As I predicted in the early years of #Indymedia, legacy #NewsMedia are being supplanted by digital media. I thought this was going to be a good thing. What I didn't predict was that it would be a handful of corporate-owned, ad-funded, platforms, or that PR flacks would come to outnumber paid journalists in #Aotearoa, as Mediawatch reported a few weeks back.
So it turns out we do need professional journalists and we do need a number of competing newsrooms to employ and coordinate them. It's OK for some of those to be state-owned, but in my experience these have an implicit bias against, for example, protests that target the government instead of industries.
At present, most of our commercial newsrooms are owned by foreign media empires like the Australian #NineEntertainment, which owns most of our newspapers via its holding in #Stuff.co.nz, or shadowy "#PrivateEquity" companies like #OaktreeCapital who control a number of #NZ TV channels via its ownership in #Mediaworks. Many of these companies are looking to sell some or all of their NZ media "assets" because they're not particularly profitable. Could they #ExitToCommunity as #Scoop.co.nz did?
An #ExitToCommunity means that instead of Stuff or the TV arm of Mediaworks (including TV3) finding another corporation to acquire them, their community raise the funds to buy the company and convert it into a #cooperative.
Eg journalists and other workers could run #Stuff as a worker-owned co-op, like #Loomio. The readers who value it as a news sources could own it as consumer co-op. The various newspapers acquired by Stuff's parent companies over the years could each become a co-op, and own Stuff's digital businesses together as a producer co-op, like #Fonterra. Other multi-stakeholder co-op models are possible that are hybrids of these.
There are a number of questions that would need to be answered. How to coordinate such radical transitions? How to raise the funds to buy these multi-million dollar businesses from their capitalist owners? How to address the annual losses that are putting them on sale without shedding staff or cutting their pay? Is this where the government could step in, with a pioneering vision for repatriating NZ media institutions and bridging finance to help it happen?
An exit to cooperative ownership may actually be the only way to make legacy media organizations financially sustainable in the digital age. Because co-ops don't have to return dividends or increases in share value to capitalist owners, their outgoings are inherently lower. Because their members can democratically decide on fair cost-cutting measures, such as keeping management pay proportional to the workers they manage, they are much more agile in times of financial stress.
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