Proposed NZME Fairfax merger will erode fourth estate - expert

  • 12/05/2016
Proposed NZME Fairfax merger will erode fourth estate - expert

The proposed merger of two of the country's biggest news organisations will erode the role of the New Zealand media, according to a media expert.

"It will mean that we will have less choice. That is the bottom line. It will mean that our government, whoever they are, will be questioned less, by fewer people. It will mean that our role as the fourth estate will be eroded slightly," media commentator Janet Wilson told the Paul Henry programme this morning.

Australian companies APN and Fairfax have been holding talks on merging their New Zealand businesses, NZME and Fairfax NZ.

The merger is still subject to approval by the Commerce Commission, but Ms Wilson says that's likely.

"If you look at those last two decisions: the merger of Zed Energy, the petrol stations, with Chevron Caltex -- they approved that, giving Zed Energy 51 percent of the market. IAG the year before bought Lumley and owns 41 percent of the insurance market. They believe there is enough diversity already in the media market. They will approve it."

Fairfax NZ publishes the Stuff news website, as well as several newspapers, including the Dominion Post and Sunday Star Times.

NZME has a number of radio stations, including Newstalk ZB, Radio Sport and ZM, as well as newspaper The New Zealand Herald.

"It will mean that there is one owner for every metropolitan daily and regional newspaper and half of the commercial radio stations in the country," says Ms Wilson.

Between them, the companies employ more than 3000 people.

Ms Wilson says finances are tight for both companies.

"Air travel for any journalist has been banned for some time now in both companies. So the numbers tell the story."

All New Zealand media operators are struggling in a crowded and changing market, she says.

"[The fourth estate] has a future, and it's fighting like mad to find that future. And I think it actually needs to question itself very strongly about why it does what it does, and how it packages up why it does what it does."

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