Hard News by Russell Brown


Media 2011

We're looking ahead to the new year in media rather than reviewing the old on the final Media7 for 2010 this week. And there is plenty to talk about.

The inescapable issue for broadcast media in New Zealand is going to be money. At Mediaworks they'll be doing it particularly hard next year. The company's board represents its private-capital owner, Ironbridge, which probably never intended owning a media company in the long term -- it just got caught holding the parcel when the global financial crisis struck -- and consequently not terribly interested in building for the long term. Its instruction is to cut costs, which means a lean year for companies that produce programmes for TV3.

Brent Impey's prediction in his Spada speech of "three years of grind" for commercial television to get back to where it was before the crisis is probably on the mark.

Things aren't much brighter in public broadcasting. Radio New Zealand will struggle to maintain its service with its budget capped, and there is no word yet on a long-term plan for TVNZ's digital channels. The minister, Jonathan Coleman, had apparently hoped to make an announcement about the channels and funding before Christmas, but it's likely that the government's alarming fiscal projections are occasioning a rethink.

There will, on the other hand, be no shortage of set-piece news events next year. The Urewera 17 will go on trial, Pike River will be thrice investigated and SFO actions against the various troubled financiers will kick in. The Hobbit will swing into production. And, of course, there is also the Rugby World Cup and a general election.

Next month, Rupert Murdoch makes his big play for pay, in the form of The Daily, the first fully-fledged newspaper to be created for the electronic tablet format. How good will it have to be to attract a viable paying audience? Where will it be targeted? Will Twitter begin to deliver on its alleged $3.7bn value

Also, we get to find out what happens with Wikileaks -- both in terms of a further flow of stories from the quarter-million-sized box of cables, and what becomes of Julian Assange. Will we all get Wiki-fatigue? Will he go back and attempt to clear his name in Sweden? Will the Americans get him? Is the cooling of the relationship between Assange and The Guardian a sign of things to come? Will the whistleblowing community he has created simply forge on without its groupie-loving rock star, whatever happens?

I should note that there has, in my view, been some crazy stuff said about the likelihood of Assange's extradition from Sweden. Both the Swedish-US extradition treaty specifically and extradition law in general excludes the very kind of "crimes" the US is thinking of pinning on Assange. If the Americans try it, they will not find it easy.

And, of course, there are the critical stories that literally won't go away: how will the news media handle climate change?

I can tell you one thing that'll happen in the media next year, all being well. We're looking at recording a Media7 special at Webstock, a prospect that greatly excites me. Thanks are falling into place. (So yes, Media7 is back next year, with an initial 25 episodes. In the present climate, I am grateful for that.)

Anyway, I'll be joined on the show by Vincent Heeringa, media-buying sage Martin Gillman, TV3 film fan Kate Rodger and one of our favourite guests from this year, Tautoko FM's Lahni Sowter.

If you'd like to come to the recording on Wednesday, we'll need you at the Victoria St entrance of TVNZ by 5.30pm on Wednesday. Click the little envelope icon below and let me know you're coming if possible.

And otherwise, feel free to share your own expectations and observations regarding the media year ahead. If you're particularly sharp, I will make myself look clever by posing your questions as if they were my own ;-)

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