The Hot List winners: Most Influential Person in Media

Mark Berry (Commerce Commission Chair)

Nominees: Amy Adams (former broadcasting minister), Jane Wrightson (NZ On Air chief executive), Cate Slater (TVNZ director of content), Andrew Szusterman (MediaWorks chief content officer), Steve Tew (New Zealand head of rugby), Russel Stanners (Vodafone chief executive), Nadia Lim, Mike Hosking, Taika Waititi, Sinead Boucher (Fairfax executive editor), Paul Dykzeul (Bauer chief executive), Shayne Currie (NZME managing director) 

In a year when some of the country’s biggest media companies have sought mergers as a solution to consolidate their businesses, there’s no denying Commerce Commission chair Mark Berry the title of Most Influential Person in Media. Berry and the Commission members are responsible for the proposed Vodafone/Sky and NZME/Fairfax mergers being declined, and now the industry waits in suspense to see the impact this is going to have on those companies and the industry as a whole.

Already, it’s been reported in local media, that less than an hour after the NZME/Fairfax merger had been declined, an email had been sent to Fairfax staff warning that “further publishing frequency changes and consolidation of titles is an inevitability.” There has also been widespread criticism from many that the decision was out of touch and failed to recognise the financial burden of creating and distributing journalism. (Read more of what people have to say about the merger in NZ Marketing). It goes to show that those with power are never going to please everyone.

One person perhaps less than pleased was Vodafone chief executive Russel Stanners (also a finalist in this category) who more recently penned a four-year sponsorship deal with the All Blacks. He continues to push his attempts to take over Sky TV and should he succeed, he’ll have a broadcaster, rugby rights and one of the nation’s biggest telcos under his control. Suffice to say, his influence stretches across many touchpoints.

Speaking of rugby, New Zealand head of rugby Steve Tew deserves a mention for his influence over which broadcaster gets the right to air All Blacks games. It’s the sport of the nation and the fans that come with it are a massive win.

Also wielding significant power are NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson, TVNZ director of content Cate Slater and MediaWorks chief content officer Andrew Szusterman who determine how an annually allocated budget is used to make content and which programmes make it to air. Anything not deemed worthwhile by this trio is likely to never make it to an audience. However, this still pales in comparison to the Commerce Commission’s influence over the fate of media companies.

Also worth a mention are Fairfax executive editor Sinead Boucher, Bauer’s Paul Dykzeul and NZME managing editor Shayne Currie, who have the power to guide public opinion and shift society through the words, images and videos their teams publish on a daily basis. 

People’s Choice Award

Taika Waititi
Acclaimed director and actor Taika Waititi received the most votes to win the People’s Choice Award. With the success of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the anticipation of his upcoming Thor: Ragnarok and his recent endorsement of the Green Party, Waititi wields unprecedented cultural influence among New Zealanders. He was followed by MediaWorks’ Andrew Szusterman (19 percent) and My Food Bag co-founder Nadia Lim (14.7 percent). NZME’s Mike Hosking and Shayne Currie tied for fifth place with 5.3 percent of the votes each. 

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