The New Zealand government is poised to unveil new rules aimed at protecting the independence of the national broadcaster.
In the wake of a series of media scandals involving alleged bribery and conflict of interest, the Government has now announced that it will scrap the “no-conflict” policy that allows broadcasters to avoid conflict of interests with their commercial interests.
The Government will also begin a review of its existing code of ethics.
The rules will also allow New Zealanders to access confidential communications from media companies through the National Broadcasters Data Protection Agency (NBDA).
“This is the biggest challenge the nation has ever faced in terms of our ability to provide transparency and accountability,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“New Zealanders have the right to be able to access all the information they want about their government and what it’s doing to them and our country.”
Under the code of ethical conduct, any individual who has a commercial interest in the content of the broadcaster’s media will be required to disclose any such interest to the Government’s Ethics Commissioner, a body set up in 2014 to protect the public interest in its journalism.
New Zealand will be the first country to require broadcasters to disclose all their commercial ties to any individual media company, in a move that is expected to cost the government about $4.5 billion.
A spokesperson for the New Labour Government said that it had “rejected” a number of other proposals from the Government to improve transparency in the media industry.
The government has said that the new code of ethic would require broadcasters not to publish commercial relationships.
“We are a nation of journalists, not politicians.
It is important that we maintain a balance between our responsibility to protect our journalism and our public interest to make sure we provide a balanced news media experience for all New Zealand citizens,” the spokesperson said.”
With that in mind, the Prime Minister and her government have made the decision to scrap the code that allows public broadcasters to hide their commercial and personal interests, and instead create a new code that will ensure New Zealand is a shining city on a hill.”
The government’s ethics commissioner will oversee all media entities.
“Our new ethics code will provide a framework for accountability, transparency and a healthy democracy,” the spokeswoman said.
“We are committed to ensuring that all our journalists have the opportunity to report on our affairs and that they have the ability to report honestly and responsibly.”
The Government is also expected to introduce a new government watchdog agency, to oversee government departments and public servants.
A spokesman for the Communications Alliance, a lobby group for the media, said the government was “saddened” by the revelations.
“The New Zealand public has been left feeling betrayed, defamed and misled by New Zealand’s media in the past year,” the spokesman said.
He said that with the media reporting on the corruption and criminality of government officials, “they will be able easily to turn their attention to the actions of the government”.
The Government has also promised to make public the names of those involved in the recent bribery and corruption scandals, and is looking to create a national database of media outlets that have reported on government scandals.