Monday, 19 July 2021

Government’s questionable media funding


“The Government is extending its tentacles into nearly every area of media with an offer too good to refuse for each outlet, and it has rapidly reached absurdity with taxpayer money spent on journalism to check on Government expenditure of taxpayer money,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“According to a NZ On Air press release, it has awared: ‘Whakatupuria Te Moana A Toi, Radio Bay Of Plenty, up to $97,000. A radio-based, multimedia project that will report on the $200m worth of Provincial Growth Fund projects in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.’ In other words, we apparently need taxpayer funded media to check up on the use of taxpayer funds.

“Meanwhile, Newsroom has received $50,000 to upskill two graduate journalists. As one qualified journalist put it to me, ‘there was no need for that when I graduated, if they need $25,000 worth of upskilling immediately after graduating, they should ask for their tuition fees back.’.

“Most Kiwis are used to hearing ‘this program was made with the help New Zealand on Air,’ and regard New Zealand on Air as part of the cultural landscape. It funds shows about life and culture in New Zealand that are entertaining and insightful, at least that’s been the goal.

“However, sacked Minister Clare Curran’s message to New Zealand on Air in early 2018 that the government would establish a ‘Public Media Funding Commission’ has now metastasised into New Zealand on Air itself getting into the journalism game.

“The establishment of a new Head of Journalism position at New Zealand on Air in April this year has been followed by an enormous cash splash from the budget, with $24,937,000 this year and $19,950,000 next year promised in a ‘post budget letter of expectations’ from Kris Faafoi.

“I have been asked countless times in public meetings, ‘why can’t we trust the media?’ Each time I have defended New Zealand’s fourth estate, explaining that media outlets face a highly competitive marketplace and are providing the content they believe the public want. By the same token, such outlets can’t afford to ignore $55 million of taxpayer money, and the Government is insinuating its way into the very institutions supposed to hold it accountable.

“At the same time as journalists criticise the Government for its lack of transparency, it rolls out an oblique hate speech law, and is now hosing money at journalism in a way no outlet in today’s competitive environment can afford to ignore. The Government attempting to corrupt the very entities that are supposed to hold it accountable, and every New Zealander should be asking themselves why.”