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StuffMe not

Written By: - Date published: 9:58 am, May 3rd, 2017 - 22 comments
Categories: business, Media - Tags: , , , , ,

As widely reported this morning, the Commerce Commission has declined the proposed merger of the country’s two biggest media companies.

NZME and Fairfax merger declined
Commerce Commission sinks Fairfax/NZME media merger​
It’s NO to StuffMe merger

See Tim Murphy’s backgrounder: Media merger D-day looms

If it is a No, the parties could challenge the decision in the courts. However that would be costly, and more importantly, time-consuming when both companies say they have too little time left in the battle for revenue against Facebook and Google. A challenge would most likely centre on the commission considering social good concerns beyond its Commerce Act remit.

Should no appeal be declared, the head of Fairfax Australia, Greg Hywood, has predicted his company in New Zealand would be entering the “end game”. That would initially see draft plans to close or cut publication of some newspaper titles. Those high on any list for urgent cost reduction could include the Waikato Times, Timaru Herald, Marlborough Express (already down to three day publication), the Sunday News and numerous small and marginally viable community titles. Expect the Southland Times, for example, to be sold (possibly to arch-rival Allied Press up the road in Dunedin).

For NZME, a No decision would mean cuts and closures as well, with the Daily Post, Rotorua, vulnerable as well as community papers. The company has talked down its prospects to the commission, to emphasise the need for merger relief, but has performed relatively well boosted by big cost cuts. Print advertising continues to dive and digital advertising is not growing as hoped. NZME’s radio business has been an under-performer, losing in the revenue and ratings war against MediaWorks in what should be a growth part of the media. Any standalone NZME operation would need to put those radio operations right to provide ballast against the print/digital declines.

A No decision could also see a new round of media mergers proposed. It is possible Fairfax could sell or seek part-mergers with Newshub, Spark or other tech firms. Parts of NZME would be a cheap feed for non-media players hungry for content.

Was a merger the answer? Nick Grant: Why the ‘StuffMe’ merger isn’t any solution at all

It’s tough watching them get distracted by the hope of merger, which really is a short-term band-aid. Instead, they should be focusing their attention and resources on tangible long-term solutions.

Explaining the decision, the Chairman of the Commission said:

“This level of influence over the news and political agenda by a single media organisation creates a risk of causing harm to New Zealand’s democracy and to the New Zealand public.”

22 comments on “StuffMe not”

  1. Carolyn_nth 1

    I just deleted this comment from open mike, to include it here:

    There were some diverse views as to what will happen at the Media Futures symposium and AUT last week.

    As reported on Scoop, whatever the Commerce Commission decision,

    Merja Myllylahti, manager of AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD), said even outside the merger there were “tactical and structural convergences” taking place that would drastically shift the mediascape.

    Basically, there are already alliances developing involving sharing of reports, eg RNZ with Stuff, newsroom.co.nz with one of the big players, etc.

    And whatever the Commerce Commission decision, changes would happen, and there would be dangers of media deserts, especially with respect to local news coverage – in the regions, and in NZ compared with easy access to overseas content.

    A lot of the people at the symposium were looking for ways to improve open access public service media. And that really needs a change of government.

    One do-able suggestion many people agreed with, is to make better use of Parliament TV and it’s online platforms. Apparently it only uses about 80% of it’s capability. So people were suggesting, non-partisan political and current affairs coverage on the channels in times when it is not currently being used.

    Material from the conference will be published in a future edition of the medianz Journal.

    Abstracts for the papers are here.

    A big concern from media organisations is the way Facebook and google are using media content not created by FB or google, and profiting from it. Basically they say it’s drawing advertising revenue from media companies.

    During the panel of MPs, Tracey Martin said it was not a problem if a big newspaper like NZ Herald, folded. Other organisations would rise to fill the gaps, and in ways more able to work within the current environment.

    There were also several comments from people who had looked closely at the Commerce Act. Basically, it doesn’t really address some issues specific to the media or news media.

    Peter Thompson said there is a small mention about the public good, which could be an opening to public interest arguments. But that really needs to be better addressed in the act, and maybe with specific mention of media, rather than just being focused on media as commercial operations.

  2. Ad 2

    Will we miss the news, really?

    How important is it to our democracy now?

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Getting accurate information to the people about what’s happening in NZ and the world, especially in politics, is vitally important to democracy. Without it people can’t make informed decisions.

      That said, with our present arrangement of MSM people can’t make informed decisions either because the news is slanted in favour of the status quo which is destroying the world and our society.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Should no appeal be declared, the head of Fairfax Australia, Greg Hywood, has predicted his company in New Zealand would be entering the “end game”.

