Government won't stop spending millions on Google and Facebook ads - Kris Faafoi

The Government has defended its advertising spend on offshore-owned social media channels, saying it puts more into local media outlets. 

Much of the advertising dollar that used to prop up broadcasters, newspapers and magazines has gone to the likes of tax-avoiding Facebook and Google in recent years, putting media outlets in a difficult financial position - and that was before the pandemic arrived.

German-owned magazine publisher Bauer simply folded after the Government said magazines couldn't be printed during the lockdown, and others - including Newshub owner MediaWorks - have received assistance via the Government's wage subsidy scheme to protect jobs. 

The Government announced a $50 million media package last week, but some media bosses have queried whether it'll be enough to ensure their survival.

"There are a hell of a lot of other sectors that are crying out for help at the moment," Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"We have to be prudent with the Government spending its $50 million, which is a sizable investment from the taxpayer into the media sector. Again, it's to make sure that they have that short-term certainty, cash flow to make sure that, you know, the media and the fourth estate is as solid as it can be, because it needs to be at a time like this."

Australia recently made moves to force tech giants to pay media outlets to use their material, rather than distribute it for free. 

Faafoi - a former journalist - wouldn't commit to New Zealand doing the same, but said it was an idea he's looking at. He pointed out only 30 percent of the Government's own $110 million advertising budget was spent on Facebook and Google. 

"That means 30 percent... is going to mainstream." he said. "So it is a majority... A majority of Government ad spend is going to traditional platforms like TV, like radio, like print."

One idea he dismissed out-of-hand was requiring even just part-New Zealand ownership of local media.

"No, that's not on the cards. Look, we've got locally owned, state owned media, the likes of TVNZ and RNZ obviously, we've got MediaWorks, the likes of NZME and Stuff. Some of those are locally owned. Some of those are owned by offshore owners.

"But we've got to make sure that looking after the environment and making sure the sustainability of viability of the sector as a whole is important. There are things that the Government can do to support the function of journalism.

"But at the end of the day, we can try and assist some media companies, but their decisions about their long term viability aren't necessarily in the control of the Government."