Dr Greg Treadwell, co-author of the report, said “journalists have come under increasing attack this year when reporting on the Covid crisis, vaccinations, vaccination mandates and protests”.
“In their role of disseminating vital information in a crisis, the media may have been perceived as the mouthpiece of the government. In a sense, he rightly was.
No strong case for continued public funding of business news content
Meanwhile, a separate review of the $55 million fund set up to promote public interest journalism found continued funding for business news was “not robust”.
The report was produced by consulting firm Sapare and was quietly added to the Department of Culture and Heritage website in February.
He said that given the current state of plurality and the risks associated with public funding of journalistic content, “we see no strong case for continued public funding of business news content.”
Several news chiefs have expressed concern that funding decisions have shifted to editorial decision-making, with New Zealand On Air effectively holding a ‘beauty contest’ to choose which stories/investigations come forward that deserve attention. be supported.
It has been suggested that funding these additional one-off releases would produce marginal public benefit and do little to encourage the industry to address the real challenges of sustainable news production.
PIJF’s financial support has also been described as uneven and creating winners and losers in the industry.
Although the impact of Covid-19 is near universal, some newsrooms have benefited from taxpayer-funded staff while others have completely lacked.
Others have observed that due to the relatively small number of journalists in New Zealand, the Public Interest Journalism Fund has created a “giant game of musical chairs” and led to wage inflation rather than creating new capabilities.
Some news outlets have also expressed reservations that public funding of media companies could make those companies beholden to the government of the day and that public officials might be reluctant to fund proposals that would criticize government policies – which would harm to a key objective of media plurality. be able to hold public institutions and elected officials accountable.
However, most of the news organizations surveyed rejected the proposition that government funding would affect their editorial independence, impartiality, or willingness to criticize government policies and decisions.
The report says the role of government in funding journalism is a complex issue that will need to be fully explored at some point in the future, including taking into account how funding decisions are made and the level of independence. against government surveillance.