Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The end of the Fouth Estate in New Zealand

Journalists fear for their jobs as media merger looms

Hundreds of New Zealand journalists face an uncertain future if a planned merger between NZME and Fairfax NZ gets the green light.
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11 May, 2016

Media companies Fairfax and APN have told the New Zealand Stock exchange they are in talks about merging their New Zealand businesses by the end of 2016.
NZME - the New Zealand arm of APN - owns several North Island daily papers and radio stations, while Fairfax's media portfolio includes newspapers, magazines, such as Cuisine, TV Guide and NZ House & Garden, and the country's most-visited news website

If completed, the combined company would own a host of New Zealand's newspapers, including The New Zealand Herald, The Press the Sunday Star-Times and the Dominion Post, as well as the radio networks ZM, NewstalkZB, Radio Sport and Hauraцki.

The two businesses have a combined workforce of more than 3000 people and former NZ Herald editor Tim Murphy estimated a merger could cost up to 750 jobs.

Mr Murphy said the merger would inevitably mean there would be fewer journalists, but future job cuts by the individual companies were always going to happen.

He said the merger could see a paywall erected on a combined news website or membership schemes introduced for digital news, as the worry about what their competitor was doing would evaporate.

He said the merger may mean things may move faster.

"Both groups have been cutting their journalistic staff because of the perils of the print industry and that's been going on for years and has been accelerating. And it would have had to keep happening again and again, because nobody is able to get the golden egg of how to make money from digital."

But the merged company would still face stiff digital competition from the likes of Facebook, Google, Snapchat and other social media companies, he said.

Read the announcement here (pdf download)

Media commentator Gavin Ellis - another former NZ Herald editor - said the only way forward for the newspaper business was consolidation, which might keep the business running in the long term.

But in the short term it would mean job cuts as the organisation's newsrooms, advertising, and back office were merged into one national company.

Dr Ellis could not see any reason why the Commerce Commission would not approve the merger.

He said they would look at the entire advertising market, where there was plenty of competition.

'There will be double-ups all over the country'

One senior Fairfax reporter said staff were worried about cuts this morning.

"We know literally nothing about how it is going to work. There will be double ups all over the country if we merge. We cut staff last year and now there will be more.
"We are going to have months worrying about who gets what jobs."

Another reporter said: "We are not going to have as many reporters or managers. We won't need as many people online or for the print sites. People are worried."
A third Fairfax journalist said the reality would be further job loses.

"They are not going to need two of everything - two political editors, two sports editors, two editors-in-chief."

The person said it was inevitable that good staff would look to leave as the deal, if it went ahead, wouldn't be sealed until the end of the year.

Another Auckland staff member told RNZ News everyone was a little rattled.
"The next six months, you've just got to dig it in, who knows what will happen really."

She said staff were not told if their jobs would be affected because the merger was still being negotiated.

How it could affect readers

Labour's consumer affairs spokesperson said a merger between Fairfax and APN would be terrible for democracy in New Zealand, and for news consumer.

David Shearer said a merger would have huge implications.

"It basically means we will have one newspaper nationwide, rather than two, so you eliminate the competition. I think that is terrible, it gives people less ability to hear different voices in the media."

Merja Myllylahti, an expert in media ownership at AUT, told RNZ the merger was potentially a seismic shift in media in New Zealand ,and would affect readers as well as journalists.

She said regional news could suffer.

"I'm afraid that if they don't have all the resources to provide local news, all we'll have is clickbait, and more and more of that would be a worry."

She said some kind of paywall was likely under a merged company.

"Because they have a duopoly, they haven't been able to do that, because if one was launched first, then other readers would escape to that free site. But now if they merge, I would bet they would introduce digital subscriptions."


  1. both papers are shite anyway

  2. seriously what journalism,really when was the last time there was proper unbiased, unpolitical honest reporting in this country. JC was close and what happened to any one who dears go against this zionist run agenda for a government.You all deserve to get what you have been pushing,bluddy idiot sheepies.