Govt announces $50m support package for media

By Jessica Tyson

The Government has announced a suite of initiatives valued at $50 million to help the media industry get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi says the package is about freeing up cash in the short term to assist the industry get through the immediate crisis and dramatic drop in advertising revenue experienced since the start of COVID Alert Level 4.

“This support reflects the essential role media play at this time in delivering access to reliable and up to date news coverage and keeping New Zealanders connected while in lockdown."

Faafoi says there is evidence New Zealanders are turning to trusted news sources in record numbers at this time.

"So it is critical the media is supported to keep doing the great job they have been doing.”

The package

The package includes $21.1 million to completely cut transmission fees for six months, $16.5 million to cut by 80 per cent contribution for NZ On Air screen content in 2020/21 and $1.3 million for government departments to purchase organisation wide news service subscriptions.

 “By cancelling transmission fees we are freeing up cash the media companies can use to help them in the short term. This is in addition to the wage subsidy and other tax measures.” 

Faafoi says the proposals in the package were generated by the industry themselves in a recent series of workshops to identify means of delivering immediate support to the sector.

 “Initiatives in this first stage aim to provide some immediate relief and allow time for work to be done on longer term strategies to ensure future sustainability in New Zealand’s news media."

The media sector is only the third sector, after primary health care and aviation, to receive a specific pool of funding over and above the wage subsidy to help it get through the COVID-19 crisis.  

“We will continue to work with media organisations to make sure assistance is targeted and appropriate. However, I want to be very clear that this first phase of support alone will not be sufficient to see the sector through a prolonged period of restrictions and reduced advertising.”

A second package of support is being developed and will be submitted for the COVID-19 budget discussions in May, says Faafoi.

Full details of the package announced today are:

  • $20.5 million to cut 100 percent of Kordia TV/FM transmission fees for six months
  • $600,000 to cut 100 percent of RNZ AM transmission fees for six months
  • $16.5 million to reduce, by 80 percent, media organisations’ NZ On Air content contribution fees for the 2020/21 financial year.
  • $1.3 million to purchase central government news media subscriptions in advance for the 2020/21 financial year and encouraging Crown entities to increase their uptake of news media subscriptions.
  • $11.1 million for specific targeted assistance to companies as and when needed.
  • Commitment to build on the Local Democracy Reporting pilot as part of longer term support