Radio New Zealand chief executive Paul Thompson's Twitter handle is @strikerpaul - a reference to his love of football and his favoured position: striker, the aggressive goal-scorer.
Much of what he's done at RNZ since taking the reins in 2013 has been innovative, refreshing and necessary.
Never one to hang back from a good restructuring during his days as the executive editor at Fairfax Media in New Zealand between 2007 and 2013, Thompson was also the prime mover in the eventual closure of the New Zealand Press Association in 2011.
As the news media reeled from the savage competition for advertising revenue unleashed by the internet, Thompson was quick to recognise that NZPA's genteel, cooperative model was rapidly passing its use-by date.


The NZPA story is relevant if only for the rich irony that, on the very day this week that the Australian Associated Press announced it too would have to close, Thompson's RNZ launched a brand campaign in New Zealand that, among a clutch of other catchy slogans, actively discouraged news consumers from paying for news.
Talk about insensitive.
Howls of outrage ensued from across the news media that it was hardly helpful to have taxpayer-funded marketing campaigns bagging private media companies that are trying to find new ways to survive in the current, deeply disrupted media environment. 
This morning, Thompson responded in best corporatese: "That particular ad has ended its run and I understand why it has triggered a response. There was no intention to undermine other outlets and we will no doubt reflect on that in our post campaign review."
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The complaints from private sector news providers - like BusinessDesk - were of course self-interested, but there was also bewilderment to find ourselves under friendly fire when we thought that the government was worried about the state of the news media and would rather see its various efforts to find new business models supported than undermined by a state-owned broadcaster.
It's certainly not consistent with this quote from Thompson in 2018: “In this environment, public service media have a unique responsibility to help their commercial counterparts survive.”
After all, RNZ has become a de facto NZPA replacement for many news services, both free and subscription-based. Their content-sharing agreements look, on the face of it, to be doing no more than subsidising under-resourced private sector players' newsrooms.
There is little evidence of truly commercial terms in these arrangements. They are justified in terms of creating a news 'eco-system' in which a certain amount of sharing and uncommercial cross-fertilisation is both necessary and desirable.
For RNZ, that is arguably fine.
Its mission is not commercial. Its aim is to provide free, public good broadcasting services and to grow the audience of New Zealanders who listen to it. That is laudable and RNZ tends to fill niches that commercial radio does not. We would be the poorer as a nation without RNZ's long form broadcasting, in-depth news, multi-lingual and multi-cultural programming, children's radio and a devotion to obscure music that you'll never hear anywhere else. Even the breathy dramas have a niche, apparently.

Blunder or masterstroke?

But to include slogans in a brand campaign that explicitly undermined the economics of news media that is not government-funded was a blunder, unless of course, it was part of a masterful plan.
Not all the slogans in the RNZ campaign discourage paying for news. With the offending ones now stripped out, RNZ not only still has a strong campaign, but has had it amplified for free by inciting the rest of the media to vociferous complaint.
Advertising agency executives call this 'earned free media'. This column is an example of that.
So, either it's a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel, or after last month's Concert Radio debacle, @strikerpaul has just scored another spectacular own goal.
Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi, who is beavering away on various plans to try and bolster news media's future, isn't touching this issue with a barge pole.
"The minister was not briefed on RNZ’s campaign and nor would he expect to be briefed on such a day-to-day operational matter," a spokesman said. "The media world is not for the faint-hearted and that has never been more realised than it is today. He won’t be instructing RNZ on how he thinks it should run a promotional campaign."
Nor should he. But after this and the barely-settled Concert Radio debacle, he might be scratching his head about the judgement of the board that presumably signed it off.