On Newshub and economic voice

Written By: - Date published: 1:21 pm, April 14th, 2024 - 16 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, Media, michael wood - Tags: , , ,

Nigel Haworth writes on some of the historic implications and strategy of the worker plans for companies in the context of the worker initiated initiatives for allowing Newshub to survive.

It is good to hear that Michael Wood, now E Tū and on the side of television workers, is seeking to ensure that labour law is properly applied to the current proposals for Newshub’s closure. It is a case of “walking the talk” by an ex-Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, soon, I hope, to be back in Parliament. It’s probably doing him few favours to say that I’ve always considered Michael to cleave to the politics on which Labour should be focused.

However, back to the Newshub closure and redundancies. The work by Paddy Gower, Michael Morrah and others in their search for a worker-derived alternative plan for Newshub is striking. This initiative, it seems, is not at present viable, yet it is to be praised.

Age allows me to recall a previous era of workers’ responses to closures, alternative economic strategies for sectors and country, and, to speak the unspeakable, prefigurative forms of socialism. These debates were front and centre in the later ‘70s and early ‘80s in the UK and elsewhere, as the neo-liberal world view came to pass. They were in time united in the idea of an Alternative Economic Strategy (AES), taken up later in New Zealand to an extent, which combined national and industry planning with a broader politics of transition and political mobilisation. A key component of the AES was a response to plant-level restructuring that demanded a strong and active worker voice in all key decisions, including those that led to closure proposals.

The idea of worker plans for companies and plants drew on a number of intellectual strands, but particularly the Labour Process debate, from which they took as an axiom the view that management’s right to arbitrary decision making was an ideological assumption at odds with the way work and responsibility were configured in production and workplace. Such decision-making took place in a “contested terrain” in which the forces of labour and capital confronted each other. Trades unions were but the major battalions of labour in this confrontation. The “contest” took place at multiple levels – individual, informal group, section, plant and industry levels. The idea of “workers’ voice” became popular.

Underpinning this challenge to managerial prerogatives was a fundamental question about liberal democracy. The right to contest managerial power in the workplace assumed a right to challenge the economic decision-making of Capital. This was always the missing element in liberal democracy.

Limited political voice was hard-won, in the form of the vote; economic voice was never ceded by Capital; collective bargaining, one form of economic democracy, had to be fought for over generations, and at such cost. And it is always a first-line issue when the Right is in power, in a way that suffrage is not. Arguably, the cost to Capital of political democracy may be borne more easily than that arising from economic democracy. Economic democracy speaks to the creation and distribution of wealth eloquently and, for Capital, unacceptably.

This brings me back to Newshub. I doubt if Paddy Gower and Mike Morrah et al. were thinking of worker plans, AESs and the like when they proposed an alternative package. But they were acting in concert with that tradition as expertise and knowledge within the workforce was brought to bear critically on management plans, and alternatives were canvassed. Braverman would have recognised it instantly!

Why is this important? The answer is simple. It speaks to the need for Labour to consider actively, not only tax changes and switches, but also economic democracy. If we are to reverse local shifts in wealth inequality that reflect global shifts, this can only be achieved by a combination of tax shifts, and a parallel, and in many ways, more challenging, focus on power in production and distribution.

It is more challenging for it speaks to property rights at the heart of market and neo-liberal thinking, an area into which the contemporary Left is fearful to tread. The form of that focus – in particular, what beyond collective bargaining is required – is another discussion. I am certain, however, that improved collective bargaining is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for successful economic democracy.


Nigel Haworth is a New Zealand economics academic and politician. He was president of the Association of University Staff from 2005 to 2008. He was President of the New Zealand Labour Party from 2015 – 2019.

16 comments on “On Newshub and economic voice ”

  1. Phillip ure 1

    My initial thoughts on the media sea-changes ..

    Is for a group of the (like-minded) exiled talent get together…and start something along the lines of the guardian..

    Some version of a not-for-profit/worker-owned/co-op online media beast…

    That would be a heroic rising from the ashes…and the chance to make a global-leader in online global/local news..

    And of course having a model like that will open doors/access to like minded media entities..and some form of subscription/donation..if the product is as promised.. would be viable..

    (I would pay for something like that..)

    All the ingredients…in the way of skills/talent..are there..in abundance..

    (Then there are all those soon to graduate media students..)

    So…why not now…?

    • SPC 1.1

      The laid off staff can boost the on-line video-podcast world of existing on-line media organisations and Stuff/NZME (on-line).

