Why is the Government making changes to public media?
Internationally, traditional media is under pressure as it competes for audience and revenue with multi-national content and social media providers.
Public media in New Zealand is no different, with RNZ and TVNZ facing the same challenges around how people access and consume media. RNZ and TVNZ are each trying to adjust to the challenge, but our current public media system and its legislation is focused on platforms that people are using less - radio and television - and some particular audiences, such as youth, are not well served by our public media.
2020 was the cross-over point where online platforms overtook traditional media in terms of engaging with the largest daily audiences in Aotearoa.
This is an issue because of the role public media plays in our democracy, by providing trusted news and information; and by supporting and reflecting our culture and people.
The Government recognises the need to support the wider media sector to respond to the many challenges it is facing and ensure that the entities it owns, and funds, are fit for purpose in the 21st century.
It wants New Zealand audiences to be able to access public media content and services that informs, educates, and entertains them and that reflects their lives and experiences. It also wants public media to be sustainably funded and able to respond effectively to continuing changes to technology and consumer behaviour.
What’s been decided?
A single new, independent, public media entity will be created. It will provide many of the current services of TVNZ and RNZ but be built for the 21st century, so it will be digitally focused and multi-platform.
It will have a consistent public media focus and more options and greater flexibility to respond to change and deliver what audiences want.
The new entity will be an Autonomous Crown Entity, with a board of between six and nine members and it will have a high degree of operational independence. The entity will have a charter, in legislation, that sets out its purpose, objectives, operating principles, and outcomes. The charter will also describe its role in working with and supporting New Zealand’s broader media sector.
The new entity will be built on the skills and expertise of RNZ and TVNZ, which will initially become subsidiaries of the new organisation.
What will the new entity do?
Operational decisions will be made by the new entity, but the new organisation will be expected to:
- provide quality public media content to all New Zealanders, including groups who are currently under-served or under-represented
- provide independent, trusted, and truthful news as a core service
- use a range of platforms, including current radio and linear TV and those of third parties, to reach audiences how they want
- support the Crown’s Te Tiriti obligations and provide Māori stories and perspectives
- outsource production where appropriate to support the independent production of local content
- collaborate with and support the wider New Zealand media sector where appropriate.
What will the benefits be?
The entity will be better shaped to deal with the future. The new entity will have greater scale; more flexibility to respond to change and be focused on new ways of delivery to reach local audiences and compete for their attention.
This provides a range of benefits:
- our culture will be better reflected, with more accessible content and entertainment, and all New Zealanders being represented
- our democracy will be better supported through people being able to find trusted news and information and being better informed
- our public media system will be fairer, with a wider range of New Zealanders, including young people, having access to relevant content.
Importantly too, our public media will be more sustainable. Having a single entity, with a mixed funding model means that commercial revenue – what the entity earns from advertising and other streams - will be able to support public media objectives. With a single organisation and structure, rather than two, spending in this area will be more effective and efficient, and similarly, investments in technology and infrastructure will be made once.
The entity’s public media focus also means there will be greater support for the wider media sector.
What differences will people see?
Detailed operational decisions will be made by the entity, but initially, audiences may not see much difference when it starts in July 2023.
Current audiences will still enjoy the same services they do now, with both linear television and radio continuing – and current ad-free content on these platforms remaining advertising free.
However, it is also likely there will be greater opportunities for people to reach the programmes they want through other platforms.
As the entity develops there will be more New Zealand content where and how people want it and those currently ‘under-served’ will have a better chance of seeing and hearing themselves. It is also expected that there will be a strengthened news service offering content across these different platforms.
How will the entity be funded?
The public media entity will have a mixed funding model – receiving money from the Government and from commercial revenue. At present, RNZ is directly funded through NZ on Air, and the vast majority of TVNZ’s revenue is from advertising.
The mixed funding model will make the entity more financially sustainable. While the entity is not-for-profit, its commercial revenue will supplement Crown funding and allow it to better deliver on its public media outcomes.
Funding for the new entity is subject to a Budget bid this year.
Change costs of $14.6 million this year to begin work on establishing the entity have already been approved.
What is the process to create the entity?
The intention is to have the new entity established and operating on 1 July 2023. A number of steps are required for this to occur.
Legislative change is required to establish the entity (and its charter) and to disestablish TVNZ and RNZ. Legislation will be introduced to Parliament in the first half of this year and then go through the select committee process. The public will have a chance to give their views, including on the entity’s charter, through the select committee process.
An Establishment Board will be appointed that will be accountable for creating the entity and shaping how it will operate. TVNZ and RNZ will be involved in the establishment of the new entity and have representatives on the Establishment Board. The Establishment Board will be supported by a specialist establishment unit.
What is the role of the Establishment Board?
The Board will oversee the establishment of the new entity, including providing the Minister for Broadcasting and Media with advice and recommendations on how to create and shape the entity from an operational perspective.
The Board will be appointed via the Appointments and Honours Committee (Cabinet) process in the next few weeks.
What does the establishment of the new public media entity mean for RNZ and TVNZ?
The new public media entity will be set up alongside business-as-usual work for RNZ and TVNZ and until it is established, TVNZ and RNZ will continue in their current roles.
However, they will also be closely involved in the establishment and change process and have representatives on the Establishment Board.
The new entity will continue the current platforms used by RNZ and TVNZ and will build on the skills and expertise of RNZ and TVNZ staff.
How does this decision affect NZ On Air?
NZ on Air’s role doesn’t change. The Government will continue to fund NZ On Air so that quality local content is available to New Zealand audiences.
While NZ On Air will not directly fund the new entity, it will still have an oversight role by working collaboratively with the new entity to identify duplication and gaps in the provision of public media content.
Manatū Taonga, as the monitoring agency of both NZ On Air and the entity, will support alignment and collaboration between the two organisations.
Who was consulted?
The Business Case Governance Group had discussions across the media sector as the business case was being developed.
In addition, there was formal consultation on the characteristics of a charter for a new public media organisation. This involved workshops and hui with 64 different organisations and more than 100 individuals from across the media sector and key audience groups.
How will the new entity collaborate with the private sector?
As a public media entity, the new organisation has a role to support the wider media system, particularly where other businesses and organisations are delivering public media outcomes.
It is expected it could do this in a number of ways including:
- forming alliances or partnerships with other organisations
- outsourcing appropriate services to support industry growth, for example, using external talent and production capability rather than relying on in-house production.
- allowing others to access its infrastructure, including its digital platform, to share and support the ongoing investment in new technology
- investing in strategic, system-wide capability - for example, offering training and cadetships for journalists, who could then take their skills to other private or public media entities.
How will the new public media entity meet the needs of Māori?
The new entity will provide a range of content that all New Zealanders can enjoy, but it will also better serve specific audiences, including Māori.
Through its public media obligations, it will bring Māori stories and perspectives to a wider audience. Public media and Māori media have distinct but complementary roles in ensuring Māori language and cultural content is delivered for both general and targeted audiences.
The entity will also collaborate with Māori media organisations to help support the capacity, capability, and sustainability of the Māori media sector.
As a Crown-owned Autonomous Crown Entity, it will have to meet its responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi.
Will people get a chance to have their say on the Government’s decision?
There will be an opportunity for the public to give their views on the entity and its charter through the select committee process after legislation has been introduced to Parliament.
Updated on 10th March 2022