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Disbelief, disagreement greet major media merger plan


20 February 2017

Disbelief, disagreement greet major media merger plan

Nearly three times as many New Zealanders oppose the proposed merger of the country’s two largest media companies than support it.

NZME and Fairfax have asked the Commerce Commission for approval to merge into one company.

The commission could decide by March 15. The merger would see almost all the country's print media, including the New Zealand Herald and Dominion Post, and the two biggest news websites, Stuff.co.nz and nzherald.co.nz, owned by one company, with Fairfax Australia having about 40% of the shares.

The companies say they face intense competition for advertising dollars from the big global platforms Google and Facebook, and uniting would position them better to compete and to preserve quality journalism. They say the journalists working for the merged company will have editorial independence.

Opposition and support:
However, a new nationwide Horizon Research survey, conducted in the public interest, finds 44% of adults opposed to the merger and 15% support it. The remainder are neutral or undecided.

That’s the equivalent of about 470,000 people supporting it and 1.395 million opposing it.

Among those who buy newspapers, opposition rises to 56.7%.

Little belief in merger need or benefits:
The survey also finds little belief that the merger is needed for the companies to survive or that it would be good for journalism.

Presented with 11 statements on the merger, those attracting the highest level of agreement are:

• It means too few people will control what news is reported (52% agreement)
• Having strong competition between news media companies in New Zealand is important to me (32%)
• I will not feel well served if the merger goes ahead (27%)
• I think NZME and Fairfax NZ can continue successfully without a merger (22%)

Conversely, there was less agreement with these statements:

• A merger would be good for journalism (9% agreement)
• It is needed to ensure New Zealand media companies can continue in business (17%)
• If the merger is allowed there will still be plenty of competing news sources in New Zealand, including television and radio networks (17%)
• I don’t think our two main media companies can continue without a merger (7%)
• I will feel better served by NZME and Fairfax NZ if the merger goes ahead (5%)
• Strong competition between news media companies in New Zealand isn’t important to me (14%).

What if their local dailies closed?
Respondents were also asked how they would feel if their local daily newspaper were to cease publication.

Some 61% would miss it, with 18% of these missing it a lot, 21% only a little) and 33% would not miss it (20% not miss it at all).

89% of those buying newspapers would miss their local daily if it stopped publishing.

Horizon Research self-commissioned the survey in the public interest.

Horizon’s Manager, Grant McInman, says it indicates, that even if the merger is approved, the combined companies will start with a major challenge to convince New Zealanders and especially newspaper buyers that it will deliver an improved service.

The 1009 responding to the survey between February 9 and 15 also left more than 6000 words in comments on the proposed merger.

Nearly all were negative and focused on the importance of independent, unbiased and fair media behaviour to better inform them and support democracy. Verbatim comments are published at horizonpoll.co.nz.

The survey is weighted to represent the adult population at the most recent census. At a 95% confidence level the maximum margin of error is +/- 3.1%.


Top line results are:

Thinking about the proposed merger, please tick ONLY the statements with which you AGREE...

A.A merger would be good for journalism

9%
B.It is needed to ensure New Zealand media companies can continue in business

17%
C.It would be bad for journalism

25%
D.It means too few people will control what news is reported

52%
E.If the merger is allowed, there will still be plenty of competing news sources in New Zealand, including television and radio networks

17%
F.I don't think our two main media companies can continue successfully without a merger

7%
G.I think NZME and Fairfax NZ can continue successfully without a merger

22%
H.I will feel better served by NZME and Fairfax NZ if the merger goes ahead

5%
I.I will not feel as well served if the merger goes ahead

27%
J.Having strong competition between news media companies in New Zealand is important to me

32%
K.Strong competition between news media companies in New Zealand isn't important to me

14%


Overall, do you support or oppose the proposed merger of NZME and Fairfax NZ?

A.Strongly support

4%
B.Somewhat support

11%
C.Neither support nor oppose

26%
D.Somewhat oppose

21%
E.Strongly oppose

23%
F.I'm really not sure

16%

If your local daily newspaper were to cease publishing would you:

A.Miss it greatly

18%
B.Miss it

22%
C.Miss it only slightly

21%
D.Not miss it

13%
E.Not miss it at all

20%
F.I'm really not sure

6%


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