Legislation relating to the in limbo merger of RNZ and TVNZ has been amended to strengthen editorial independence, but a media researcher said it was still insufficient.

The new organization, intended to sustain public media, will cost $327 million over three years and an additional $38.3 million for transition costs.

It is supposed to be fully operational by July this year, but has been criticized by the National Party as unnecessary during a cost of living crisis.

The project is now potentially on the chopping block, as new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins reviews spending and shifts the government’s focus back to the economy.

A select committee report released today made changes to prevent interference by Cabinet ministers to ensure public confidence.

But Gavin Ellis, an affiliate of Koi Tū, the Center for Informed Futures, said the bill was “less dangerous but still not fit for purpose”.

Ellis, who is a former editor of the New Zealand Herald, said the proposed entity was still “not independent enough” and a parliamentary commissioner was needed to oversee it.

He also said that it does not specify what the organization’s ambitious goals are to convince the public that it is a necessity.

But any discussion around the entity’s future may be academic as Hipkins considers its fate.

The proposal has been in the works since 2021, when a business case was first developed. Ellis urged the Prime Minister to “act without delay” on whether or not this will continue.

Koi Tū is not opposed to a new entity, but does not support the way it is done.

Ellis said he should be taken off the table and a better ANZPM (Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media) should be developed.

A TVNZ spokesperson said he was pleased that some of the advocated changes had been included, “particularly in relation to increasing the organisation’s editorial independence”.

RNZ said it needed time to review the report and is awaiting further clarification from the government on the legislation.

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