Fran O’Sullivan had what I consider a really good idea, during her speech on political blogging yesterday.
Part of the discussion was around the increasing commercial pressures on newspapers, and their diminishing resources to do investigative journalism etc.
Fran said she thought it was very unbalances that the Government (taxpayer) funds some media through NZ on Air, but this is restricted to broadcasters only.
She advocated that NZ on Air should become NZ on Media, and all media should be able to apply for worthy “local content” projects whether they be TV, radio, print or Internet.
I think that is a concept with some merit. First of all it does make for a more level playing field. But also because a contestable funding pool for print (and Internet) journalism could help turn around the decline in quality research intensive journalism (which is often not commercially viable).
Now as print and Internet has much lower costs than broadcast, I don’t think opening up the field, would lead to a huge amount of money being drained from the broadcasters. Maybe a couple of million out of the tens of millions they grant every year.
Note this is not about increasing the total amount of funding for NZ on Air, but increasing the range of eligible applicants.
Someone like No Right Turn could (for example) have applied for a grant for his research and series of posts on the sedition laws (which helped lead to the law being unanimously repealed).
A newspaper could apply for a grant of say $25,000 to allow a journalist to spend three months working on a story about (for example) the immigration system.
There would be some challenges such as editorial independence, but I think it is a proposal worth considering. Why should TV and radio retain exclusive rights to NZOA funding?
It is worth mentioning that NZ on Air does sort of fund stuff on the Internet – the very worthy NZ on Screen archive of iconic NZ TV shows. However that is funding Internet storage and access of TV shows, which is different to funding contemporary material regardless of medium.