Government earmarks $55 million to support ‘public interest journalism’ with new media fund

The Government will shell out $55 million over the next three years to help ensure “public interest journalism” continues across New Zealand’s media landscape.

The contestable fund – which will be administered by NZ On Air – will be available to media outlets to fill a public interest service which otherwise would not be produced without the funding.

Broadcasting and Media Minister Kris Faafoi said the fund would help keep grassroots, public interest journalism and investigative reporting alive.

Much of this sort of journalism, he said, has been in decline or struggling for the past decade.

“The fund would ensure this sort of journalism continues to play its vital role in sharing the stories that keep New Zealanders informed and engaged as well as supporting a healthy democracy by holding voices of influence to account.”

The announcement has been welcomed by NZME managing editor Shayne Currie, who said the fund shows that the Government understood the importance New Zealanders place in strong, independent and robust journalism in their communities.

“Supporting community-based, public interest and investigative journalism is one of a number of ongoing issues facing media in New Zealand,” he said.

“While NZME welcomes the extension to the Government’s journalism support fund through to 2023, we also look forward to engaging with the Government as it addresses some of the significant structural challenges facing our industry.”

Those issues, he said, included the ongoing impact of the global tech and social media sector and the role of state-owned media in New Zealand.

The money – $10 million this financial year, $20m the year after and a further $25m in 2022/23 – will be open to all media outlets, Faafoi said.

“Covid-19 and the lockdowns last year highlighted the important role our media plays in providing up-to-date, independent and trusted information to the public.”

He said the Government wanted to ensure that kind of coverage is supported and developed, where media operations have often cut back resources to reduce costs.

This is the second tranche of Government funding for media Faafoi has announced.

In April, he unveiled details of a $50m package aimed specifically at helping media companies get through Covid-19.

At the time, many publications were being hit by falling advertising revenues.

That package was broken down into a number of areas including cutting radio and TV transmission fees for six months, and doing away with NZ On Air contribution fees for the 2020/21 financial year.

At the time, Faafoi promised another support package was on its way in due course.

This morning he said independent media experts have been working with the Government to develop the fund announced today.

“These insights will help inform the detailed design and delivery of the fund.”

Further details on delivery and design would be available in late March, with applications opening around the end of April.

Over the past year Currie said that NZME has fully engaged with NZ on Air and its Local Democracy Reporting initiative.

“This pilot programme, funding community-based reporters, has meant our print and digital audiences have had access to an expanded portfolio of important local stories including coverage of local authorities, community boards and district health boards.”

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