Content sharing agreements another sign of deals to come.

It's old news that some New Zealand media companies are no longer treating each other as the enemy. Instead, they are working together against the common threat - global firms such as Facebook and Google that are increasing their hold on local advertising.

Perhaps the earliest relationship was between the TRN radio network and TVNZ. Sharing talent has been commonplace and today we have TVNZ people such as Mike Hosking, Toni Street and Jack Tame on radio.

In further signs of this trend, TVNZ and RNZ also provides material for

Beyond this fraternising, there are bigger and more formal relationships.


We are yet to learn the impact of the proposed merger of NZME, publisher of the Herald, and Fairfax NZ. Editorial job cuts are expected, though the impact on the number of editorial voices is not yet clear.

With the planned merger and all the "frenemy" and "co-opetition" moves, it is far from clear what editorial coverage will look like even a year from now.

A global trend towards mergers between telcos and media companies is also apparent in New Zealand, with Vodafone's planned purchase of 51 per cent of Sky TV, the dominant player in pay TV. That merger will create a company with combined revenue of $2.9 billion.

Message for TVNZ

Beehive sources have told me that Treasury has advised the TVNZ board not to be left out of the current upheavals in the local media market.

Many expect Spark to form a closer relationship with TVNZ, though the Government has ruled out a partial sale of TVNZ, at least for this parliamentary term.

A source said TVNZ was likely to develop some sort of joint venture with Spark. There are already links between the two:

• TVNZ chairwoman Joan Withers was chair of Auckland International Airport while Simon Moutter, now with Spark, was chief executive.

• TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick is a former colleague of Moutter's, at Spark's predecessor, Telecom.


• The Number 2 at Spark, Jason Paris, has TV experience, as a former head of marketing at TVNZ and head of TV at MediaWorks.

• Paris has also been in charge of Lightbox, the loss leader online video service Spark uses to attract broadband customers.

In summary, New Zealand looks set to develop three media arms: one based on a merged Fairfax-NZME; one involving Vodafone and Sky; and a link between Spark and a TV company.

TVNZ has been trading better than TV3, and that channel's owner, MediaWorks, is keen to sell, given the dangers of becoming stranded and left alone by the coming upheavals.

Selling the silver

The RNZ copy sharing agreement with Stuff is small scale but it is significant, at a time when RNZ is being starved of funding. If RNZ's brand is quality, unique content, why hand it to a commercial rival?

The three-month trial allows Stuff to run key content from RNZ, with RNZ taking a share of the advertising revenue associated with that content.

The state broadcaster's chief executive, Paul Thompson - once a senior Fairfax editorial staffer - said the Stuff deal would bring more recognition, but he acknowledged the potential for copy sharing to hurt RNZ's online brand, which had grown appreciably.

Back on board

After a troubled first term as chairwoman of Maori TV, the Government has appointed Georgina te Heuheu for another three years.

The appointment follows a four-year, $10.6 million funding boost from the taxpayer.

Under te Heuheu's leadership since 2012, Maori TV has faced a number of issues, including a lack of success in increasing the number of Maori speakers. Given the results, in my view there might well be questions about whether television is the right way to teach the language.

There have been other issues over the style of leadership at Maori TV. In September 2013, Maori businessman Ian Taylor resigned from the Maori TV board, saying he was "gagged" and not allowed to warn about "risks" in the search for a new chief executive.

Once appointed, new CEO Paora Maxwell led a push to move Maori TV to Rotorua, against opposition from many staff. That proposal was rejected by Finance Minister Bill English, on cost grounds.

There had been a staff revolt over the Maxwell appointment and key staff departed, critical of the way Maori TV dealt with an investigation into the Te Kohanga Reo Trust.

Despite those problems, Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and Finance Minister English chose to reappoint te Heuheu.

A spokesman for Flavell said that during te Heuheu's time as chairwoman, Maori Television had increased its audience and become a multi-platform content provider.

"It wouldn't be appropriate for the Minister to comment on speculation and innuendo."

Te Heuheu stood down as a National MP and Minister at the 2011 election, and was appointed to the Maori TV board in 2012.