He’s business bosses’ favourite politician but broadcasting challenge will put Faafoi’s mettle to the test

Kris  Faafoi, ranked   17th  in  Cabinet, emerged  as  the  politician who most  impressed  top  chief  executives for ministerial performance in this year’s  NZ  Herald  CEOs survey.

It  is  the  first time in the history  of the  Mood of the Boardroom survey  that a  minister  ranked towards the tailend  of  Cabinet, and who had been in the position  only  since  January,  had  substantially outranked his colleagues.

Fran  O’Sullivan  reported   Faafoi  is  seen as  an engaging   politician  with a  safe pair of hands.  She  quoted  one  business leader   finding Faafoi displaying  “real understanding, energy  and  integrity”.

Faafoi’s  key portfolio,  so far  as  the business leaders   are concerned,   is  Commerce,  but he    also holds  Broadcasting, Communications,  and Digital  Media As  well he carries the  Associate Housing  responsibility.

And  it  is  in one of those  portfolios   where  Faafoi’s  mettle  as a  minister  is  being seriously tested.

Critics   have been   lining  up  to  target  Faafoi   over the  decline  of  NZ  media,  under  commercial   attack  as  advertising  revenues flow to the international  digital giants  Google and  Facebook.

Media  Works has  signalled  TV3  is  up   for  sale.   Earlier  the  Commerce  Commission blocked the  merger of  Stuff    and  NZ  Herald  publisher  NZME, on the grounds  of retaining  media  plurality—but  at  the same time   intensifying the  commercial  squeeze  on  both.

Last  week  Radio  NZ  revealed  the government is  weighing up   three options:  increase  public funding for  NZ  on Air, merge the  Radio NZ and TVNZ  newsrooms, or  disestablish Radio NZ  and  TVNZ to  create a   new  public  broadcaster.

As  one authority  put it,  all  of these  options have  merit, but they will  also have repercussions that leave  Faafoi   facing  one of the   trickiest political  conundrums  left for the  year.

Faafoi   is expected to make  an announcement  before the end of the year.

Whatever he proposes  –  if legislation is needed –  could   still  expose   key elements  of  the media  to  an uncertain fate in the interregnum.

The option of   creating  a  new broadcaster, which  might  operate with  a mix of public  and commercial  funding,   would  follow  overseas  models that   have proved sustainable.

But  Faafoi   might  have  difficulty in persuading  some of his  Labour colleagues, particularly  those  who  believe   taxpayer funding  should  not   be channelled  into  commercial  media, to  accept    that  option.

The  problem for  Faafoi   is  to   work out   a  solution    which  can be   applied  quickly,   and  at  a  reasonable  cost.

If  he  can,   he will surely  justify  the  assessment of   those   business  leaders   who  rated  him as the  most impressive  in Ardern’s Cabinet.

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