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Asia Minute: Public media in New Zealand could be facing a year of change

Virus Outbreak New Zealand
Mark Baker
A television cameraman films the outside of the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.

Public media in New Zealand is made up of two separate entities: TV New Zealand and Radio New Zealand — but that may change at some point this year.

There's a bill making its way through New Zealand's parliament that would combine the two into a single organization called Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media.

Government officials have been talking about this for at least the past three years, but in addition to exploring various options, plans have been delayed by shifts in political power.

The term “public broadcasting” is a bit different in New Zealand, compared to the United States.

For example, TV New Zealand has commercials — in fact, about 90% of its revenue comes from that source.

Radio New Zealand does not have commercials and is funded by the government.

Financial concerns about supporting media coverage is one factor behind the move and its wording mentions a “mixed funding model,” with government and non-governmental funding — including advertising, sponsorship and subscriptions.

Critics fear too much government funding may interfere with editorial independence.

Backers say it's a way of maintaining financial stability while increasing the representation of voices across the country.

As for the bill itself, the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee is scheduled to report back to New Zealand's full parliament later this month.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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