TVNZ and RNZ merger: Former NZ First Minister who 'gets stuff done' now in charge

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 31 Mar 2021, 3:16PM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

TVNZ and RNZ merger: Former NZ First Minister who 'gets stuff done' now in charge

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 31 Mar 2021, 3:16PM

Former New Zealand First MP and Minister Tracey Martin has been put in charge of the Government's plans to assess a TVNZ/ RNZ merger as she "gets stuff done".

Martin's group will oversee how the business case, being produced by Deloitte, could be implemented in "real life".

This comes after numerous delays in the plan to assess the viability of the creation of a new public media entity, likely a merger of TVNZ and RNZ.

That business case will be presented to Cabinet before the end of the year; ministers will then decide whether or not to give it the green light.

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi confirmed today that the new entity, if created, would operate with a mixed funding model – that is, drawing part of its revenue from commercial sources, such as ads, and part from Government funding.

The group, led by Martin, is not the first to assess the viability of the merger.

In February last year, Cabinet commissioned PwC to write a business case for the new entity – it was meant to report back to ministers before September.

But Faafoi said this morning that the work had been put "on ice" because of Covid-19.

"It is off ice now and there is quite a bit of heat on it to make sure we get it done."
Now, Deloitte has picked up that work.

According to Martin, her group will be able to identify what actually will, and won't work when it comes to the practical implications of the business case.

"That's what the talents of this group is: while the people writing the business case can do it from a technical perspective, [her group of experts] have real life experience."

She said they will be able to identify what actually will, and won't work when it comes to the practical implications of the business case.

"We don't want to present the minister to take to Cabinet something that won't work."

Faaofi couldn't say what the budget was for Martin's group.

He said Martin was brought in because she has a reputation for "getting stuff done".

The new entity would, according to Faafoi, have full editorial and operational independence from Government and this would be enshrined in legislation.

It would also operate in a way that "complements and collaborates with private media".

"RNZ and TVNZ are high-performing entities that have served New Zealanders well. They provide a strong basis on which to build for the future," Faafoi said.

Speaking to a select committee this year, RNZ's chairman Jim Mather was "strongly supporting" the progressing work with the new entity.

And the year before at the same select committee, TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick said a merger with RNZ wouldn't necessarily mean job losses – and could even mean the opposite.

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi arriving for his press conference at Parliament, Wellington. 29 January 2021. NZ Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell

But he had said that having a public broadcaster with ads would "create challenges".

Martin's business case would look at how a potential new public media entity could meet the "changing expectations of New Zealand audiences and support a strong, vibrant media sector", Faafoi said.

The other members of the group are:
• Glen Scanlon - chief executive of Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho (Broadcasting Standards Authority) and former journalist and editor
• Michael Anderson – former chief executive of MediaWorks NZ
• Sandra Kailahi - Director of boutique film and media production company Kingston Productions
• Bailey Mackey – one of New Zealand's leading independent producers across a range of genres and a former journalist
• William Earl – experienced senior manager at the likes of BBC, TVNZ and Asia Business News
• John Quirk – chairman of Kordia Group (until April 30), Farm-IQ Systems, SMX Ltd, Portainer.io, Cumulo9 and a director of Aeroqual and Howard & Co.
• Dr Trisha Dunleavy – one of New Zealand's leading researchers into television issues who has been an associate professor in media studies at Victoria University of Wellington