Lack of print, digital support in Government's COVID-19 media package 'a disappointment'

The Government has described its $50 million media support package as an "adrenaline shot" - but there were some glaring omissions, including a lack of support for print and digital media which have so far suffered the great job losses during the COVID-19 crisis.

New Zealanders have been welcoming news into their living rooms, letterboxes and listening devices for decades - in some cases more than a century - but that's under threat with a media industry in crisis.

"I called it an existential crisis and I mean that," media commentator and former editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald Gavin Ellis told Newshub. "None of them can rule out further job losses or indeed the closure of titles."

That's even taking into account the Government's industry lifeline - a $50 million support package for media companies announced on Thursday by Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi.

Faafoi said he views the package as "an adrenaline shot for short term support", and that another boost is coming, bigger than the last.

"I would like to be more ambitious," he said.

Most of the $50 million will cut expensive transmission fees - that's how networks broadcast news to viewers. There's also a reduction in NZ On Air fees, and an $11 million fund for all media including state broadcasters.

But there's not much specific help for print and digital, with the package heavily favouring broadcast media.

"We were a bit disappointed that it was not more evenly spread across different types of media," Sinead Boucher, chief executive of Stuff, told Newshub.

Michael Anderson, chief executive of Newshub owner MediaWorks, described the package as a "good start", but when asked if it will be enough to stave off any job losses at MediaWorks, he said it's "too early to tell".

Media advertising revenue has been annihilated, and staff across the board have taken pay cuts.

"We cannot guarantee there will not be job cuts and there will not be redundancies," Boucher said.

Last week all media bosses laid bare the challenges faced by the industry to MPs, and a recurring concern was the amount of money the Government spends on social media advertising over local media.

Newshub asked Faafoi where the commitment is that the Government will prioritise advertising on local media rather than on Google and Facebook.

"That is certainly going to be part of the second tranche of work that we're looking at."

Much hinges on that second package. The minister acknowledged this first tranche is not a panacea, and that it alone cannot cure the problems the sector has.

But at a time when demand for good journalism has never been higher, this was the Government triaging immediate damage.