New Zealand's media bosses tell MPs proposed TVNZ-RNZ merger riddled with problems

Media bosses have told MPs the proposed TVNZ-RNZ merger is riddled with problems.

Front and centre is the perception of a lack of editorial independence from the Government. 

The heads of New Zealand's biggest six media organisations submitted to a parliamentary Select Committee on Thursday, and every single one had concerns about the Government's mega media merger. 

It's a plan to merge TVNZ and RNZ into one company. The rest of the sector, one after another, voiced concerns it will create a behemoth able to undercut advertising prices and poach key talent with over-inflated salaries.

"It gives it a scale and size that no other local commercial operator could ever in their wildest dreams compete with," said MediaWorks chief executive Cam Wallace. 

"[It's] a flawed process and it risks seriously destabilising the already fragile media landscape," said Shayne Currie, managing editor at NZME. 

"It really makes it a very serious threat to our viability and the viability of the rest of the industry," said Sinead Boucher, the chief executive of Stuff. 

The new entity - known as Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media or ANZPM - is getting a monster cut of NZ on Air funding, funding that used to be contestable, available to all media outlets.

Warner Brothers Discovery - which owns Three and Newshub - has suggested any profits should be reinvested into NZ on Air.

"We suggest that a portion of the commercial surpluses that the new entity makes is reinvested back into a contestable fund the ANZPM cannot access," said Glen Kyne, the senior vice president and head of networks, Japan, Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands.

Among the media bosses, and breaking up all the Zoom gloom, was a non-media submitter who offered a quick musical interlude.

"The children of New Zealand need to have their voices heard," sang Claudia Gunn.

MPs heard the voices of the to-be merged state broadcasters loud and clear. Both argue there is not explicit enough editorial independence.

"The Bill does require strengthening to safeguard, champion and prioritise the entity's independence and integrity," said RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson. 

TVNZ is concerned the way the Bill is written gives far too much power to the responsible minister. 

"The last time that power existed was in the 1970s under the Muldoon Government. I think we would all agree that that is probably not the greatest place we want to be thinking about," said Simon Power, TVNZ chief executive.

At a time when there is global growing distrust in media due to, among other things, disinformation around government funding and influence, protecting editorial independence and quelling even any perception of government overreach is absolutely paramount.

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