The question isn’t why should RNZ have a youth station, the question is why has it taken this long?


RNZ set to cut back Concert and launch new youth service

In the biggest overhaul of its music services in years, RNZ is planning to cut back its classical music station RNZ Concert and replace it on FM radio with music for a younger audience as part of a new multimedia music brand. Mediawatch asks RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson and music content director Willy Macalister to explain the move.

Before I was banned from Radio NZ about a decade ago, I argued that RNZ should create a youth station format and wrote a column for Metro at the time making my case for it, so the question shouldn’t be why should RNZ have a youth station, the question should be why has it taken this long?

The elitist clap trap that has been wheeled out against the idea of a youth station in defence of Concert FM has to be read to be believed. Concert FM will still be available on AM without the presenters, so think of it as the Gold Card minus the ability to catch the ferry to Waiheke on weekends.

That last metaphor won’t mean much to anyone outside of Auckland, but trust me, it drips with boomer contempt.

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If adults are allowed to have commercial free radio that isn’t trying to sell them bullshit every 3minutes, then why shouldn’t young people have that same respect?

Commercial yuff radio has had it so sweet for too long.  The Mediaworks Grand Cyclops at the time,  Brent Impey, cut a deal with Helen Clark to create the pointless ‘Kiwi FM’ brand from the old Channel Z station that played 100% Kiwi music and became a ghetto for NZ Music that the Edge and ZM didn’t have to compete with.

This led to a massive decrease in NZ music having commercial cut through. Kiwi FM withered and died on the vine, and it was at that stage about a decade ago I started campaigning for RNZ to take up the old station and create a new youth format.

The argument is really simple. Why shouldn’t young people have commercial free media space to talk about their issues and listen to their culture and talk about their concerns?

If adults are allowed that privilege, isn’t there a far more pressing case for youth to have it?

In an age of false social media disinformation, a trusted youth brand source of information is critical for society and for those who claim youth wouldn’t listen to the radio, have you ever heard of the Edge or ZM?

Why must bullshit product placement be rammed down young peoples throats every 3 seconds? Shouldn’t young people actually be protected from that toxic consumerism?

RNZ creating their own youth brand is a perfect antidote to consumer culture and if it means Concert FM goes from FM to AM, then that is a price worth paying.

Young citizens deserve the same media privileges the older ones have carved out for themselves.

Boomers get enough.


  1. Why does it have to be one or the other? I like classical, love jazz, folk and enjoy the concert format. Sure, let’s have a commercial free radio station for nz gigs, youth or maori radio, but in addition to- not instead of. These things are driven by the love and commitment of the people involved and proper curating and presentation is part of that passion. Deligating it to a preprogrammed autoformat on AM where fidelity is poor -is regressive. (I think AM is important too wavelength too.) Hey, while they’re at it let’s also make the orchestras of NZ play more rock and roll just because, and the art galleries should only have that modern art because people can look at all those old pictures online.
    Out with old in with new, until that is old too.

  2. The big problem with RNZ is that its management just doesn’t understand the concept of PSB.
    And why would they – look at all their backgrounds.

    Instead of expanding and enhancing the likes of The Wireless and getting it on Air – as in say a 103 FM – even IF that meant saving elsewhere (such as with management salaries) and stacking the place with people with commercial backgrounds – aging bean counters still trying to be down with the kuds, it demolishes the good stuff its already been doing.

    The mindset is based on the idea of the market the market with audience share (based on demographic targeting) as the imperative.
    PS Radio is not there to compete with commercial stations – rather to complement them with alternatives and to take risks.
    Using demographics (in this case, based on age – but generally other aspects such as race and ethnicity, sex and sexuality, religion, income, etc) is not what its about. It assumes the yoof of today can’t, or shouldn’t like Classical or Jazz Music – or even be involved in politics other than those from talkback radio. It also assumes older people couldn’t possibly appreciate or understand local bands or different styles of music.

