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Covid-19: Government announces support package for media sector

Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi is announcing the first stage of support initiatives for the media sector.

Faafoi has announced a package worth $50 million which will be deployed to help the media industry get through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The intent of the package, Faafoi says, is to free up cash for commercial media companies following the drop in advertising revenue that occurred when New Zealand went into the level 4 lockdown in March.

A breakdown of the $50m package:

  • $20.5m to completely cut TV and Radio transmission fees for six months
  • $16.5m to reduce media organisation's contribution fees to NZ On Air for the 2020/21 financial year
  • $11.1 million for specific targeted assistance to companies
  • $1.3 million to purchase central government news media subscriptions
  • $600,000 to completely cut RNZ AM transmission fees for six months
  • A commitment to further develop the Local Democracy Reporting pilot

"The proposals in this package were generated by the industry themselves in a recent series of workshops to identify means of delivering immediate support to the sector. We have chosen the proposals that have a relatively quick impact to get support out the door as fast as possible," Faafoi said.

He said the media sector is only the third, behind primary health care and aviation, to receive a specific pool of funding on top of the wage subsidy scheme.

"This support reflects the essential role media play at this time in delivering access to reliable and up to date news coverage and keeping New Zealanders connected while in lockdown.

"There is evidence New Zealanders are turning to trusted news sources in record numbers at this time so it is critical the media is supported to keep doing the great job they have been doing."

Faafoi said that this package alone won't be enough for the media industry to survive a prolonged period of lockdown restrictions and reduced advertising, and that a second support package is being developed that will be submitted for budget discussions in May.

There are some fundamental issues about the structure of the media industry that were present before the Covid crisis, Faafoi said.

He said the govt has had commercially sensitive conversations with almost all media outlets.

Some of the principles driving the decision are media plurality, supporting the function of journalism and job retention, he said.

Asked whether he is willing to let some media entities fail, Faafoi said: "We'll deal with everything on a case by case basis as it comes to us."

Faafoi said most companies in the media are struggling to provide, local, regional and investigative journalism.

The advertising revenue challenges media companies had pre-Covid are obviously now much sharper during Covid, he said.

"No one is not susceptible to the challenges, as in any sector."

On the RNZ/TVNZ merger, Faafoi said: "Lets say it's on ice ... while it's on ice, it doesn't mean it's dead."

Various media in the country have been struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, media company Stuff said staff had been asked to to take a pay cut for the next 12 weeks because of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

NZME, which runs Newstalk ZB and the Herald, last week also announced 200 job losses and suspended publication of popular newspaper supplements.

MediaWorks, which operates TV3 and a number of radio stations, asked its employees earlier in the month to take a 15 percent pay cut for six months.

Bauer Media, which has The Listener, Woman's Day, New Zealand Woman's Weekly, North and South and Next, has shut down, citing the Covid-19 lockdown as one of the reasons.

Meanwhile at the Epidemic Response Committee last week, media company executives made the case for emergency help to survive the downturn in revenue during the Covid-19 restrictions.

© Scoop Media

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