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FREE PRESS: Who Owns the Media?


Bill Rosenburg, a writer on foreign investment with CAFCA, recently documented the concentration of ownership that has lead to 3 billionaires dominating our news media:

(1) Rupert Murdoch controls Independent Newspapers Ltd, through his US-based News Corp Ltd empire, which publishes 70% of total newspapers, magazines, and sporting publications in NZ, and SKY-TV (66%).

(2) Irishman Tony O'Reilly owns Wilson & Horton through Independent News & Media, with 42% of daily newspaper circulation, magazines, & The NZ Radio Network, boasting over 50% of the radio market.

(3) Canadian Israel "Izzy" Asper: sits at the helm of CanWest which owns TV3 & TV4, the MoreFM network, and RadioWorks, with 47% of NZ radio advertising revenue.

Media & Democracy:

Australia offers us a helpful explanation of why their media ownership restrictions are so important: "the effective functioning of a democracy requires a diverse ownership of the daily mass media to ensure that public life be reported in a fair and open manner."

NZ eliminated media ownership restrictions in the late 1980s, In 2001 INL, W&H, & Canwest controlled:

--Over 90% of daily newspaper circulation

--Over 90% of commercial radio stations

--Commercial free-to-air and pay-TV (excluding TVNZ)

This ownership concentration is detrimental to NZ democracy for a number of reasons, including:

1) Direct & Indirect owner influence on news: these 3 media giants have shown themselves willing to use their media outlets for financial and ideological self-interest e.g. FoxTVCensorship. More prevalent is self-censorship by journalists/editors who know that anything hostile to their employer's interests is doomed.

2) Aggressive pursuit of profits, leading to: slashing of news costs/personnel e.g. Dominion/Post "merger", reliance on corporate/government sources, the "dumbing-down" of news, and less local reporting.

3) Influence of advertising on news, and Interlocking corporate directorships.


Bill Rosenburg suggested to me that "We could replicate and improve" on Australia's media ownership laws, "reduce the commercialisation of TV, and set up publicly or community owned non-commercial newspapers to provide competition and alternative news sources to the commercial ones. Indymedia is an example using the Internet. The Internet is itself an increasingly powerful alternative source of information and news. But mainstream media remain important because they set national social/political agendas".

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