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We don’t need to talk about Mike Hosking

Myles Thomas of the Coalition for Better Broadcasting explains why they teamed up with Action Station to launch the People’s Commission on Public Broadcasting and Media, which has a workshop in Auckland on Sunday March 26.

Godwin’s law is a pretty well-known internet meme which states “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1″‍ ‌– in other words, becomes a certainty.

A similar thing happens when people talk about media in New Zealand – only instead of Adolf Hitler, it’s Mike Hosking. No matter what aspect of media or journalism the group is discussing – TVNZ, government funding, dumbing down – inexorably and insidiously that name will be tossed into the conversation, like a verbal hand grenade. Because like the Hitler reference, mentioning Hosking does bring with it a certain amount of baggage.

And at the public meetings for the People’s Commission on Public Broadcasting and Media, it’s fair to say the name, M*** H******, has come up a few times. We try not to flinch, we try not to get drawn in, we try to just get on with what we’re doing, which is holding a People’s Commission.

Six panellists, six centres, thousands of submissions and five recommendations to politicians for ‘how to save media in NZ’. Our People’s Commission is crowd-funded and organised by ActionStation and the Coalition for Better Broadcasting, with the aim of getting some decent policy recommendations in front of our politicians.

There’s been public meetings around the country with the last one this Sunday in Auckland. After the public meetings are finished the panel must put the submissions together, find the common threads and weave them together into a cohesive, inspiring and practical set of recommendations. It’s not going to be an easy task.

The background is a history of half-assed, half-baked policies from many governments over the years. Gradually our broadcasting and media has devolved, the opposite of evolved, from national broadcasting comparable to the BBC, to the most commercialised, concentrated (in terms of ownership) and deregulated media market in the OECD.

This graph is from a report updated last year for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It shows how woefully underfunded Canada’s public media is, but hey there’s a little country that’s even more miserly with its public media. After reflecting on their measly $29 per person, the Canadians must look at our pathetic $17, shake their heads and thank their lucky stars that shit ain’t as bad as in New Zealand.

Of course, this info was collected in 2014, what’s changed in three years? Only inflation.

So, what other fun graphs are in that report? Oh, here’s one.

So TVNZ relies on advertising to pay its way – anyone who watches TVNZ 1 and 2 is well aware of that.

Maybe it’s just that we have such a small population – maybe there’s not enough people here to pay for media that’s fit for adults? Umm, no. Ireland has the same population as NZ while Norway and Finland have half a million more, and by some small miracle none of these countries have needed to rip the guts out of their media landscape and throw it all to the commercial winds.

In fact, these countries are leading the way with innovative schemes to keep media and journalism alive.

  • The Norwegian Government subsidises 148 newspapers, usually a town’s second newspaper, to foster competition between news sources and avoid one paper dominating a town or city. And Norway supports news media by exempting them from GST on newspaper and advertising sales.
  • Finland recently moved from a license fee to a ‘media fee’ which is collected with income tax returns (0.68% for individuals and 0.35% for companies). It raises €500m for TV, radio and online media in Finland.
  • Ireland established a non-commercial children’s channel and a non-commercial news channel. A bit like TVNZ6 & TVNZ7, only they kept funding theirs – radical.

So what can we do here in New Zealand? That’s the question the People’s Commission will have to answer in a week’s time. If anyone is harbouring a cunning idea to save media in NZ, you have a week to tell us – www.makeourmediabetter.org.nz  – just please don’t mention M*** H******.

Auckland-based readers can attend the final workshop of the People’s Commission at Mt Eden Normal Primary School, Sunday 26th March 1pm – 4pm

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