The JMAD 2015 New Zealand Media Ownership Report observes that New Zealand media companies are now owned by a small number of private funds and investment banks. In the case of MediaWorks, financial ownership has intensified its profit imperatives, and led to the demolition of its news and currents affairs programmes. In this context, it is encouraging that independent news organisations such as the National Business Review (NBR), BusinessDesk and Scoop, have continued to operate in the market.
In 2015, New Zealand media companies were implementing ‘digital first’ strategies, and integrating newsrooms across the print and online platforms. Unfortunately, this didn’t put ‘journalists first’, and newsroom layoffs continued.
The revenue structures of media companies continued to encounter difficulties, and new forms of partnership and collaboration emerged. For example, Fairfax partnered with Sky TV, The Huffington Post and The New York Times; and APN with News Corp and The Washington Post in content delivery. Additionally, NZME, TVNZ, MediaWorks and Fairfax joined forces in advertising against companies such as Facebook and Google.
In 2015, Rupert Murdoch returned to the New Zealand media market by acquiring a 15 per cent stake in APN, publisher of The New Zealand Herald. In contrast, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart sold all of her Fairfax shares. Consequently, the investment bank Morgan Stanley became the company’s largest shareholder.
Yet again MediaWorks became owned by one financial institution. In 2013 it went into receivership under its private equity owner Ironbridge Capital. In 2015, American hedge fund Oaktree Capital emerged as the biggest MediaWorks owner.
Key events concerning New Zealand media ownership
- Billionaire Gina Rinehart exits Fairfax Media
- Rupert Murdoch becomes the second largest owner in APN
- MediaWorks becomes owned by Oaktree Capital
- Scoop crowdfunds to become a not-for-profit outlet
- Three funds hold 20 per cent of Sky TV’s shares
JMAD New Zealand media ownership report 2014
The New Zealand Ownership Report 2014 report finds that the New Zealand media market has failed to produce new, innovative media outlets, and that all the efforts to establish non-profit outlets have proved unsustainable.
The report confirms the general findings of previous reports that New Zealand media space has remained highly commercial. It also confirms the financialisation of media ownership in the form of banks and fund managers.
The report also observes that in 2014 convergence between New Zealand mass media and the communications sector generally was in full swing. Companies, such as Spark (former Telecom NZ), started to compete head-to-head with the traditional broadcasters on the online on-demand video and television markets. The American online video subscription service Netflix is entering the NZ market in March 2015.
Additionally, the report notes evidence of uncomfortable alliances between citizen media, politicians, PR companies and legacy media. As Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book revealed, the National Party and PR practitioners used the Whale Oil blog to drive their own agendas. Also, events related to Maori TV, TVNZ and Scoop raise questions about political interference in media affairs. It is now evident that the boundaries between mainstream media, bloggers, public relations practitioners and politicians are blurring.
Key events and trends concerning New Zealand media:
- Financialisation of mass media ownership confirmed
- Substantial changes in Fairfax, APN and MediaWorks ownership
- Competition heats up in online television and video markets
- Turbulence at Maori TV
- Blurred lines among politicians, bloggers, journalists and PR practitioners
JMAD New Zealand Media Ownership Report 2013
The New Zealand Ownership Report 2013 published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD) outlines how the financialisation of New Zealand media intensified as News Limited pulled out of Sky TV, and as lenders took 100 percent control in MediaWorks.
In 2013, controversy erupted when it was revealed that a journalist’s phone records had been handed to a ministerial inquiry without her consent. The move was condemned by over 300 journalists as the government’s invasion of privacy was seen as a threat to media freedom.
The government also passed legislation giving extra surveillance powers to its security bureau (GCSB). This represented an institutional threat to journalistic autonomy.
The report also finds that the bloggers and the blogosphere gained prominence and influence in relation to the commercially driven mainstream media. In October 2013, there were 280 ranked blogs in New Zealand, and the top political blogs recorded high visitor numbers.
