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Clare Curran: It’s all about the content

It’s all about the content

by Clare Curran
September 26th, 2011

Any discussion about the future of NZ’s media has to be about the stuff it produces. Not just about the networks or channels that transmit it.

NZ content needs a boost. Our local industry is generally talented, whether it be screen production, journalism, current affairs, writers, producers. But it’s generally not thriving and energetic. It feels tired and struggling against a tide of advertising-driven content. Much of it purchased cheaply from offshore to fill our screens. Journalists struggle to meet the increasing demands of multi-media and multiple deadlines with diminishing staff in many newsrooms.

Public funding for broadcasting is shrinking. It’s simply not considered important by this government. The commercial broadcasters are fighting for more dominance. And the consumer is losing.

Had a really interesting discussion today with a respected prominent figure in NZ (based) media. He said Jonathan Coleman should resign for accepting TVNZ’s recent Statement of Intent (SOI).

The SOI said that it would pressure NZ on Air to approve more commercially attractive local programming and address potential revisions to funding criteria. That’s essentially the Minister signing up to a strategy which sees it’s own SOE do a funding grab for commercial gain (separate blogpost following on this).

A ray of sunshine in the gloom is the steady rise of some various independent NZ (digital) media (this list is not exhaustive) who are making a go of it in this new environment – such as, Scoop, BusinessDesk, AllAboutthe Story, Idealog – and the rising viability of specialist subscriber news.

I think they are an important part of the future media landscape but this will only become apparent in a more competitive environment. What customers ultimately want is good content. Whether it’s in the publicly funded sphere, or a competitive commerical sphere. Currently, we could do a lot better in both.

A competitive and thriving media and content creation sector is needed to deliver diversity. The New Zealand broadcasting sector currently lacks a diversity of ideas because, unique in the world, the government has abolished the public television broadcasting function. Radio New Zealand’s frozen budget puts it under such pressure that it must consider fundraising via a trust or commercial sponsorship to pay for some of its programmes.

To incentivise competition—and get the best from it—we need to be aware of the extent to which the ownership and control of our digital media lies outside New Zealand, and whether our access to content is limited by those who run the media system in their own interests.

I think that’s an important issue right now. Don’t you?


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