Pacific Media Watch

27 November 2016

NZ: Editors seek rethink on media merger plan rejection over plurality

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Commerce Commission's draft decision rejected NZME-Fairfax merger proposal. Image: Radio NZ

AUCKLAND (New Zealand Herald / Pacific Media Watch): Thirty-three of New Zealand's most senior editors have urged the Commerce Commission to rethink its plan to reject the proposed NZME-Fairfax merger. They are at loggerheads with a group of 11 former editors who say the Commerce Commission got it right.

The current editors, all in senior roles at both companies, say the commission has "misinterpreted the state of New Zealand journalism" and believe a merger is the best option to sustain quality journalism.

They say that editorial independence would not be lost under a merger: It is "at the core of what we do".

The editors have also addressed concerns that plurality of voice would be lost.

"Ensuring that a diversity of views, perspectives, experiences and issues are covered is an editor's most fundamental task. It is our privilege and responsibility, not the job of shareholders," their open letter said, published in full in the Weekend Herald.

The editors say rejecting a merger will not solve the real issue: the stability and sustainability of the business that funds journalism.

"We believe - no, we know - that the rapid dismantling of local newsrooms and journalism at scale in this country is inevitable if this merger does not proceed."

On Friday, a group of 11 former daily and Sunday newspaper editors said they backed the commission's preliminary view that a merger should not go ahead.

"Though we acknowledge that such a merger is seen by some of us as a pragmatic response to the singular challenges that newspapers face, we all accept that the destruction of great mastheads and all that they have stood for at the heart of our communities since New Zealand settlement cannot possibly enhance content - it can only diminish it," said the former editors, including Radio NZ media commentator Dr Gavin Ellis, Tim Pankhurst, Suzanne Carty and Suzanne Chetwin.

"Newspapers - across their print and digital sites - have been subject to waves of redundancies that have seen experienced staff culled, a severe loss of institutional knowledge and a pandering to the lowest common denominator...

"At the same time television has all but abandoned current affairs and our public discourse is increasingly glib."

The open letter of current editors

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