    Willy Wonker (late of George FM) says ‘genre’ is not longer relevant.
    Genres are entirely relevant and should be presented without regard for political or commercial hegemonies.
    PS Radio (and TV for that matter) should be about providing as many genres in music, art, literature, politics, society and cultures to as many “demographics” as possible – i.e. those that comprise our public and society.

    Its the sort of thinking that saw the likes of you (@Martyn) being banned – you won’t have fit into what management perceived as RNZ’s demographic. But RNZ is not alone. It’s the sort of thinking that’s infected the likes of Auntie BBC in recent times (as opposed to say Aljazeera which has a completely different managerial mindset)

    And the decision to go to the AM band is just bizarre! When FM first came to NZ, it was promoted as being superior for the dissemination of music.
    Thompson and Wonker (excuse me but his name eludes me at the moment) are rearranging the deck chairs and in so doing will simply be providing tokenism while trying to be ‘down with the kids’. The signs have been there for a while though

    The timing is also interesting – the announcement being made before we get the details of Faafoi’s intentions.
    Kind of interesting too the way the whole system has been taken over by managerialists and bean counters across all agencies involved in public (publicly owned) broadcasting over the years resulting in several different agencies – each with their respective boards and well-compensated CEOs.
    The google and Facebook problems aside, there’s certainly room for “savings” to be made by flattening out and rationalising management structures across all those agencies and actually supporting actual producers of content.
    I’ll bet they’ll be dreaming up platitudes about trying to “democratise” broadcasting or trying to “eliminate” elitism. In reality, they’re doing the exact opposite and they’re probably better off hopping on their Vespas and going back to commercial radio

  3. A price worth paying?
    Jesus, New Zealand is enough of a cultural wilderness as it is without dropping the bar even further.
    And please note, as you sink into the morass of mediocrity that is Godzone now, that classical music on AM is akin to going back to wind-up turntables and changing the needle every three or four records. The quality is just shit. But as long as the puerile simplistic syncopated bass lines can be pumped out in stereo FM what does the world of art and culture matter.
    RNZ has steadily been becoming more and more irrelevant and this latest change will confine it to the world of woke hysteria where hopefully it will finally die a well deserved death.
    Thus is the neo-lib dream realised…

    • Fully agree – I like listening to classical music on stereo hi-fi FM, but do not even have AM tuner attached to my stereo gear. Lo-fi sound in mono only…
      You are not sharing things Martyn – you are advocating the death of quality-sound classical music on air. Think again.

  4. Sad to see you are falling for the neoliberal trollop. It’s just age discrimination at work, to make a large amount of their older journos from RNZ redundant and put in some cheaper ‘youth’ staff.

    There would be nothing stopping them from making a youth brand by hiring more staff to do it, but that is not what they are proposing. They are making the current staff redundant to reduce their current music offering which is probably very popular and pretending it is to appeal to youth. Why would you not do both?

    Will be a disaster, they will jettison their current viewers and their current news.

    RNZ has been going down hill with their neoliberal news drive, and no doubt this is part of their approach to fill the place with the ‘right’ culture and join the other MSM with exactly the same trivial content driving people away from media.

  5. Bet most if not all the staff proposed to be made redundant are over 40 …

    Part of neoliberalism is to remove more experienced people from the workforce and replace them with people who are younger, cheaper and don’t ask too many questions.

    It is also creating a lack of management here, as those who know the industry are made redundant and stops that institutional experience being past down and make experience into management. NZ management is then often bought in from a completely different industry and country and there are many mistakes from Fonterra to Mainzeal.

    Sadly this strategy is not helping NZ, who is getting a lower and lower skilled workforce who don’t seem to know what they are doing or are dysfunctional.

    Many headlines from medicine, engineering, IT, journalism (let’s face it journalism is getting worse and worse) and productivity in NZ is static and falling with the neoliberal experiment of making older people redundant and filling the spaces with new cheap compliant recruits and then parachuting in management who know nothing about the company, culture, industry or climate here.

