CAPTION: The former PM and the new leader. Campaigners for public media made a bad call promoting Helen Clark as it’s champion.
You have to admire any organisation that makes the effort to help debate on an important topic – like the need for better public media. I have the greatest respect for Mark Jennings, and some of the other panelists for the Better Public Media Trust debate, and their role in eliciting responses for change to the way we promote journalism. Panelist Jennings in brings the credibility of a working journalist to bear, and more power to his sword, I say. However. the focus on Helen Clark in a press statement today raises questions about where this organisation is at, where it has been and where it is going to. The utterances of a partisan politicians are surprising. Are there no people in the community who can address the need for independent journalism other than a former Party political leader, let alone one who has associated herself so much with the new government? There has long been a tendency in journalist debate over public broadcasting to be anti-business, anti-conservative and pro-Left. That is a natural abbertion. But there is no need to get a Labour politicians in to emphasise the bias. As PM, Helen Clark led a whole army of people in government to manipulate the views of journalists and the public. That was her job Better Public Media needs to ensure that it remains bi-partisan and represents the values of all New Zealanders and show that it will not get caught up with other agendas. The Better Public Media Trust and the allied group the Coalition for Better Broadcasting was an organisation that contributed to the Labour Party policy on broadcasting that includes an emphasis on Radio New Zealand and the development of an RNZ TV service. The new service to be called RNZ Plus will be funded with an extra $38 million from taxpayers this year.
This is an abridged version of the press release today the Better Public Media Trust today.
In a report released today, former Prime Minister Helen Clark emphasises the importance of quality media “Our perception of New Zealand – the nation, its people, its history, and its future – is influenced by our media. We badly need public policy which can deliver the media we New Zealanders need to inform us and to reflect our nation’s past, present, and future.”
The report, the People’s Commission on Public Broadcasting and Media, recommends the establishment of a charter to cover all taxpayer funded media, an independent review of all taxpayer funded media structures and institutions, and an increase to New Zealand On Air and RNZ funding now, and annually in line with inflation.
The People’s Commission on Public Broadcasting and Media, is the product of a new approach to addressing this long-standing challenge: a crowdfunded public inquiry. The goal of the inquiry was to find consensus on the problem and on possible solutions by collating the opinions of a wide spectrum of New Zealanders, industry experts, and observers.
The panellists for the People’s Commission were: Bill Ralston, Mark Jennings, Kay Ellmers, Lance Wiggs, Lizzie Marvelly, Shamubeel Eaqub.
The three major themes to emerge from the public submissions were the need for inclusion (public broadcasting needs to include the voices of all segments of New Zealand), investment (need for more financial support, particularly from the government) and independence. Participants emphasised the critical role an independent media plays in holding the powerful to account in democracies.
Panellist Mark Jennings says that travelling around New Zealand talking to people about the state of the country’s media had made clear “the overwhelming support for public service media. It is now seen as perhaps the last bastion of independent, quality news and current affairs, in a media world that is collapsing under a deluge of clickbait and the impact of failing financial models.”
However, Jennings emphasised the importance of having “a strong, vibrant private sector media.”
“Competition keeps all the players honest and is the lifeblood of innovation.’ says Jennings. “The country needs a healthy public media and a healthy commercial sector.”
On the topic of inclusion, panelist Lizzie Marvelly says one of the key themes to emerge from the process was “a passion for trustworthy news that didn’t focus only on the urban centres and a yearning for ‘the New Zealand story’ to be told.”
Marvelly also reflected on the importance of an independent media to a healthy democracy, and what that means for the importance of media literacy. “Engaging in this process only strengthened my view that media literacy will be vital to the health of our democracy in years to come. We must equip our young people with the tools not only to keep themselves safe online, but to critically analyse the information that is being put in front of them so that they can make decisions informed by credible evidence, not spin and deceit.”
Panelist Kay Ellmers, says she came away from this process with “a strong sense there was consensus that publicly funded media content should be diverse, accessible and accountable to all citizens.”
“As we move away from using public money to fund content for ‘free to air’ broadcast delivery platforms, and increasingly fund content that is delivered online only,’ says Ellmers, ‘we have a fundamental problem that this publicly funded content is no longer freely accessible to all citizens.”