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5. Cultural industries

5.1 Book publishing

New Zealand has a vigorous book publishing industry that caters not only for the local market but also, particularly in the case of educational books, for an increasing number of overseas purchasers.  Educational publishing accounts for approximately 65 percent of titles exported by New Zealand publishers. 

A report released in 2016 on the economic contribution of New Zealand book publishing shows that the industry has rebounded from difficult trading conditions in 2013 and 2014 to a position of growth in sales of both physical books and eBooks in 2015. The work of authors and publishers contributed $397 million to the economy with sales from book stores accounting for nearly 60% (with an impact of $234 million) and eBook sales at 7% (with an impact of $29 million.)

Read the Economic contribution of the New Zealand book publishing industry in 2015 report here.

In 2012, New Zealand was the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

New Zealanders borrow over 50 million books each year from our public libraries and we spend an average of 44 minutes per day reading outside of work, purely for pleasure. Annual statistics for New Zealand Public Libraries are available here.

The Publishers Association of New Zealand(PANZ) represents the wide-ranging interests of its members, such as export, copyright concerns, training and professional standards.  A key focus of Booksellers New Zealand is book promotion, and increasing the sales of books.  They manage New Zealand's book awards, recognising excellence in writing and publishing; nationwide events, promoting the enjoyment and importance of reading books; and actively develop opportunities for exposing books through television, radio and the print media.  With the Book Publishers Association they maintain a New Zealand presence at international bookfairs.

See also "Literature", section 4.5 above.

For more information about New Zealand’s Book Publishing Industry see:

Exports of New Zealand Published Books (Oct 2003)

Economic contribution of the New Zealand Publishing Industry (Jun 2014)

5.2 Press
Newspapers and magazines

A 2014 PwC digital media report recorded that newspaper revenues are forecast to drop an average of 4.8% each year over the forecast period as its advertising revenue decreases by 7.3% year-on-year. Digital revenues are growing but are a long way from being enough to offset the pull-back in the country’s print newspaper advertising revenues. New Zealand newspapers have been slower than their peers in Australia in beginning to charge readers for online content.

Global entertainment and media outlook 2016-2020

March 2016 statistics from Roy Morgan Research highlights that many of New Zealand’s newspapers and magazines continue to perform relatively well against equivalent print media in Australia and around the world. Read more details in a media release about about New Zealand print readership results for newspapers and magazines in the 12 months to December 2015.


There are over 6000 magazines available in New Zealand on a regular basis, 650 of which are published in New Zealand. Of these 230 are listed with the New Zealand Audit Bureau of Circulations as being published in New Zealand or as New Zealand editions.   Of these, 19 are published weekly, 5 fortnightly, 83 are published monthly and 38 in alternate months. In New Zealand, over $8 is spent on magazines in retail every second (Source: Magazine Publisher's Association).

Magazines Publisher's Association website

5.3 Broadcasting
Broadcasting Policy

Broadcasting policy focuses on: supporting widely available quality public broadcasting; encouraging innovation and technological change; and ensuring value for money through enhanced transparency, accountability, and competition. 

A priority in broadcasting policy is support for local content through contestable funding which promotes competition for quality, content diversity and the availability of content across a range of channels and platforms.  This funding is provided via the Broadcasting Commission (known as NZ On Air).  Other priorities include ensuring early and successful digital switchover, ensuring the state-owned broadcaster, Television New Zealand has the flexibility to respond to the changing broadcasting and economic environments; and enhancing the transparency of and accountability for public funding for broadcasting. 

Regional and Community Broadcasting Framework

The policy framework for regional and community broadcasting,  enables a range of broadcasting services, content and formats for regional, local and community and minority audiences including ethnic minorities, communities of interest and students. The Framework is a set of objectives for government in future policy development to:

  • Promote local broadcasting services (local broadcasting);
  • Promote innovation and a diverse range of content and formats for different audience identities and interests (diversity);
  • Facilitate wide technical, cultural and social access to broadcasting (accessibility); and
  • Provide for long term developments affecting broadcasting (future-proofing).

