Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am

In today's email (sent to subscribers before this morning's decision by the Commerce Commission) we looked at the implications of either a yes, no (or 'yes but no') vote on the proposed Fairfax-NZME merger.

1. Yeah or nah, or yeah nah

D-Day has finally arrived for the New Zealand media.

The Commerce Commission will release its final decision on the NZME-Fairfax NZ merger around 8.30 am today after almost a year of deliberation and submissions, an initial rejection, several delays and a small fortune worth of billable hours.

We'll put a short piece up on Newsroom Pro this morning on the result itself, with more reaction in tomorrow's email.

Newsroom's Co-Editor Tim Murphy has written a preview piece on the decision here.

He looks at the implications of a yes vote, a no vote and a 'yes, but no' vote.

The head of Fairfax Australia, Greg Hywood, has predicted his company in New Zealand would be entering the "end game" without an approval.

That would initially see draft plans to close or cut publication of some newspaper titles. Those high on any list for urgent cost reduction could include the Waikato Times, Timaru Herald, Marlborough Express (already down to three day a week publication), the Sunday News and numerous small and marginally viable community titles, Tim writes.

Expect the Southland Times, for example, to be sold (possibly to arch-rival Allied Press up the road in Dunedin), he writes.

2. But does it really matter?

However, I question in this piece whether the decision will make much of a difference in the long run while NZME and Fairfax NZ are locked in a group-think about how to make money out of news.

Until they abandon their collective view that online ads will pay for news, the trajectory towards fewer journalists and a weaker fourth estate will continue, regardless of whether the merger is approved or rejected.

A ‘yes’ decision to the merger would actually slow that weakening, but only marginally, and not in any long term sense. A ‘no’ decision would actually speed it up slightly because both groups would be forced to cut journalists faster and more aggressively to arrest their sharp falls in profitability.

Those cuts could be further accelerated under possible new private equity ownership, which would have less transparency or commitment to the public good aspect of the fourth estate.

Read my full argument here on Newsroom Pro.

There are other views though. The now famous anonymous submitter makes a strong case against the deal being approved, as detailed in this Q&A with Nick Grant.

Donal Curtin has written an excellent piece on the competition law aspects of the case, concluding that NZME and Fairfax are wrong to argue the Commission should not care about media diversity.

"Plurality and quality fit squarely within the usual competitive effects box," he writes.

3. A climate change inquiry

The Productivity Commission finally has its next big Inquiry, and it's a doozy.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett and Finance Minister Steven Joyce announced yesterday the Commission would "review how New Zealand can maximise the opportunities and minimise the costs and risks of transitioning to a lower carbon economy."

"The Productivity Commission is well-placed to dispassionately assess which of the many ways of reducing emissions will make the most economic sense for New Zealand," Joyce said.

That's a lens for looking at climate change we weren't expecting, but it has been welcomed by a few people, including Generation Zero and the Sustainable Business Council.

Here's the full terms of reference.

4. Are the banks and insurers ready?

Newsroom's Lynn Grieveson has written a detailed piece on Newsroom Pro about whether home owners, insurers and bankers are ready for rising sea levels in the wake a useful report on the issue from Motu and Victoria University.

The short answer is they're not ready.

One key aspect is the mis-match between annual insurance contracts and 20 or 30 year mortgages.

New Zealand Bankers’ Association chief executive Karen Scott-Howman confirmed to Newsroom that "the main issue" for the banks "appears to be the mismatch between annual insurance cover and longer term mortgages."

"Longer term insurance products would be welcome by both homeowners and lenders to help address this issue," she said.

5. Maybe you'll listen to Gerry

The main story yesterday around Parliament was the Australian Government blindsiding New Zealand again on the rights of New Zealanders in Australia.

A paper released in Australia is proposing New Zealanders get access to student loans, but not fee subsidies.

Prime Minister Bill English was not happy when questioned on it yesterday before National's Caucus meeting, and said new Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee would be raising it on his first visit.

Our Foreign Affairs and Trade Editor Sam Sachdeva looks at the issues involved on Newsroom Pro.

However, English stepped back again from a "mutual arms war” with reciprocal changes for Australians living here, saying that would not be productive.

“We need to avoid the temptation for short-term satisfaction of punishing someone, punishing Australians in New Zealand, in order to have a sensible discussion about the long-term situation for Kiwis in Australia,” he said.

6. A little disappointment...

Sam also covered Labour's list announcement news conference yesterday where there were plenty of smiles and handshakes for the cameras.

But as he reports, the list delay and the various 'crisis' meetings have left a few unhappy people.

Jackson sought to dampen down media speculation about his unhappiness, saying he was feeling “very good” about his final ranking.

“There’s never been any bitterness - was there a little bit of disappointment? Well, probably…

“We all get a little bit of disappointment - I suppose Trevor’s [Mallard] not feeling too good today and Greg [O’Connor] too, but that’s politics.”

7. 'History will judge us harshly'

Our National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw has continued his series of interviewing the watchdogs.

This week he interviewed Childrens' Commissioner Andrew Becroft, who said history will judge New Zealand harshly over the doubling of the child poverty rate over the last 25.

8. Quote of the day

Trevor Mallard (via Jo Moir at Stuff) on why he's not so worried about his list ranking of 31, given it would imply he was not elected if Labour got less than 30 percent of the vote.

"Opposition is absolutely debilitating and I've had enough of it."