Kris Faafoi: NZ television should see YouTube as an opportunity, not a threat

In the latest episode of The Spinoff’s media podcast The Fold, Duncan Greive is joined by broadcasting and media minister Kris Faafoi to talk about the media transition and what a ‘sexy’ new public media entity might look like.

Kris Faafoi is one of those rare ministers who has actually worked in the industry he now oversees. After more than a decade working as a journalist at both TVNZ and the BBC, Faafoi was elected as the MP for Mana in 2010. He took over the broadcasting and media portfolio when Claire Curran resigned in 2018.

In this episode of The Fold, Duncan Greive talks with the minister about Māori and Pasifika representation, the public interest journalism fund and the proposed RNZ/TVNZ merger.

The public, private and Māori media shifts New Zealand is experiencing come at a time when audiences are moving in droves from linear television to on demand and international online offerings, Faafoi says.

“We think we do need to assist some of those changing business models. I understand running newsrooms isn’t a cheap exercise, I don’t think it ever has been. It makes it harder when the revenue model is changing too.”

Faafoi tells Greive the changes coming will be “extremely audience focused” and that support for private and commercial media is “time limited”.

“The tax-payer can’t be expected to bankroll private media or commercial media forever.”

On whether New Zealand content producers can hope to compete with platforms like YouTube, or if global monopolies can be compelled to prioritise New Zealand content for New Zealand consumers, Faafoi calls it an “and and and” proposition.

“We in the future will be working with them [Netflix and YouTube] and platforms that are traditional at the moment and using platforms that public media and New Zealand media may wish to put together so that New Zealand content is getting out there.

“What I’m interested in is what my kids will watch, and what their kids will watch and making sure that we set up structures and funding to ensure they get what we got.”

What his generation had “got”, he says, was content that had “a New Zealand flavour, that could only ever come out of New Zealand”.

“My kids watch YouTube, they don’t watch linear television, and I want to make sure they get excellent quality New Zealand content too.”

Public media comes under the microscope too. Faafoi praises TVNZ and RNZ, but says it’s time to ask: “Is this the best set up for audiences, to make sure that those stories in a much more crowded market are able to be told and accessed?”

“The challenge isn’t any different from when we first came into government but we have moved along, with a delay from Covid, and now we’ve got the business case group to do the final piece of work before cabinet will be asked to make a decision at the end of the year.”

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