Colin Peacock: New era heralded in broadcasting – or more of the same?

Minister Claire Curran … “shameful and embarrassing” how public broadcasting spending in other countries dwarfs NZ. Image: Richard Tindiller/RNZ

ANALYSIS: By Colin Peacock of RNZ’s Mediawatch

The allocation of $15 million for public broadcasting will be split between RNZ, New Zealand on Air and a new fund targeting “under-served audiences”. It’s the biggest single boost for public broadcasting for a decade, but will it make a big difference?

“It’s the beginning of a new era,” said Broadcasting and Digital Media Minister Claire Curran, announcing the new funding arrangements.

She flourished a graph from a report showing how spending on public broadcasting in other countries dwarfs our own.

It was “shameful and embarrassing,” she said.

“This increase … is just the beginning.”

Labour went into the last election talking a good game too.


It pledged $38 million a year more for RNZ and public broadcasting funding agency New Zealand On Air to deliver “quality New Zealand programming and journalism modeled on the ABC in Australia”.

Multimedia platform
Curran said the bulk of the money would create a new multimedia platform called RNZ+ and a TV channel on Freeview was part of the plan.

But once in government, Labour earmarked only $15 million more for public media in the Budget in May. Plans for a TV channel were talked down and are now spoken of as merely “an aspiration” for the future.

The new money will now be split four ways.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson described the $4.5 million added to RNZ’s $35 million annual public funding as “a dose of steroids”.

“We’ll make you proud, Minister” said NZOA’s chair Dr Ruth Harley, welcoming a $4 million boost to its $100 million-a-year budget for local TV shows and digital content.

The minister said a further $6 million will go into a new “Innovation Fund” to create “more public media content for under-served audiences such as Māori and Pacific Peoples, children and regional New Zealand.”

Both RNZ and NZOA jointly suggested this idea, but suggested only $2 million for the new fund, leaving $8.5m for “stage one of the RNZ+ plan”.

Independent producers
The content will appear on RNZ platforms but it will be made by independent producers commissioned by NZ On Air, the minister said.

Other media companies had opposed the funding increase and TV and film production companies jointly called for $20 million extra for New Zealand on Air instead.

Last year, MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson claimed RNZ+ could wipe out his business and hired a lobbyist to talk the minister out of it. New Zealand on Air funding is a significance source of finance for some of its local programmes on TV channel Three.

He was happy with this week’s announcement.

“It targets the right communities and gives RNZ support and extra funding for NZ On Air makes sense,” he told Mediawatch.

The minister’s advisory group – after many weeks chewing over the issues – appear to have tried to keep RNZ, NZOA and independent programme-makers happy with a roughly even split of the fresh funds.

“Keeping our entities happy is not how I would describe it but I don’t see that as being a bad thing,” Curran told Mediawatch.

Better collaboration
“This is stage one. We are working on how to make better collaboration happen across the other public media such as Māori TV, Pacific media and state-owned TVNZ,” she said.

Clearly more money is welcome for organisations that have not had a substantial boost for years and it could go a long way. (Certainly further than the 200 hours of content local TV producers say they could generate with $20 million more funding).

The minister’s instance that there will be more money for media in future is also a comfort for them.

But in the end this is an incremental change which puts more money into the existing system – not a transformative one.

The remaining $500,000 of the new funding will be spent on researching how “Crown-funded media agencies can use their assets more efficiently.”

Perhaps it would be better if that had been done before the new funding arrangements were made. State-owned TVNZ for example has substantial assets – and big audiences – but no public mandate at all any more.

It has no role in the funding revealed this week.

Australian comparison
“Compared with Australia, the $216 million spent on broadcasting in 2017/18 is clearly inadequate,” Curran said at the announcement.

Her chart – from a PWC report commission by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage – showed Australia spends $1.6 billion on public broadcasting.

That is about $67 per person a year as opposed to just under $50 a head here. But Australians get a lot more public broadcasting for their money. They get commercial-free ABC TV channels, on-demand video and local and national radio as well ethnic-focused SBS radio and TV and indigenous channel NITV.

The ABC – the model for Labour’s policy according to its pre-election manfesto – is entirely funded directly by the government and is accountable for all of it.

How much you spend isn’t always the issue, but how you spend it.

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing partnership with RNZ Pacific.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Widodo and West Papuan human rights fall under NZ media radar

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Widodo and West Papuan human rights fall under NZ media radar

Protesters for a free West Papua sing at New Zealand’s Parliament while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Indonesian President Joko Widowo were meeting on Monday. Image: Screen grab from RNZ Pacific video

BRIEFING: By Colin Peacock of RNZ Mediawatch

While a former US President’s visit preoccupied the New Zealand media this week, the state visit of the current president of Indonesia went mostly under the radar. You’ll look in vain for reports about what was discussed at top-level talks about important issues.

Just before former US President Barack Obama flew in to New Zealand, a leader described as “Indonesia’s Obama” by Stuff this week touched down on Monday.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo represents the world’s fourth most populous country and he is an interesting leader. The former furniture maker is a heavy metal fan only turned to politics 12 years ago.

Briefing the reporters last Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters: “Indonesia is an incredibly important potential economic partner for New Zealand.”


