Back in September, when reporting its annual assessment of what it calls “Mood of the Boardroom”, the New Zealand Herald featured an article on how CEOs ranked Cabinet ministers on performance.
Lo and behold, 17th-ranked Kris Faafoi emerged as the minister who most impressed “top chief executives”.
The report quoted a “leading banker” (who sensibly remained anonymous) as saying the
“ … unsung performers of this Cabinet are David Parker and Kris Faafoi. Both have reached out to the business community to genuinely ask for our views and listened. They also put government policies in their areas into perspective”.
Point of Order can only wonder whether those top CEOs are still clinging to the view they expressed last September that Faafoi is a “safe pair of hands”.
After months of speculation on the future of Radio NZ and TVNZ and the prospect these organisations might be merged to form a new public media entity, Faafoi (as Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media) announced work will begin on a business case to assess the viability of that new public media entity.
Only once the business case is completed, maybe by June or July, will Cabinet make a final decision about the future of RNZ and TVNZ.
Given the country then be about to embark on an election campaign, Point of Order reckons the chance of Cabinet signing off then on a new public media entity are virtually zero.
Yet as Faafoi admits, NZ’s media sector, both public and private, is facing unprecedented challenges with competition from the likes of Google and Facebook, declining revenue shares, and changes in when and how audiences access their information and entertainment.
TV3 is up for sale and private-sector media companies like NZME and Stuff are struggling to survive. And it was Faafoi as Commerce Minister who accepted the Commerce Commission’s ruling against a merger of NZME and Stuff —a merger which most authorities in the media business believe is essential for their survival.
So when Faafoi spouts about the government’s need to ensure New Zealanders have a strong independent public media service for decades to come, shouldn’t he be applying the greatest urgency to resolving the issue?
The difficulty, Point of Order suspects, is that Faafoi has no idea of what a new public media entity would and/or should look like.
Trying to merge Radio NZ, which relies on government money for funding, with the commercial operations of TVNZ would be a demanding challenge.
Faafoi concedes the viability of both Radio NZ and TVNZ are at risk, and some authorities believe TVNZ – once a cash cow for the government – is beginning to head in the same direction as its privately owned rival.
Anybody in the media business has been aware for some years of how the commercial operations of locally owned media outlets have nose-dived.
So would those “top CEOs” still think Faafoi is the “safe pair of hands” they believed he was last September (when maybe they all had a great lunch together)? But we wonder about the quality of the CEOs who made that judgement and would like to think the very best of our top CEOs were hard at it in their own business, rather than flannelling about ministerial performance.
There’ll be some who might think Faafoi is politically astute in ensuring that a decision is left until after the election. By then he might not be Minister of Broadcasting
So will Cabinet make a final decision about the future of RNZ and TVNZ once the business case is completed?
The chances of establishing the best way of providing NZers with a range of trusted news, information, and entertainment hangs in the air.
It is all very well spruiking the need for any new public entity to have the flexibility and the strength to meet future change and challenges — but what if PwC, entrusted with coming up with the business case for a new publicly funded media outlet, frames a hefty bill for the taxpayer in funding an independent multiple-platform, multi-media operation?
Faced with that kind of political headache, Faafoi has decided it would be a good idea not to worry voters in the Mana electorate in September. Instead he has chosen to go on the party list.