The ever-changing digital space has created the need for a new definition of the media and what it does, the Law Society says, and media companies agree.
The Justice Select Committee will meet in Auckland on Wednesday to hear submissions on a new Privacy Bill which will replace the outdated Privacy Act. The bill implements changes recommended by the Law Commission in 2011.
"In 1993 when the Act was passed, it was relatively clear what types of organisations or people met the definition of a 'news medium' engaged in 'news activities'," the Law Society said in its submission.
"Changes to technology, particularly social media and blogging, have revolutionised the ability of ordinary people to publish information, opinion and commentary. As a result, it has become significantly less clear who can be said to be a news medium," it said.
NZME, the publisher of the New Zealand Herald, said in its submission that the current definitions of news medium and news activities should be expanded to include new media publishers.
"[The Law Society's] argument reflects the capacity of any person with access to an interconnected computing device to carry out a quasi media role in the digital age."
It backed the Law Society's recommendation that a news medium should mean any entity engaged in regularly publishing a significant amount of news, information and opinion of "current value" to a public audience, and be subject to a code of ethics and a regulatory body.
NZME also said news activity should not be restricted to the traditional platforms of articles and programmes, which was already having an adverse impact on the delivery of news and current affairs, but should reflect the variety of platforms currently available and those yet to be invented.
"In practice, the recommended definition will ensure a flexible and technology-neutral approach to news activities; thereby ensuring that public consumption of news and current affairs is not unduly restricted to traditional forms of media."
Under the current Act, media are exempt from certain provisions for the purposes of gathering and reporting on news and current affairs, but only the traditional media and traditional ways of imparting that news. The bill will continue that freedom for the media.
TVNZ and Radio New Zealand are not part of that exemption because they are Crown entities and subject to the Official Information Act. The carve-out means they are subject to the privacy provisions other media organisations are not.
Both state-owned media organisations supported a Law Commission proposal to remove the exclusion and treat them the same as private media companies.
"TVNZ submits that the committee should carefully consider introducing the Law Commission's two recommendations relating to the news media, to better balance the competing interests of access to personal information and the right to seek, receive impart information – and to ensure all news media are treated equally."
The Privacy Bill, which was introduced to Parliament in March by Justice Minister Andrew Little, also contains more powers for the Privacy Commissioners and puts more onus on companies and organisations to protect individuals' information and report data breaches, along with stiffer penalties for those breaches.
The justice committee is due to report back to Parliament in November.