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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 3. 14th March 1973

Morning and Evening Post

Morning and Evening Post

One newspaper monopoly which has grown spectacularly in recent years is the Wellington Publishing Company, owners of "The Dominion", "The Sunday Times", "Truth", "The Sunday News" and the "Waikato Times". Last year the Wellington Publishing Company merged with Blundell Brothers, owners of the "Evening Post", to form Independent Newspapers Limited. There are now strong indications that some members of the board of Independent Newspapers intend to merge the "Evening Post" and "The Dominion", and produce morning and evening editions of "The Post".

On Sunday it was announced in the press that the deputy managing director of Independent Newspapers, Mr Philip Harkness, is expected to announce his resignation from the firm soon. Harkness came to Wellington from the "Waikato Times", in which he was the largest shareholder. In the time he has been in Wellington he has been in constant conflict with other executives of the company over the way "The Dominion" has been run down. His impending resignation suggests that he has lost out to the managing director of the company, Mr J.A. Burnet, who is the man behind the proposal to merge the two papers. Such a move would only be the logical extension of the company's publicly announced plan to produce the two dailies, "The Sunday Times" and "Truth" from one building.

The costs of such a 'rationalisation' to the firm's employees are obvious. A lot of journalists and printers, probably all from "The Dominion", will lose their jobs. Last week members of the Wellington Journalists' Union employed by Independent Newspapers, decided to stop work if a move is made to shift them into one building. Members of the Wellington Printers' Union who work for the company are also expected to strongly resist any attempt to sack them in large numbers.

The costs to the community are just as serious. To merge "The Dominion" and the "Evening Post" into one newspaper may be the most efficient way for the major shareholders to use their investment, but it would stifle even further the opportunities for free and open debate in the press in Wellington. Elimination of "The Dominion" would also mean that even fewer people would determine the information we receive in the dailies than at present.

The Journalists' Union has advised the Government of its members' concern at the prospect of the merger, in light of its policy to repeal the 1965 News Media Ownership Act (which effectively prevented overseas companies from taking over New Zealand newspapers) and its declared policy to establish a Monopolies and Mergers Commission. If the Labour Government is at all concerned to provide opportunities for free and open debate in the news media, as well as radio and T.V., it will take prompt action to prevent Mr Burnet and his friends from eliminating "The Dominion".

Ultimately, however, it is not the Government but the people who will stop monopolies like Independent Newspapers from stifling free speech in this country. The time is long overdue for the smashing of the newspaper empires in New Zealand, and the establishment throughout the country, of newspapers which genuinely serve their readers, rather than their owners.

Photo of The Dominion Post