      But there could also be a a digital Stuff – worker non profit collective. A Newshub type site – subscriber – with on demand video news/current affairs/documentary (opening market with TVNZ cutbacks). Other revenue from supply of news to local Sky and offshore outlets. There are a range of international (digital info/documentary) companies that collate from a range of content providers. Other revenue off can come off You Tube ads. Staff can receive support to be "freelance" successful on patreon.

      • Phillip ure 1.1.1

        I think a pillar of such a not for profit/workers co-op entity must be free access for all….no paywalls ..

        I don't need to make the case for that..do I..?

        • Phillip ure 1.1.1.1

          I think access to media should be guaranteed as a democratic/human right…

          I think it is fucked up that only those who can afford to pay get to read..what could be important information for those blocked..

          Fuck that ..!

          Fuck you NZ Herald..!

          Tear down the paywalls..!

          • lprent 1.1.1.1.1

            I think it is fucked up that only those who can afford to pay get to read..what could be important information for those blocked..

            Personally I think that what is fucked up is when you say something like that without having (apparently) any idea or even having thought about what a solution would look like.

            When you read this, please remember that I usually run a decade or two in advance of my age generation. Basically I think most news and broadcast media is going to resize and shift. It won't die. But it sure as hell will keep changing.

            Usual first problem – who pays for it. Because advertising certainly won't. Which is why the free-to-air media died. There are more lucrative advertising channels.

            Second problem – no-one in the important demographics are watching/listening. They're doing other things like working. TV and radio are so damn slow, and few apart from the retired, no-one really has have time to watch/listen much, they are permanently sated with news, and they watch entertainment on their leisure hours.

            I don't watch news and even current affairs in media because it is so damn slow. I can read what I want from 6+ online newspapers in the time it takes a TV news to run and I don't have to sit through dribbling human interest stories or minor crimes or sport. I could watch and episode or two of a story-line in the time it takes to watch news.

            Most working people who have phones seem to get their news from their contacts sharing links or scan reading a news feed now. Just like I did a couple of decades ago.

            Third problem – taxation or licence fees or the like. The public information / emergency argument doesn't apply. I get alerts from the cell-phone or from the one channel dedicated to it – RNZ NatRad. Why should I pay a licence fee to pay for TV or radio channels that I never use.

            My TV is only tuned to ad-free subscriber channels on the internet. I pay for ad-free RNZ via taxes as another internet channel for more detailed emergency info. I don't mind paying for some local content – busy enjoying The Cleaner on subscriber Neon at present. It doesn't have intrusive ads….

            no paywalls ..

            I don't need to make the case for that..do I..?

            Fuck you NZ Herald..!

            A kind of useless and historically ignorant set of statements. The NZH has always been behind a paywall, I remember wandering around as a kid with the job of picking up subscriptions for them and for the Auckland Star. Stuff just removed the paper paywall by switching to mostly electronic. The Herald added a paywall to its electronic as it was cannibalising their paper paywall.

            I don't read the NZ Herald because its content vs price is like getting watered down Tullmore Dew. No substance. Way way too much useless fluff. Most of which I have already read from other sources from offshore or that I simply don't need to read. Why in the hell would I care?

            I pay less to pay for a annual subscription to the electronic Washington Post which has a much lower fluff content. I also donate to Stuff because the local useless fluff level is lower and I don't have to jump through hoops to read it.

            I'd only pay for the NZ Herald if they provide a account to buy by articles that I actually read.

            I think a pillar of such a not for profit/workers co-op entity must be free access for all….no paywalls ..

            You mean like here? Hell – that isn't 'free'. It has no profit. It is mostly just costs..

            It is limited by the spare time that authors have to donate to write and moderate. The time that commenters donate to argue about the issues of the day. The time I have to technically maintain it, the gear and resources that I use to run it – mostly old hardware and things I use for my paid work.

            What extra monetary costs we have are half donated by the people who actually donate (thanks you few generous people). I pay the rest and write it off to professional costs for a few lines in my CV. Working on the site and its toolkit is useful for understanding at a deep level exactly how to operate on the oily rag at a deep technical level. Mostly how to operate without me spending too much 'spare' time.

            Mostly the site needs money for a couple of plugins for services in security (wordfence and a few others), performance (W3Cache, Bunny.net) and a couple of paid presentation utilities that I am slowly replacing.

            There are also some excess costs of legal issues brought by the legally illiterate or their lawyers who do their clients wishes. I just work to help to bankrupt the illiterate fools if they start wasting my time. I figure it is a good way to train bullshitting idiots.

            Some of this fiscal setup may change if I do decide to 'retire' and live off super, savings, and my open source interests some time after June.

            But a media "not for profit/workers co-op" still has to make a profit, if only so that they have equity with which to purchase equipment and services, ideally pay people who would otherwise have to volunteer their time, and to ideally to finance some investigative reporting rather than just offering informed opinions that are usually largely derived from their other paid work and earned skills.

