New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has thrown his party’s support behind a re-animated plan for publisher NZME to buy Stuff.
He said that if Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi backed the new “Kiwi-Share” proposal for the buyout, his NZ First party would support it in cabinet.
Any decision would still have to go through the country’s Commerce Commission, which has blocked a merger between the two companies before.
NZME, which owns The New Zealand Herald, confirmed to the stock market last month that it had a put a proposal forwards to the government concerning the possible acquisition of Stuff.
This followed a report in Stuff that NZME was attempting to re-animate a proposal to buy Stuff with the government’s help, possibly with a “KiwiShare” model whereby NZME would ringfence Stuff’s editorial operations but merge all other operations.
The idea is that this proposal would assuage the fears of the Commerce Commission, which rejected the last merger proposal as it found it would dramatically lessen media plurality.
The Kiwishare proposal is worth considering. It is in the greater public interest and the national interest.Winston Peters
Peters backs this “KiwiShare” model that would keep all the editorial staff of Stuff in a subsidiary company of NZME for a period of two to three years, competing against each other.
“The Kiwishare proposal is worth considering,” Peters said. “It is in the greater public interest and the national interest”.
NZME owns the New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB, while Stuff Ltd owns the Stuff website and a stable of newspapers.
Peters made the announcement as NZ First leader on Thursday morning, not as a minister, after a long criticism of current journalistic practices.
“A fourth estate is essential although sadly the news media is in dire straits,” Peters said.
He said Facebook and Google advertising had “suffocated” the industry.
He said print media used to be economic powerhouses but now appeared to be “sunset industries”.
Peters confirmed that he had been lobbied directly by NZME and Nine Entertainment Co., the Australian owners of Stuff who are looking to sell the company. Nine is also the owner of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
NZ First’s caucus made the decision on Tuesday morning. Peters had not told Faafoi about making this decision public.
Asked if he was seeking to help Faafoi gain the confidence to take a paper to cabinet backing such a move, Peters said that it always helped for a minister to “have their ducks in a row.”
NZME CEO Michael Boggs was present at the announcement and said he was pleased the proposal had the support of NZ First.
“We’re really focused on producing the best content in the country for New Zealanders,” Boggs said.
He said after two or three years the KiwiShare model would be “reviewed” but saw it as a “long-term commitment.”
New Zealand’s government has also been mulling a large public media decision, due to be announced by Faafoi before Christmas.
One of the options has been a merger of RNZ and TVNZ.
The decision comes as Mediaworks’ TV business has been put up for sale, with its owners arguing it cannot properly compete against state-owned but commercially-run TVNZ, which is not planning to return a profit.
Peters said he wanted to see more detail before his party came to a decision on that matter.
Source: Thanks smh.com