Life Bill Ralston
Media companies could look to journalists for a lead in reinventing themselves.
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.”