Eligibility criteria for local licences have been developed from the policy framework and it provides scope for new local commercial broadcasters, as well as non-commercial broadcasters.  The Crown has reserved AM and FM radio frequencies and UHF television frequencies throughout the country for use by non-commercial broadcasters, restricted to non-profit activities.  Additional FM frequencies have also been set aside for local commercial radio.

Digital Broadcasting

In 2008, free-to-air digital television was launched in New Zealand, beginning a 6-10 year transition towards an eventual switch-off of analogue signals. The switch-off of analogue signals was completed in December 2013, beginning with Hawke's Bay and the West Coast in September 2012 and ending in Auckland.

Government support is provided for a combination satellite and terrestrial free-to-air digital, service delivered by a consortium of broadcasters known as Freeview.  The government provided $25 million for the Freeview platform over five years, and an allocation of digital terrestrial spectrum without charge during the transition to analogue switch-off.  Digital transmission is managed by Kordia, the state transmission company,

Spectrum Policy

Since the broadcasting reforms of 1988-89, the number of registered radio frequencies has increased substantially.  The Radio Communications Act 1989 established a market-based system for spectrum management, with up to 20-year tradeable spectrum access rights.  Such rights not only encourage investment in spectrum use, but also provide for situations where a number of users are possible.

Spectrum access rights are allocated by auction (aside from those set aside for allocation by other means, e.g. for non-commercial, Māori, and public broadcasting, and for the transition to free-to-air digital television).  The registration of licences following allocation establishes the tradeable right that is recorded in a publicly accessible register. An annual administration fee is payable to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment by all registered licence holders.

Most of the currently available UHF television, FM sound radio and AM sound radio frequencies have now been allocated.  Additional licences are created, where technically possible, and allocated when there is demand for them.  Information on past and future auctions can be found on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website. 

Local content

In 2002 a voluntary Code of Practice was adopted by the Radio Broadcasters Association.  This was aimed at raising the local music content to an average of 20% across commercial radio formats within five years.  This was achieved, and the level has been maintained since. 

Television broadcasting
Television New Zealand

TVNZ currently operates five national channels (TV ONE, TV2, TV ONE plus 1, TV2  plus 1 and DUKE), and has several subsidiary companies.  TVNZ broadcasts are accessible by almost 100 per cent coverage of the New Zealand population. TV ONE and TV2 broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TVNZ also broadcasts a news service to the Pacific, and operates a captioning service for selected programmes.

Whakaata Māori

Whakaata Māori (Māori Television) was founded under the Māori Television Service Act 2003 (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori). Passed in May 2003, the act established the Service as a statutory corporation. Under the Act the Service should:

  • be a high quality, cost effective television provider which informs, educates and entertains
  • broadcast mainly in reo Māori
  • have regard to the needs of children participating in immersion education and all people learning Māori .

These and other functions may be amended following a current review of the Maori Television Service Act.

Private Television

SKY Television was New Zealand's first pay television network.  It began broadcasting in May 1990 and now delivers multiple subscription channels via digital satellite.  SKY also owns free-to-air broadcast channel Prime.  Private broadcaster, Discovery New Zealand delivers Three, Bravo, Threeplus1, Bravoplus1, Eden and Rush.


Since 2008, New Zealanders have had access to a free-to-air digital television platform, known as Freeview. The government supported the roll-out of Freeview with $25 million in funding. Freeview is a consortium of Television New Zealand, Discovery New Zealand, Māori Television, and Radio New Zealand, and broadcasts via both satellite and terrestrial transmission systems. It delivers a range of channels including TVNZ’s channels, Discovery New Zealand's channels, two Māori Television channels, Radio New Zealand’s two networks, Prime, Parliament TV, Chinese Television and a number of regional broadcasters.

Freeview website

In 2009, The Ministry invited submissions on a public discussion paper outlining options for the two issues that arise from the planned switchover to digital television: the transition of regional television to digital transmission, and proposed changes to the VHF and UHF radio spectrum bands as the result of freeing up of spectrum currently used for analogue transmission.

Regional Television

A number of small regional commercial and non-commercial television services operate around the country, providing a mix of programmes, from music to local and international news, community access, and tourist and entertainment services.  NZ On Air provides funding for selected community and regional content on some regional services. 

