News Media Ownership In New Zealand: Who Owns What?

- by Bill Rosenberg

This is a slightly revised first section of the longer paper, “News Media Ownership In New Zealand”, which is available on the CAFCA Website,, and recently had a major update. The other sections are: “The Media Moguls: Who Are They?” giving the backgrounds of the main owners of our news media, and a discussion of: “Does Ownership Matter?”. To conserve space, references have been omitted from this article, but they are available in the online paper.


Four companies, all overseas owned, dominate the New Zealand news media. There is a near duopoly in two of the three main media – print and radio – a monopoly in pay television, and only three significant competitors in free-to-air television including the State-owned channels. Each daily newspaper has a near monopoly in its main circulation areas.

John Fairfax Holdings Ltd owns newspapers which in 2006 had nearly half (48.3%) of the daily newspaper circulation in New Zealand. Its main newspaper competition is from APN News and Media (ANM), which had 43.1% of the daily newspaper circulation in 2006 (28% of which came from the New Zealand Herald, the largest circulation daily newspaper in New Zealand) and substantial radio holdings. The two between them in 2006 owned 87.7% of audited daily press circulation of the provincial newspapers (those with under 25,000 circulation), and 92.3% of the metropolitan readership (those newspapers with more than 25,000 circulation). In addition they have extensive and increasing ownership of community newspapers, and magazines. ANM’s main competitor in commercial radio is MediaWorks, owned by Australian private equity corporation Ironbridge. MediaWorks owns the other of the two largest radio networks, and two television channels. Its competitors in television are State-owned television, plus the News Corporation-controlled Sky Television, which has a monopoly on pay television and also owns Prime Television.

Print Media

Only about 60,000 readers still have an independent daily newspaper – 10,000 less than in 2001 (though total audited daily readership has also dropped by 46,000 in that time). Fairfax and ANM share the remainder.

John Fairfax Holdings Limited

John Fairfax Holdings is an Australian company which bought its New Zealand empire in June 2003 for $1.188 billion from Independent Newspapers Ltd (INL, controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation with a 45% shareholding at the time). Fairfax owns the largest circulation South Island newspaper, the ChristchurchPress, winner of the Qantas Media Award For Newspaper Of The Year in 2006 and 2007, which has a near monopoly in Christchurch. It owned both the Dominion and the Evening Post, Wellington’s only morning and evening dailies, until it closed the Evening Post in June 2002 because of falling advertising revenue, renaming the Dominion the Dominion Post to become its best selling daily. In fact it owns all the daily newspapers with circulation greater than 25,000 other than the New Zealand Herald and Hawke’s Bay Today (ANM) and the Otago Daily Times. It is probably the largest publisher of New Zealand’s newspapers, magazines and sporting publications. In 2006 it had 73.7% of the audited circulation of the country’s five national weekly newspapers and 15% of magazine revenue. In December 2006 Fairfax in Australia acquired Rural Press which owns New Zealand Rural Press, publisher of seven titles including Straight Furrow and 6% of magazine market revenue, making Fairfax the largest magazine publisher in New Zealand. Rural Press also owns regional radio stations and agricultural publications in the US.


Fairfax ’s Print And Web Media

(Including Rural Press)

Metropolitan Dailies

Provincial Dailies


The Dominion Post

Nelson Mail

AA Directions

NZ Gardener

The Press

Manawatu Standard


NZ Growing Today

Waikato Times

Marlborough Express

Boating NZ

NZ Horse and Pony

National Weeklies

The Southland Times


NZ Trucking

Sunday Star-Times

The Timaru Herald

Fish and Game NZ


Sunday News

Daily News

(New Plymouth)


Sky Sport, Skywatch

The Independent Financial Review

NZ House and Garden

Turf Digest,
Best Bets

Community Newspapers Over 50 titles

NZ Autocar

Truck Trader


Business Media

NZ Fishing News

TV Guide

Computerworld NZ

Rural Press


Straight Furrow

The Dairyman

Many related sites

PC World

NZ Grapegrower


NZ Reseller News

Lifestyle Farmer

Central District Field Days

Regional A-Z Directory

Horticulture News

Fairfax ’s print and Internet media in New Zealand are detailed in the accompanying tables. Its magazines includ­e some of the country’s largest selling publications, such as Skywatch (2006 circulation 294,451) and TV Guide (2006 circulation 188,119), and it has a virtual newspaper monopoly in many cities and in the national Sunday newspapers, including the Sunday Star-Times, the second largest selling newspaper in New Zealand (190,804 in 2006). Its Sunday dominance is challenged only by the Herald on Sunday which circulates largely in the Auckland area.

It made a spectacular foray into the Internet in March 2006 when it bought the highly successful and market leading online auction trading site, Trade Me, for $700 million. This was part of a strategy to increase its online holdings and to associate electronic commerce with its newspapers as the online equivalent of classified advertisements, to capture the surging leakage of advertising to the Internet (more than half of job advertisements are now online for example). As Fairfax chief executive David Kirk put it: “… the economics of the business is extraordinary. There is virtually no capital required, high margins and double or triple traditional business growth…” Kirk sees the Internet, not newspapers, as driving growth at Fairfax.

The publications amassed by INL prior to sale to Fairfax were accumulated over decades. As well as its own, it publishes magazines on contract, including Skywatch and AA Directions. Numerous titles came and went amongst its magazines, mainly purchased from other companies (at least 12 between 1992 and 2003), but with a few of its own startups. For example, it bought two of the last significant provincial dailies, the Nelson Evening Mail (September 1993), and the Marlborough Express (circulation about 10,000) with its give-aways Saturday Express and Kaikoura Star in September 1998. In 1998 it announced a new glossy: Grace, aimed at the “independent woman”. The May launch had a touch of farce when rival Australian magazine Claudia came out with the same cover photo of Hollywood star Helen Hunt. INL Magazines reportedly resolved the matter by buying every copy of Claudia bound for the New Zealand market. It was not a good start: the magazine closed in January 2001.

Fairfax’s Community Newspapers

Auckland City Harbour News

The Bay Chronicle

Bays and Remuera Times*

Cambridge Edition

Central District Farmer

Central Leader ( Auckland)

The Christchurch Mail

City Weekend

Clutha Leader

Country (Matamata)

Dargaville & Districts News

East and Bays Courier

Eastern Courier

Feilding Herald

Ellerslie and Panmure Times*

Franklin County News

Hamilton Press

Hauraki Herald

High Country Herald

Horowhenua Mail

Howick and Botany Times*

Howick and Pakuranga Times*

The Hutt News

Kaikoura Star

Kapi-Mana News

Kapiti Observer

The Leader (Nelson)

Look North

Manukau Courier

The Marlborough Midweek

Matamata Chronicle

Midweek (50%)

The Mirror ( Central Otago)

Motueka-Golden Bay News

Newslink (Gore)

North Harbour News

North Shore Times

North Taranaki Midweek

North Waikato News

Northern News

Nor’West News

Otago-Southland Farmer

Papakura Courier

Piako Post

Rangitikei Mail

Rodney Times

Rotorua Review

Ruapehu Press

The Saturday Express ( Marlborough)

South Taranaki Star

South Waikato News

Taieri Herald

Taranaki Daily News

Taupo Times

The Tribune (Manawatu)

Upper Hutt Leader

Wairarapa News

The Wellingtonian

The Western Leader

Whangarei Leader

* 50% owned through Times Newspapers Ltd



Another false start, this time under Fairfax ownership, was the launch in October 2004 of free weekly magazine in Auckland, Auckland Max which “would target the 80,000-plus people who travel into central Auckland for work or business” and also available in Christchurch. It was seen as part of the increasingly heated competition with ANM in the Auckland market, following its announcement that it would launch the Herald on Sunday the same month. Despite Fairfax saying Max would be “earnings positive from issue No. 1”, in March 2006 it announced its closure. “Regrettably Max could not be sustained and closure has become the only commercial option.” Later in 2006 it put down racing guide Friday Flash whose circulation had fallen from a peak of 30,000 to 7,000 – leaving Best Bets and Turf Digest still in the stable. The 100-year old New Zealand Truth, once the country’s biggest selling weekly investigative and scandal sheet, was sold to a private consortium led by Hawkes Bay businessman Dermot Malley in January 2007 after its muck-raking, tits-and-bums journalism (financed by a high proportion of sex advertisements) lost its audience and sales had dropped from over 200,000 a week in the 1960’s to 12,500 at the time of sale. The new owners said they would increase its reporting staff from three to seven, “keep the sport focus, but we want to get back to the Truth’s editorial origins of uncovering scandals and standing up for the little guy”. At the same time Fairfax started up the monthly Sky Sport, “an intelligent sports read”, published jointly with Sky Network Television.

One of its most significant recent acquisitions was The Independent business weekly, one of the few independent news media which actively displayed its independence. Triggered by the death of its founder, Warren Berryman, in 2004, Fairfax acquired the newspaper in February 2006, relaunching it three months later as The Independent Financial Review after its Australian national financial publication, the Australian Financial Review, saying it would use its business journalists throughout New Zealand and Australia to provide copy. Initially Berryman’s widow, Jenni McManus, also a prominent investigative journalist, remained as editor but Bernard Hickey, managing editor of Fairfax’s business publications took over for the relaunch. Fairfax had been reported to have been interested in buying the larger circulation business weekly rival, the National Business Review, but it resisted offers.

In January 2005, Fairfax acquired NZ Autocar magazine, said to be the top car publication in New Zealand. In October 2005 it received Commerce Commission clearance to acquire three publications, the provincial semi-weekly community newspaper the Rodney Times, the Coaster, a weekly distributed on Hibiscus Coast, and Outlook, a regional real estate guide, from family firm the Times Media Group. Rodney Times editor Pam Tipa said, “being independent is probably best, but it’s just not an economic reality”, saying the cost savings offered by a big owner such as on paper, printing and accounting, “are not just helpful, they’re a necessity”. In August 2006 it bought the New Zealand and British assets of business publisher IDG, in New Zealand giving it Computerworld, PC World, CIO and NZ Reseller News. In May 2007 Fairfax acquired Christchurch glossy, Avenues.

