Stupid Government backing Willie’s bill

Paul Goldsmith reports:

The Government is taking immediate action to support New Zealand’s media and content production sectors, while it develops a long-term reform programme, Media and Communications Minister Paul Goldsmith says.

“Firstly, the Government will progress the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill with amendments, to support our local media companies to earn revenue for the news they produce. 

“I have looked closely at the design of the legislation and will be changing the approach to align more closely with the Australian digital bargaining code to give all companies greater certainty. …

“ACT have indicated they will not support the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill. However, the leaders of the three coalition parties have agreed ACT can hold a differing view. This means the bill will rely on the support of other parties to pass.

This is both an unprincipled and a stupid decision. I can handle principled stupid decisions and even unprincipled smart decisions but this is neither.

It is unprincipled because it is forcing successful companies in one industry (social networks and search engines) to fund failing companies in another industry (media). The only rationale for this is that Google and Meta have money and Stuff doesn’t. Will we see Netflix levied money to fund home video rental stores? Will we see Foodstuffs levied money to find Whitcoulls?

It is also a very stupid decision. Most media is already left leaning as most journalist have a left worldview. The Government is going to pass a law to fund a media that will oppose almost everything that supporters of the Government believe in. Even worse, it will set up a structural incentive for the media to become even more left leaning. Let’s say the Government forces Meta and Google to hand over $20 million a year to local media. Well Labour and Greens next election will insist that levy be doubled to $40 million, and of course that will create an institutional bias in favour of the parties that will benefit media the most. And Te Pati Maori will no doubt insist 50% of the left go to Maori media companies.

It is also very possible that the proposed law will fail, in that Meta will simply block all NZ news links rather than be forced to pay a levy.

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