Radio broadcasting
Radio New Zealand

State-owned radio provided both commercial and public radio services to New Zealand from the early 1930s, though the commercial services were sold in the 1990s.  Private radio emerged in the late 1960s.

Radio New Zealand Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa is New Zealand's public radio broadcaster consisting of three nationwide networks; RNZ National, RNZ Concert and the AM network which relays Parliamentary proceedings. Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) is their overseas shortwave service, broadcasting to the South Pacific and beyond, while Radio New Zealand News provides comprehensive, up-to-the-minute news and current affairs information.

Radio New Zealand provides live-streaming of all its broadcasting services: Radio New Zealand National; Radio New Zealand Concert; Radio New Zealand International and the Parliamentary Network and provides extensive services via its website. RNZ National and RNZ Concert are both available on Freeview.

Radio New Zealand operates under a Charter, which is set out in the Radio New Zealand Act 1995.

Pacific Island Radio

Niu FM, operated by the National Pacific Radio Trust, broadcasts on a nationwide network of reserved frequencies in the upper FM band capable of eventually providing coverage of approximately 85% of New Zealand's population. The network receives government funding, and in 2007 was merged with Auckland station 531PI.  Samoan Capital Radio in Wellington broadcasts part-time on the same frequency as Wellington Access service. 

Māori Radio

The Crown's primary interest in Māori radio is the role it can play in the regeneration of the Māori language. It also has a major influence in increasing the amount of popular music in Māori, further heightening interests of young Māori to learn Māori.  Iwi radio stations were established between  1989-1994 with NZ on Air as the lead Crown Agency. Te Māngai Pāho assumed responsibility for funding all stations in 1995. Currently there are 21 Iwi radio stations.  Māori radio service coverage extends to approximately 80% of the total Māori population. 

Commercial radio

There are over 200 hundred commercial radio stations in New Zealand.  The majority of these are controlled by two media companies, MediaWorks and New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME).

Access and community radio stations

Access and community radio stations operating on reserved frequencies provide air time on a non-profit basis to a range of minority groups in the community.  In 2010 there were 11 access radio stations operating in New Zealand.  There are also a number of student radio stations, and radio services for remote communities.

Funding Agencies

The subsidy of broadcast content is delivered through a combination of direct and arm's length mechanisms. The bulk of subsidised programmes on the main free-to-air channels continues to be funded on a contestable basis by NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho.  Radio New Zealand is bulk-funded for its two main domestic networks through a contract with NZ On Air, in accordance with a ministerial directive.

NZ On Air

The Broadcasting Act 1989 established the Broadcasting Commission (NZ On Air).  It provided for election broadcasting and restricted the scope for political intervention in the management or programming of TVNZ or RNZ.  Limits on overseas shareholdings in New Zealand broadcasting companies were removed in 1991.

The role of the Broadcasting Commission (NZ On Air): Irirangi te Motu is to promote cultural and social objectives in broadcasting and other activities unlikely to receive sufficient commercial provision.  Its statutory objectives are to:

  • Reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture by promoting programmes about New Zealand and New Zealand interests and promoting Māori language and culture.
  • Maintain and, where considered appropriate, extend television and radio coverage to New Zealand communities that otherwise would not receive a commercially viable signal.
  • Ensure that a range of programmes is available to provide for the interests of women, children, people with disabilities and other minorities, including ethnic minorities.
  • Encourage the establishment and operation of archives of programmes that are likely to be of historical interest in New Zealand.

NZ On Air fulfils these objectives by providing funds for broadcasting, production of programmes and archiving of programmes.  Since July 2000 this funding has come from general taxation.  Previously the Public Broadcasting Fee was levied on each household with a television set. In 2008, the statutory functions of NZ On Air and Te Mangai Paho (see below) were amended to allow both agencies to fund content intended specifically for reception on demand (for example, via websites).