Fairfax ’s acquisition of the Australian company Rural Press, brought just another change of ownership for some of New Zealand’s most important rural publications. Federated Farmers’ flagship Straight Furrow was sold to the Australian-owned New Zealand Rural Press Group in 1999. Rural Press, which has over 100 publications in Australasia and the USA, then already owned the New Zealand Farmer, AgTrader, The Dairyman, Farm Equipment News,New Zealand Grape Grower, Horticulture News, Lifestyle Farmer, Rural Waikato, and Southerner. In April 2001, Rural Press closed the New Zealand Farmer, then 120 years old (though owned by Rural Press only since 1987) and regarded as one the most authoritative farming publications in New Zealand, its circulation having declined from 29,000 in the mid-1970’s to only 10,000. It had earlier closed the Journal of Agriculture, and Farm Equipment News has also disappeared. The Southerner has been absorbed into Straight Furrow, and AgTrader is a monthly free supplement to the same publication. New Zealand Farmer’s competitor, Rural News is privately New Zealand-owned, substantially owned by Auckland businessman, Brian Hight. Hight commented on the closure of New Zealand Farmer that it was “an icon of New Zealand farm publications but Australians may not appreciate that”.

Fairfax also owns 49.2% of New Zealand Press Association Ltd (NZPA), and 49.9% of Times Newspapers Ltd (formerly Business Media Group Limited) which publishes the Howick and Pakuranga Times, Howick and Botany Times, Bays and Remuera Times and Ellerslie and Panmure Times, and Midweek.

APN News And Media

APN News and Media (ANM) is an Australian registered company which is controlled by Independent News and Media (INM), of Ireland, in turn controlled by the O’Reilly family, headed by Sir Anthony (Tony) O’Reilly.

In addition to its flagship the New Zealand Herald, ANM owns nine provincial daily newspapers in New Zealand. It owns the large-circulation magazines New Zealand Listener and the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly. It has a substantial stock of around 30 giveaway community newspapers covering Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, and Christchurch. It also publishes the tourist giveaway NZ Thermal Air (Rotorua). It owns 38.8% of New Zealand Press Association Ltd.

ANM acquired the stable by taking over Wilson and Horton (details below) and owns them through its New Zealand subsidiary APN New Zealand Ltd. About two-thirds of ANM’s earnings come from New Zealand. Like INL, Wilson and Horton had been steadily acquiring independent provincial and community newspapers. In 1995 it bought the Northern Publishing Company, publishers of the Whangarei Report and the Northern Advocate. In December that year it bought the Hawkes Bay Sun, a nine month old free twice-weekly community newspaper with a circulation of 50,000. Its Hastings paper Hawke’s Bay Today was created from the merger in April 1999 of the Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune and the Napier Daily Telegraph with the loss of 60 jobs. It bought the old-established independent, the Wairarapa Times-Age in July 2002 and the community newspaper, the Stratford Press in April 2006.

The 2003 takeover of the weekly Waihi Leader vividly demonstrated to locals the effect of corporate ownership. The Leader had been owned and operated by Waihi residents Annette and Rob Bowater. The newspaper – “known for its hard-hitting news coverage of the town and the impact of the mine” – had run a robust editorial line opposing the effects of mining companies which dominate Waihi. This had strong local support, but was detested by the mining companies and some local business interests. One local noted that the Leader had had three pages of classified advertisements prior to its sale, and that fell to just a page and a half, a matter of weeks post sale, following a new editorial line and the sacking of a number of the local staff (including a local reporter and school children who delivered it). “If a community reads its news,” he commented, “it will advertise in it. Use of classifieds for selling, buying etc is indicative of how much public support there is”.


ANM’s Print And Web Media

Metropolitan Daily

New Zealand Herald ( Auckland)


New Zealand Woman’s Weekly

New Zealand Listener


Websites (business directories) (outdoor advertising) (maps)

Finda and Search4 classifieds (jointly with ACP)

Sites for many of its publications, and others

Provincial Dailies

Northern Advocate (Whangarei)

Bay of Plenty Times (Tauranga)

Daily Post (Rotorua)

Hawkes Bay Today ( Hastings)

Wanganui Chronicle

Evening News (Dannevirke)

The Horowhenua-Kapiti Chronicle (Levin)

Oamaru Mail

Wairarapa Times-Age


Herald on Sunday


JET Magazine

NZ Education Gazette

NZ Education Review

NZ Nursing Review

INsite newspaper

Tourist giveaway:

Thermal Air (Rotorua)


Contract Publishing Division

UBD (Business directories)

W&H Publications

Wises Maps

Outdoor advertising

Adshel (50%)


Look Outdoor


APN Print

(incorporating a dozen former independents)


ANM’s Community Newspapers

Bay News

Napier Courier

The Aucklander (nine editions)

Canterbury Times

News Advertiser

The Riversider

CHB Mail

North Canterbury News

Turangi Chronicle

Christchurch Star


Waihi Leader


Pegasus Post

Waikato This Week

Coastal News

Stratford Press

Waitakere Week

Eastern Bay News

Taupo Weekender

Wanganui Mid-Week

Hastings Leader

Te Awamutu Courier


Hawkes Bay Sun

Te Puke Times

Weekly News

Katikati Advertiser


Whangarei Report


In September 2003 ANM closed its five Auckland community newspapers (the Shore News, West Weekly, Manurewa Week, Papatoetoe & Otahuhu Week and Our Town Papakura) replacing them with a single weekly publication, The Aucklander, covering the whole of Auckland in “six editions – Shore, West, City, Central, East and South – with editorial and advertising content tailored to each area”. This was later increased to nine editions. The new magazine style “combination of gloss, newsprint, and enhanced newsprint” goes to 300,000 homes, thus becoming “ New Zealand’s largest circulating single weekly newspaper”. Aimed to compete with both Fairfax’s dominance of the community newspaper market in Auckland, and Australian Consolidated Press’s highly profitable The Property Press (see below), The Aucklander, with its “gloss and enhanced newsprint environments” was designed to “allow advertisers to reach the key demographics across Auckland to drive property, motoring and retail sales”. In 2006 it did the same in Wellington, announcing that it would replace its local Wainuiomata News, Cook Strait News, Western News, Independent Herald, and Porirua News with five editions of a new publication, CityLife, which “would be published on higher grade paper than standard newsprint, [so] advertisers would get more brilliant and readable results”.

The specialist weekly New Zealand Education Review was launched in 1996, initially owned by Wilson and Horton with O’Reilly’s Australian Provincial Newspapers Educational Media. The Australian company publishes similar education-based weeklies in the UK, South Africa and Australia. In 1997, Wilson and Horton sold its educational publisher, Shortland Publications and its US subsidiary, Shortland USA, operating in Denver Colorado, to the Tribune Group of the USA, owner of the Chicago Tribune. It retains the Education Review, along with JET Magazine, NZ Education Gazette, NZ Nursing Review, and INsite newspaper along with the Website in its APN Educational Media subsidiary.

Other ANM subsidiaries in New Zealand include APN Print which has absorbed around a dozen commercial printers. It owned plastic credit card maker, Security Plastics, which claimed to be the “leading plastic card and smartcard manufacturer in the Asia-Pacific region” with its own subsidiaries in Australia until 2006 when ANM sold it to American Banknote (ABNote) Corporation. Publishing subsidiaries include its Contract Publishing Division, Universal Business Directories and Wises Publications (maps), and a book publishing arm, W&H Publications. In 1998, O’Reilly outdoor advertising companies Look Outdoor and Adshel (50% owned) gained Commerce Commission clearance to buy the outdoor advertising business of 3M New Zealand, known as 3M Media; it was absorbed into Look Outdoor. It also owns Buspak which sells “transit advertising” – on buses, trains, taxis, etc – in New Zealand.

Until May 1995 Wilson and Horton was a rarity amongst large New Zealand companies: it was New Zealand owned. Courtesy of a raid by Brierley Investments Ltd on its shares however, Irish newspaper group, Independent Newspapers Plc (INP, now Independent News and Media Plc, INM), gained a controlling 28% interest. By the end of that year the control had risen to 45%. The Brierleys shareholding had been regarded as unfriendly by the Horton family – mainly for the good reason that it was the kiss of death when it owned the daily Auckland Star and Christchurch Star. INP’s shareholding was welcomed by the Horton family as a “white knight” and a “stimulus for change”. By August 1996, however, former managing director Michael Horton had resigned from the Board to start his own printing business. Within a month, INP made an initially unsuccessful 100% takeover offer for the company, but steadily built up its shareholding and by April 1998 had full ownership. However, in 2001, INP sold its shareholding for $999 million to APN News and Media (ANM), a large Australian media company in which INP has a 42% shareholding and which already was a partner with it in The Radio Network (see below). The move was partly to release funds for other purchases (O’Reilly was reported to be interested in John Fairfax Holdings) but also as a way of avoiding Australian media ownership laws that restricted foreigners to 25% of a newspaper company and prevent control of television, radio and newspapers in the same market. In May 2007, ANM minority shareholders rejected a A$3 billion offer from a consortium comprising INM (35%), Providence Equity Partners (37.5%) and The Carlyle Group (27.5%).

Allied Press And Remaining Independent Dailies

The largest daily not owned by ANM or Fairfax, the Dunedin Otago Daily Times, with a circulation in September 2006 of 42,503, is owned by Allied Press, belonging to the Smith family, which also owns the Greymouth Evening Star, West Coast Times and a number of community newspapers in Dunedin, Otago, Southland and Westland (the Dunedin Star, the Lakes District and Central Otago News, the Otago and Southland Southern Rural Life, the Gore Ensign, Invercargill Southland Express, The Courier in Ashburton and Timaru, Courier Country, Hurunui News based in Amberley, and The West Coast Messenger).