            • Phillip ure 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Anyone looking at starting a different media model..could do worse than looking at the guardian..and seeing if their (eminently successful/long-lived) financial model could be tweaked to work here…as a multi media beast..

              There are also tax breaks/advantages to be had…and if content is of high enough and consistent quality..a la guardian..financial support from charitable entities would not be out of the question.

          • roblogic 1.1.1.1.2

            The NZH paywall is a joke, I could suggest 3 ways around it but that could get me in trouble. 🙈

    • bwaghorn 1.2

      We need a Spotify for news items , any one can upload their news , (well maybe some standards) then you get read you get paid , and the punter only needs 1 subscription.

      • Phillip ure 1.2.1

        That could also work..and I don't think these different ideas/models are in a competition for a winner..

        They can co-exist next to each other..

        The 'news' world has been dominated for too long by those two behemoths with their mirror-models…

        I think it is exciting that a whole new world of online media can now blossom ..

        Hell..!..I might even get over-excited..and join in…

      • lprent 1.2.2

        Scoop is effectively that. Send them a news release and most of the time it will go up. It does seem to work on more of a donation model – ummm and Pro subscription.

        The Spinoff, The Conversation, Evening Report also do quite a lot of that as well. Paid for by mixtures of donations, volunteers, subscriptions, and limited advertising. But all largely without paywalls. Plus of course a large chunk of Stuff.

        But it is scattered. Besides you should look at Tidal and other music providers rather than Spotify. Look at this comparison – which is why I pay Tidal. Plus they have had a much better fidelity for a long time.

        Below, we’ve detailed the average music streaming payouts per stream for the leading streaming platforms as of 2023.

        Streaming Platform Average Payout per Stream
        Tidal $0.01284
        Apple Music $0.008
        Amazon Music $0.00402
        Spotify $0.00318
        YouTube Music $0.002
        Pandora $0.00133
        Deezer $0.0011

        Income pay outs per platform per stream

  2. Ad 2

    We could have had an entity in which broadcast tv and radio were integrated into a new major entity called Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media.

    Labour, Greens, and Te Mati Maori were all in support.

    It was to have a charter. It was going to be able to raise its own revenue through commercial operations, but RNZ would remain ad free.

    It would have editorial independence enshrined in legislation.

    What actually occurred was TVNZ opposed the new entity from day one, and used its staff to undermine it, and used its strong lobbying power to enable National to gradually kill it. And of course TVNZ helped cause Chippie to abandon it – it was in his DNA to betray Labour initiative so long as he stayed leader.

    This is the alternative future we could have had. Not quite the ABC, but a major step towards it. An entity with the capacity to respond and grow with new media technologies.

    Now as a result news and the politics within is diminished and won't be coming back in the tv series The Newsroom.

    Our media is remarkably similar to the place that local governments are in now that they are having to pay for water infrastructure, rather than form amalgamated entities with the scale to keep up with new demand.

    No doubt the fault is with this National coalition for further shrinking the role that news and hence politics plays in democracy. It is also on Labour for their lack of courage to get the job done when they fully had the opportunity.

    • Dolomedes III 2.1

      How exactly did the National-led coalition "further shrink the role that news and hence politics plays in democracy"?

      • Ad 2.1.1

        Massive shrinkage in TVNZ news and reporting capacity announced this week. All news bulletins on TVNZ other than 6pm will stop. 60 jobs lost.

        Have you been hiding under a rock?

        We don't yet have the number for the budget cuts to RNZ, but guaranteed they will be required to make savings like everyone else.

  3. Phillip ure 3

    Wot..!…chippy is still here..?

    Doesn't he know we called last drinks some time ago..?

    Better turn the lights off and on.. until he gets the message..

    ..and slings his hook..

    ..and we could go back to some version of that earlier plan…

    I don’t see the point in hand wringing over this..

    It’s happened..we ain’t gonna change anyone’s mind..(c.f…warner bros..)

    So..the time can be seized..and the opportunities reached for…

  4. gsays 4

    I have had the predisposition to not pay for media via the internet.

    In the early days it was napster, peer to peer file sharing akin to sharing a cd, a taped version of a LP etc. Fast forward to Pirate Bay and the torrent revolution- games, movies, music.

    In saying that, I have just paid a subscription for the first time ever for content that was at least partially free. David Slack's More than a Feilding. I stumped up $ after reading the eulogy he posted for his Mum. It resonated enough and made me realise how important and changing the media landscape is. I don't always agree with Slack but do enjoy his writing.

    Oh how the times are a changing. There's a song in that.

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