Column: Pacific Perspectives
by Aaron Skudder
Media Consolidation in New Zealand
Is George Orwell's vision of the future in his book 1984 slowly becoming a reality in New Zealand? With a small number of news outlets i.e. 'the
ministry of truth' churning out propaganda for the masses?
In a totalitarian state, the media is controlled by the state. Here
in NZ media is controlled by four giant corporations. We have apparent
diversity, however what happens to journalistic integrity when giant
international news corporations have the final say on what is news?
Who owns the media in NZ?
NZ is one of the most de-regulated media markets in the world. Since
the mid 80's, Treasury economists have told us that more market is good.
Yet a common complaint is that news media is biased or that the quality of
content is poor.
What is the relationship between who owns the media and the kind of
news that we have on offer? It appears that there is a wide range of newspapers, radio and TV stations to choose from. This appearance of diversity hides the fact that
most of the different media outlets are owned by a small number of media
companies who are in turn owned by giant international media corporations. If
you look at the print media market in NZ 91% of daily newspaper readers read
papers belonging to either Wilson and Horton or Fairfax NZ Ltd.
Wilson and Horton owns the NZ Herald, the paper with the largest
circulation in the country. Fairfax owns most of the other metropolitan dailys
like the 'Dominion Post' and 'The Press'. Between them they own the majority
of provincial and Sunday papers. Wilson and Horton is 100% owned by
ANM. ANM is owned by INM headed by the Irish billionaire and media magnate Sir
Fairfax is an Australian news corporation. In 2003 it purchased the
newspapers previously owned by Independant News Limited, a company
closely related to Rupert Murdocks multinational News Corporation.
©Universal Press Syndicate. 2003, The Washington Post [via Aaron
Only 9% of newspaper readers read news from New Zealand owned
companies. The main New Zealand owned company is the Otago Daily Times.
With radio it's the same story. 97% of radio stations in New Zealand are owned by one of
two companies. The Radio Network [TRN] own stations like Newstalk ZB,
91ZM, Classic Hits and Coast. The Radio Network is owned by Australian Radio Network [ARN] which is 50% owned by US based Clear Channel Communications. The other 50% is
owned by Australian group ANM which also owns the NZ Herald newspaper, as mentioned earlier, is controlled from Ireland.
Canwest is a Canadian company. Its radio stations include Radio Pacific, More
FM, Channel Z, Solid Gold, The Edge, The Rock and The Breeze.
The only non-competitive stations are the state owned National Radio
and Concert FM.
The free to air [FTA] TV market is dominated by state owned TVNZ
which controls TV1 and TV2. Canadian Canwest owns TV3 and Channel 4. The pay TV network
(SkyTV) is controlled by Murdochs INL. Although TVNZ is state owned it is
largely run on a commercial basis.
So apart from two radio stations and TVNZ, most of NZ's media market is
dominated by one of four major overseas companies; Canwest, ANM, INL and
This came about when the government in the late 80's deregulated media
ownership rules, effectively deregulating the broadcast environment.
What is the situation in the United States? In the 1950's, 1500 corporations owned the majority of the American mass media (i.e. television stations, radio stations, film studios, magazine publishers, newspaper publishers, book publishers, advertising
agencies, etc). By 1981 fewer than 50 corporations owned the majority of the
media. Today the number is six.
How about the rest of the world?
As of 1999, says McChesney, only eight giant global corporations
owned over 70% of global media, not just television, but newspapers, magazines,
radio, satellite systems, cable, book publishing, film production and
distribution, movie theatre chains, major aspects of the internet, billboards and
These eight corporations are already capable of speaking to hundreds
of millions of people on every continent on a daily and hourly basis,
and they do.
Since World War II, media ownership has gone from thousands of
companies to about eight giant corporations. Six corporations in the United
States and only four in New Zealand.
This is very bad for freedom of information. News is no longer
impartial and objective. Journalistic integrity is
curtailed. We have more articles in the media about inane topics
such as homes and gardens and less information impartially reporting what is
going on behind the scenes in major world conflicts.
I would urge people to spend as much time researching the alternative
media in New Zealand, such as Radio Chomsky and Scoop.co.nz.
Radio Chomsky logo
Aaron Skudder is founder and owner of Radio Chomsky FM, Auckland, New
Zealand. With thanks to the Aotearoa Independent Media Centre for
research. Inspired by the subsequent media coverage of the 9/11
events, he established Radio Chomsky in February 2002. He named his
new FM station after reading 'Manufacturing Consent' and 'Necessary
Illusions' by Noam Chomsky, a prominent political dissident. After
two years being a 'voice in the desert', Radio Chomsky began
receiving serious mainstream magazine and TV coverage. It now
broadcasts in Auckland on 107.1 FM, with affilate stations in
Hamilton [The Station 88.6 FM] and Wellington [The Matrix 107.5 FM].
You can listen on-line worldwide at www.radiochomsky.org
Views expressed in this column are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of the Radio Heritage Foundation. Send us your column comments and feedback.