The only remaining audited locally owned daily newspapers are the Ashburton Guardian and the GisborneHerald, along with non-daily titles Northland Age, The Westport News, and the Whakatane Beacon (which is 21% owned by ANM).

Other Print Media

The remaining national newspaper is the Politically Correct (from the Right) National Business Review (NBR, circulation 12,394 at 30/9/06), which competes head on with Fairfax’s TheIndependent Financial Review (circulation 3,255). NBR’s circulation is falling and it has lost senior staff; it was the subject of a takeover enquiry by Fairfax in 2005. These business papers are in constant bitter, often vitriolic, rivalry. NBR (in the 1980s owned by Fairfax) is owned by New Zealander Barry Colman’s Liberty Press, formed in 1997. Liberty Press and subsidiary Fourth Estate also publish The Capital Letter, New Zealand Property Investor and Food Industry Week. The group had numerous other titles including Property Press and Motor Guide classified papers which it claimed had circulations in excess of 40 million a year but closed some and sold most of the others including 15 titles including Motoring Guide and Property Press (see below) to Australian Consolidated Press in November 2001.

The NBR at times appears to function like an ACT Party journal, and the impression was deepened when new National Party leader, Don Brash, began adopting policies indistinguishable from ACT in early 2004. Colman paid for an Australian expert to give Brash news media training, saying his own views were well known: “There’s no ifs and buts where I stand and it’s definitely not on the side of socialism”. University of Canterbury Journalism head, Jim Tully, observed that it was ironic that a media proprietor was “helping a person in a sense develop skills to be evasive and difficult and take advantage of the media”. The relationship was further exposed in The Hollow Men by investigative reporter, Nicky Hager (Jeremy Agar’s review of “The Hollow Men” and a transcript of a speech by Nicky Hager on the subject can both be read in Watchdog 114, May 2007, online at Ed.).

The Independent , before being bought out by Fairfax (see above) tolerated a broader range of views in its columns despite having Business Roundtable Executive Director Roger Kerr on its board, and financial backing from millionaire businessman and ACT donor, Tony Timpson. It was founded, owned and edited by a former National Business Review editor and award-winning investigative journalist, Warren Berryman, until his death in March 2004. It continued under his widow, also a prominent investigative journalist, Jenni McManus, until the Fairfax takeover and remodelling.


The Auckland yuppie magazines Metro and North and South are owned by a company associated with the Packer family’s Australian Consolidated Press, ACP Magazines, one of the two largest magazine publishers in New Zealand. It runs head to head with Fairfax with 20% of magazine revenue in New Zealand, 55 titles and claims “more than a dozen” Websites. ACP Magazines also competes with PMP’s publication distributor Gordon and Gotch through its Netlink division. In New Zealand it publishes Australian Women’s Weekly (New Zealand edition), Auto Trader, Bay Trader, Buy Sell and Exchange, The Car Dealer, Cleo (New Zealand edition), Deals on Wheels, Farm Trader, Fashion Quarterly, FQMen, KiaOra (formerly Air New Zealand magazine), Loot, Little Treasures, Motorcycle Trader & News, NetGuide, New Zealand Home+Entertaining, New Zealand Lifestyle Block, New Zealand Motor Homes, Caravans and Destinations, Next, NW, Pacific Way, Property Extra, Property Press, Real Estate, Taste, Trade-A-Boat, Women’s Day, and Your Home and Garden. Its Websites are mainly for those publications, including for its fashion magazines, but it also jointly owns with ANM and is associated through its ultimate Australian parent company Consolidated Media Holdings (CMH) with Seek, of which CMH owns 27.1% and which runs job advertising Websites and

Again, many of ACP Magazines’ titles were acquired rather than developed. In 2001, ACP bought 15 classified advertising titles including Motoring Guide and Property Press from Liberty Press for about $48 million. In 2002, the classified advertising subsidiary of ACPMedia, Trader International Group, bought Bay Trader in the western Bay of Plenty and Thursday Trader in Hawkes Bay, taking its publications to seven, including the Auckland classified advertising magazine Loot, launched in 2002. On the other side of the ledger, it announced the closure of its magazine She in June 2006. In February 2004 it bought and merged it with

Packer-owned Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) also owns part of cinema advertising specialist Val Morgan and Hoyts Cinemas (which it is trying to sell), and its 25% owned PBL Media owns cross-Tasman ticket booking agency Ticketek (Val Morgan “holds the advertising rights to virtually all advertising screens in Australia and almost all screens in New Zealand” according to ACP – though in Australia it may be too modest: in 2001 it was reported that “Val Morgan now has a monopoly on selling advertising in Australian cinemas, following the announcement that parent company, Television & Media Services Limited (TMS), has acquired Media Entertainment Group [MEG]”).

Until his death, Kerry Packer was the richest man in Australia and notorious for his gambling (in September 2000 he lost $46 million in a single gambling spree) and his tax avoidance (in 1991 he famously told the Australian House of Representatives Select Committee on Print Media: “if anybody in this country doesn’t minimise their tax, they want their heads read”). He bought into New Zealand television through the Prime network (see below) but later sold out to Sky TV. His son James took leadership of the empire after Kerry’s death in December 2005, but is increasingly focussing on the casino side of its operations. In May 2007 James Packer split PBL into its media holdings including ACP Magazines, as PBL Media, and Internet and gaming interests such as casinos, as Crown. He then sold 75% of PBL Media to private equity fund CVC Asia Pacific. The objective was to free up cash to expand his gambling interests and to place him in a position to exploit new media ownership rules in Australia. Packer’s 25% of PBL Media is owned by a new company, Consolidated Media Holdings, which also owns other interests including 50% of Fox Sports, 25% of Foxtel TV group and the above Seek and Ticketek interests.

“Wrong, Contemptible Or Just Plain Ignorant”

North and South received a rare reprimand from the Press Council in June 2007, acting on complaints received about an article it had published about crime in the New Zealand Asian community. Written by former ACT MP, Deborah Coddington, the article, “Asian angst: Is it time to send some back” “breached its principles on accuracy and discrimination” said the Press Council. Coddington quoted crime statistics without pointing out that their increase was less than the increase in the Asian population and was in fact dropping per capita. The Press Council described the language used as “emotionally loaded” giving examples of phrases like “The Asian menace has been steadily creeping up on us”, “Asian crime continues to greet us with monotonous regularity” and “as each week passes with news of yet another arrest involving a Chinese sounding name” which it said “combine to portray a group that has a disproportionate tendency to crime”. Group publisher of ACP Magazines, Debra Millar defended the magazine saying “the article was subject to a two-week editing process which included additional checking of statistics and verification of quotes”. Clearly their editorial process had failed, but they appeared to be unrepentant: Press columnist Simon Cunliffe reported Millar saying that the Press Council decision was “igniting interest in the title”. “How revealing”, commented Cunliffe, “no matter how wrong, contemptible or just plain ignorant your article might have been, if it was raising the profile of the magazine, then it was justified? Come again?” Meanwhile North and South editor Robyn Langwell had been made redundant, apparently because ACP Magazines were combining the managerial control of North and South with Metro. Noting the change in ownership of the company, including CVC Asia Pacific, Cunliffe concluded: “We should be very afraid for responsible journalism and media ethics”.

Pacific Magazines of Australia publishes New Idea, That’s Life, TV Hits, Girlfriend, K-Zone, and New Zealand Weddings in New Zealand. These were formerly published by PMP. PMP was controlled by News Ltd until July 1997 when News Ltd sold its 40% shareholding to institutions. After PMP hit financial problems, the Seven Network Ltd of Australia acquired 50% of PMP’s publications division, Pacific Publications for A$65 million in July 2001. In 2002 PMP sold Seven the remaining 50%, but in December 2006, Seven split off its media assets to a new firm, Seven Media Group, 50% owned by US private equity company Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and 50% by Seven Network.

The Seven Network, chaired by Kerry Stokes, controls five metropolitan and one regional television licence in Australia, with a potential audience reach of 72% of the population. It also has a number of pay TV interests, including a 33% stake in Sky News ( Australia), and a small shareholding in Fairfax. Stokes is the largest shareholder in Seven Network, with 34%, but the company’s relationship with News Ltd was the subject of an Australian Broadcasting Authority investigation in 1996. In 2002 Stokes took legal action against Foxtel (50% owned by Telstra, 25% by News Corporation and 25% by Kerry Packer’s PBL) saying he was one of three network executives “to have seen chilling evidence of a conspiracy to damage Seven by a powerful corporate coalition”, and alleging a conspiracy to kill off Seven’s C7 pay TV business. He also alleged collusion with the Australian Football League and National Rugby League.

PMP claims to be “Australasia’s largest commercial printer - producing over 3.1 billion catalogues, 32 million books, 42 million directories and 79 magazine titles each year” and “Australasia’s largest letterbox distributor - delivering twice weekly to over 6.4 million letterboxes across Australia and New Zealand”. When it sold its publications to Seven, it still kept ownership of Gordon and Gotch, the largest magazine distributor in New Zealand, which it bought from INL in 2004 (it had bought the Australian arm in 2000). Gordon and Gotch distributed “55% of all [magazine] titles circulated in the country” according to INL in 2002: and “over 2,500 titles to almost 7,000 retailers”, according to PMP.

