Life Bill Ral­ston

Me­dia com­pa­nies could look to jour­nal­ists for a lead in rein­vent­ing them­selves.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - BILL RAL­STON

Across the Tas­man, the Fair­fax pub­lish­ing em­pire is “merg­ing” with the Nine En­ter­tain­ment Com­pany. In fact, it looks like it is be­ing swal­lowed whole by Nine, with the tele­vi­sion com­pany spit­ting out the bones of the New Zealand arm of Fair­fax, say­ing it is not in­ter­ested in the Kiwi pa­pers.

It is a lit­tle like TVNZ or Me­di­aWorks join­ing up with the NZ Her­ald or Stuff (Fair­fax in New Zealand). Ac­tu­ally, that is not a bad idea.

In case you haven’t no­ticed, the me­dia in­dus­try is in the process of col­laps­ing into an un­tidy heap as ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues and prof­its de­cline. The best de­fence seems to be to con­sol­i­date into gi­ant me­dia com­pa­nies com­pris­ing ra­dio, news­pa­pers, tele­vi­sion and on­line news out­lets.

A sin­gle mul­ti­me­dia gi­ant can of­fer bet­ter ad­ver­tis­ing deals and what is gen­tly de­scribed as “syn­er­gies”, by which the pro­pri­etors mean news­room re­dun­dan­cies, as the big­ger me­dia com­pany com­bines its var­i­ous news oper­a­tions.

Me­di­aWorks has al­ready done this to an ex­tent, merg­ing the ra­dio news­room into the old TV3 news op­er­a­tion to cre­ate New­shub. That has not been enough.

Thanks to losses at TV3 and Bravo (an­other TV chan­nel that no one seems to know about), Me­di­aWorks is still bleed­ing money from its US owner, Oak­tree, de­spite its ra­dio busi­ness mak­ing de­cent dosh.

So, Me­di­aWorks has more or less moved to fold its talk sta­tion, Ra­dioLive, by merg­ing it with Magic to cre­ate Magic Talk. This word soup dis­guises the fact that Ra­dioLive, aside for now from its af­ter­noon drive-time show, will evap­o­rate. Yes, Dun­can Gar­ner’s simul­cast AM Show will re­main on both Magic Talk and TV3 and the TV chan­nel’s 6pm news will also be broad­cast on the ra­dio, but that re­ally in­di­cates the con­tin­ued sur­vival of TV3 rather than the old Ra­dioLive.

Ra­dioLive was the plucky lit­tle en­gine that tried but failed to make any sig­nif­i­cant rat­ings in­roads on its two talk ri­vals, New­stalk ZB and

RNZ Na­tional, which con­tinue to hoover up the au­di­ence.

Not only will most Ra­dioLive pre­sen­ters, pro­duc­ers, tech­ni­cal pro­duc­ers and news read­ers lose their jobs, but the New­shub news­room also will in­evitably shrink. Mean­while, Stuff is clos­ing many of its sub­ur­ban give­away pa­pers and chop­ping jobs at its larger ones.

The New Zealand me­dia is ap­proach­ing a low-tide mark in terms of di­ver­sity of main­stream news sources, which is bad for those of us who rely on a var­ied jour­nal­ism diet. But it has be­come a fact of life in the mod­ern me­dia mar­ket.

The only ray of sun­shine in this gloomy news pic­ture is the emer­gence of on­line news oper­a­tions such as News­room, pro­vid­ing a rich mix­ture of news and views. Fun­nily enough, News­room is run by former NZ Her­ald ed­i­tor-in-chief Tim Mur­phy and former TV3 news boss Mark Jen­nings. There is no rea­son main­stream me­dia out­lets can­not sim­i­larly di­ver­sify.

If the Gov­ern­ment was ad­ven­tur­ous, it could al­low state-owned TVNZ to snaf­fle up the rem­nants of Stuff be­fore the Fair­fax pa­pers die of ex­haus­tion and thus, hope­fully, rein­vig­o­rate both or­gan­i­sa­tions.

An­other op­tion would be for ail­ing Me­di­aWorks to merge with equally sick Stuff, giv­ing the news con­glom­er­ate ra­dio, print, tele­vi­sion and on­line arms. That should boost both com­pa­nies.

Cu­ri­ously, the me­dia op­er­a­tion that pro­duces no rev­enue at all, RNZ Na­tional, has 633,000 peo­ple tun­ing in over the week. Go fig­ure.

The me­dia in­dus­try is in the process of col­laps­ing into an un­tidy heap as rev­enues and prof­its de­cline.

“But imag­ine how good the arts would be if it were the other way around; with huge bud­gets and tiny egos.”

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