Commercial media have criticised the Government's plans to merge TVNZ and RNZ saying it will impact media plurality and make it harder for them to compete.
More than 800 submissions have been lodged on the proposed merger with Parliament's Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee regarding the bill.
The Government has confirmed plans to merge TVNZ and RNZ into a single public media entity in the hope of ensuring a better future for local media.
Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson spoke before the committee today and said while chief executives of both entities were "supportive" there would be challenges bringing the two cultures together.
"The driving force here is public media.
"This is going to require a change of culture, particularly at TVNZ."
RNZ "gets the model" but at TVNZ it was a "work in place", he said.
"I think they want the best of all worlds at the moment, but we need them to change their attitude."
TVNZ's chief executive Simon Power has previously criticised the legislation setting up the merger and questioned whether the plan to set it up as an autonomous Crown entity provided for sufficient independence.
The TVNZ submission was broadly in support of the merger, but said the new entity's independence needed to be bolstered. It said the two outlets currently had more independence from the Government than the new entity would have.
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Asked later about the concerns on whether it should be an independent or autonomous organisation, Jackson said Te Mangai Paho and NZ on Air were both set up in the same way and it had not stopped their chief executives "having a crack at us".
"I reject any talk or criticism that we'd try and restrict the independence of any entities."
RNZ's submission also recommended independence from Government be strengthened, saying that the bill should include a clear statement that editorial independence was "of paramount importance" and that the board's overriding obligation should be to protect and enhance the independence and integrity of the entity.
It also called for more clarity on the balance between the new entity's public good outcomes and the role of commercial revenue in that.
"It [should] be made explicit in the bill that the new entity is a public good one and that, to the extent its activities generate commercial revenue, it is only for the purpose of enhancing the entity's ability to meet its objectives and carry out its functions in line with its charter."
However, commercial media outlets' submissions raised concerns that the new mega-entity would damage media plurality and make it hard for commercial media outlets to compete.
NZME – the owner of the NZ Herald – said the entity would affect the entire media landscape.
"[It] risks significant adverse and distortionary impacts on the media ecosystem and media plurality given it would be of significant size and scale and able to operate with the benefit of significant public funding, but without safeguards to ensure it competes on an even playing field with other media providers."
Stuff's submission also said the new entity could reshape the media environment entirely, creating "a media giant" with substantial market power, a non-for-profit remit and an effective commercial operation.
"Any organisation with these advantages, operating in any industry, would distort the market. Add to this new taxpayer-funded revenue of $100 million a year, coupled with an explicit direction from its shareholder to retain cash surpluses to subsidise cost-intensive and often non-commercial content like investigative journalism projects: the ramifications for ANZPM's commercial competitors become grave."
It said establishing it as an autonomous Crown entity, rather than a Crown company, would jeopardise its editorial integrity and fiscal rigour.
- Claire Trevett and Michael Neilson, NZ Herald
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