READ MORE: Open letter to PM Ardern: Raise Papua human rights crimes with Jokowi


She went on to say that she had also raised some political sensitive issues including “freedom of speech and access of foreign media in the Papua region.”

The Indonesian Embassy promoted the state visit via social media.

That media freedom issue is important for the disputed Melanesian territory of West Papua. Reporters have found it very difficult to get in to find out what’s going on there.

Stuff, The New Zealand Herald, RNZ and Newshub all noted in their preview pieces that West Papua independence activists had been urging the Prime Minister to raise the issue too.

Witty remarks
On day one of the visit, most media outlets covered the photo opportunities and scheduled walkabouts in Wellington. President Widodo’s witty remarks about Indonesian coffee and New Zealand sheep made for a big headline in the Herald the next day.

RNZ Pacific reported that the President and his team were greeted by Free West Papua protesters and flag-waving Indonesian patriots on parliament grounds, who tried to drown out each other’s songs.

A sing-off on the steps of the New Zealand Parliament between protestors and Indonesians during President Joko Widodo’s visit to Wellington on Monday. Image: Johnny Blades/RNZ Pacific

A video of that by RNZ posted on Facebook has been viewed more than 35,000 times.

So far, so good.

But you’ll look in vain for media reports about what was said at those bilateral talks.

Photos were taken on behalf of all media by one photographer when the Indonesians met jacinda Ardern. Judging by the smiles on all the faces, it was going well at that point.

Similarly smiley pictures of a meeting with Simon Bridges appeared on his Twitter feed and that of the Indonesian Embassy afterwards.

Reporters ushered out
But the media reports of both meetings say reporters were ushered out of the room as President Widodo began to speak.

RNZ reported that the Indonesian government had requested “media opportunities for questions . . . were kept to a bare minimum”.

Joko Widodo and Jacinda Ardern did not hold a press conference.

“I’m advised—that as far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalls, there has been never a requirement for post bilateral stand-ups. They’ve always been case by case,” Jacinda Ardern told reporters earlier

A joint statement was released on Tuesday covering areas of cooperation and common ground.

It said both leaders reaffirmed other’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” – not a comfort to those who hoped he would be pressed on independence for West Papua.

But that was a document drafted by diplomats – not by journalists

No change
In his preview of Joko Widodo’s visit, on Gordon Campbell predicted it would not change a situation once described by David Lange years ago.

“He had said it was almost impossible to get New Zealand to think about the huge nation sitting right on our doorstep,” Campbell wrote.

It seems he is still right about that.

And Joko Widodo seems capable of handling the media.

On The Panel on RNZ National last Tuesday Jim Mora noted Joko Widodo brought the house down with thoughts about politics and the media during a speech last week in Australia.

“Since the arrival of Netflix the politicians have no choice but to turn politics into reality TV, because if we don’t, all of you will watch House of Cards and Stranger Things instead of watching us,” he said.

Republished from RNZ Mediawatch by Pacific Media Watch.

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Philippines reporting risks grow under ‘The Punisher’, says PCIJ advocate

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Philippines reporting risks grow under ‘The Punisher’, says PCIJ advocate

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism executive director Malou Mangahas speaking at the Pacific Media Centre’s 10th anniversary media freedom summit at Auckland University of Technology. Image: Khairiah A. Rahman/PMC

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Journalists in the Philippines take their life in their hands doing their job. What was already one of the world’s riskiest places to be a reporter has become even more difficult under President Rodrigo Duterte and his “war on drugs”, reports RNZ’s Mediawatch.

In today’s Mediawatch programme featuring the executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Malou Mangahas, who spoke at “Journalism Under Duress in Asia-Pacific”, a summit marking the 10th anniversary of Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre, presenter Colin Peacock reports:

When the Philippines appears in the news here these days, it’s not normally good news.

Most stories focus on the maverick president Rodrigo Duterte – nicknamed The Punisher – who is often compared to Donald Trump. Many of those stories also refer to the bloody crackdown of his ‘war on drugs’ launched after he took power last year.

READ MORE: Journalism under duress in Asia-Pacific – an introduction

Thousands of people have been killed by vigilante-style policing since mid-2016.

PCIJ’s Malou Mangahas (centre) at the Pacific Media Centre with RNZ’s Johnny Blades, Pacific Media Watch’s Kendall Hutt and PMC’s Del Abcede. Image: David Robie/PMC


In her APEC visit to Manila last month, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the deaths “require investigation . . at the very least” – and in a rather awkward-looking press conference, she also made a point of telling the president New Zealand’s police are unarmed.

The culture of impunity allowing police to kill suspected drug users and sellers in the Philippines is also putting journalists under severe pressure – and in some cases getting them killed too.

The extra-judicial killings are often officially explained as self-defence or the results of shoot-outs. But sometimes media reports show otherwise.

This week, Reuters news agency published a startling multi-media report called Operation Kill detailing the extra-judicial killings of three men and how the circumstances were covered up by police officers.

“The Philippines has one of the most free presses in Asia, and it also one of the rambunctious in its exercise of freedom,” said Malou Mangahas.

“The drug problem is very serious and that is accepted across the country. It is the method of the war on drugs is what has divided it.”

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