“The Government has failed to provide a coherent reason to be mucking around in the media with its costly merger,” says ACT’s Associate Finance spokesperson Damien Smith.

“ACT is opposing the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill at its first reading today because it is vague in intent and irresponsible to be wasting time on costly and ill-defined mergers while New Zealanders are going through a cost of living crisis.

“As one commentator put it “Attempting to discern the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the new public media entity is like trying to find the edible parts of a disappointing artichoke.”

“$327 million has been allocated to this merger. At a time when Kiwis are grappling with a cost of living crisis fuelled by domestic inflation, can we afford for the Government to be spending up on a poorly defined merger?

“It’s also concerning that Cabinet papers show the entity “would not be expected to maximise its commercial revenue”. The last thing we want is our nation’s biggest media entity being dependant on the Government for handouts.

“The $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund has already led to public concern around the neutrality of the media, even just the perception of more Government influence has a real and damaging impact.

“The best journalism exposes information that powerful institutions like governments don’t want in the public domain. The more reliant it becomes on the state to keep it going the less likely it is to remain independent of it.

“ACT believes the provision of media isn’t the role of Government, especially with Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson’s “democracy has changed” approach to New Zealand. ACT would apply the Mixed Ownership Model to TVNZ.

“Not only would it ensure the Government is not in a position to influence media, but this would raise significant funds, allowing us to pay down a portion of the Government’s COVID-19 debt. It would also subject these firms to more commercial accountability, likely improving their long-run profitability and possibly increasing dividends.”

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Damien Smith