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COMMENTARY: By Martyn Bradbury, editor of The Daily Blog

The day the news axe fell: Presenters, insiders fear ‘huge blow for democracy’

The future of New Zealand’s media landscape is becoming clearer by the day, with confirmation that it will no longer feature one of the country’s big two TV news networks.

Warner Bros. Discovery has revealed that all of Newshub’s operations will be shut down, effective July 5. That includes the flagship 6pm bulletin, The AM Show, and the Newshub website.

294 staff are set to lose their jobs.

It’s also been confirmed that TVNZ’s programme Sunday will be cancelled, following yesterday’s announcement that Fair Go, as well as both 1News at Midday and 1News Tonight, are being canned in their current format.

"The day the news axe fell"
“The day the news axe fell” – a huge blow to New Zealand’s democracy. Image: Stuff screenshot APR

New Zealand’s media industry has been rocked by the bleeding obvious which is that their failed ratings system for legacy media was always more art than science.

The NZ radio ratings system is a diary that you fill in every 15 minutes — which no one ever fills in properly.

The NZ newspaper ratings are opinion polls and the NZ TV ratings system is a magical 180 boxes that limits choice to whoever had the TV remote.

When the sales rep told the advertiser that 300,000 people would read, see, hear their advert, it was based on ratings systems that were flattering but not real.

With the ruthlessness of online audience measurement, advertisers could see exactly how many people were actually seeing their adverts, and the legacy media never adapted to this new reality.

What we see now is hollowed out journalism competing against social media hate algorithms designed to generate emotional responses rather than Fourth Estate accountability.

New Zealand has NEVER had the audience size to make advertising based broadcasting feasible, that’s why it’s always required a state broadcaster — with no Fourth Estate who will hold this hard right racist climate denying beneficiary bashing government to account?

Minister missing in action
Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee has refused to support the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill that Labour’s former minister Willie Jackson put forward that would at least force Google and Facebook to pay for the journalism they take for free.

Lee has been utterly hopeless and missing in action here — if “Democracy dies in darkness”, National are pulling the plug.

This government doesn’t want accountability, does it?

Instagram this year switched on a new filter to smother political debate and we know actual journalism has been smothered by the social media algorithms.

I don’t think that most people who get their information from their social media feeds understand they aren’t seeing the most important journalism but are in fact seeing the most inflammatory rhetoric to keep people outraged and addicted to doom scrolling.

When Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters does his big lie that the entire mainstream media were bribed because of a funding note by NZ on Air in regards to coverage of Māori issues for the Public Interest Journalism fund — which by the way was quickly clarified by NZ on Air as not an editorial demand — he conflates and maliciously spins and NZ’s democracy suffers.

Muddled TVNZ
Television New Zealand has always come across like a muddle. It aspires to be BBC public broadcasting yet has the commercial imperatives of any Crown Owned Enterprise. If Labour had merged TVNZ and RNZ and made TVNZ 1 commercial free so that the advertising revenue could cross over to Newshub, it would have rebuilt the importance of public broadcasting while actually regulating the broken free market.

When will we get a Labour Party that actually gives a damn about public broadcasting rather than pay lip service to it?

Ultimately Newshub’s demise is a story of ruthless transnational interests and geopolitical cultural hegemony.

Corporate Hollywood soft power wants to continue its cultural dominance as the South Pacific friction continues between the United States and China.

New Zealand is an important plank for American hegemony in the South Pacific and as China and American competition heats up, Warners Bros Discovery suddenly buying a large stake in our media was always a geopolitical calculation over a commercial one.

Cultural dominance doesn’t require nor want an active journalism, so they will keep the channel open purely as a means of dominating domestic culture without any of the Fourth Estate obligations.

That bitter angry feeling you have watching Warner Bros Discovery destroy our Fourth Estate is righteous.

Social licence trashed
They bought a media outlet that has had a 35-year history of being a structural part of our media environment and dumping it trashes their social licence in this country.

That feeling of rage you have watching a multibillion transnational vandalise our environment is going to be repeated the millisecond you see the American mining interests lining up to mine conservation land with all their promises to repair anything they break.

Remember — the transnational ain’t your friend regardless of its pronouns.

That person they rolled in with the soft-glazed CEO face to do the sad, sad crying is disingenuous and condescending.

Now Warner Bros has killed Newshub off, we have no option as Kiwis but to boycott whatever is left of TV3 and water down Warner Bros remaining interests altogether.

They’ve burnt their bridges with us in New Zealand by walking away from their social contract, we should have no troubles returning the favour!

The only winners here are rightwing politicians who don’t want their counterproductive and corrupt decisions to be scrutinised.

We are a poorer and weaker democracy after these news cuts.

Why bother having a Minister of Broadcasting if all they do is fiddle while the industry burns?

Welcome to your new media future in Aotearoa New Zealand . . .

Republished with permission from The Daily Blog.

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