Press freedom threatened by business imperatives
The press is free in New Zealand but its independence and pluralism are often undermined by the profit imperative of media groups trying to cut costs to the detriment of good journalism. Concern was voiced about the editorial integrity at New Zealand’s leading news portal Stuff after its owner, Fairfax Media, was taken over by the Australian entertainment giant Nine Television Network in July 2018. Stuff was forced to close a third of the sites it hosted and major budget cuts were imposed on all the local media outlets it owns. The situation could have been even worse if the Commerce Commission had not blocked another proposed merger between Stuff and New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME), which owns the country’s leading daily, the New Zealand Herald. As a result of this high level of media concentration, only small online publications have managed to provide fully independent reporting and viewpoints. The economic viability of many media outlets was seriously threatened by the coronavirus crisis, which led to the loss of nearly 700 jobs in the media sector. The government’s announcement in February 2021 that it would disburse 55 million NZ dollars (33 million euros) to media outlets over three years to ensure the survival of “public interest journalism” was therefore welcomed in the sector. On the legislative side, journalists continue to demand changes to the Official Information Act, which obstructs the work of journalists by allowing government agencies a long time to respond to information requests and even allows them to demand hundreds of dollars for the information provided. Despite government promises, this reform was postponed again in January 2021.
9 in 2020
10.69 in 2020