One Plus One Equals Three: Edition Twenty Five

Dear readers, despite the end of year looming our work has yet to slow down, and it seems that things are moving full speed across the media landscape – both in Aotearoa and beyond.

From shock broadcasting closures to concerns far and wide about misinformation on social media, we’ve been keeping our pulse on the latest news and developments in our industry – let’s get into it.

The Project set to be discontinued

The last few years have been turbulent for Aotearoa’s media industry, and the blows just keep on coming. Household favourite news and entertainment show The Project, has just announced it is set to be discontinued this December.

The show is the latest casualty of media cost cutting, bidding farewell to 24 staff members as well as the main hosts who fronted Kiwi screens every weeknight since 2017. The announcement comes as almost every major New Zealand media outlet faces cutbacks caused by tough economic conditions and ever-decreasing advertising revenue. Not to mention, it acts as another shock closure after Today FM’s shutdown in March this year.

Damien Venuto and Duncan Grieve sat down to analyse the mounting pressures our media industry over the last few years, and speculate about its future.

There’s a new kid on the block

More than 25 independent media firms have teamed up to form Independent Media Agencies New Zealand (IMANZ), a not-for-profit body ready to take on larger multinational rivals.

Just like its Australian counterpart Independent Media Agencies Australia (IMAA), which was launched in 2019, IMANZ has been set up to promote the value of smaller agencies, encourage collaboration across the indie sector, and act as a verified, trusted platform for independent agency groups.

Alex Radford, co-founder and partner of D3 has taken the reins as Chair, with hopes the new organisation will boost the profile of local firms, and act as a stamp of quality.

“Independent agencies can offer more innovation and creativity for the right kind of client. Often, people aren’t aware that there’s an alternative, and we want to make sure that under the IMANZ banner you’re dealing with a quality, transparent, owner-operated New Zealand business,” says Radford.

Radford spoke to Stoppress to delve into IMANZ’ overarching mission and why now was the right time to launch.

Rachel Smalley vs Pharmac

Prominent kiwi journalist and advocate for better access to medicine, Rachel Smalley has shed light on the ugly culture’ at global medicine giant Pharmac, after she uncovered hundreds of pages of documents about herself after a Privacy Act request.

Unpacking this, the NZ Herald reports Smalley’s uncovering of numerous emails between Pharmac employees – including Chief Executive Sarah Fitt – that reveal Pharmac purposely avoided answering important queries, as well as crude and insulting remarks towards Smalley. An email from a senior communications contractor stated that she “made Rachel Smalley cry… if that isn’t a win, I don’t know what is”.

The release of documents raised several questions about the impartiality of Pharmac’s executive, and its opposition to being questioned or held to account by journalists.

Public Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said this behaviour is completely unacceptable for public servants, and should acknowledge how the media play a critical role in a healthy and functioning democracy.

Stuff quits social media platform X

In mid-October, Aotearoa’s largest news organisation, Stuff, made the call to stop sharing content to X (formerly Twitter), effective immediately.

The decision was made in protest against rising disinformation, misinformation and harmful content on the platform.

All Stuff brands, including its regional newspapers such as The Post, The Press and Waikato Times will no longer post on X, except for stories that are of urgent public interest.

This decision came the same week as X removed news headlines from news links on both its app and website. As a result, journalism is significantly less visible on the site.

Disinformation amidst Israel-Hamas war

Scrutiny on X is only growing on a global scale amid the escalating Israel-Hamas war. In the weeks since the most recent conflict on October 7, there has been an unprecedented wave of disinformation across social media, including doctored images and mislabelled videos.

The European Union has formally requested information from X over its handling of hate speech, misinformation and violent content related to the conflict.

The ongoing conflict highlights a significant issue for the everyday internet user: do you know what information to trust or not to trust?

85% of people worry about online disinformation, global survey finds

A Unesco-commissioned survey has just revealed that more than 85% of people are worried about the impact of online disinformation, and 87% believe it has already harmed their country’s politics.

The survey, which questioned 8,000 people across 16 countries including Austria, Croatia, the US, Algeria, Mexico, Ghana and India also found that 56% of internet users got their news mainly from social media, far more than from TV (44%) or media sites (29%).

With a total of 2.5 billion voters across these nations, the results show how pressing the need for effective regulation has become.

As a result, the UN has announced a set of Guidelines for the Governance of Digital Platforms, to enable the environment where freedom of expression and information are at the core of digital platforms governance processes.