30 January 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Free Speech Union Welcomes Select Committee Report On Public Media Bill, But Media Independence Still An Issue
The report by the Economic Development, Science, and Innovation Committee has suggested essential changes to the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill. Many of these changes are straight out of the Free Speech Union submission on this Bill and we are glad to see the Committee echo these recommendations- but media independence remains an issue, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.
"The major thrust of the changes recommended in the report relates to strengthening the editorial independence of the entity from Ministers. These changes include expanding the definition of 'editorial matters', emphasising the importance of being perceived to be free from political influence, and limiting the Minister's ability to add to the functions of ANZPM.
"The most consequential amendment, off the back of the most glaring fault of the Bill, is the recommendation to remove the role of countering 'misinformation' from the charter of the entity. Including this role would undoubtedly stifle debate and erode public trust in the intellectual diversity of the entity. The Minister must remove this clause.
"These were all points raised in the Free Speech Union submission. Given the crucial role the Fourth Estate has in holding political powers to account and in enabling free speech in New Zealand, we call on the Minister to accept these amendments to the Bill.
"While these changes are welcome and reduce the impact this Bill will have on Kiwis' speech rights, there remains a range of dangers by empowering a monolithic broadcaster with access to the resources of the state, and immunizing its management and professional caste from democratic ‘interference’.
The Fourth Estate plays a crucial role in facilitating public debate in New Zealand- an unwavering commitment to free speech must ground this work."
The Free Speech Union's submission on the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill is available here.
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