    For NZME, a No decision would mean cuts and closures as well, with the Daily Post, Rotorua, vulnerable as well as community papers.

    And there you have it – commercial news funded through advertising for the purpose of making a few bludgers rich doesn’t actually work.

    This level of influence over the news and political agenda by a single media organisation creates a risk of causing harm to New Zealand’s democracy and to the New Zealand public.

    We already get that from the duopoly that we have. What we really need is government funded media where each reporting team (5 to 10 people) is independent of each other, the government and commercial interests.

    • tc 3.1

      Tvnz split into a public and commercial channel wouldn’t require much public funding.

      Its a top heavy boys n girls club so once the fat is removed and dividends are foregone it has the facilities to go back to what it hasnt done in years….journalism.

      Imagine how many quality researchers hoskins ego pricetag would fund as one example.

      • Stunned Mullet 3.1.1

        “Imagine how many quality researchers hoskins ego pricetag would fund as one example”

        3 maybe 4 at a push ?

        • Draco T Bastard

          Probably more like 10 or more:

          One TVNZ employee is banking more than a $1 million a year, but the state broadcaster is refusing to say who it is.

          And that would be with a salary of $100,000 so they wouldn’t be badly off.

          • tc

            Rik ellis pulled over $1m p.a. for sfa and presided over cockups like tivo

          • Stunned Mullet

            I’d be surprised if Hoskins would be the highest paid employee at TVNZ as he is a co-presenter (talking head) for a half hour fluff piece only.

            Maybe$650k per annum ? For a good investigative reporter I’d hope they’d be paying a minimum of 150k including benefits, costs etc………not that there seem to be many good investigative journalists around these days.

  4. ianmac 4

    I guess all the smaller Fairfax provincial newspapers will have been cut out or reduced as is Marlborough’s Express. Others too?

  5. Philj 5

    Mark Twain – “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed” Or words to that effect. Why don’t the media moguls try something radical, like produce quality, unbiased journalism? There is a huge void in the market to fill. The Government has a role to play as a State broadcaster, but, as usual has overseen the demise of TVNZ (and broadcasting in general) and, underfunding RNZ. National have stuffed NZ for decades ahead. This is the “Brighter Future”

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Why don’t the media moguls try something radical, like produce quality, unbiased journalism?

      Because that would undercut their power and show that our present socio-economic system that they used to get that power and keeps them there is a failure.

    • tc 5.2

      Tvnz was stuffed long before shonkys reign they just ensured it played their game which wasn’t hard with Ellis as CEO.

      TVNZ fought hard to resist a charter under clark and to this day is a shallow celebrity driven entity with bugger all ability to produce quality content.

  6. mosa 6

    Commerce commission chairman Dr Mark Berry is concerned about what effect a merger would have on this countries democracy ?

    About the same as now, biased and a standard bearer for neo liberalism.

    Fairfax and NZME are only concerned with maintaining the status quo not in fair and balanced journalism or heaven forbid truthful in depth reporting to properly inform and educate their audience.

    Its almost as if the public is invisible to these organizations until they start talking revenue not the quality of the service they provide.

    On the face of it the commission has kept the current monster from becoming larger and even more threatening until a sensible government can review broadcasting in general and implement some robust legislation designed to protect the public interest.

    The Greens policy is a start.

    Click to access Public%20Journalism%20Paper%20-%20updated.pdf

  7. Keith 7

    New Zealand’s commercial media are still blindly stumbling about thinking Mike Hosking type opinions and slants on all things “news” are all that matters, completely writing off more than half their potential audience. I realise they are wedded to right wing thought patterns/banks/investors, but it is BAD for business. Why can they not see this??

    Here’s a headline and one of many I can think of but you will never see from NZME, Newhub or Fairfax;

    “Well over a billion dollars spent on Auckland’s North Western motorway and Waterview tunnel, championed by the National Party, and traffic is now slower and more congested than before a single dollar was spent. And it is yet to have the never used/mothballed billion dollar Waterview connection opened contributing to the gridlock!

    Independent audit and inquiry urgently needed into this reckless waste of tax and rate payer money. Where is Mr Motorways/infrastructure, Stephen Joyce now?

    • philj 7.1

      The Auckland train wreck is part of the Joyce ‘master plan’ to move people out of Auckland and distribute them throughout the land! It’s beginning to work and the MSM is helping. Genius.

  8. gsays 8

    Excellent news if they fold.
    Leaves room for try local papers to fill the void.

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