Over on Kiwiblog Dave Farrar reports on an interesting idea from the redoubtable Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan who talked at a recent Rural Women NZ conference about expanding NZ On Air funding to cover all media, not just broadcasting.
Fran has a good point. Why should what is effectively a government subsidy to ensure there will remain a New Zealand voice in the media be reserved solely for radio and television?
She argues that NZ On Air (or NZ On Media) funding should be made available to worthy local content whether it is broadcast, in print or on the internet.
There can be little doubt commercial pressure and dropping profits mean publishers have diminished resources and the shrinking newsrooms in our newspapers mean less investigative reporting.
Similarly, most bloggers and websites lack the cash to provide original reportage on most issues and events.
Let’s leave aside NZOA’s extraordinary historical reluctance to fund any form of news and current affairs (until forced by the minister Jonathan Coleman into allocating some of its new Platinum Fund to Q&A and TV3’s new show The Nation).
Currently NZOA funding is contestable, both public and private broadcasters can dip into it. What’s wrong with private sector publishers and bloggers having access to it also?
Back in the day, when Maurice Williamson was broadcasting minister, the whole idea of contestable NZOA funding was that it was needed for all broadcasters to provide NZ content because otherwise commercial pressure on the channels would mean cheaper imported foreign product would overwhelm locally produced material.
This effect is now being felt not just in broadcasting but all media. So, open up the fund!
Frankly, it will eventually have to happen because of media convergence anyway.
Once that wonderful high speed broadband to the home rolls out and the broadcasters start pumping more TV programmes and video into your computer, what’s the difference between a TV channel and, say, a newspaper site like nzherald.co.nz or stuff.co.nz that screens news videos?
What’s the difference between an IPTV programme from, say, TV ONE or TV3 and a web based provider such as throng.co.nz or interest.co.nz?
The short is: Nothing.
Internet based news and programme providers have every right to shriek at NZOA, “Show me the money!”
If anyone doubts internet sites lack journalistic nous and quality check on interest.co.nz and Bernard Hickey’s recent great yarn about how this country’s biggest privately owned dairying operation (they own 22 farms) is allowing dozens of calves to starve to death on one of it’s farms in the central North Island.
Hickey’s story comes complete with a whistleblower, graphic video footage and a MAF investigation that oddly seems to have come to nothing in terms of the animals’ welfare.
MAF investigated the claims but has not prosecuted. Fonterra continued to accept Crayfar Farms’ milk despite widespread claims of its mismanagement and animal welfare issues.
What’s unusual for web-based journalism is that, for once, the reporter and a producer got up from their computers and went into the field to investigate. And what they found is a good investigative story of the kind once practiced by the mainstream media before staff numbers and budgets were cut to the bone.
The story gets added zest with an altercation with the farm’s manager and his (alleged) assault on the producer, the ubiquitous Bryan Spondre.
Let’s put to one side the vexed media question of the owner of New Zealand’s biggest dairy farm consortium having done a shockingly abysmal job of damage control. (Media 101: begging someone not to do a story because of damage to the dairy trade’s international reputation but obviously doing little or nothing to put the situation right is just plain hopeless).
Hickey produced a scoop that was eagerly followed by TV ONE’s Close up and RNZ National’s Morning Report, the NZ Herald and others.
Perhaps the most interesting part is that Bernard Hickey has long been regarded with suspicion and resentment by some in the mainstream media, who curl their upper lip at what they see as his self-promotion and entrepreneurial approach to the news business.
This is the kind of investigative story that would merit NZ On Media funding.
Finally, a bit of free media advice to Crafar Farms from Janet.
- When confronted by the media do not tell them to quote “F*** off you c****” and expect them to go quietly.
- Fisticuffs is never the way to win an argument in the media.
- Don’t expect mercy simply because you say you’re a bit tired and depressed about your job. We all are and saying so wouldn’t save us either.
- Sobbing on telly doesn’t excuse animal cruelty.