Shrinking local media a threat to NZ democracy, says AUT report

Press Release – Auckland University of Technology
New Zealand media has become a plaything of global finance according to a report on local media ownership by AUT University’s Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD).

This report entitled ‘New Zealand Media Ownership Report 2011’, authored by Merja Myllylahti, will be released at the JMAD Conference ‘Political Economy of Communication’ which takes place on Thursday and Friday at AUT.

It says the New Zealand media companies are increasingly dominated by global and pan-regional media corporations and are vulnerable to commercial and shareholder pressures. In response to these pressures New Zealand media companies have continued to economise and started to digitalise, developments which have led to the closure of a 20 year old weekly business paper, job losses for journalists, printers, advertising and distribution workers, and government loans for a conglomerate with major broadcast holdings.

“There are now three major players that own 80% plus of the New Zealand media – APN, Fairfax and MediaWorks,” says JMAD co-director and AUT media studies lecturer Associate Professor Wayne Hope.

“The sphere for public debate is shrinking with fewer voices, fewer journalists and fewer outlets. Every New Zealander relies on mass media for information about the world around them. In a situation where we have concentration of ownership into a few hands and profit becomes more important than public interest, the danger is not only that we get less information overall, we also get less variety of information.”

The report chronicles key events and trends which have most recently shaped New Zealand media space including closure of the NZPA after 130 years, the end of funding of TVNZ7 and TVNZ6, the expansion of Sky to the internet sphere, and corporate entering the local news markets.

“The relationship between big media and government is too cosy. We all know the dominant media players like to push their own point or view. We’ve seen that made massively clear with Rupert Murdoch. In that situation a handful of powerful media companies also exert undue influence over government. The $43 million loan to MediaWorks to cover their licence fee and other expenses is a local example.”

JMAD took over producing the report from Canterbury University researcher Bill Rosenberg, who compiled it until 2008.

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  1. Ben, 16. September 2011, 9:54

    I’ll file this under “Things you won’t read in The Dom”

  2. The state of our media « Red Alert (Pingback), 21. September 2011, 23:50

    […] don’t recall this report released late last week getting much coverage but it’s food for thought: New Zealand media has become […]

  3. Dave, 22. September 2011, 12:51

    This is an over simplistic report relative to the radio market.
    Although it’s true that foreign controlled TRN/RW between them have the commercial radio currently in their strong sphere of influence, they’re not the only players on the dial, or the internet.
    RNZ and the 12 community access radio stations provide a local taxpayer funded balance at one end of the scene.
    A growing number of independent commercial radio stations operate in smaller and niche markets and several hundred low power FM stations exist nationwide.
    There is also a strong taxpayer funded Iwi network, PI radio in the mix as well, and they’re all commercial as well.
    Internet radio streaming doesn’t even need licenses, frequencies or transmitters and is growing steadily.
    Collectively, local Kiwi and non-TRN/RW radio is very alive and well but we couldn’t expect academics to ruin a good story with the full facts could we?