We are surrounded by market failure in every aspect of our lives and the media is no exception. The whole neo-liberal mantra about “the market knows best”, “greed is good” and “the super-rich are our saviours” is coming apart at the seams in private sector media.
And once again it is the public purse which will bailout struggling private sector broadcasters with Broadcasting Minister Kris Fa’afoi announcing plans to bail out the likes of Newstalk ZB and Magic FM with a new contestable $55 million for NZ on Air.
We need a free media and free speech alongside a wide variety of voices and opinions being heard for our democracy to flourish but that’s not what we are talking about here. Newstalk ZB and Magic FM represent the views of the monied establishment and rely on advertising income from – usually wealthy – capitalist enterprises to spread their political messages. From this vantage point they typically attack public services and public servants of all kinds and do their best to leverage open social fracture lines on religion, race, ethnicity, gender etc
Their standard approach is to blame the victims, pick on minorities, beneficiaries, the poor, state house tenants etc and dog-whistle racism. They make a living picking at our social scabs and exploiting issues to divide New Zealanders against each other. And now we could be paying them to continue to do this. All they will have to do it seems is to employ a few journalists to “hold power to account” (one of the criteria for funding)
The private sector commercial media should be left on their own. They should live or die by the market forces they are so enamoured with.
The new contestable fund should be an important contribution to getting voices out there that are currently buried and expanding the range of viewpoints we hear from. Bailing out failed corporate broadcasters will not help build and strengthen our democracy – a new range of challenging viewpoints from within our society will.
Newstalk ZB and Magic FM should be left to fail – they shouldn’t get anything from public broadcasting funding. Not a brass razoo.
But the signs are not good with the government’s announcement saying it will be “open to all media organisations” and that “NZ on Air has hired former MediaWorks news chief Hal Crawford as consultant on the project”. Meanwhile NZ on Air said in 2016 they are “platform-agnostic” ie they are happy to use public funds for private benefit.
A big bonus for Mike Hosking could be on its way – paid for by you and me!