Pacific media leaders express doubts over TVNZ-RNZ merger

Call for greater clarity about the merger of TVNZ and RNZ and whether it will deliver better outcomes for Pasifika broadcasting.

2nd December, 2022

Mina Amso

Pacific media leaders express doubts over TVNZ-RNZ merger

The merger of TVNZ and RNZ is being questioned​ by some leading Pasifika in the media.

Media consultant Sara-Jane Elika told Pacific Mornings with Aggie that she isn’t sure if the merger will deliver better outcomes for Pasifika​ broadcasting.

“There is no clarity around that at the moment, there’s no percentage given to available funding for our people. So you don’t know whether it’s going to increase market share or decrease it.”

The two media broadcasters would become one entity​ called the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media early next year, in a controversial move by the government and which is costing tens of millions of dollars.

Speaking to Pacific Mornings with Aggie last month, Tracey Martin, the Chair of the Establishment Board which is overseeing the merger, insisted that ANZPM will do a better job at serving minority groups including Pasifika.

Elika ​hopes the funding share for Pasifika media will be higher after the merger. 

But Tagata Pasifika Executive Producer Taualeo'o Stephen Stehlin says there's a lot at stake and a lot still unknown.

“As infuriating as it is to have a middle party, NZ On Air fulfils the great moderating influence because the harsh reality of commercial television in our experience has just wiped us up to the side.”

He's worried that Pasifika content won't feature in the new entity and funding won't be available to reach Pacific audiences. He says its only recently that there’s been a Pacific Commissioner advocating for Pasifika content (through NZ On Air).

“We’re getting a promo. Everything is changing, if you see how TVNZ changed and embraced Te Ao Māori, it’s astounding, I wouldn’t have believed it five years ago.”

His main concern is whether Pasifika would be represented throughout the new public entity from the board through senior management, down to staff. He also questioned whether there would be a commissioning team.

The committee intends to have ANZPM established by March next year, and would begin operating from July 2023 with $327 million government funding over three years. ​The new entity would also receive nearly $85 million dollars per annum from NZ On Air.

“But it does mean that they are the judge, jury and executioner, they hold all the power. ANZPAM [the new public entity] will hold all the power, they have the commissioning ability and they’re holding the funds,” says Taualeo'o.​

The new entity has been tasked with reflecting the diverse population of New Zealand, and to ensure that Pasifika find meaningful programming suitable to their needs. 

Elika says there’s demand from Pacific audience for Pacific programming and that won’t disappear anytime soon.

“We know our communities best.

“I think it takes good governors. We need to have good leadership that advocate for quality Pacific content and it also takes good content makers to deliver good content and working together at both ends is really important to be able to show that it has been done successfully in the past and continues to be done successfully in the future by pivoting where our audience lies.

“Also creating content that is attractive to our audience and within the Pacific community, it’s very broad. We have more senior elders who like to watch TV because they’re not used to switching around content available on their mobile devices or our families are doing that for our elders. They like to watch TV.”

She says younger Pasifika are “agile” in the digital world, who would need to be enticed to watch TV by good Pasifika programming.

“If content makers don’t create content that interests them they’ll go to other platforms and other alternatives to watch content that is attractive for them.”