Government set to announce next steps for RNZ-TVNZ merger
The government is expected to officially announce that it will go ahead with the merger of state media TVNZ and RNZ on Thursday.
In early 2021, the government established the “Strong Public Media Business Case Governance Group” to provide “a detailed business case to examine the viability of establishing a new fit-for-purpose public media entity”.
Audiovisual Minister Kris Faafoi has been tight-lipped about the ongoing merger in one form or another since the government’s last term.
Thing understands that the Cabinet has made the decision and that tomorrow the merger will be confirmed, as well as the announcement that it will move quickly to create a “settlement committee” which will guide the process and flesh out the details. It is understood that the aim will be to make the new entity operational by mid-2023.
Thing first reported on February 22 that a decision to go ahead with the merger had been taken by Cabinet.
The specific structure of the new entity is unknown, and many more details are unlikely to be known on Thursday. However, Faafoi has previously publicly committed to maintaining the current commercial-free status of RNZ and Concert FM.
TVNZ will be more difficult. The state broadcaster is expected to be required to fulfill more of a role that a traditional public broadcaster fulfills – more public interest content. However, it is understood that the TV side of the new entity will still have some business imperatives.
Taken in full, it is understood that the new entity will operate on a “blended model” of public and commercial funding.
One of the roles of the new board, which Faafoi is believed to want to appoint soon, will be to decide on the form and function of the new entity, including the balance between commercial and ad-free content.
One of the most similar models would be the RTÉ network in Ireland, which is funded by a combination of television license fees – New Zealand scrapped its broadcast fees in 1999 – and commercial advertising revenue. Unlike Ireland, there is no indication that any renewed license fee regime is on the table.
RTÉ is a public, not-for-profit station, with a radio, online and television presence made up of several channels. Its 2020 Annual Report states that “these services serve all demographics of Irish society with a wide variety of productions and genres, whatever the commercial appeal of the audience, and with particular emphasis on locally produced programmes”.
In 2020, RTE reported revenues of €331 million (NZ$528 million) of which €196.6 million (NZ$314 million) was revenue from licenses (taxes) and 134, €4 million (NZ$215 million) from commercial activity, including approximately €97 million from advertising. income. Ireland has a population virtually identical to New Zealand.
Currently, public media funding in New Zealand broadly consists of: NZ on Air, which approved funding of $174 million in 2021; RNZ, which had funding of just under $48 million and had a surplus of $98,000 in 2021; In 2021, TVNZ, a state-owned commercial broadcaster, had an operating income of $340 million. It reported an interim profit of $33.9 million on revenue of $175 million in February.
How this financing is structured and whether the same level of commercial financing is maintained will likely be determined during the process of creating the new entity.
The composition of the new board will be a key set of appointments for the government – and Faafoi – to make. Some – but not all – members of the Strong Public Media Business Case Governance Group are expected to join the new board.
Current group members are former New Zealand Prime Minister and President Tracey Martin, Broadcasting Standards Authority chief executive Glen Scanlon, former Mediaworks and Austereo Group chief executive Michael Anderson, company director of film and media Sandra Kailahi, independent producer Bailey Mackey, former BBC and TVNZ executive William Earl, former Kordia Group chairman John Quirk, and associate professor of media studies at the University of Victoria, Dr. Trisha Dunleavy.
Since taking over the Treasury benches in 2027, the government has toyed with different iterations of a newly merged public issue.
Former communications minister Clare Curran pursued a model known as RNZ plus, designed to broaden the reach of the government-funded broadcaster.
Current TVNZ chief executive and former National Party cabinet minister Simon Power took over this month, replacing former chief executive Kevin Kenrick, while RNZ editor and chief executive , Paul Thompson, has been in the role since 2013. Power is widely expected to lead the new entity.