This JMAD New Zealand media ownership report 2017 reveals a considerable shift in the pattern of New Zealand media ownership. For the first time in seven years, the number of privately/independently owned media outlets exceeded the number of publicly (shareholder) and Crown owned companies.
In 2017, there were seven privately owned media companies: BusinessDesk, NBR, The Spinoff, Allied Press, Newsroom, Bauer Media and MediaWorks - five of these were locally owned. Additionally, Scoop was owned by a New Zealand based non-profit charitable trust.
The media market maintained some competition as the Commerce Commission ruled against NZME & Fairfax and Sky TV & Vodafone mergers. However, at the time of writing it was not clear how the competitive landscape will evolve. In October, NZME & Fairfax took their fight to the High Court, and that decision was pending when the report was published. In June, Sky TV and Vodafone decided to abandon their merger.
The report notes that the digital news market expanded during 2017. There was more available digital news and current affairs content for the public. Yet, at the same time the print newspaper market shrunk with regional and local newspapers reducing staff and publication dates. Commercial television broadcasting showed signs of distress.
New Zealand media ownership: key trends and events
JMAD New Zealand Media Ownership Report 2016
The JMAD New Zealand media ownership report 2016 observes that New Zealand media institutions are facing major changes in ownership and management, but it is not clear what combinations will eventually emerge.
For the first time in six years, New Zealand media companies are exclusively owned by financial institutions. Media moguls and News Corp have sold all their shares in New Zealand media companies. The report also finds that the board structures of New Zealand media corporates favour further consolidation. This is not surprising, as many board directors have other directorships in financial institutions and corporate advisory businesses.
In November, the Commerce Commission declined its preliminary merger approval of NZME & Fairfax. Unexpectedly, the commission stated in strong terms that the merger would give the combined company too much editorial and commercial power in print and digital platforms. It concluded that the merger failed the public benefit test, and would not be beneficial for democracy.
However, the Commerce Commission makes its final decision about the NZME and Fairfax merger on March 2017. It is still possible that the merger will go ahead.
In October, the commission delayed its decision about Sky TV & Vodafone NZ merger as it sought answers to “unresolved issues.” The commission raised concerns about the merged company’s market power in premium content such as live sports, as well as the likely impact on consumer prices. The Commerce Commission decision about the merger is expected on December 21.
Both media merger proposals were not well received by the public and competing corporations. The Commerce Commission received 56 submissions about the NZME and Fairfax merger of which only three were supportive of it. The commission received 16 submissions about the Sky TV & Vodafone NZ merger, and they were all against.
Key events concerning New Zealand media ownership
JMAD New Zealand Media Ownership Report 2015
The JMAD 2015 New Zealand Media Ownership Report observes that New Zealand media companies are now owned by a small number of private funds and investment banks. In the case of MediaWorks, financial ownership has intensified its profit imperatives, and led to the demolition of its news and currents affairs programmes. In this context, it is encouraging that independent news organisations such as the National Business Review (NBR), BusinessDesk and Scoop, have continued to operate in the market.
In 2015, New Zealand media companies were implementing ‘digital first’ strategies, and integrating newsrooms across the print and online platforms. Unfortunately, this didn’t put ‘journalists first’, and newsroom layoffs continued.
The revenue structures of media companies continued to encounter difficulties, and new forms of partnership and collaboration emerged. For example, Fairfax partnered with Sky TV, The Huffington Post and The New York Times; and APN with News Corp and The Washington Post in content delivery. Additionally, NZME, TVNZ, MediaWorks and Fairfax joined forces in advertising against companies such as Facebook and Google.
In 2015, Rupert Murdoch returned to the New Zealand media market by acquiring a 15 per cent stake in APN, publisher of The New Zealand Herald. In contrast, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart sold all of her Fairfax shares. Consequently, the investment bank Morgan Stanley became the company’s largest shareholder.
Yet again MediaWorks became owned by one financial institution. In 2013 it went into receivership under its private equity owner Ironbridge Capital. In 2015, American hedge fund Oaktree Capital emerged as the biggest MediaWorks owner.
Key events concerning New Zealand media ownership
This New Zealand Media Ownership Report is the third published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD).
JMAD New Zealand Media Ownership Report 2012
This New Zealand Media Ownership Report is the second one published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD). This report finds that in 2012 the ownership of New Zealand media companies concentrated even more tightly in hands of transnational corporations, financial institutions and private equity firms, following the international trend. It also discovers that the financialisation of media companies has intensified their need to maximise revenues. Consequently, media companies have implemented cost cutting programmes, outsourced jobs, closed down operations and sold core assets. The speed of these developments suggest that the future of New Zealand media companies is even more unpredictable than in September 2011 when the first JMAD report was published. At the same time print media organisations and online news formats struggled for commercial viability. In these fraught circumstances the principles of public broadcasting and public interest journalism were difficult to sustain.
Key events and trends concerning New Zealand media ownership in 2012:
This New Zealand Media Ownership Report is the first published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD). In March 2011, JMAD took over the New Zealand media mapping project from Bill Rosenberg, who delivered his last media ownership report in 2008.
Read the New Zealand Media Ownership 2011 report
This report finds that New Zealand media companies are increasingly dominated by global and pan-regional media corporations, and that they are vulnerable to commercial and shareholder pressures. In response to these pressures, New Zealand media companies have continued to economise and started to digitalise. These developments have led to the closure of a 20 year old weekly business paper, job losses for journalists, printers, advertising and distribution workers, and government loans for a conglomerate with major broadcast holdings. Secondly, with APN’s and Fairfax’s withdrawal from New Zealand Press Association NZPA, and the governments funding cut for the state owned digital TV channel TVNZ7, public media space is shrinking as commercial influence has expanded.
Key events and trends which have shaped New Zealand media space most recently are:
The Pacific Journalism Review will publish an article based on the findings of the report which is co-written by AUT lecturer and PhD researcher Merja Myllylahti and JMAD co-director, Dr Wayne Hope.
Last updated: 04-Dec-2017 7.15am
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