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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Bribing the media?

28 July 2021

I think it is pretty safe to say that we have seen a rather sad deterioration in the mainstream news media over the years.

The principles of the Fourth Estate have largely been set aside by news pubishers whose sole focus, regardless of any claims to the contrary, appear focused on generating maximum profits.

Of course the decline of the daily broadsheet and rise of the internet has see a tremendous change in the way news is presented and delivered, placing significant strain on the business models previously enjoyed by media giants.

Another massive loss to the newspaper industry was the rise of online trading sites such as eBay and TradeMe. These web-based services effectively destroyed the market for classified advertising, a backbone of the average newspaper's cashflow and profit.

Their response to these fiscal challenges has been exactly what you would expect from any business facing a similar crisis.

They cut costs and trimmed the quality of their product to try and restore profit in a landscape of falling revenues.

Instead of an army of seasoned journalists operating to the highest possible professional, moral and ethical standards, many of our dailies have recruited armies of interns or new graduates who will work for a song (or less) simply to gain the experience they hope will further their careers.

To make things worse, the new publishing model being used by many online publications seemingly allows these newbies to post stories directly to the news organisation's website with little or no editorial oversight.

Editors, sub-editors and proof-readers are clearly roles that no longer exist or have been significantly downscaled in the name of profit.

The outcome of all this is a drastic alteration to the quality and reliability of the news media most people rely on when forming their views and opinions of national events.

So should we adopt a state-funded news media model to restore the principles of the Fourth Estate and thus deliver "news without compromise"?

Well we do have some degree of state-funded media in New Zealand in the form of Maori TV and Radio NZ. Unfortunately, their resources as a news gatherer and publisher are far from adequate and they are almost a "secondary" news source rather than the one the public turn to in the first instance.

And then there is the contestable "Public Interest Journalism Fund" containing some $55 million which is available to publishers but that comes with "conditions".

Some have already argued that it is a farce and that the name ought not include the term "Public Interest" since the funding makes demands of what can and can't be reported as well as placing race-based qualifications on who is eligible.

Yes, that's right... at least part of the funding is strictly race-based.

Seriously? Is this really the third decade of the 21st century? Is this really New Zealand and not some tin-pot race-based third-world country?

Apparently, to qualify for the funding your publications must:

  • Actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi acknowledging Māori as a Te Tiriti partner
  • Reflect the cultural diversity of New Zealand

And, under "assesment criteria" used to select recipients of the funding we find preference given to anything that:

  • Supports and promotes Māori and Iwi journalism that is made by Māori about Māori perspectives, issues, and interests prioritising the needs of Māori.
  • argets content areas and communities (local, regional, national) that are currently not being fulfilled in particular: Pacific, women, youth, children, persons with disabilities, ethnic communities (with a focus on Pan-Asian communities)

It is very clear that this isn't a fund designed to boost mainstream journalism, it's a carefully "shaped" inducement for media to create pieces that are aligned with the government's own agendas and ideologies. Some might go so far as to call it an act of bribery against an industry that is financially stressed right now and therefore little able to say "no".

In short, it's taxpayers' money being used to help make government gook good -- and it's not even an election year!

I also feel sad that *any* government feels it has a right to introduce race-based initiatives like this if they are seeking to enhance cultural and racial harmony within the ranks of the population.

Unfortunately, governments of all types invariably attempt social engineering but this is so blatant as to smack of arrogance, in my honest but considered opinion.

Never mind, we get the governments we deserve they tell us.

In the meantime, I'll be treating *all* news publications with the suspicion they deserve.

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