NEW ZEALAND: All In For The Media

E.J. DE LARA WRITES – After more than two years of study, a New Zealand commission says a single body should handle Kiwi media complaints, whether they target broadcast, print or online entities.

Under the recommendation, three current media bodies would be replaced by a single “News Media Standards Authority” (NMSA), which would have the power to sanction newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, and websites as necessary. The organization would be made up of the very media outfits it monitors. And while it would be unable to issue fines, members would have to abide by its rulings to remain in good standing.

As envisioned, the NMSA would be something like a hybrid between the U.S. National Press Club and the Federal Communications Commission, providing resources to member news outlets while cracking the whip when needed.

Explaining the need for change, New Zealand Law Commission President Sir Grant Hammond said the current system is “inequitable for news producers, confusing for the public, and inconsistent with the realities of technological and content convergence. ”

New Zealand’s three current media review bodies—New Zealand Press Council, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, and the Online Media Standards Authority – sometimes find themselves at cross-purposes. For example, when a print newspaper also has a web site, who’s in charge?

As reported by TVNZ, the recommendation was prompted not by a lack of confidence in the media, but by the amount of inconsistencies and lack of accountability within the reviewing bodies.

Lead Commissioner John Burrows noted that in addition to creating a level playing field, the NMSA would be independent of the government. Burrows said the NMSA would focus on the content of news rather than the structure or writing format.

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