The 3 Media Group of Auckland, formed from the August 2006 merger of Profile Publishing Ltd (which in 1996 claimed itself to be the “largest privately-owned trade and business press publisher”), Review Publishing, and Marketplace Press, publishes trade magazines and directories. Its magazines, which include some acquired and reflect sales of others over the years are AdMedia, Apparel, C-Store, New Zealand Dairy Exporter, Essentially Food, Fastline, FMCG, Grocers’ Review, BWS, Grill, New Zealand Hardware Journal, Inspirations, Management, Marketing Magazine, Onfilm, New Zealand Outdoor Power Equipment, Wares New Zealand. Its printed directories, The Data Book (companies and contacts in the screen production industry) and AdMedia’s Agents and Clients (advertising agencies, their clients, services, design and media owners) are also online, as is the online New Zealand Dairy Exporter Directory ( The company also promotes and manages events and publishes books.

Magazines are exceptionally popular in New Zealand – we are second or third in the world in magazine readership by one estimate. According to an analysis undertaken for the 2007 takeover of ANM noted above:

”The Magazine Publishers Association of New Zealand (MPA) estimates that there are currently more than 5,500 magazine titles in circulation in New Zealand, of which about 700 are published in New Zealand each year. Despite the fact that more than 1,500 of the circulated magazines are sourced from Australia, the biggest selling titles are those published in New Zealand”.


TV One and TV2 are state owned, but TV3, along with music channel C4, after a rocky history, is owned by MediaWorks which until June 2007 was 70% owned by the biggest privately owned TV broadcaster in Canada, CanWest Global Communications Corporation. CanWest has sold MediaWorks (which also owns numerous radio stations – see below) to an Australian private equity investment company, Ironbridge Capital. Prime Television, having changed hands twice, is now in News Corporation ownership and an increasingly serious competitor. TVNZ had about 63% of TV advertising revenue in 2006 (down from 65% in 2005).

MediaWorks: TV3 And C4

CanWest bought a 20% shareholding in a bankrupt TV3 in 1991 with Westpac (48%) and the receiver (32%), giving it effective control of the channel. This followed changes in New Zealand’s news media ownership laws allowing 100% foreign ownership, which were rammed through Parliament sidestepping public debate. It later took full ownership. Shortly before the October 1996 election, in a politically charged presentation, TV3 announced that it would start up another national commercial, entertainment-based, channel, then called TV4. It would have no news and current affairs, and no new local content, reinforcing TV3’s reputation for low local content. It began broadcasting at the end of June 1997. CanWest was at that time keen to buy other media in New Zealand, and was a bidder for the Radio New Zealand network when it was privatised. In 1997 it bought the More FM radio network followed by extensive acquisitions in commercial radio (see below).

In 2003 it converted TV4 to C4 (“the name – short for Channel 4 – was chosen for its bold simplicity and its explosive nature!” [sic]), a “youth music format” channel aiming at 15 to 19 year olds. While broadcasting mainly music with continuity using DJs from its Channel Z radio stations, C4 also screens a few programmes attractive to its youth market such as South Park and fills up the rest of the 24 hours (it broadcasts 2pm to midnight Monday to Friday, but 24 hours on weekends) with infomercials and other commercials. By the end of 2003, CanWest was announcing C4 had produced a $1.2 million cost saving, increasing advertising, and “due to its new low production costs” was hopeful it would put behind it the losses that TV4 had made. It made no commitment to local content.

In 2004, CanWest sold its New Zealand assets to a new company, MediaWorks New Zealand of which it retained 70% and sold the remaining 30% on the sharemarket. In the present takeover bid, CanWest has accepted Ironbridge Capital’s offer for its MediaWorks shares (accompanied by payouts of $7 million to MediaWorks’ management team, including $3 million to Chief Executive Brent Impey), but the full takeover is being resisted by some minority shareholders. It appears that CanWest rejected a slightly higher offer from PBL Media (see above) which would have benefited the 30% minority shareholders but would have lengthened the sales process for CanWest because it was conditional on 90% approval.

Since 2003, TV3 has since made substantial audience share and profit gains at the expense of TVNZ on the back of more attractive peak hour evening news and current affairs programmes such as Campbell Live, introduced in March 2005. By mid 2005 it had the lead in the key 6pm news audience in the main urban centres, partly due to fumbling in TVNZ, and leading to a series of major shake-ups of TVNZ news staff. By the end of 2005 it had 45% of the 18-49 year old metropolitan market, pushing TV One down to 30% and forcing it cut its advertising rates. TV3’s rise, and TVNZ’s disarray, have since continued.

Prime Television

Prime Television New Zealand Ltd, owned by Prime Television Ltd of Australia, started regional broadcasting in New Zealand in 1998, having bought 34 UHF licences covering about 89% of New Zealand (though broadcasts reached only about 75%). Prime Television is Australia’s largest regional broadcaster, running regional television services throughout Australia. It developed an A$10 million new Auckland facility at Albany. From August 1998 it broadcast into “five of the largest markets in New Zealand” ( Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Auckland) from Auckland, including commercials and initially local news. By the end of March 1998 it was announcing its interest in buying TVNZ if it was put up for sale. Prime also ran the Argentinean television network, Azul Television, but pulled out in August 2001 as a result of heavy losses. Despite its early optimism, it failed to make any profits in New Zealand, losing over $10 million in 2001, possibly because it featured high quality documentaries and drama which TV One no longer appeared to be interested in. In December 2001, Prime announced a deal with Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL). His Nine Network in Australia supplied programming for Prime, and ACP in New Zealand assisted with advertising and promotion (including programmes promoting its magazines such as “Fresh: Cooking With Australian Women’s Weekly”). In return, PBL gained an option to buy 50% of Prime New Zealand by 2008.

The new mass-market Prime programming competes directly with TV2 and TV3, and gained market share. Between 2002 and 2003 its New Zealand operations doubled their revenues. Only in 2004 did it resume news services – but they were broadcast from the Sky News studios in Sydney, Australia using Australian-resident New Zealander Suzy Aiken, whom Prime chose in order to pretend the news was “local”. They considered it a “bulletin” rather than a full news show, with an intention to use “freelance crews that should be able to go out and capture vision should we need it”. New Zealand Herald journalist Greg Dixon concluded: “Prime News First At 5.30 is clearly an attempt by Australian-owned Prime to gain credibility in the New Zealand market. But a news service broadcast from another country with no real investment in local resources and an inexperienced anchor hardly seems the way to do it”. It is heavy with cheap feeds of international news – great for those tired of the light weight international coverage on other channels, but not a substitute for its own reporting capability. It attempted to buy local viewers by enticing controversial current affairs presenter, Paul Holmes, from TV One for a reported $1 million a year for a three-year contract on a new current affairs show, at a time when he was nearing his use-by date on TV One. He failed to attract a large audience: 3-4% of viewers in March 2005 was the best it got . With ratings dropping below its predecessor in that time slot, the game show The Price Is Right, in August 2005 Prime canned Holmes’ show but kept him on the payroll, apparently too expensive to drop. Meanwhile they had outbid other channels on high rating imported shows and gained 6% of total viewer market share, with advertising revenue growing. However the company lost $76 million between establishment in 1998 and the end of 2005, and has never been in profit.

Prime claims that it “is committed to building its New Zealand content. This is particularly evident in the network’s news offering, Prime News: First At 5:30 as well as locally produced programmes such as, Holmes, United Travel Getaway and Out Of the Question”. However its form of local “documentary” is exemplified by Charlotte’s Lists which it describes as follows: “a countdown of New Zealand’s biggest and juiciest stories… From the sexiest men and women in New Zealand to our steamiest celebrity scandals, former model and A List TV Personality Charlotte Dawson brings us the ultimate inside scoop behind the hottest stories to hit the headlines”. Other documentaries are from outside New Zealand. Other than these, in its own words, “the schedule is a mixture of general entertainment, lifestyle, drama and comedy, sourced overseas, primarily from Australia and America”. Its coverage is sufficient to qualify for New Zealand On Air funding to pay for locally sourced programmes. But Prime New Zealand chief executive Chris Taylor admits that they would not produce local content without it: “The truth of the matter is that no network, not us nor 3 will be able to produce local product unless we have access to that”.

In February 2006, Sky TV bought Prime Television New Zealand Ltd for $30.26 million, giving Sky “the opportunity to showcase its channels and programmes whilst ensuring that New Zealand consumers can view delayed free-to-air sports programmes such as rugby, rugby league and cricket in primetime”. The primary motive was clearly to give Murdoch-controlled Sky a free-to-air outlet to increase its bargaining power for selling sports programmes to other free-to-air channels. Sky gave Prime the coveted rights to delayed rugby coverage for 2006 after the purchase was announced – “winning” against MediaWorks. Playing the sports programmes on Prime means that some 10% of New Zealand households miss out because they cannot receive Prime – driving them to subscribe to Sky. Perhaps it was also a useful base for expanding its free-to-air holdings; it would certainly make Prime a more formidable bidder for the programmes that TVNZ and MediaWorks (both of which asked the Commerce Commission to stop the takeover) need to maintain their ratings. Sky was reported to have considered starting its own free-to-air channel a year earlier. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology Broadcasting School head, Paul Norris, also pointed out that the move would make it much easier for Sky to undermine any moves from TVNZ into digital services, with a permanent Sky monopoly of such services a possible outcome. In many countries, operating both free-to-air and pay TV would be prohibited. He advocated Government intervention. TVNZ made a similar argument to the Commerce Commission, saying plans by a consortium of free-to-air broadcasters, which until the takeover included Prime, to provide a free-to-air digital service in competition with Sky would be undermined: “The acquisition [of Prime] will allow Sky, through its control of a key member of the established free-to-air grouping, to weaken, obstruct, delay or otherwise interfere with the speedy and successful entry of a second and alternative supplier to the digital broadcasting services market”.

Digital Television – FreeView

Free-to-air digital TV plans were announced in June 2006, heavily shadowed by the digital pay TV dominance of Sky TV (see below). The Government and free-to-air broadcasters TVNZ, CanWest, Māori TV, Trackside (the New Zealand Racing Board), and Radio New Zealand (notably excepting Sky TV subsidiary Prime) agreed to build a terrestrial digital network reaching about 75% of homes with the remaining 25% requiring satellite dishes. Viewers will have to pay about $200 for a decoder. The Government is paying $25 million over five years toward the cost, with the broadcasters contributing $50 million. The analogue network is planned to be switched off in six to ten years.

Exactly a year later, in June 2007, TVNZ announced two new Government-funded advertising-free digital channels, to be called TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 and go to air in March 2008. TVNZ 6 will carry about 70% local content catering to pre-school children until late afternoon, then family entertainment and educational programming until 8.30pm, finishing the day with “More challenging programming centred on arts and drama”. TVNZ 7 will carry news every hour, documentaries, sport and current affairs.

Other Free-To-Air Television

Māori Television, launched in March 2004, is provided by a statutory corporation with Government funding. It was formed as a result of commitments made by the Crown to both the High Court (1991) and the Privy Council (1993) as an obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi to promote Te Reo Māori (the Māori language). Its long development and launch were surrounded by political controversy, with the National Party saying they would probably not continue to fund it if it became Government, despite having been the Government making the commitments in the early 1990’s. However the channel quickly won public support, many welcoming its high New Zealand content and initial low levels of advertising – public interest broadcasting not seen on New Zealand television for several decades.

A number of small regional TV stations also exist

For example, Canterbury TV operating in Christchurch is the descendant of a bewildering variety of channel names and owners. CTV was formed from the local assets of TVNZ’s CTV and owned by a succession of mainly fundamentalist religious businessmen. It was sold in 2001 to the New Zealand Media Group (with similar ownership). In July 2002 it took over NOW TV (renamed from CHTV in 2001) closing down its news service, and obtaining a combined audience of about 2% of those aged over five. NOW had been directed by Rightwing businessman, broadcaster and local body politician, George Balani and backed (and largely owned) by British company West Media Services Ltd (also known as West 175 Media). NOW workers were first told they would be kept on for two weeks while their contracts were renegotiated, then were turned away when they turned up for work. Only after mediation did 30 out of 40 former staff receive their pay entitlements. West Media also owns talk radio 1017AM. NOW TV had a turbulent history, having been formed with a number of the employees of the local channel, CTV, that Television New Zealand closed in 1997. In November 2002, CTV was sold to a local consortium consisting of the Allied Press (50%) and two Christchurch businessmen, Christopher Smith (owner of South Island Gourmet) and Murray Wood (of computer firm MagnumMac), with 25% each. Hopes were high, Smith saying: “we are not looking to get rich quick from it but what we are doing is getting involved in the community”.

After CTV acquired NOW, Paul Norris, former senior TVNZ executive and head of the Broadcasting School at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, described the situation as “a complete disaster. Two years ago, Christchurch had three local news programmes. Now there is none”. He put it down to “the whims of foreign owners …Regional television is usually founded on local news and if you don’t have that, what have you got? What are you there for? It’s pretty obvious that foreign companies don’t really care, when the chips are down, about the interests of the locals”. He was more hopeful after the new consortium bought CTV: “It’s a chance to get local television back on its feet again”, he told the Press. He also told the story behind the hot-and-cold behaviour of West 175 Media. It was founded by New Zealander John McEwen, who had been “a key figure in ESTV, a Christian concern bidding to run the third channel in the mid 80s”. Balani invited him in for financial support in 1998. West 175 Media went on an acquisition spree, which in New Zealand included the three South Island regional channels, CHTV, Channel 9 in Dunedin and Mercury in Invercargill. As the company over-reached itself, McEwen was ousted by “ London moneymen” who had no time for New Zealand, wanting to expand in Europe. “When the crunch comes, the colonies are dispensable,” observed Norris. McEwen left the company a few months before the sale of NOW TV to CTV. CTV now broadcasts as Canterbury TV, relying heavily on cheap imported content such as Deutsche Welle World News but with significant local, if commercially driven, content, mainly in the form of talk shows.

Its main local rival was evangelical Christian Freedom TV which has been absorbed into the national religious TV channel, Shine TV. Freedom TV was supported by evangelical churches and spokesman Warren Smith’s Christian Superstore, and owned by non-profit company, Successful Living Foundation (NZ) Ltd. Shine is associated with national evangelical radio Radio Rhema and also provides a religious channel (also called Shine TV) for Sky TV.

At the same time as West 175 Media sold NOW TV, it was negotiating the sale of Channel 9 in Dunedin to the New Zealand Media Group and had already sold Mercury TV in Invercargill to its management. Channel 9 had been started by Otago Daily Times owner, Allied Press Ltd, and leased to West 175 Media in 1999. Channel 9’s 25 staff were made redundant when New Zealand Media Group took it over, and then immediately rehired on four-day per week contracts. But within a few days the deal fell through. It ended up back in Allied Press ownership.

A casualty of the intensely commercial environment was Auckland music station, Max TV, which closed in 1997 for financial reasons, having failed to persuade the Government to support a youth network. The 24 hour music video channel Juice TV, which started as a Sky TV channel, in August 2003 began broadcasting to Auckland free to air on a UHF channel made available when BCL split away from TVNZ. It also has a second Sky TV channel, J2. Similarly, alternative music channel Alt TV began broadcasting on a free-to-air UHF channel in Auckland from November 2005 and on Sky TV from December 2006. It is owned by Aucklander Thane Kirby who deliberately chose Sky over the new FreeView digital network because of Sky’s greater audience, saying “it’s just the economics of moving to Sky to get advertising”. He also intends to move it into radio during 2007.

A notable alternative to the main TV networks exists in Triangle Television in Auckland, which describes itself as “ New Zealand’s first non-commercial, regional TV station” has been broadcasting since 1998 (and since August 2006 in Wellington) for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It broadcasts on a Government-owned channel and

“as a public broadcaster, combines access, public service and ethnic television programming into a novel and exciting format. We aim to reflect the diversity within our city. Anyone can put a programme on Triangle Television, so if you think your interests or perspective on life are absent from the media we have one response: make your own show and get your voice heard! …

“The station acts independently from all programme providers. This independence ensures that Triangle Television cannot be controlled by individuals or groups with their own agendas. The station’s independence ensures that editorial controlled remains with the programme provider. Air time is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis bearing in mind the need for equitable representation of all groups.

“Programme time not taken up by community programme providers is filled with public service television programmes aimed at a wider audience. As well as local programming, Triangle Television hosts a range of satellite feeds from around the world, including Deutsche Welle (DW) TV from Germany and Voice of America Television”.

“Programming Pulled Off Satellites Is Cheaper”

A local operator, Mainland Television, owned by Nelson businessman Gary Watson’s, broadcasts five channels in Nelson, most of it “pulled off satellites” as Press journalist Matt Philp put it, despite Mainland billing itself as “eyes and ears at the top of the south”. “On the basis of the current line-up, it has to be said that Watson’s approach to regional-television programming is hardly, well, regional”, Philp wrote. “Watson maintains he’d love to live up to the regional-television creed, but he has so far been unable to secure NZ On Air funding. He doesn’t say it, but the obvious explanation for the current line-up is that programming pulled off satellites is cheaper”. There is little local content other than on the repetitive advertorial “Visitor Info” channel M8. Instead the material largely comes from the standards for cheap rebroadcasting Deutsche Welle and Chinese CCTV9, and from Al Jazeera and Sky TV.

Watson, a candidate for the Nelson mayoralty in 2007 (advertised on his channels’ Website), contributes a little local content: he hosts a talkback programme, called Issues, every Monday from 8pm to 9pm on two of his TV stations and on his radio stations which broadcast on 15 frequencies in the Nelson-Marlborough region as 88.4 Mainland FM in Nelson and 107FM in Golden Bay and Motueka. Political rivals worry his access to his own broadcasting network gives him an unfair advantage in the elections. In his talkback show he asks “Is there corruption in the Nelson City Council? Why did the Police find NCC did not operate the election legally? Did the ratepayers elect a Mayor who has been a bankrupt and other ...? [sic] Why did the Nelson Council CEO get lawyers to try and close Mainland TV?”

In 2002 he bought into Wellington’s regional television station, Wellington TV, renaming it Channel 7. He apparently sold out of it again in 2003 after it was forced to stop transmissions on a reserved non-commercial channel when locals and regulators in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage questioned whether its content was what was wanted in a regional broadcaster. The regional role was eventually given to Triangle Television. The station broadcast largely evangelical Christian material, 70% from the US-based Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), which also broadcasts programmes by satellite and cable, billing itself as “the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel. TBN offers 24 hours of commercial-free inspirational programming that appeal to people in a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic and Messianic Jewish denominations” and “the 7th Largest Broadcast Group Owner in the US” between NBC and ABC. The channel’s religious backers told its viewers to vote for the Rightwing evangelistic Destiny Party in the September 2005 elections. They eventually sold their Wellington TV transmitter (broadcasting on another frequency) to Watson who agreed to continue to broadcast TBN programmes. It also operates in Nelson, and Mainland TV broadcasts similar programmes on Sundays.

Pay TV

The monopoly pay TV operator, Sky TV (Sky Network Television Ltd), was founded by business pillars of the New Right in New Zealand, Craig Heatley (an ACT Party founder and financer), Terry Jarvis, and Tappenden Construction (headed by fellow new right evangelists, Alan Gibbs and Trevor Farmer). For some time, Sky was controlled by the “HKP Partnership” comprising Bell Atlantic International Inc., American Information Technologies Corporation, Tele-Communi­cations Inc, and Time Warner Inc, with 51.1% of Sky’s shares. The other shareholders were TVNZ, Heatley, Jarvis, Tappenden Construction, Todd Corporation, and the US subscrip­tion sports Television network ESPN. Bell Atlantic and Ameritech were the owners of Telecom New Zealand when it was privatised (but have since sold out at a large profit). It is no coincidence then that Telecom subsidiary, First Media, began working on introducing a trial of cable television in the Auckland and Wellington areas, in cooperation with Sky TV but opposed by then telephone rival, Clear. First Media abruptly stopped work on installing optic fibre cables for the project in 1998, saying it had other ways of getting into the market (ADSL).

