Experts have weighed in with their opinions on the proposed NZME Fairfax merger, offering a diverse range of views, indicating that the Commerce Commission has a way to go before it reaches its final ruling in March.
After the Commission issued its draft ruling expressing that it would decline the merger, Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood called the Commission ‘massively myopic.’
Like other industry participants, Hywood sees a shifting business landscape and fears the effects that the likes of Google and Facebook, which don’t pay for the content on their sites, will have on media organisations. Media commentator Bill Ralston also described the Commission’s decision as short-sighted and suggested its thinking belonged in the 20th Century.
Paul Tolich, national media organiser for Union E tu, says the future of a free and independent news media is at stake, both in terms of news-gathering and editorial independence, with cuts to the number of sub-editors already resulting in a decline in news quality noticed by the public and the fear is the same will happen to any new, merged entity.
He says, “What we want is to protect local news coverage.  The terms of reference for submissions on the merger include what’s in the public interest and we want to protect the integrity of local news.
“Only by the continuation of local news coverage will New Zealanders know what’s happening in their own backyard. Our submission calls for guarantees that existing domestic reporting will be nurtured and protected.”
Fairfax NZ’s assets include Stuff, The Dominion-Post, The Press and The Sunday-Star Times and stakes in community site Neighbourly and broadband provider Stuff Fibre. NZME’s brands include The New Zealand Herald, daily deals site GrabOne and several major radio stations including Newstalk ZB and ZM.
The Commeerce Commission has released a report from David Levy, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and Robin Foster, an adviser on media economics and policy and founder of UK-based media consultancy Communications Chambers.
In the report, they state, “Although there may be some benefits in the form of more effective use of newsgathering resources which could enhance the quality of the overall news proposition on offer, there would be less competition among journalists and news outlets. As a result, it is likely that there would be a less diverse range of perspectives on the news available to New Zealand consumers, both directly and through the flow-through effect on other news providers and, on balance, potentially less innovation in content and delivery.”
However, they concede that, “although the current plurality assessment is robust and appropriate, rapid changes in news markets could before long raise further questions around long term sustainability of high quality news in New Zealand, and the most effective structures and regulatory framework to secure it for the future.”

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Seriously? There can be no realistic opposition to the Commerce Commission’s draft determination that is not somehow grounded in commercial interest. Bill Ralston might think he somehow represents a modern outlook but his opinion doesn’t actually address how a merger would effectively counter the rise of the digital giants. The argument is actually pretty simple: if newspapers want to keep giving away their content online in an effort to compete with Facebook and Google for online advertising, they will probably fail. If they think that cutting the costs of creating content to beat opponents who bear no corresponding costs at all, then they will inevitably fail. So what’s the actual point of merging?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *