Graham Adams:  Has government money corrupted journalism?

The debate over co-governance draws attention to the role of the $55m media fund in shutting down dissenting views.  GRAHAM ADAMS writes…

The last cohort of winners from the contentious $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund will be announced on 17 April. However, it appears the programme’s death will be a drawn-out affair. NZ on Air has told The Common Room that the fund will have

 “… a ‘long tail’… with a number of projects that won’t be delivered for some time after the fund itself closes, and roles that will run on for some time”.   

Set up by the government to aid “at-risk” journalism, the fund started dispensing cash in 2021.

It has three principal aims: supporting approved journalism projects; directly paying for staff in newsrooms around the country; and funding “industry development” projects such as cadetships (with an emphasis on hiring Māori and “diverse” recruits).

Former MediaWorks news director Hal Crawford, who helped design the PIJF, was aware that the three-year project he was ushering into existence had its risks. He warned in a newsletter:

“There will inevitably be criticism of PIJ funding schemes from those who miss out on the money, or from critics who see them as props for failing businesses. The NZ government and its agencies will have to brace for that.”

Continue reading “Graham Adams:  Has government money corrupted journalism?”

Review of local government reform proposals missed out the bit which favours citizenship entitlements based on race

Tim Murphy, co-editor of Newsroom, went out to bat for the Public Interest Journalism Fund in an email to his readers at the weekend.

He acknowledged that the fund, set up by the Ardern Government to support media companies and expand important news coverage through the pandemic and economic recovery, has its critics.

But he said it has been

“… a target of much lame criticism.”

He went on to explain that the $50m over three years isn’t all extra money (this shrinks the $55m sum involved in  other reports) and said:

“It takes over many millions in existing state funding for a range of news and journalism projects funded for years by NZ on Air.”

More emphatically he insisted:

It isn’t, as some critics claim, aimed at journalism that pushes Treaty of Waitangi principles or leftie woke agendas.

Continue reading “Review of local government reform proposals missed out the bit which favours citizenship entitlements based on race”

Oliver Hartwich: State funding of the news media and an Orwellian distortion of journalism

David Farrar alerted us in a Kiwiblog post to an article about the state funding of the mainstream news media published in The Australian

The article, written by  NZ Initiative executive director  Oliver Hartwich, highlights the issue that should dismay the public about this funding:  the $55 million is conditional on media organisation’s agreeing with the Government’s contentious view on the Treaty of Waitangi.

Farrar comments:  

This is repugnant. Polling by Curia has shown a massive 59% think the PIJF undermines the independence of the media. Only 24% of Kiwis support retaining the PIJF.

I hope the next Government will scrap it entirely. However there may be a case for funding reporting on court cases and local councils. But this would need to be done with no conditions around the Treaty and through some sort of neutral body not appointed by the Government of the day.


An Orwellian distortion of journalism

According to a quote sometimes attributed to George Orwell, “journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.”

Whether Orwell actually said it or not, it is a useful definition.

There are whole armies of PR and comms people trying to make you swallow their predetermined messages. Continue reading “Oliver Hartwich: State funding of the news media and an Orwellian distortion of journalism”

Why the public distrust the news media – it’s a matter of suspecting state subsidies have turned their watchdog into a muted mutt

The BFD blog has posted an article in the name of Family First today headed “Public  not happy with govt funding of media”.

And how did Family First find out about the level of public dissatisfaction?

Not from the mainstream media, you can be sure.

No, they learned it from the Taxpayers’ Union, an organisation which has been admirably informative in telling us how much money has been dispensed to which news media for what purpose.  Its tracking of grants paid from the Public Interest Journalism Fund can be found here.

The Taxpayers’ Union, moreover, can tell us what the public thinks about the consequences because it commissioned a poll to find out.

It then reported the troubling results: Continue reading “Why the public distrust the news media – it’s a matter of suspecting state subsidies have turned their watchdog into a muted mutt”

Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again


RNZ’s Mediawatch and a video clip viewed 42,000 times keep the topic of the Public Interest Journalism Fund fizzing. Graham Adams reports…


A week ago, the NZ Taxpayers’ Union posted a short video clip of the exchange in Parliament between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in which the National Party leader quizzed the Prime Minister about the $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund influencing political coverage.

Ardern seemed to find the exchange amusing until David Seymour stepped in to ask:

“What then would happen to a media outlet that received money under the fund and wanted to report a story deemed inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, which is one of the requirements to adhere to?”

Having recommended that Collins ask the media if they agreed they were under government influence, Ardern summarily dismissed Seymour’s suggestion that the fund’s mandatory guidelines for how to address the Treaty might present a problem.

The kicker to the whole exchange is that none of the mainstream media deemed it worthy of being reported. As the Taxpayers’ Union put it in its introduction to the video:

“If you’re worried about the independence of our media, this is a must-watch exchange in Parliament. Why do you think the media declined to cover it?”

Louis Houlbrooke, the union’s campaigns manager, says that with 42,000 views so far, “it is by far our most-watched video post of all time.”

Clearly, discussion of the topic is not only in the public interest but also of interest to the public.

Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to persuade senior members of the media and those administering the fund to accept there might be a problem — even if it is only the public’s perception of bias. The latter, of course, can be as damaging in practice as actual bias, given the media’s primary asset is the trust its audiences place in it for independent, truthful and unbiased coverage. Continue reading “Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again”

Brace yourself for the peddling of propaganda and try to relish the experience (because you have paid for it with your taxes)

We weren’t surprised, at Point of Order, to see the scant media attention paid to a statement issued yesterday by ACT leader David Seymour.  

Headed  Government’s questionable media funding, the statement notes how the Government

“… is extending its tentacles into nearly every area of media with an offer too good to refuse for each outlet, and it has rapidly reached absurdity with taxpayer money spent on journalism to check on Government expenditure of taxpayer money”.

The statement was triggered by the announcement of the first tranche of the government’s $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund.

As RNZ’s Mediawatch reported,  Māori journalism projects and a new training initiative are the major beneficiaries of the first $10m, but some of the money goes to things already funded from the public purse.

Mediawatch further noted

“… this is the biggest single public investment in journalism for decades and takes the total annual spend on media to over $300m. (There’s another $20m up his sleeve if Cabinet thinks the media need that too.)  

“Media companies big and small, local and national, public and private alike can all apply to the fund – including those which have never had public money before.”

Oh – but let’s not forget the need for recipients of this lolly to push a highly political ideological barrow:

Guidelines issued in April also said the fund ‘must actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi’.”  Continue reading “Brace yourself for the peddling of propaganda and try to relish the experience (because you have paid for it with your taxes)”

The dangers of putting media on the government’s payroll

Accusations by Stuff journalist Andrea Vance that the Prime Minister leads an unusually secretive government don’t tell the whole story about its desire to control information, says Graham Adams.

He has taken a closer look at the guidelines for the new $55 million journalism fund in an article for the Democracy Project

He writes:

Despite widespread cynicism about the Government’s ability to fulfil its promises — whether it is KiwiBuild, light rail along Dominion Rd, or planting a billion trees —  journalist Andrea Vance still found enough fresh outrage last week to launch a blistering attack over a pledge Jacinda Ardern made in 2017 to lead “a more open and democratic society” that would “strengthen transparency around official information”.

In fact, Ardern’s lack of transparency was on show very early in her prime ministership. Shortly after the 2017 election, she refused to release notes from the coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First — leading one journalist to opine:

“A month seems early for a new government to dash hopes of a fresh start yet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s team seems determined to break the speed record when it comes to disregard for public transparency.”

From Vance’s standpoint as a journalist, little seems to have improved since then.

The damning conclusion she arrived at after citing delays in responses to Official Information Act requests and ministers’ refusals to be interviewed was:

“At every level, the government manipulates the flow of information.”

It’s not difficult to find other instances of the Government denying access to important information in addition to those Vance mentioned — not least its record of obfuscation over significant details of its Covid-19 management and vaccination programme.

Examples of the kind Vance offered of the government hiding or distorting important information are the most obvious form of political censorship. There is, however, another form of political censorship which can be even more insidious — that is, attempting to impose narratives which suit the government’s purposes and thereby crowd out competing views. Continue reading “The dangers of putting media on the government’s payroll”