In March 1997 INL made an unsuccessful attempt to buy an 83% share of Sky, despite the Commerce Commission over-ruling concerns about News Ltd’s growing dominance over programming, particularly sporting events. In August 1997, INL took a controlling 48% shareholding in Sky TV but that fell to 40.5% after a public share offering, 60% of which went to overseas institutions. INL took control of Sky by buying out the HKP Partnership and selling 3.1% of it back to the other shareholders, who also bought out the small ESPN shareholding. TVNZ ended up with 17.49%, Heatley and Jarvis 17.01% (later sold down to 11.9%), Tappenden 8.6%, and Todd 9.44%. INL continued to buy shares, including some from TVNZ, bringing its current shareholding to 66.25% by 2001. The remainder of TVNZ’s share went to Heatley and Todd Corporation. Eventually, both sold out and in February 2001, Telecom bought out Tappenden’s 12.2% of Sky for $192.6 million and took a seat on its board.

INL’s 1999 purchase of most of TVNZ’s share of the company reeked of special favours. TVNZ accepted a price of $2.75 per share, despite a higher offer, reported to be $2.90, from a consortium of institutional investors – worth an extra $6.9 million. The price on the Stock Exchange was $2.88 just before the INL bid was announced, and rose to $3.19 by the end of June. The low price was doubly surprising given that the then National government had repeatedly tried to sell TVNZ, alleging it would cost too much to upgrade to digital television. It then grabbed $70 million of the proceeds as a special dividend, as if to underline its hypocrisy. It apparently allowed TVNZ to accept the lower bid on the feeble – and anti-competitive – grounds that “TVNZ places considerable importance and value on a positive and cooperative ongoing relationship with Sky and its existing major shareholders”. The cringe did not pay dividends: within weeks, Sky was ditching TVNZ for TV3 to rebroadcast its sports – rugby, rugby league and cricket – and provide Sky’s news feeds. Even the Stock Exchange’s market surveillance panel asked for an explanation, but said “it was prepared to accept the unqualified assurances at face value from Sky and INL, two reputable listed issuers”. Then TVNZ Chair, Rosanne Meo, and Alan Gibbs and Trevor Farmer have all been members of the Business Roundtable.

Following the sale of its newspapers to Fairfax in 2003 (see above), INL used the cash to launch a takeover for the remaining 34% of Sky in a structure calculated to increase News Corporation’s control of Sky. It was immediately accepted by INL and Sky shareholder, Telecom, without waiting for an independent valuation, leaving it with a 12% shareholding in INL. Other shareholders rejected the price as being too low leaving INL with 78.3% of Sky. Meanwhile, INL announced it would hand its shareholders a capital return of $340 million tax-free.

In July 2005, Sky and INL side-stepped the problem of paying a fair price to minority shareholders by merging. The merged company, Sky Network Television Limited, is owned 43.65% by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Sky Has Made A Determined Attempt To Corner The Market

It owns about 86% of available frequencies in the South Island, but used only about 40%. It bought them as a commercial block to prevent other parties getting them according to former CTV director of resource, Grant Roberts. In 1997 it also added satellite broadcasting to enable it to reach the 30% of the country not receiving it via UHF. For several years it subsidised its installations in order to build its audience: its prospectus for a public share offer in 1997 stated the cost at $920 excluding GST, but subscribers paid only $650. It is also likely that it overstated its losses through an unnecessarily high provision for depreciation. It made its first profit in 2003, as a result of “a growing subscriber base, declining operating expenses, lower programming costs, increasing advertising revenue, and the launch of new products and services.” Subscriber revenue had grown 16% that year, and it had 542,891 subscribers in August 2003, despite having raised subscription charges in April. By 2004 it was making a substantial profit ($35.3 million), and claimed 42% of households subscribed (576,602), up from 40% the previous year. By June 2005, it had almost tripled its annual profit to $103.4 million due to continuing subscriber growth to 619,168 – though reducing its estimate of density to 40% of households – and to 667,270 in 2006 though with net earnings down due to continuing losses from Prime TV and the cost of $500 million added debt resulting from the merger with INL. Sky has about 20% of the television market.

Programming costs were kept down because of “tough bargaining” – greatly assisted by its monopoly position in pay TV, affirmed when its main competitor TelstraClear admitted defeat for its pay TV ambitions (see below). In any case, it buys many of its programmes from controlling owner, News Corporation, including controversial rugby broadcasting rights. Closer integration with News Corporation’s part-owned Foxtel in Australia and the launch of Skybet for Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) subscribers were on the way. However its Chief Executive, John Fellet, dismissed fears about INL and News Corporation interference, saying, “we operate independently from News Corp, we do not carry the (News Corp-owned) Fox News and Fox Kids. Any deal that goes through a related party has to be cleared by the independent directors, John Hart (former All Black coach) and Barrie Downey”.

Before INL’s full takeover offer had been formally made in 2003, Telecom announced it had reached a deal with Sky to resell its programmes and transmit them down Telecom’s fast DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology lines to homes. It had had a previous agreement with Sky which lapsed 18 months previously and which only applied to a “basic” Sky package. The new agreement allowed Telecom to provide its own channels, but Sky had first right to supply them.

Sky lobbied the Government to have TVNZ broadcast TV One and TV2 through Sky’s digital network. It achieved its aim in a ten-year deal announced in November 2001, after an open access deal between TVNZ and TelstraSaturn fell through. The publicly owned channels were still free to air, but forced viewers to buy a limited, proprietary Sky set-top-box to decode signals – seen as an attempt by Sky to grab monopoly control of digital services, the future technical direction of television. “Forget any advanced interactive services TVNZ might want to develop, and forget any idea of access to the Internet through digital television,” said Paul Norris at the time. “Most of all, forget any idea that TVNZ is any longer in control of what services it can develop or offer. It will be in thrall to Sky. If Sky does not want to carry these services, it will simply say no.” TVNZ’s channels also introduced local content largely lacking from Sky’s content, apart from sport. The new Minister of Broadcasting in the Labour-led Government elected in 2002, Steve Maharey, recognised the position in comments to The Independent where he “implied the Government wanted to re-examine whether Rupert Murdoch and Sky Network Television should hold the sole means of transmitting and receiving digital television signals once our current analogue system of broadcasting is phased out. He did not rule out regulation of Sky’s digital platform to ensure access for all broadcasters”. However, free-to-air digital TV plans were only announced in June 2006, as outlined above. As already noted, Sky took ownership of free-to-air TV channel, Prime in February 2006. It also owns DVD Unlimited, a movie library in which subscribers make Web bookings and receive DVDs through the post.

Other pay TV operators have tried to get into the market, but without success. US and Australian owned Saturn Communications (which started life in New Zealand as Kiwi Cable) laid cable and offered cable TV channels (including its own regional station) on the Kapiti Coast, the Hutt Valley, and in Christchurch as well as telephone, on-demand movies, Internet and data services. After running into financial difficulties, it was taken over by Telstra (the Australian equivalent of Telecom), then merged with Clear Communications becoming TelstraClear, and announced plans to expand its cabling to Christchurch and Auckland. It eventually shelved those plans part-completed in favour of trying to get access to Telecom’s telephone network. Rather than develop its own pay TV offerings, it capitulated to Sky, though adding some channels with its own brand.


The Internet site listed 212 radio stations operating in New Zealand in April 2002. In 2004, Radio New Zealand Chief Executive, Peter Cavanagh described the scene as “deregulation gone mad”, with “more radio stations per head of population than most other countries” (in 2007 by comparison, Australia only had 261 commercial radio stations). While many small local community radio stations have sprung up in the last few years including eleven community access stations operating from Auckland to Invercargill, 21 iwi radio stations funded by Te Mangai Paho (down from 25 in 2002), and the Pacific community targeted Niu FM network which is run by the private but Government-funded National Pacific Radio Trust, broadcasting on 13 frequencies, the Internet, and a Sky channel, the concentration of ownership of stations is high. In 1996 there were 157, of which over half (87) were owned by just three companies: New Zealand Radio Network, Radio Pacific and Energy Enterprises. Since then Radio Pacific and Energy Enterprises merged, took over a number of other stations, and in turn were taken over by CanWest and combined into MediaWorks. Meanwhile, The Radio Network has also continued to accumulate stations. The only solid competitors to these two networks are the State-owned non-commercial National Radio and Concert networks.

The Radio Network

In 1996 the commercial stations of Radio New Zealand were set up for privatisation as the Radio Company Ltd. They were sold for $89 million to three companies closely associated with Tony O’Reilly. The purchaser was New Zealand Radio Network Ltd, which was then owned 33.3% each by Wilson and Horton Ltd, Australian Provincial Newspapers Holdings Ltd, and Clear Channel Communications Inc. APN, which later changed its name to APN News & Media or ANM, is controlled by the O’Reilly family. CCC (no relation of Clear Communications, the former New Zealand phone company) is a San Antonio, Texas based broadcasting company which made rapid acquisitions in the USA to become its biggest radio broadcaster. Its O’Reilly connection was that it and ANM each owned 50% of the Australian Radio Network (ARN), owner of 12 metropolitan radio stations in Australia. ARN now owns New Zealand Radio Network.

O’Reilly’s acquisition consisted of 41 stations – notably the ZB network, now called Newstalk ZB – plus the Radio Bureau (an advertising production studio) and Radio New Zealand Sport. Initially New Zealand Radio Network continued to use Radio New Zealand’s news service, but in April 1997 it declined to renew its contract, leaving the already financially pressured Radio New Zealand a further $1 million short.

In October 1996, the Commerce Commission refused to allow it to make a further acquisition: all the radio stations and frequencies owned by Fifeshire FM Broadcasters in Nelson, Westport and Picton. The refusal was on the basis that the two further stations and control of the frequencies would give it a dominant position in those markets. Already broadcasting in Nelson, the addition would give it 99% of the market for radio advertising in Nelson.

