NZ-Asian audiences want relevant media content

New research from NZ On Air shows many Asian-New Zealanders are disengaged and confused about much of the mainstream media , preferring instead to source content from their home country, in their own language.  

The viewing and listening habits of Asian New Zealanders are again the subject of research – with a new survey commissioned by NZ On Air showing many in the Chinese diaspora have little or no contact with the New Zealand media, preferring instead to engage with international news sources and China-based networks.

Independent researchers Heather Irvine and Wing Morgan have conducted the ethnographic qualitative research for NZ On Air, involving in-depth questioning of a group of Indian and Chinese New Zealanders in their homes.

The study sought to identify which media they consume, what motivates their choices and what’s missing for them. 

NZ On Air CEO Cameron Harland says for some time the agency has been tracking Asian audiences’ growing disengagement with local media, and he says it’s important NZOA understands how best to meet the needs of Asian audiences in this country.   

“Ultimately it’s about social cohesion. There is an opportunity to offer something unique, meaningful and enriching for Asian New Zealanders, and in so doing to connect them with the New Zealand part of their identity” he says.

Cameron Harland says NZ On Air has already briefed Asian content creators (via the Pan Asian Screen Collective) and local media platforms on the survey findings.

 “We see purposeful partnership with Asian creatives and local media platforms as being a big part of the solution and we are seeking to be joined up in this endeavour”  

China's massive Weibo platform carries hundreds of Chinese language movies available to audiences in NZ / photo Weibo

The Auckland-based researchers delved into the listening and viewing habits of Chinese and Indian community members using media diaries, with in depth follow-up interviews.

Researcher Wing Morgan says the results largely confirmed patterns seen in similar research, and she emphasised the isolated nature of some of the communities – who feel more comfortable engaging with content in their own language, and often sourced via the internet directly from their home country.

The survey found that among some of the respondents there is a feeling that NZ media is “not for them”, and many only engage with local content regarding practical day-to-day information like weather, headline news and Covid updates.

Wing Morgan says the issue of home languages looms large, with some Chinese -Kiwi respondents saying they have no real idea how to find the kind of content they might be interested in, and that they would prefer it be in their own language.

Respondents said they would be interested in connecting with local content to learn about everyday life in NZ, better understand NZ and the people around them, and explore NZ history and cultures, particularly Māori and Pasifika. The one barrier in the way being the language issue.  

The research shows Indian New Zealanders have a broader media appetite, including local and international content, and they can feel connected with the wider NZ society through local content, accessed via linear broadcast platforms, and online.  

As with the Chinese community, some Indian participants say they have lost their connection to NZ media in the transition to online, and some newer migrants say they have never discovered NZ platforms. 

And while the Indian community may feel more connected to NZ media, they are also concerned about the way they are portrayed there. They want to see themselves reflected in local content more authentically and diversely. ‘More than just dairy robberies and arranged marriages’ as one respondent put it.  

Internet-based satellite TV is big business in India/ photo supplied

Researcher Heather Irvine says Indian NZ audiences often do find NZ content that they feel is ‘for them’, and do have connections with existing NZ platforms. Those connections mean they want to be reflected as New Zealanders, not outsiders – to reflect their sense of belonging. 

“Indian people are connecting,” she says. “The challenge there is to get the Indian audience to stay engaged with NZ media as they move online. “

“The other challenge is over how well Indian people are represented in the NZ media. Sometimes it’s done well, sometimes it’s very limited in terms of characters and there’s a gap in terms of expectations and reality” she says.

“With both groups, discoverability is a key challenge and promoting NZ online platforms is a priority”. 

For those that do engage there is some room for improvement, especially in locally-produced news coverage. They feel it is currently too focused on New Zealand and news from the western, English-speaking world.

These news consumers feel there is not enough coverage of Asia, particularly China and India.

Participants also felt these parts of the world remain extremely relevant to all New Zealanders, with many interesting and important things happening that should be more widely covered in the New Zealand media. 

"Inked" is the first bilingual production made for NZ TV. Commissioned for Sky TV, it is available on Sky Go

The need to provide relevant content was particularly important to younger New Zealand Indians.

The younger people responding to the researchers tended to feel New Zealand-produced content was something they watch with their parents or something they used to watch. They are instead looking to international media and Asian media to reflect their identity and outlook and connect them to the wider world.

Heather Irvine emphasises that the nature of the NZ content is key. “The challenge is to make sure NZ content continues to be discoverable for them, and to better represent who they are as New Zealanders, with diverse and multi-layered identities.” she says. 

“We need to promote and make content relevant, so we can get NZ content on their radar that they connect with”.

”It’s about diversity and it’s about the Chinese and Indian diaspora as interesting individuals and as New Zealanders – as quality characters, not just Chinese or Indian representatives. “

  • Asia Media Centre