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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Government regulation

Government regulation

There has been no general survey of government regulation and control of the printing industry in New Zealand. Censorship, since the earliest years, has been a matter of controlling content rather than access to the means of reproduction, and the historical surveys have naturally taken the same direction. There have been some studies of the conflicts of the first years, including Kennett's Unsung Hero (1991), G.M. Meiklejohn's Early Conflicts of Press and Government (1953), and Salmond's 'Continuing conflict of press and government' (1990), and her thesis (1995).

The only significant legislation to control the printing industry in New Zealand has been the Printers and Newspapers Registration Act 1868; this laid down the requirement that all newspapers be registered, together with the names of the owners and the printers, that printing presses should be registered, and the printer's name and address should be on all printed documents. With minor amendments these provisions remained until the Newspapers and Printers Act 1955, which dropped the requirement that presses be registered. These registrations are held at the High Court (originally Supreme Court) registries throughout the country, where they should provide a source of information on the ownership of presses.

Day's The Making of the New Zealand Press (1990) is the only significant study of the relation between the newspaper industry and the government operated telegraph service, since access to the press agency telegrams was a significant economic asset. The political involvement of the newspaper owners is the principal theme of Day's book, but he also considers the effect of government engagement and political influence in the production cycle. Harvey's article 'The power of the press in colonial New Zealand' (1996) argues for greater scepticism about the newspaper industry's claims to political influence.

Government regulation of working conditions, under the Factories Act, and under the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, are most usefully considered under 'Trade conditions' (above), and the effects of economic controls (such as customs tariffs) under 'Economics' (also above).

One should consider here the May 1931 reduction of wage rates in the public service, with its impact upon the Government Printing Office, and the 1936 Wages Act, which brought about the restoration of previous wage levels, at the end of the Great Depression. The regulation of paper use at the beginning of World War II acted as an indirect form of censorship, as for example in the forcing of the closure of the left-of-centre periodical Tomorrow, through denying it supplies of paper.