Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

'An important institution': Goldsmith on securing Shortland Street's future

Shayne Currie,
Publish Date
Tue, 2 Jul 2024, 12:59pm

'An important institution': Goldsmith on securing Shortland Street's future

Shayne Currie,
Publish Date
Tue, 2 Jul 2024, 12:59pm

The Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill is set to progress through Parliament with the support of National, NZ First and likely Labour - but not the Government’s coalition partner, Act. 

New Zealand’s longest-running drama, Shortland Street, looks set to be saved, while New Zealand’s broader media industry is also likely to receive help from the Government in earning revenue from digital tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

In a raft of changes announced by the Government today, a ban on TV advertising on Sunday mornings and certain public holidays will be also lifted.

As predicted by Media Insider last Friday, Media and Communications Minister Paul Goldsmith said today the Government would take “immediate action” to support New Zealand’s media and content production sectors - including allowing a 40% screen production rebate to apply to Shortland Street.

The show currently costs TVNZ in the region of $20 million to produce each year.

Goldsmith described the show as “an important institution” for generating talent and it would “be great” if it continued.

The Government will also progress the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill through Parliament - it has the support of the National and NZ First parties, but not Act.

That means the bill will also need to rely on the support of Labour and/or the Greens - Labour introduced the bill when it was in government.

“I am relieved the Government is seeing sense and progressing with legislation to make the media landscape fairer for news companies operating online,” said Labour media and communications spokesman Willie Jackson.

“We will take the time to look at the Government’s amendments, but support the intent of the bill.”

Goldsmith said the Government would progress the bill, with amendments, “to support our local media companies to earn revenue for the news they produce”.

The Government would not be taking up the select committee recommendation to define artificial intelligence in the bill, adding more work needed to be done before “we attempt to legislate there”.

He said the primary public interest was to have a robust media landscape so the media could be an effective fourth estate in democracy.

Goldsmith said the broader media landscape was under intense pressure - that was not something Government could fix on its own.

“It’s a sector that’s under enormous pressure,” he said, adding that what gave him hope was that there was still a big appetite for local news and content.

Goldsmith said “all indications are” Labour would be supportive of the Bill.

This announcement was a “backstop” to encourage negotiations to happen between the press and technology companies.

It’s nothing to do with Government deciding who is funded, he said. What we are trying to achieve here is [encouraging] conversations to happen.

The bill will force the likes of Google and Meta, owner of Facebook, to pay for the news content they use to help drive their business models.

It may force Facebook to make some big calls on whether it retains news in its ecosystem in New Zealand.

Goldsmith had spoken to almost every player in the sector, bar TikTok which was hard to “pin down”.

Act leader David Seymour described the Bill as a “sop”, saying it would not solve the fundamental challenges facing traditional media. The party would invoke the “agree to disagree” provision of its coalition agreement with National.

“It’s never been easier to share information online, but people don’t want the product on offer. This bill is unlikely to change the underlying reality that media companies need to adapt, innovate, and provide a product customers want to buy, just like any other business.”

Goldsmith said he had “looked closely” at the design of the legislation and would change the approach to align more closely with the Australian digital bargaining code to give all companies greater certainty.

“The key change is adopting a ministerial designation framework. This will enable the minister to decide which digital platforms are captured by the Bill, allowing the Government to manage unintended consequences. We’ll also ensure an appropriate independent regulator is appointed as the Bill’s authority.

“Act have indicated they will not support the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill. However, the leaders of the three coalition parties have agreed Act can hold a differing view. This means the bill will rely on the support of other parties to pass.”

Goldsmith said many aspects of legislation such as the Broadcasting Act are “outdated” and “stifling innovation”.

“While full legislative review takes time, we are starting by removing outdated advertising restrictions for Sundays and public holidays.”

Goldsmith said it was estimated the changes around the Sunday advertising rules could bring in $6 million per year, depending on what events were occurring (such as a Rugby World Cup).

“The Government will also tweak the eligibility criteria for the New Zealand Screen Production Rebate for local shows with strong industry and cultural value, like our longest-running drama Shortland Street.”

Media and Communications Minister Paul Goldsmith (centre) with Shortland Street cast members Michael Galvin (left) and Ben Barrington.Media and Communications Minister Paul Goldsmith (centre) with Shortland Street cast members Michael Galvin (left) and Ben Barrington. 

Goldsmith has also spoken to funding agency NZ on Air about more support for news and current affairs.

“They have committed to reporting back to Cabinet on progress by the end of the year.

“All of these short-term measures will be in effect by the end of this year.

“On a wider reform programme, proposals for a truly modern and streamlined regulatory landscape are currently under development and the Government will be announcing next steps later in 2024.”

Act: ‘The bill is a sop’ 

Act leader David Seymour. Photo / Alex Burton Act leader David Seymour. Photo / Alex Burton 


Act said today it had invoked the “agree to disagree” provisions of its coalition agreement and would oppose the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill.

“The Bill is a sop,” said Act leader David Seymour.

“Even its supporters estimate it may only provide $30m in revenue to all media companies, but revenue at TVNZ alone dropped by half that last year. The Bill’s a failed Labour inheritance our partners just can’t shrug off. It’s one of those things you do when you don’t know what else to do.”

He said the Bill was unlikely to change “the underlying reality that media companies need to adapt, innovate, and provide a product customers want to buy, just like any other business”.

“Media companies claim they need the Government to step in because internet companies are exploiting them. In my experience, it’s not always clear who needs who the most. Media firms get traffic from Google and Meta, they can’t prove they’re not benefiting from the internet firms.”

He said it was not the role of government to protect businesses from the effects of competition and changing customer preferences.

“We are also concerned that the bill could have unintended consequences for New Zealanders.

”In Canada, Meta blocked users’ ability to share or view news content leading to a significant reduction in traffic to smaller, independent media websites and the government having to bail them out. And if news disappears from social media platforms, misinformation will take its place.”

News publishers welcome bill 

News Publishers' Association public affairs director Andrew Holden.News Publishers' Association public affairs director Andrew Holden. 

The News Publishers’ Association said it welcomed the move to proceed with the Bill.

“We’re delighted and relieved that the minister has listened to our industry and decided to proceed with this legislation,” said NPA public affairs director Andrew Holden.

“It was very clear from the many submissions made to a select committee in February that this bill has the overwhelming support of New Zealand’s media companies, whether their main platform is digital, print, radio or television.

“This bill will allow us to sit down with Big Tech companies and negotiate a fair payment for the value that our news content brings to their businesses.

“The NPA is confident that this legislation will bring additional revenue to our media industry, as has happened in Australia and Canada. The state of California is also progressing its own legislation that will require Big Tech companies to sit down and negotiate with local media.”

Holden said the industry would be interested in the amendments proposed by the minister.

“A key issue for media companies around the world is the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence, and the use of journalism to train AI engines. The NPA will look closely at the Government’s new draft of the legislation to see whether it provides the clarity we need to bring AI companies to the negotiating table.”

- Additional reporting, Julia Gabel 

Editor-at-Large Shayne Currie is one of New Zealand’s most experienced senior journalists and media leaders. He has held executive and senior editorial roles at NZME including Managing Editor, NZ Herald Editor and Herald on Sunday Editor and has a small shareholding in NZME. 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you