Speech announcing the decision to establish a new public media entity

Broadcasting and Media

Good afternoon, 

Apologies for not being there in person.

Despite a number of negative RAT tests over the last few days I am just coming out of what I hope was a decent cold.

So out of an abundance of caution I’m joining you via zoom today. As is appropriate in the times we are in at the moment.

Again, thank you to the New Zealand Broadcasting School for hosting us today, both in CHC and virtually.

In February 2020 -  at the New Zealand Broadcasting school - I outlined the” in principle” decision the Government had made to ensure New Zealand’s Public Media could face the challenges of the future – to ensure it was strong, sustainable and structured in a way to move with audience, technology and market trends.

The world is a vastly different place compared to that time, there are new challenges – but still fundamentally the challenges that face audiences and media are the same and if anything have intensified.

When the Government began looking at this issue TV and Radio were ranked one and two for the biggest daily audience in New Zealand.

Now they are 2 and 4 respectively.

Number 1 is Video on Demand – the likes of YouTube.

Number 3 is Subscription Video on demand, the likes of Netflix and Neon, that list continues to grow.

What is constant is that NZ’s public media is trusted and strong, and has served us so well over the decades.

Despite that - we need to ensure Kiwis can continue to rely on that trust and strength as THEY continue to rapidly change the ways they watch, listen and read.

Back in 2020, I announced that a Business case process was to get under way to investigate our intent for a new public media entity.

When the COVID pandemic hit – that was put “on ice” as we focused on supporting the more immediate needs of all media.

But last year we followed through on our commitment, and asked a group of independent experts, the Strong Public Media Business case Governance Group – to test our thinking and consider whether and how a new entity could put us in a better place for the future.

Late last year they completed their work.

And the very, very short version of what they found is a confirmation of the government’s position that public media is very important, but is facing real issues and that change is needed.

Their recommendation was to create a modern public media entity that will better meet the needs of New Zealand audiences and address the challenges of technology change, global competition for audiences and revenue.

They also stressed the importance of protecting and future proofing the trust and strength that public media has built up over decades in telling the range of New Zealand stories that reflect our unique corner of the world.

As I said earlier when referring to audience and platform changes - this challenge is already well and truly upon us. 

The case for change is there, and Public media must be a presence in the new and developing world of media consumption, production and delivery.

So, Cabinet has decided to create that new single public media entity.

It will ensure that New Zealanders continue to have access to reliable, trusted, independent information and local content sits at the heart of the decision to create it. 

Whether it be COVID, national emergencies or Olympic Games, the last few years have shown how important a strong media environment is to reflect New Zealanders’ stories, dreams and aspirations and it is important we support public media to flourish.

A public media entity which is resilient, sustainable, and has the wherewithal to deliver independent, trusted information is a key to that.

As I have said we need public media which is responsive to current challenges of change and can flourish. 

RNZ and TVNZ are each trying to adjust to the challenges, but our current public media system, and the legislation it’s based on, does limit their focus to radio and television. 

The Public media sector is extremely important to New Zealanders in providing them with high quality, independent, timely and relevant media content.

This is why the Government will create a new organisation by the middle of next year, building on the best of RNZ and TVNZ, to future-proof public media for New Zealanders for decades to come.

I want to be clear to a commitment we have made from the outset. 

All current non-commercial programming and platforms will endure. 

In plain English the likes of Radio NZ National and Concert FM will continue. 

In plainer English – The Government is committed to them.

The exciting thing about the new entity – is it will create an opportunity for those strongly focused public media platforms to strengthen. That is because the new entity will have a strong and legislated public media focus.

It will continue to provide what existing audiences value, as well as giving better reach to those groups who aren’t currently well served; such as some of our ethnic communities and younger audiences who are accessing content in a much more on demand way.

Government funding decisions will be made as part of Budget processes, but as we signalled two years ago it will receive both Crown funding and commercial revenue to operate. 

The entity will be an Autonomous Crown Entity of course with complete and legislated editorial and operational independence. 

The establishment of the new entity will allow better use of a range of platforms, including current radio and linear TV and those of third parties, to reach audiences when, where and how audiences choose

It will operate under a public media charter, set out in legislation.

 And as both TVNZ and RNZ have for decades provide trusted news as a core service

 Importantly it will continue to deliver on the Crown’s Te Tiriti obligations and provide Māori stories and perspectives

 And we want it to collaborate with and support the wider New Zealand media sector where appropriate.

To be clear – there will be some areas where it will make sense to work with others and collaborate to ensure the wider sector is also strong. 

But there will be areas where it will continue a longstanding tradition of excellence and fierce competition. 

That will obviously be in the spaces such as content creation, news and current affairs and growing some of the best and most creative talent.

Next steps now are that an Establishment Board will be appointed soon to oversee the detailed design of the entity and the change process, with the aim of having it operational by 1 July 2023.

That board will have representation from both RNZ and TVNZ boards, and I intend to ensure there will be representation of people on the shop floor, someone who understands media and the issues that are important to staff as we work through this transition.

I am assuming there will be plenty of questions about the transition today. Some of the wider foundation questions I can answer. Budget announcements will come on Budget day. 

But many questions are best and must be left for the Establishment board to work through. 

 Which is why that Board will be up and running soon.

We know what we want this new entity to achieve, and a legislated charter will set out the entity’s purpose and objectives.

The public will have a chance to give their views, including on the entity’s charter, through the select committee process when legislation is considered later this year. 

Before I finish can I make three quick points.

A short time ago, I gave staff at both RNZ and TVNZ a heads up on what was in this announcement and Cabinet’s decisions.

I know this time of change will cause some unease, but the future under a new entity with the ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities that our local media face will give you a stronger foundation to do what public media has done for decades. And that is to tell our stories.

Also - a thank you to those who have got us to this point. I’d like to acknowledge the Hon Tracey Martin who chaired the Business Case Governance Group and all the members and support staff of the BCG.

To the Boards and staff of RNZ, TVNZ, NZ on Air and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

Thank you for your co-operation, patience and willingness to aide this exciting work.

And finally a direct message to the Kiwi audiences who are changing their ways, we are changing with you – so you can see more of New Zealand on Air and on-line.