NZ Poll Released on World Press Freedom Day Suggests Government Media Funding Threatens Independence

A poll released today, World Press Freedom Day, by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union suggests the majority of New Zealanders believe that government funding for private media companies undermines media independence.

The poll of 1,000 New Zealanders carried out by Curia Market Research, found that 59% percent believe the funding undermines media independence, compared to  21% who believe it doesn’t and 20% were unsure.

The poll also highlighted the belief that media funding undermines independence is strong among supporters of all major political parties, including Labour and the Greens.

The poll also asked New Zealanders whether they supported the Public Interest Journalism Fund, which sees $55 million in government funding allocated to media for “public interest” reporting projects. 44% oppose the fund, versus just 24% in support. 32% were unsure.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “mainstream media outlets have been at pains to deny any suggestion that government funding undermines their independence. But they can no longer deny that the funding has undermined the perception of independence.

It’s now clear that the Government’s push to directly fund private media outlets is deeply misguided, if not dangerous. Instead of enlightening New Zealanders with high-quality journalism, the funding risks driving audiences towards fringe information sources that may be perceived as more independent,” adds Mr. Houlbrooke.

The release of this poll comes on the day of World Press Freedom Day with this year’s theme “Journalism Under Siege”.

May 3rd celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

Today acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.

World Press Freedom Day is also a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

From 2-5 May United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is hosting the World Press Freedom Day global conference in the Republic of Uruguay.

Image credit: UNESCO