Tracey Martin defends no cost-benefit analysis for TVNZ/RNZ merger

Former New Zealand First Minister Tracey Martin, who's leading the TVNZ/RNZ media reforms, has defended the Government not doing a cost-benefit analysis on the mega merger. 

But experts believe analysis is needed to see if the merger threatens other parts of the media industry.

The move will see state broadcasters RNZ and TVNZ merged into a new entity called Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media.

When National's Broadcasting and Media spokesperson Melissa Lee asked the Minister for Broadcasting and Media Willie Jackson to confirm if the "$370 million merger of RNZ and TVNZ has had no regulatory impact statement or cost-benefit analysis?" - His response was brief: "I’ll come back to the member on that."

Jackson later told Lee neither was needed because a specific business case was created for the entity.

This was reinforced by Martin, who told Rebecca Wright on Newshub Nation the Treasury said there was no need for a cost regulatory impact statement because it's all been covered in the business plan.

But speaking on the panel, Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings said that wasn't true.

"It's not in the business plan and if Treasury thinks that then they need to point it out very clearly to the media where it points out the cost," Jennings said.

He said a proper cost-benefit analysis was needed because the merger "could collapse some of the media industry".

Franks Ogilvie Law director Bridget Morton said it was "stark" there hadn't been an analysis of what the reforms were going to do to the rest of the market.

Media bosses have voiced their concerns over the proposed TVNZ-RNZ merger, with Stuff's chief executive Sinead Boucher saying it is a "very serious threat to our viability and the viability of the rest of the industry".

While Martin could not answer whether the merger could result in other media companies collapsing, she said that isn't the goal.

"I can't predict the future, but that is not the goal," she said.

Martin said the Government has put in the collaboration clause which said "Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media to collaborate with Māori media entities and other media entities" and consulted with media companies to address their concerns.

But Morton said the legislation doesn't allow for that.

"It actually sets it up that, that could possibly come as a breach of the Commerce Commission or the Commerce Act, I should say. And so this is going to cause them a whole lot of other problems. 

"They haven't got the safety in there that I think Tracey Martin was saying that there is." 

However, NBR senior journalist Dita De Boni said she doesn't see why the private sector is "crying so much".

"Already in New Zealand media is very well supported by the government through various means, through public money," she said. "Now why can't the New Zealand taxpayer have its own entity that is only concerned with public broadcasting?"

But the question Jennings raised was: "Do you need this huge merger to create that?"

Watch the full interview with Tracey Martin and the political panel above.