications a summary of the subscription required will be provided so that an invoice can be generated for purchase.  On receipt of the invoice by MCH, payment will be made to the media company. 

MCH will notify all government departments of their new subscriptions and access information between 24 and 30 June 2020.

If I apply for this initiative, can I apply for any other initiative the government has released?
Yes, organisations that apply may also be entitled to other government support such as the wage subsidy or other initiatives being provided to the media sector.  For more information about support packages available please visit https://covid19.govt.nz/

What is the length of the subscription government will buying?
All subscriptions purchased will be for the duration of one year.  

At the end of the year’s subscription, subscription providers are encouraged to send renewal information directly to the government department holding the subscription.  Subscription providers will be provided contact details within each government department in order to enable reminders to be sent. Each government department will then be responsible for determining and paying for on-going subscriptions.

What Government Departments will you be buying subscriptions for?
The eligible subscriptions will be purchased for the 32 Government Departments & 4 agencies listed below as defined in Schedule 1 and 1A of the State Sector Act:

Cancer Control Agency

Crown Law Office

Department of Conservation

Department of Corrections

Department of Internal Affairs

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Education Review Office

Government Communications Security Bureau

Inland Revenue Department

Land Information New Zealand

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Ministry for Pacific Peoples

Ministry for Primary Industries

Ministry for the Environment

Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children

Ministry for Women

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Ministry of Defence

Ministry of Education

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Ministry of Health

Ministry of Housing and Urban Development

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of Maori Development

Ministry of Social Development

Ministry of Transport

National Emergency Management Agency

New Zealand Customs Service

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

Pike River Recovery Agency

Serious Fraud Office

Social Wellbeing Agency

State Services Commission

Statistics New Zealand

Te Arawhiti

The Treasury


What if I know one of the Governments Departments on your list already has a subscription in place?
If there is already a subscription active for the same product the new subscription purchased on their behalf by MCH would commence at the end of the current term, i.e. if the current subscription concluded in November 2020 the new one-year subscription would be paid for now and would go live in November 2020 for the duration of one year.

Will you be buying monthly pricing plans or buying subscriptions outright for the full year?
MCH will be purchasing a one-year subscription as a lump sum payment.

My product is produced on multiple platforms or at different levels of subscription, will you buy all of these?
No. In this instance the most appropriate delivery medium or subscription for the organisation receiving the subscription/membership will be selected.

I offer a media monitoring service – am I eligible under this scheme?
No. Media monitoring services are not eligible under this scheme. Individual departments will continue to manage the procurement of these services on an individual basis.  

I produce a niche subject matter subscription and I am not eligible, does that mean government departments are going to stop buying subscriptions from me in the future?
No. Individual departments will continue to manage the procurement of niche subscription services on an individual basis that suits their own organisational needs.  

[Additional FAQ – added 19 May 2020]

How many licenses am I providing rates for, and who is deciding how many licenses each Government Department will receive?
The number of licenses provided to each Department will be determined by MCH, in conjunction with the information we have received from each participating Government Department regarding their requirements.

The table below provides guidance on the number of licenses a Department may require, up to a maximum of 200 licenses for the largest Government Department. This table accompanies the subscription requirement levels referred to in 2d of the Funding Terms of Agreement (2d incorrectly refers to Section 3 of the application form, instead there should have been a link to this FAQ).  

Subscription requirements

5 user licenses

15 user licenses

50 user licenses

100 user licenses

200 user licenses


Updated on 12th June 2020