The Magazine Publishers' Association (MPA) has called on the Government to subsidise postal charges as Covid-19 heaps financial pressure on the industry.
In a letter addressed to Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi, the MPA argues Government assistance offered so far has done little to assist magazine publishers.
The Government announced a media rescue package of $50 million in April, but a significant portion of this went towards waiving the transmission fees paid by broadcasters to the state-owned enterprise Kordia.
"This would be of huge benefit for television broadcasters but would not help magazine publishers – the media sector hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis – or community newspapers, for that matter," the MPA's executive director Sally Duggan says in the letter.
The MPA boss says waiving the postal charges will not be dissimilar from offering TV broadcasters a six-month break from having to pay transmission fees.
Print publishers spend large sums posting hundreds of thousands of subscriptions to their readers every year.
This expense has only grown as NZ Post has steadily increased postage costs in recent years.
NZ Post is planning a further increase of between 3 and 10 per cent at the beginning of July.
"A 50 per cent subsidy of postal charges would be a lifeline for our struggling industry," says Duggan.
This urgent request comes only weeks after the closure of New Zealand's biggest magazine publisher, Bauer.
Faafoi's office confirmed receipt of the MPA letter but referred the matter to Associate Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Shane Jones, who has responsibility for NZ Post.
When the issue was put to Jones, he said he would discuss with Faafoi what relief could be extended to the magazine industry through the media support package.
"It is not likely that would come in the form of any reduction in the price of postage from NZ Post," Jones said.
"I would need a Cabinet decision to instruct NZ Post and this is not on the agenda."
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage is currently finalising eligibility details for media companies to tap into $11.1m of the rescue package released earlier. It's understood that magazine publishers may be eligible for some relief from this fund.
Faafoi told the Herald he hopes to have further information available this week.
"We are also working with officials to finalise the second package of support and magazine publishers may be eligible for some relief under this package of support as well," Faafoi said.
'It remains a mystery'
The relationship between the Government and the magazine industry has been tense ever since the decision was made to exclude magazines from the list of essential services allowed to operate during the lockdown.
The Government defended its decision, saying magazines did not meet the threshold of providing up-to-date news and information during the emergency and could not be classified as essential.
But Duggan doesn't buy this argument.
"It remains a real mystery to me why that decision was made," she says.
Duggan says the magazine industry made a submission to the Government before the lockdown assuring the decision-makers of the safety of the supply chain and outlining the important role magazines play in keeping New Zealanders informed.
"The Listener, North and South and New Zealand Geographic are all publications that provide a centred perspective and long-form journalism," Duggan said.
"They're put together over weeks, not days. And although they're not part of the immediate news cycle, they provide a different voice that's really important at a time like this.
"Magazines also serve a lot of interest groups with really specific information. New Zealand Franchise Magazine, for example, is giving franchise holders a lot of information on how to cope during this time. You also have the Farm Life and Dairy Export magazines that have really good, specialised information for their readers."
These stories aren't always picked up in the daily news cycle, but they provide information that those affected groups are likely to find pertinent right now.
"I do feel like print has been sidelined and, because of the non-essential ruling, magazines are particularly hurting at the moment."
These feelings of exclusion were only accentuated in mid-April when the Government failed to include a magazine representative on a panel of executives as part of an Epidemic Response Committee.
This was particularly surprising given it came fewer than two weeks after the closure of Bauer was confirmed.
This kind of oversight isn't easily forgotten – particularly at a time when careers are at stake in the industry.
For now, the wait goes on to see what the Government's rescue package will offer to the section of the media industry worst affected by the pandemic.