More media changes are likely later this year, according to my sources in the sector. The proposed merger of NZME and Fairfax New Zealand was followed on Thursday by Vodafone’s proposed takeover of Sky TV. Zagzigger.com has questioned whether MediaWorks will be left out in the cold, (Room For Me, I Got 3, below) and the same question applies to Television New Zealand.
In my opinion TVNZ cannot afford to sit back and do nothing. And it is hard to see how it will compete in the new world order of merged digital media firms. Sources familiar with Government thinking said that Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams is considering a “slight” change to more public service content TVNZ, though this is not defined.
Its unlikely National will take NZ On Air funding away from private sector media companies, but there might be amendments that would make a change more viable, I am told. Labour and National are believed be on a similar tack. according to me sources. I asked TVNZ chairwoman Joan Withers where TVNZ stands in the current media storm. She said TVNZ was keeping the government appraised about major changes due the mergers, and confirmed it has big implications. But offered no hints on where the Board or Government wanted to go with TVNZ
Withers said that TVNZ was in a “good position” to succeed in the changing media environment, due to its focus on local material that was popular with viewers,. It seems highly unlikely either National or Labour would encourage TVNZ to expand commercially or buy assets, so in that sense less commercial role may make sense. There is said to be interest in both parties about reviving anti-syphoning rules that would protection free to air TV especially against the Voda-Sky super company.
Anti-syphoning legislation requires that key sports events have to be kept available for free to air TV. The issue has been a damp squib in the past because of Sky lobbying of both Labour and National to avoid it. Voda-Sky is promising to keep providing sports and other programming on a wholesale basis without fear nor favour to Vodafone, but on the face of it Voda-Sky is still in a strong position. These issues over wholesale of programme rights may yet me canvased in Commerce Commission merger clearance hearings for Voda-Sky