In November it went for one of its largest competitors, offering $40 million to British media company, GWR Group, for Prospect (formerly known as IBC). Until March 1996, Prospect was owned by Brierley Investments Ltd. BIL sold the company for $26.5 million to GWR which was also bidding for the Radio New Zealand commercial network. Prospect owned three companies that supply other broadcasters, including the Independent Radio News and sports service, and seven further companies including the Primedia group. Its operations included 12 radio stations: seven in Auckland and five in Hamilton, including The Breeze, i98FM, Hauraki FM and i97.

The sale gave a handy $10.2 million profit to GWR (who said its acquisition costs had been $29.8 million). The Commerce Commission allowed the purchase despite the thinning of competition that it brought, but forced the sale of three stations, which it ruled gave market dominance. The purchase brought criticism from the Labour Party for its cramping of competition and the absence of rules on cross-media ownership, and additionally by the Alliance for the growing foreign ownership of broadcasting.

The purchase gave New Zealand Radio Network (now The Radio Network, TRN) 60% of the radio advertising market, and 53 stations, large even in international terms. Since then, New Zealand Radio Network has continued attempting to acquire more stations. By the end of 1997, although the number of its stations had risen to 56, the company’s share of radio advertising revenue had dropped to 58.7%. In 2002 it was saying it was the country’s largest commercial operator with 53 stations and more than 50% of advertising revenue, but its share of the Auckland market was falling. It has recovered market share more recently.

The current status is summed up in the analysis of the failed 2007 sale of ANM:

“TRN operates 120 radio stations in New Zealand, with eight different formats across the country. … TRN operates as a hub structure with metropolitan hubs in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch supporting regional station in these areas. Due to the absence of a significant regional television presence in New Zealand, regional radio has an increased role in providing content and news relevant to each region.

“TRN operates the top three stations in the Auckland market. TRN also operates the number one station in both Wellington and Christchurch. TRN has New Zealand’s top talk and music networks: Newstalk ZB and Classic Hits. In the second half of 2006, TRN had 45.2% of the total New Zealand national radio listener market share and a 49.6% in the Auckland market. In addition, TRN represented approximately 54% of the radio advertising market in New Zealand and 70% of the Auckland market. In excess of 60% of revenue for TRN is earned from local advertising with approximately 30% earned from agency revenues and the remaining 10% from national direct advertising”.

TRN broadcasts under the following brands: Classic Hits (26 stations), Newstalk ZB (26 stations), ZM (18 stations), Hauraki (13 stations), Viva (4 stations) Radio Sport (19 stations), Coast (10 stations), and Flava (2 stations).


For many years, Radio Pacific was the only independent national network. Its frequencies reached 95% of New Zealanders, eight of which came from its acquisition of Energy Enterprises in March 1997, which had stations in Rotorua, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Hawkes Bay. Radio Pacific’s Chairman (also an Energy director), Derek Lowe, said, “I do feel there should be some media companies that are owned and therefore controlled by New Zealanders”. Two months later it took over seven North Island stations belonging to smaller independent, Radio Otago, in Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo, Hawkes Bay and Wanganui. In the same deal it sold Radio Otago four frequencies in the South Island. Further acquisitions by November 1997 had brought its total frequencies to 44, and it employed 200 staff. Energy Enterprises had 18 music stations.

In March 1998 Energy Enterprises bought three FM frequencies in the Wellington area from Phoenix Broadcasting. Two months later, Radio Pacific bought XS Radio broadcasting in Palmerston North, Masterton, Levin and Kapiti, and Radio Horowhenua from the XS Corporation of Palmerston North. That gave it 59 stations. By December 1998 it owned, leased or operated 80 frequencies, boosted by further acquisitions in Christchurch, Timaru and Wellington.

Radio Otago, which owned Radio Dunedin 4XD, said to be the oldest radio station in the world outside North America, bought Christchurch’s C93FM with the $4.5 million proceeds of its North Island sale to Radio Pacific. In 1998 it bought Nelson’s Fifeshire FM to complete its plan to cover all the South Island’s biggest markets. Its independence did not last much longer: in May 1999, its merger with Radio Pacific to form RadioWorks was announced. The new company grouped 85 frequencies, second only to the Radio Network, including music networks Solid Gold, The Edge, and The Rock . The merged company kept on accumulating, buying Northland Radio in 2000 and bringing the number of community radio stations it owned and operated to 22.

A serious competitor to both the Radio Network and Radio Pacific emerged with the announcement in July 1997 that TV3’s then owner, Canadian media corporation CanWest, had bought the More FM radio network for $33 million. More FM had eight stations with two in Auckland, three in Wellington, and one each in Christchurch, Dunedin and the Kapiti Coast. CanWest also owned Channel Z in Christchurch and Wellington and the Breeze in Wellington.

But CanWest’s full intent was revealed in May 2000 when it launched a bid for RadioWorks – by then twice the size of its More FM subsidiary. Despite Lowe’s criticism of the price offered, CanWest’s tactics of standing in the market for shares without consulting the RadioWorks board, the board’s “don’t sell” recommendation, and Lowe’s previous brave words extolling New Zealand ownership of New Zealand news media, he led the lolly scramble to sell his shares. CanWest ended up with 71.8% of the company, including 12.2% formerly owned by the TAB. The new RadioWorks board included CanWest head, Izzy Asper among the four CanWest representatives, but Lowe kept a seat.

Highly Homogenised & Centrally Controlled “Formats”

In December 2000 CanWest made an offer for the remaining shares (through its subsidiary, Media Investments), and was assured of success when Energy Investments Taranaki, still a 10.6% shareholder, accepted the offer. Its chairman, Norton Moller, said that “CanWest’s bid had thwarted the aspirations of many RadioWorks shareholders who had wanted to be part of a strong and influential New Zealand-owned radio company”. RadioWorks was by then the second largest radio company with Radio Pacific, The Edge, The Rock, and Solid Gold networks plus 22 other local stations. The takeover gave it a revenue share of 47-48%.

It continues to acquire independent stations. In February 2005 it bought Gisborne Media which ran two radio stations in that city, and Surf City Radio which had broadcast RadioWorks stations under a franchise. It bought the Queenstown independent station Q92FM, including six frequencies in February 2006.

RadioWorks has six “Network Brands” (The Edge, Kiwi, The Rock, Solid Gold, Radio Live and Radio Pacific), plus two that operate locally (More FM and The Breeze). Radio Live was launched in April 2005 rebranding some of the Radio Pacific stations as a news and talkback network to compete with State-owned National Radio and TRN’s ZB networks and leaving the rest to continue as “racing-oriented” stations. A further 15 existing local stations were rebranded as More FM at the same time.

RadioWorks operates these “formats” over 140 frequencies throughout New Zealand in a highly homogenised and centrally controlled system. According to RadioWorks, the six network brands

“operate centrally from premises in Auckland. Network programmes are distributed from Auckland, with each geographic operation inserting local commercials into pre-defined time slots. These brands rely entirely upon RadioWorks’ Network Centre in Auckland for group management, content production, technical engineering, national marketing and promotions and news production”.

It has not yet succeeded in centrally controlling all its stations though. Its “local radio product”,

“More FM broadcasts in 21 areas throughout the country with live, local announcers and a strong promotional presence in each market. The Breeze broadcasts in Waikato, The Coromandel, Manawatu, Wellington, Kapiti Coast, Christchurch and Dunedin and are also local stations within their respective RadioWorks operations”.

RadioWorks also operates its own news service, Radio Live News, and advertising bureau, The Radio Bureau.

Kiwi FM, launched by CanWest in 2005 to play 100% local music, was in the centre of controversy in May 2006 when the Government gave it New Zealand On Air funding and three new FM frequencies to keep it on air. The frequencies had been reserved for a youth public radio network. Kiwi FM was required to work towards becoming a not-for-profit organisation over the next year. The stations had failed to make a profit, gaining only 0.7% of the Auckland market. Minister of Broadcasting, Steve Maharey, said it was part of the Government’s strategy to expand New Zealand music. It was criticised by the Australasian Performing Rights Association which represents New Zealand music writers and publishers. Spokesman Arthur Baysting was concerned that the move would undermine the plan for a public youth radio network because Kiwi could claim it was doing the job of a public broadcaster. “It’s completely inappropriate that CanWest or any other commercial broadcaster has anything to do with a network like that,” he said, pointing out that when launching Kiwi FM, CanWest Chief Executive Brent Impey said the station demonstrated there was no need for a public youth network because commercial radio was “doing the job”. But, Baysting said, it was “not about the music, but about giving young people access to important information untainted by commercial interests”. In other countries, public youth broadcasting was protected by law but here, youth were seen as “the market” – “and CanWest and other commercial broadcasters have worked long and hard to preserve their monopoly in this market”. He was supported by one of New Zealand’s best known songwriters, Neil Finn, who in a letter to the New Zealand Herald accused the Government of “cosying up” to commercial interests. The University of Canterbury Students Association said that such support should be going to locally-owned B network radio stations such as its own RDU station, not to international commercially driven companies like CanWest. Kiwi FM chief executive Karyn Hay defended the bail out saying “there was no advantage in the new arrangement for CanWest, which had been going to can the station. CanWest is being a good corporate citizen. It was completely wrong to insinuate that Government money was going into a commercial enterprise”. She accused critics as having “some major vested interests”. Kiwi FM was not looking for Government funding she said.

