Media-wide sharing needed: academic

University of Otago media lecturer Dr Olivier Jutel
University of Otago media lecturer Dr Olivier Jutel
A public contestable fund and resource sharing for all media is needed if the legacy outlets are going to survive, a commentator says.

University of Otago media lecturer Dr Olivier Jutel said he had been following the recent turbulence in the country’s media industry, including the impending closure of Newshub, which will result in nearly 300 jobs being cut, and yesterday’s TVNZ announcement that proposed to cut up to 68 jobs at the state broadcaster.

"I don’t really see a way back from the damage that’s been inflicted here given the climate of media policy.

"As a small market, and a small country, the response to changes in media has always been reactive, and there has not been any forward planning."

There needed to be a media-wide digital platform strategy, he said.

"We need to have a platform which encourages media-sharing agreements to support new and old content providers.

"It’s an opportunity for revenue sharing, and it’s a way we whip social media into shape.

"That’s the kind of forward thinking we need, but governments haven’t even had the stomach for the RNZ-TVNZ merger."

The situation was urgent and dire, he said.

"Journalism is different from Friends reruns. Now, people might want to and are free to consume this content, but that does not perform the same social value as journalism."

TVNZ’s structure as a state-owned enterprise was problematic, he said.

"It means it has to return a commercial dividend like, say, Meridian or Genesis, but it also has a stronger public service remit than them."

TVNZ has had a vacant reporter’s position in Dunedin for several months. It does employ a fulltime cameraman.

Last month, executives from New Zealand’s major media companies appeared before a select committee to submit on the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, which would create a binding arbitration process if offshore digital platforms and local news media companies do not agree on deals for news content.

Dr Jutel said he sympathised with the media organisations’ concerns.

"There are no barriers to entry for me to get on my social media to rail against the media, but that’s not journalism.

"There are significant barriers to entry in setting up a media company - you need not only the journalists, you need the editors, the lawyers, the whole infrastructure."

He was also worried about the future of the Newshub and TV3 archives, which were "taonga".

"That’s our collective story, and we shouldn’t let Warner Discovery stash it in some vault somewhere - it’s something government should be playing a role in facilitating its protection."

There also needed to be a public inquiry into the future of journalism in New Zealand.

"I know everyone is sick of such blue ribbon inquiries - the previous government loved to launch them and ignore all of the recommendations - but I do think there is enough cross-party agreement to get something started.

"Journalism is as much a common good as housing."