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Jackson ready to discuss media independence

With less than a year to go before the launch of the new government-funded public media entity, Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson says he is ready to address opposition concerns about its independence.

ANZPM is not the most catchy name. Google thinks you are looking for Amazon and then gives the top result as Australian and New Zealand Society for Palliative Medicine.

Mr Jackson now has less than a year to put Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media and its purpose in people’s minds.

He is confident that there will be no confusion on the part of the public about what the entity will actually be doing.

”I tried to be very clear on what is expected, on a new look, a new public entity. I don’t know if I could have been much clearer,’ he said.

The public media entity will be created next March and will operate from July.

At this point, TVNZ and RNZ will become subsidiaries of the entity – then dissolved.

How ANZPM will actually operate in practice will be left to its board, which will also have to decide when TVNZ and RNZ will disband, but must do so by March 2028.

The creation of the entity was left to a governing board, which advises the minister on the entity’s financial model, control framework, legal issues and liability arrangements, but has no decision-making power. .

”We need to go as deep as possible with the operating model, with what the follow-up will look like, what the funding mechanism will look like, with as much detail as possible to give it to the governing board and I hope that’ they’ll run with it,” council chair Tracey Martin said.

Ms Martin, a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, stressed that this was not a merger. All current staff would retain their positions.

”This is not a merger, there is no intention to cut jobs. In fact, we want this entity to do more.”

RNZ and TVNZ are Crown-owned corporations, controlled by the Treasury.

But the ANZPM will be an autonomous Crown entity (Ace), controlled by the Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

An Ace must generally consider government policy (e.g. New Zealand Film Commission, Government Superannuation Fund Authority or Te Papa), rather than an Independent Crown Entity (Ice), which is independent of government policy (e.g. the Electoral Commission, Office of Film and Literature Classification or the Carriage Accident Investigation Board).

Editorial independence, impartiality and balance would be enshrined in the entity’s charter.

National Broadcasting spokeswoman Melissa Lee was unconvinced.

”The whole merger itself feels like an answer in search of a problem,” she said.

She worried about the influence the government of the day might have on the ANZPM if an Ace remained.

“I don’t think anyone should have control over the news, really. The news entity should actually be independent from the government or any politician. Politicians shouldn’t tell you how to do the job.

“But I guess I can only talk about perception, right? I think when people look at the news and think it’s one-sided, they’re accusing you of bias. ”

During the first reading of the bill, Ms Lee’s colleague, Judith Collins, went even further.

“They are no longer considered relevant, because they are not considered impartial, because they are considered to be, fundamentally, puppets of government,” Ms Collins said.

Ms Martin said that because the entity would have part commercial funding, it would not fit the Ice model.

The entity would also have a charter similar to that of RNZ, which would be reviewed every five years.

Ms Martin said delivering her charter was more important than making money, which is why she could not remain a Crown entity company.

”It needs to create business revenue, as we need money to spend on content and delivery etc.

”But it’s not his engine. It is a public media entity, partially funded by commercial revenue.”

She was also aware of the challenges related to how the public perceived the media.

The establishment unit looked at what other countries were doing to stop the decline in public trust and make it grow again, “so that they [the public] can trust that when they go to that entity’s platform, they know it’s a verifiable truth, it’s backed by integrity, and there’s a tool out there that can prove it,” said Ms. Martin.

But the council would not take a model from elsewhere and try to adapt it to New Zealand.

There were many factors in New Zealand that would make it special – The Treaty of Waitangi, for starters.

Speaking personally, Ms Martin, a former minister for children, wanted the entity’s charter to target New Zealand children.

”I’d like to think that in five to 10 years, when a parent goes to the doctor’s office and they want to entertain their child so they don’t scream or squirm or whatever, the app that touch on their phone or iPad is New Zealand’s children’s programming app.

“And they know it’s safe, they know it’s in a New Zealand voice, they know it’s educational or entertaining, and they don’t have to worry about the next video that might come up. “, she said.

The government has proposed $327 million in Crown funding from Budget 2022 to cover the first three years of the entity.

National leader Christopher Luxon had frequently used the figure as an example of government spending during a cost-of-living crisis.

But Ms Martin warned National, should it come to power in 2023, against scrapping the entity.

“A future government, and you can’t tie the hands of any future government, could cut that funding.

”I would suggest that because this is about truth, trust and editorial independence and the public media delivering to the New Zealand public, it would be a very stupid future government to cut that funding.

“They might not increase it, but it would be a very stupid government to cut it.”

The bill is now before the Parliament’s Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee and is open for public submissions.

Ms Lee said she was pushing for some changes.

”I just think the media, the news outlets, should be independent of government policy. So that’s one of the things I would really like to change.

Mr. Jackson said he was open to discussions about the best model for the entity.

”I absolutely want editorial independence and I think we will work on some of these issues in the select committee process.

”There are a few gaps there, so I have no problem answering National’s questions. We don’t have all the answers now. I think we will get there because it is not the first question we have in this area,” he said.

Select committee chairman Jamie Strange said the committee would likely start hearing submissions from mid-September.

Final decisions on the new entity’s structure and operating model will be made by the new entity’s board and management when it is established next year.