An Alternative – Community Access Radio

Amongst those struggling against these sometimes overwhelming odds are the non-profit, largely volunteer-based Community Access Radio broadcasters. They operate under special legislative provisions (Section 36c of the 1989 Broadcasting Act) which aims “to ensure that a range of broadcasts is available to provide for the interests of Women, Youth, Children, Persons with disabilities, Minorities in the community including ethnic minorities; and to encourage a range of broadcasts that reflects the diverse religious and ethical beliefs of New Zealanders”. They are eligible for funding from New Zealand On Air, receiving a median $62 contribution per hour of programme. According to their association, the Association of Community Access Broadcasters Aotearoa New Zealand Incorporated, as of October 2003 New Zealand On Air provided $1.592 million across 11 radio stations which created 94,690 hours of local radio on air, including 31,803 hours of community content, of which 25,530 hours was “section 36c” content. They compare the $62 funding for each hour of 36c content to $2,813 per hour to Radio New Zealand or $600 an hour for independent radio production Paakiwaha. The gap is filled by “tens of thousands of volunteer hours”. “Funding support for one year of community access radio for a region averages $145,000 – cf. one commercial hour – 48 minutes - of TV documentary averages funding support of $135,000”.


A rapidly growing alternative source of information and entertainment is the international computer network, the Internet. Originally run not-for-profit by educational and research institutions, the realisation of its commercial potential has led to commercialisation as rapid as its growth. This threatens its open nature. Because of the ease with which sources of information including news and comment can be set up and distributed on the Internet, services based on it (including Websites providing text, audio and video material, and email) have become a potentially potent alternative source of news.

The line between the Internet and other publishing and communications is increasingly blurred. On one hand the media companies are going well beyond conventional news, advertising and information into online auctions (such as the Fairfax acquisition of Trade Me), job advertising (like PBL’s stake in Seek), dating services, holiday accommodation, house and car sales. On the other, companies like Telecom are expanding into information and entertainment: it is an Internal Service Provider (ISP) through its subsidiary Xtra, has had stakes in INL and Sky TV as well as an interest in cable television, and has its own “online shopping mall”, TelstraClear has similar ambitions. Vodafone is making Sky TV channels available through its 3G cell phone network. Both Fairfax, with its Stuff Website, and ANM, with its own Websites including the New Zealand Herald, routinely publish over the Internet as well as conventionally.

But they are expanding into other commercial online ventures as well. As noted above under Print Media, Fairfax acquired one of New Zealand’s most successful Internet ventures in March 2006 when it bought Trade Me, which in turn has a line up of associated sites such as Find Someone, Old Friends, Smaps (New Zealand street maps), and SafeTrader (providing a secure means of exchanging money and goods), and links to Stuff. Like Fairfax, ANM has entered the online trading world, buying half of classifieds Website in October 2006. Its other Internet holdings include Search4 jobs and property classifieds, co-ownership of with ACP, the Wises and UBD online directories, “50-plus” Website GrownUps, and YourBody online “shop for health and fitness supplements”. MediaWorks is trying to increase its income from the Internet, with eight Websites it claims are among the most frequently visited from New Zealand.

There are many more examples of both publishers and Internet facilities. Many of the publications and broadcasters mentioned in this paper have their own Websites, often providing an alternative outlet for their news services – sometimes with different or early release of news content and with reader polls and forums. To that extent, while the Internet does allow readers much more ready access to a variety of news outlets in other cities and countries, the role of the Internet in providing alternative news sources is exaggerated. As Serge Halimi, media critic and Le Monde Diplomatique journalist, wrote with reference to the US:

“The Federal Communications Commission argues that technologies such as the Internet offer Americans access to more information than ever, so that worries about monopolies are unfounded. But studies also show that most Americans receive their news from a handful of outlets. And much of what appears on the Internet is repackaged from those outlets. The leading 20 Internet sites and cable channels are owned by GE-NBC, Disney, Fox, Gannett, AOL-Time Warner, Hearst, Microsoft, Cox, Dow Jones, the Washington Post and the New York Times. In 1999, 110 companies attracted 60% of the time Web-users spent online; by 2001, just 14 companies had the same market share”.

However, some Internet-only media services have appeared. Notable in New Zealand are Indymedia (, Scoop ( and Newsroom ( Indymedia is part of the international Indymedia movement which provides an independent source of news largely from volunteers, including written material, still photographs and videos.

Scoop, founded in 1999 and co-edited by journalists Alastair Thompson and Selwyn Manning (then its only fulltime staff), describes itself as “a ‘fiercely independent’ press release-driven Internet news agency accredited to the New Zealand Parliament Press Gallery and also fed by a multitude of Business, Non-Government-Organisation, Regional Government and Public Relations communication professionals. Scoop also publishes a variety of raw, unedited material from national and international commentators while producing its own editorial content on important current issues – often giving voice to perspectives not being addressed through ‘traditional media’ sources”. While much of its material comes from news releases from any organisation caring to submit them (“if it’s a press release issued in New Zealand, is legible, sane and not defamatory we will publish it”), and it has no paid writers, it has gathered an increasing international reputation for its commentaries and the material it publishes which is not available elsewhere. During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq for example, it published raw transcripts of protagonists including George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Tony Blair and Kofi Annan; reports, photos and video clips of the war that were not published elsewhere in Western media; and press releases from non-Governmental organisations. These demonstrably filled a gap in the coverage by corporate news sources: according to Thompson, “these images resulted in a massive surge in our readership”. What also built its international reputation was a series of exposés on the vulnerability of US electronic voting systems to tampering and evidence of voting fraud. The US news media had ignored the story – but it led to changes in California’s voting laws, and other states may follow. Scoop relies on subscriptions and advertising for revenue. It says: “Our logs and our subscriber database tell us that the majority of Scoop’s audience reside in professional organisations, corporations, the media and Government departments, while feedback shows us that our audience are articulate, educated and discerning individuals”. It received a “Highly Commended Best News Service” award from Netguide in 2003, effectively rating it second out of 77 New Zealand entries ( Fairfax’s Stuff came first). It says it “is ranked 3rd by Nielsen Net//Ratings in their News Category and averages 450,000 – 500,000 unique readers a month” and is now gathering considerable advertising revenue.

Newsroom, founded in 1996, works in a similar way to Scoop in “publishing news releases directly from newsmakers for news consumers”, and Scoop was a breakaway from Newsroom after disagreement on its direction. However Newsroom takes a fully commercial approach: all but headlines are available only on subscription, aiming at political and business subscribers. It says that “the NewsRoom audience is primarily composed of New Zealanders in professional positions who have above average incomes and are interested in business and political news. Over three quarters of our audience is accessing NewsRoom from a New Zealand location. The domain ( New Zealand companies) accounts for the largest audience group at just under 40% of readers, followed by the which accounts for nearly 20%. These Government readers are spread between Parliament and Government Departments such as Treasury”. In June 2007 it was acquired by the operator of the New Zealand Stock Exchange, New Zealand Exchange Ltd (NZX).

“Disintermediated News”

The concept of “disintermediated news” on which both Scoop and Newsroom are based is one which arguably was impractical before the Internet became ubiquitous, so this is truly an Internet-age service. It relies on the Internet’s immediacy, and the huge storage space available at very low cost on the computer systems that are linked to the Internet, and the ability to perform complex searches within seconds. Other Internet news services largely replicate conventional print and broadcast models. Scoop describes the principle of disintermediated news as follows:

“In the paper you read digested news – usually late. On the radio and TV you receive sound-bite news – compressed to fit demographic formats that must select and discriminate. Censor. The majority of Internet based news services are based on feeds of news from the old – real-world – media, transcribed and regurgitated online. is not – it’s raw news as it gets released.

“On Scoop you can read the news at the same time that the media are reading it. It is all here… the good oil… the whole story… the whole speech… what the Prime Minister really said, not what the reporter heard her say. Better yet you get to hear it when the Prime Minister said it. Not tomorrow”.

Where Scoop and Newsroom differ is in what they see as the purpose of this service. Newsroom sees it as a commercial service to clients. Scoop “believes in the power of information to transform lives. It believes in the power of the Internet to resolve conflict. And it believes in the power of compelling ideas to propel themselves into political consciousness if they are able to get exposure and be debated. Scoop is, necessarily, a forum that is neither censored through its own prejudices nor controlled by a multinational media conglomerate. Therefore Scoop’s mission is: ‘To be an agent of positive change’”.

The International News Agencies

Though not directly owners of the New Zealand news media, the international news agencies are owners of our news in the wider sense. All our mainstream news media depend on them – often to the exclusion of wider sources of information and viewpoints – for their international news. This paper is not the place to explore them in detail, but it is important to be aware of our often invisible dependence on them for our view of the rest of the world.

This was emphasised by the New Zealand Press Council in a ruling in November 2005 on a reader’s complaint about the balance of the coverage of the Press of the Palestine-Israel conflict. The Press Council in not upholding the complaint explained in part:

“There is another consideration. New Zealand newspapers are not, on the whole, able to maintain their own sources of reporting major international issues. Resources are severely constrained by the size of the local market. Accordingly they must rely on established overseas agencies for much of their copy. This the Press clearly did in publishing the reports of which Parish complains – as with the two reports supportive of his point of view. As the Editor points out, a range of agencies supplied the August reports. The various agencies offer differing perspectives. Certainly in a matter of such complexity, in which opinion is often so bitterly at odds, the aim should be to consider all feasible sources of news and views.

“The [Jennifer] Lowenstein article [provided by the complainant, a ‘telling critique of the failure of Western media to represent the Palestinian and/or Arab viewpoints’ according to the Press Council] claims there is a systematic failure on the part of Western media to take the Arab viewpoint into account. A single New Zealand newspaper cannot be expected to correct any such trend, if indeed it exists, when its own resources for coverage of a major international happening like the Gaza withdrawal are strictly limited”.

The Press Council appears to be saying that in the end we have to accept that our sources of international news will be biased, and that our local newspapers cannot be expected to take responsibility for it by, for example seeking other sources of news reporting.

It takes a lot of work to compile and write the material presented on these pages - if you value the information, please send a donation to the address below to help us continue the work.

Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. August 2007.


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