The proposed merger of Radio NZ and TVNZ appears to have hit headwinds. So could we miss an opportunity to create something greater than the sum of its parts?
There are three main problems. The original business case has been superseded by events, with inflation and a forecast recession it appears politically indulgent and there is not too much wrong with the two organisations anyway.
Following the 2019 Christchurch massacre, there was a fear that objective journalism was being swamped by online sewage and something needed to be done to protect the foundation of a free society.
In fact it appears that mainstream reporting came back to the fore during Covid as most people sought reliable information.
The merger business case centred around the fear that traditional news and entertainment outlets like the BBC or TVNZ need to build size and capability or be fragmented by all the new streaming services. There is truth to this argument, but it now appears the international streaming services are eating each other’s lunch. The BBC is holding its own and seems able to exploit every new platform that comes along.
Trying to predict what the next big platform will be, or what the future may look like is a fool’s errand.
The only thing certain is that there will be lots of challenges.
By merging the two organisations, we can build capacity to exploit new opportunities. I have no idea what Web 3 will mean for media but I am sure there will be something.
My experience has been that it is the staff themselves who generally identify and take advantage of new platforms - if they are allowed.
Instead of being kept in “sound” and “vision” silos, talented people will have the opportunity to work on multiple platforms increasing the opportunities for innovation.
There is another part to this which is important. While the merged entity will not be throwing the RNZ and TVNZ babies out with the bathwater, it will provide an opportunity to be more inclusive. Rather than continue to be out in the cold, Māori, Pasifika and other ethnic groups can also be included in capacity building.
I would like to see a strong Chinese news service to act as a balance to the mainland propaganda perpetuated by some local Chinese media.
TVNZ and RNZ are pretty good as they are. But by building on what we already have we can ensure that our culture, our stories can thrive rather than being slowly immersed in internationalism.
It is not the latest tech scare that recommends this merger. It has simply always been a good idea.
Mitch Harris is a former radio station manager, radio programmer and radio presenter with Radio Live, and has over 40 years’ industry experience.