6 Apr 2023

RNZ to receive $25m a year in funding boost

1:10 pm on 6 April 2023
Labour MP Willie Jackson

File photo. Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The government has announced $117.8 million over four years in funding increases to RNZ and NZ On Air in the wake of the scrapped public media merger.

Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson said RNZ would receive an annual increase of $25.7m to ensure it was financially sustainable for the future.

"This investment will strengthen news and current affairs coverage through a free multi-media digital platform to reach new audiences, expand regional coverage to be truly national, establish a new initiative to prioritise Māori and Pacific content and support RNZ to deliver civil defence lifeline emergency communications," Jackson said in a statement.

The RNZ/TVNZ merger was abandoned in February, with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announcing RNZ and NZ On Air would receive a funding boost to strengthen its public media role.

"We have listened to New Zealanders and now is not the right time to restructure our public media," Jackson said.

"However, the changing media landscape, increased competition, changing audience demands, and declining revenue pressures facing our public media are not going away."

The minister said it would mean a total saving of $364.7m over four years compared to merging RNZ and TVNZ.

The cost of the aborted public media merger is being put at $19.6m, almost 60 percent of which was spent on contractors and consultants.

The announcement said RNZ's annual increase of $25.7m was for three areas:

  • $12m for RNZ to maintain public media services
  • $12m for a new digital platform
  • $1.7m for AM transmission

Jackson told RNZ's Midday Report the digital investment was about strengthening its news and current affairs multimedia platform and reaching new audiences.

"There could be investment in terms of multimedia digital news platform ... it's been explained to us, and I think that's a great investment."

NZ On Air will receive a $10m increase for 2023/24 which will focus on reaching new audiences.

"The funding will support the creation of high-quality content that better represents and connects with audiences such as Māori, Pasifika, Asian, disabled people and our rangatahi and tamariki. It is vital that all New Zealanders are seeing and hearing themselves in our public media," Jackson said.

The $1.7m per year for AM transmission would ensure lifeline services could be provided on platforms people can access during times of emergency.

"As we have seen over the past few years, and in particular during the recent severe weather events, RNZ is a crucial lifeline utility in civil defence emergencies and is one of the places New Zealanders can turn to for reliable, up-to-date, accurate, and emergency information.

RNZ board chairman Dr Jim Mather said it was recognition of the crucial role it played in the public media sector at a time of much change.

"The increase will ensure we can protect what audiences love now but also strengthen what we do, allowing us to innovate and better serve Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Pacific."

The board was working on a new strategy to help prioritise how the funding was invested, he said.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said the funding came at a time of significant pressure on all media organisations and reflected the importance of supporting and preserving New Zealand's diverse stories and culture.

"Our ability to collaborate with others means we are very well positioned to provide a resilient and comprehensive service to connect and inform New Zealanders while also supporting the wider media sector," Thompson said.

Jackson said he had been told RNZ was looking at spending $2-3m to strengthen Māori and Pacific content.

It had been making "every attempt" to fulfil its obligations to Te Tiriti and its charter but could do better, he told Midday Report.

"When I listen to the broadcasters speaking Māori, I think its fantastic actually, I never thought I would hear that on national radio. Could they do better? Of course, and they would admit that, and that's what this funding investment is all about."

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