RNZ has a new content sharing deal with The Spinoff where RNZ’s content is shared by The Spinoff and The Spinoff’s content is shared by RNZ. This is the first time that RNZ has hosted content from a commercial news organisation on its website. The content on The Spinoff is funded through commercial sponsorship. While it doesn’t affect RNZ’s own content, it does indicate that a further move towards the commercialisation of RNZ.
Not only has RNZ got an article which seems to have advertisement in its content on its website. The original article comes from The Spin Off’s commercial section which is sponsored by Kiwibank. There is no mention of Kiwibank on RNZ’s website, but the content itself does appear to be potentially at odds with RNZ’s own Charter.
In 2016, RNZ had a charter change to allow them to make content sharing deals with third party news organisations in order to generate some extra revenue. This was partly the result of its financial trouble that it was having due to its 9 year funding freeze. I knew then that this could lead to further commercialisation either through some kind of muddying of the waters with regard to its public service status in its deals with third party news outlets or through further changes to the RNZ Charter should RNZ continue to have more financial problems and see the need to add more revenue stream. My main concern was whether any of these relationship would compromise RNZ as an independent public service broadcaster.
In section 5B (4) and (5) of the RNZ Charter it says:
(ii) the content is commercial-free, whether or not the delivery platforms are free to access; and
(iii) any advertising or sponsorship on the delivery platforms is not expressly or impliedly presented as advertising or sponsorship carried or endorsed by the public radio company (other than announcements of the public radio company’s own services).
(5) In this section,—
- (i) free to access; and
- (ii) without advertising and sponsorship; but
(b) to avoid doubt, does not include announcements by the public radio company of its own services
If you look at (ii) it stipulates that RNZ must have commerical-free content. It doesn’t say that this only applies to content that RNZ produces itself. RNZ has no relationship with the sponsors of The Spinoff’s content, but could be seen as inadvertently endorsing a product or organisation, if it hosts an article advertising a product on its own website.
Whether or not this article counts as advertising, one thing is for sure, it does raise questions around whether RNZ’s content can be relied upon to be public service and not commercial content.
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Jo Bond is a public broadcasting and RNZ activist