Te Māngai Pāho

Te Māngai Pāho, the Māori broadcasting funding agency, was established by the Broadcasting Amendment Act 1993 to provide funding to promote Māori language and culture through broadcasting.  Te Māngai Pāho’s purchase decisions are guided by the Government Māori Language Strategy Policy objectives:

  • To increase the number of people who know the Māori language by increasing their opportunities to learn Māori.
  • To improve the proficiency levels of people in speaking Māori, listening to Māori, reading Māori and writing Māori.
  • To increase the opportunities to use Māori by increasing the number of situations where Māori can be used.
  • To increase the rate at which the Māori language develops so that it can be used for the full range of modern activities.
  • To foster amongst Māori and Non- Māori positive attitudes towards and accurate beliefs and positive values about the Māori language so that Māori-English bilingualism becomes a valued part of New Zealand society
Broadcasting Standards

Since 1989 New Zealand has shown a preference for industry co-regulation on the basis of statutory provisions in the Broadcasting Act 1989. Broadcast programme and advertising content standards are regulated via industry codes by the Broadcasting Standards Authority and, since 1993, the non-statutory Advertising Standards Authority. The agencies rule on complaints, though broadcasting complaints are made to the broadcaster in the first instance. There is also provision for the BSA to fulfil an educational function in relation to standards.

(Also see section 2.2, "National cultural-sector agencies").

5.4 Sound recording industry

Sound recording in New Zealand is largely a private-sector activity.  However, NZ On Air supports the production of popular music videos, promotional CDs of new releases for radio stations, and other forms of promotion.  Creative New Zealand makes grants for recording projects in a variety of genres.

The New Zealand Music Commission (NZMC) was established in 2000.  A government funded agency, NZMC is committed to growing NZ music business, both at home and overseas.

Domestically the NZMC runs seminar events - such as Resonate (featuring UK music professionals) and Warrant of Fitness (featuring ex-pat New Zealand music industry practitioners)  It works with the Ministry of Education to support the secondary school music curriculum and coordinate band mentoring in schools.  It is also one of the key organizations behind the annual NZ Music Month programme.

NZMC’s international scheme ‘Outward Sound’ focuses primarily on international music market development and works with individual artists’ business managers. The NZMC’s international programme also includes coordinating the NZ presence at two key offshore events – the MIDEM trade fair in Cannes, France, and the South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

The music industry contributed $484 million to New Zealand GDP in 2015.

NZ Music Industry Economic Report 2016

5.5 Cinema and film industry

In April 2019, Statistics New Zealand's data revealed that the screen revenue eased since the record high level it saw in the 2016-17 financial year. The total screen industry revenue in the 2017-18 period was $3.3 billion. Visit Statistics New Zealand's website for the 2019 screen sector data. In June 2019, Statistics New Zealand announced that the annual screen industry survey would end in the 2019/20 financial year.

The New Zealand Film Commission's role is 'to encourage and participate and assist in the making, promotion, distribution and exhibition of films' made in New Zealand by New Zealanders on New Zealand subjects.  It does this by providing loans and equity financing, being active in the sales and marketing of New Zealand films, and assisting with training and professional development within the industry. 

In the 33 years since they were established, more than 300 feature films have been made in New Zealand with the vast majority receiving either funding or grants administered by the New Zealand Film Commission.  In the preceding 30 years, fewer than 20 feature films were made in New Zealand. Since 2000, over 125 features have been made in New Zealand.

Creative New Zealand and the Commission also jointly make grants in the field of experimental and innovative film and video through the Screen Innovation Production Fund.

In June 2014 the government announced the formation of Screen New Zealand, a new ‘virtual agency’ that formalises the collaboration of three existing screen agencies. The New Zealand Film Commission, Film New Zealand and NZ On Air will work together on a number of specific projects under the umbrella of Screen New Zealand. The New Zealand Film Commission and Film New Zealand joined forces from 1 August 2015.

Co-production agreements

As at May 2017, New Zealand currently has 17 bilateral film co-production agreements with Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Film co-production agreements allow approved projects to gain status as official co-productions, entitling them to the benefits accorded national films in each of the co-producers’ countries.  Benefits include access to film financing and incentives within the existing legislation of each country, and government facilitation such as temporary immigration for nationals of the other country and temporary entry of equipment. In New Zealand the main benefit accruing to national films is qualification for financial assistance pursuant to section 18 of the New Zealand Film Commission Act 1978.

The New Zealand Film Commission's Co-Productions webpage.

Updated on 10th June 2022