Key events and trends concerning New Zealand media ownership in 2013:
- Financial institutions take control of Sky TV and MediaWorks
- MediaWorks goes into receivership, keeps losing content rights
- Bauer media grows in influence, buys The Listener and other magazines
- Sky TV stirred, but not shaken by Commerce Commission and new competitors
- Leading newspapers stall paywalls, local papers launch them
- APN and Fairfax newsrooms shrink, profits boosted by asset sales and cuts
This New Zealand Media Ownership Report is the third published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD).
JMAD New Zealand Media Ownership Report 2012
This New Zealand Media Ownership Report is the second one published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD). This report finds that in 2012 the ownership of New Zealand media companies concentrated even more tightly in hands of transnational corporations, financial institutions and private equity firms, following the international trend. It also discovers that the financialisation of media companies has intensified their need to maximise revenues. Consequently, media companies have implemented cost cutting programmes, outsourced jobs, closed down operations and sold core assets. The speed of these developments suggest that the future of New Zealand media companies is even more unpredictable than in September 2011 when the first JMAD report was published. At the same time print media organisations and online news formats struggled for commercial viability. In these fraught circumstances the principles of public broadcasting and public interest journalism were difficult to sustain.
Key events and trends concerning New Zealand media ownership in 2012:
- Transnational media corporations tighten control over New Zealand media companies
- Financial institutions and private equity firms increase their New Zealand media holdings
- Fairfax and APN: asset sales, job cuts, paywalls and tabloid formats
- Traditional business models in New Zealand print media become less viable
- Public broadcasting shrinks further after the government effectively closes TVNZ 7 and Stratos
- Sky TV’s spreading influence triggers Commerce Commission investigation
- Journalism.org.nz: web based public interest journalism emerges
New Zealand Media Ownership Report
This New Zealand Media Ownership Report is the first published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD). In March 2011, JMAD took over the New Zealand media mapping project from Bill Rosenberg, who delivered his last media ownership report in 2008.
This report finds that New Zealand media companies are increasingly dominated by global and pan-regional media corporations, and that they are vulnerable to commercial and shareholder pressures. In response to these pressures, New Zealand media companies have continued to economise and started to digitalise. These developments have led to the closure of a 20 year old weekly business paper, job losses for journalists, printers, advertising and distribution workers, and government loans for a conglomerate with major broadcast holdings. Secondly, with APN’s and Fairfax’s withdrawal from New Zealand Press Association NZPA, and the governments funding cut for the state owned digital TV channel TVNZ7, public media space is shrinking as commercial influence has expanded.
Key events and trends which have shaped New Zealand media space most recently are:
- Closure of the 130 years old NZPA
- Government loan to MediaWorks
- End of funding of TVNZ7 and TVNZ6
- Dominant Sky expanding to internet
- Fairfax and APN – economising & digitalising
- Corporates enter into local news markets
The Pacific Journalism Review will publish an article based on the findings of the report which is co-written by AUT lecturer and PhD researcher Merja Myllylahti and JMAD co-director, Dr Wayne Hope.
Media Mapping Project Phase II
In a time of rapid technological change and economic uncertainty changes in media ownership patterns require even more intense scrutiny. International scholarship in this area reveals how cross ownership patterns shape the business objectives, work environments, content formats and journalistic practices of particular media institutions.
In this regard, it is especially important demonstrate how the New Zealand media ownership patterns are positioned within pan-regional and global media conglomerates.
Against this background, it is only natural that the AUT Centre for Journalism, Media & Democracy (JMAD) has taken over mapping and researching New Zealand media-communication ownership patterns and producing related reports. JMAD is taking the leading role on this field- no other New Zealand university has addressed these themes on an ongoing basis.
We owe a big thank you to Bill Rosenberg who has pioneered media ownership mapping in New Zealand and has produced numerous reports on the subject. Handing over his research material and archives to JMAD enables us to continue his important work and generate further research on this field.
AUT Centre for Journalism, Media & Democracy (JMAD)