The Misplaced Public of New Zealand Media: Notes Toward a Future Media Scene


  • Vijay Devadas Auckland University of Technology
  • Brett Nicholls University of Otago



This paper interrogates what we believe is an increasingly urgent task: to think about ways of revitalising public life in New Zealand beyond traditional defenses of public broadcasting. The concept of the public in public broadcasting is what is at stake: we argue that the public is an empty signifier, one that can be mobilised in the service of neoliberal power brokers to legitimise media monopolies and the closure of media spaces meant for civic discussions, and by activists, academics, politicians and media pundits, who call for a return to notions of the modern public sphere as a way to fight against the increasing commercialisation of media. We find that this debate falls short for it fails to recognise that we live in liquid times (Bauman 2007), and argue that we need to shift the discussion from the public sphere to that of citizen publics. This, we believe, entails a new commitment to rights and to democratic processes that creates a scene, breaks habitus, and engages in writing scripts. It is through this new commitment that we conclude by providing notes for a future media scene in New Zealand.