Government MPs recommended it to the House and opposition figures condemned it, but the bill outlining the role and duties of a new public media entity easily passed its first reading this week .
Members of the public can now have a say in the plan as a parliamentary committee reviews New Zealand’s Aotearoa Public Media Bill over the next six months.
When new Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson introduced the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill in parliament earlier this month, they ran out of time for all the first reading speeches.
It ended last Tuesday when Parliament resumed and, being a government initiative opposed only by National and Act, the Bill passed comfortably last Tuesday by a vote of 77 to 42.
The bill seeks to create a public media entity that would operate as an autonomous Crown entity, with editorial independence that would;
· Provide relevant and trusted public media content on a range of platforms, including television, radio and digital platforms.
· operate according to a charter that emphasizes independence, impartiality and balance.
· have advice specializing in tikanga and te ao Māori as well as in financial management.
But five other MPs took their chance to commend the bill to the House — or condemn it — last Tuesday.
National’s Joseph Mooney wasn’t convinced it would help represent all people and voices out there or as the government claimed.
“This mega mega merger, this major entity, is going to reduce the plurality, and reduce this diversity of opinions and this diversity of structures in our media landscape,” he said.
Labour’s Naisi Chen went on to talk about the streaming habits of the younger generation, though he didn’t elaborate on how the bill related to that.
She was followed by Labor’s Barbara Edmonds who also spoke about digital opportunities.
“We need strong, independent journalism. But you can’t have that if all your kids watch is YouTube, because that’s how it is in this world,” she said.
She said the bill “creates a future-proof model.” But National’s Michael Woodhouse cast doubt on whether the bill would be proof against changes in government.
He reiterated his party’s objection because of the cost during a cost of living crisis.
“I think what Barbara Edmonds just demonstrated at home — as a fellow Gen Xer — is that we parents don’t understand how our kids get their content.
“But it’s not through TVNZ and RNZ. And it won’t be, despite its claims of a merged entity of the two. Content matters more than platform,” he said.
Last to address the House before the vote was Labor MP Jamie Strange (who was supposed to have spoken earlier, but the speaker forgot).
“This bill is simply. . . respond to a change in New Zealand society and New Zealand culture. I can’t wait to go through it and see what we hear from the public about it,” he said.
Jamie Strange is the current chair of the Parliamentary Economic Development, Science and Innovation (EDSI) Committee which will review the Bill over the next six months – and this will be the first opportunity for New Zealanders to have a say in a plan drawn up behind closed doors.
Strange was also the chairman when the same committee ordered an investigation into the RNZ charter review, although the days of this charter were numbered as the ANZPM will have its own charter.
Despite this, more than 60 briefs were filed as part of this investigation.
The closing date for submissions on the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill is September 8, 2022. The EDSI committee is due to submit its report in January 2023.