Changes need to be introduced to the TVNZ-RNZ merger bill if it is to serve the purpose of strengthening public media in New Zealand.
This is according to Myles Thomas, chair of the Better Public Media Trust, who spoke to The Front Page podcast about the upcoming merger of TVNZ and RNZ.
Thomas has been a vocal supporter of the merger process, saying it will be good for the quality and longevity of local broadcasting in this country.
But he says there’s still work for Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson to do to ensure the merger survives the test of time.
Jackson has not had a good week in the spotlight, following an interview performance on TVNZ’s Q+A that ultimately led to an apology for his missteps.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill is currently before the select committee, which has received hundreds of submissions from interest groups and members of the public.
“The bill that was sent to them had some major problems,” Thomas tells The Front Page.
“There was a total lack of oversight for this organisation. There were loopholes in which the minister could influence the board in a bad way. And you have to remember that this bill is supposed to last us 20 to 30 years.”
The concern is that the next government could in some way or another influence how the amalgamation operates.
“We don’t know what shape the next government or the one thereafter might have. In 20 years, we might have a Trump-type government or it could be even worse – it could be a Destiny Church-type government. And they might have no compunction about using their power to destroy or to influence this organisation for propaganda purposes.”
A number of other organisations, including Auckland University think tank Koi Tū, have also detailed myriad concerns with the legislation.
“I hope the select committee recognises that, and Willie Jackson has inferred in some of his comments that there will be some changes.
Those changes will have to be incorporated quickly to meet the tight deadline of having the new entity established by March 1st next year.
So what needs change? Is there enough time to get it done? Is Willie Jackson the right person to get the job done? Have the many consultants actually achieved anything? Is it worth pouring money into this during a cost-of-living crisis? And will this merger even be secure enough to survive a change of Government?
Listen to The Front Page podcast for answers amid the Government’s troubled effort to merge these media organisations together.