  6. NZ is in dire need of a 16th “youth station”. Concert FM features more NZ musicians, singers and music composers (in all genres) than all NZ radio stations combined. It also supports a plethora of live music events (usually of the sort where you do not have to take drugs to enjoy the atmos). Be careful what you wish for. Have you ever listened to music on an AM frequency? AM is only good for talk radio like RNZ National. It could save much more by selling its FM frequencies instead and move to AM.

  7. This would have been a brillant idea back when young people actually listened to the radio!
    Don’t get me wrong I still think it’s a good idea (and it makes way more sense to invest in our young people than in an obscure form of music that skews to the senior audience) but most people under the age of 30 don’t even own a radio anymore.

    If they don’t focus on their social media and be prepared to constantly innovate they’ll have real trouble reaching thier audience.

      • Good point, Martyn. Kids I know mostly tune in to The Edge already. What makes you think RNZ can supply more of what they want than The Edge already does? And is that worth pushing all classical music onto low-grade mono sound AFM?
        Do you ever listen to Classical music yourself? Visitors to NZ who find no classical channel on FM will assume we are a nation of simpletons with short attention-span.

  8. I find this article shocking and offensive. Only old people (the poor dears!) like classical music? Having a classical music station is catering to privileged Gold Card carriers? What BS!!!!

  9. All of the above! (probably with the exception of that (obviously “young yoof whippersnapper Aaron).
    And there’s a long history to it all.
    From the demolition of Broadcasting House in Wellington so politicians could have a swimming pool that never came to fruition to the ‘owning’ of its own transmission facilities – public assets demolished and purloined in the interests of the market the market in a way that makes the concept of public service broadcasting an ‘expense’
    It’s hard to find any degree of commonality in the way all those agencies’ accounts involved in broadcasting are presented (7 last count) without counting the corporatised government departments involved (Min for Culture and Heritage, TPK, and even the Ministry for Everything – which doesn’t even seem to be able to handle radio interference anymore, especially on the AM band).
    But last I looked at some of them there were things like $1.5 million for a TVNZ CEO and $420k for its board.
    Then there’s KORDIA – the beneficiary of the commons’ assets for the purpose of generating an earn (all complete with its CEO and board and management structure). An earn that’s not plowed back into the public’s good.
    Then there’s the public’s share of FREEVIEW other than a few jobs for the marketers complete with its own enterage, what the hell is it other than an additional cost and means by which some things in the ether are presented unencrypted – in the main, by an already present KORDIA.
    As far as all the sales and marketing teams with each, and with NZ on Air – there’s a bit of triplication.

    There are ways and means, admittedly albeit by addressing the problem that the likes of Google and Facebook have presented us with in the medium term. But also by rationailsing and flattening out the management and bean counter COST. And they don’t have to involve any sort of ‘rebranding’ or ‘marketing’ excercise either
    Sure as shit though, we’ll probably have to lose it all before we wake up to what we’ve lost. It’s even a bit late to be protesting now.
    One CEO is kind of equal to 20 or so worker bees – a bit like 2 Indians are worth one Chinese to the committed, or even one know-it-all pretentious wideboy who professes broadcasting creds and current fashion = a half dozen or so content producers we supposedly can’t now afford.

    For those that like pushing shit uphill, I’m told there is a Facebook page where you can register your dismay at Willy and Paul’s latest brainfart. It probably won’t do much good though darlings but give it a shot. Maybe it’ll become enough of an embarrassment that they’ll have to graciously back down based on the feedback received.

  10. This move to marginalise classical music is actually against the democratisation of knowledge.

    Poor kids will have even less opportunity to gain an appreciation of it, while rich kids will through having more ready access to computers and the internet and parental influence.

    Again, there is ready access to rap, to pop music etc. You can’t get away from it.

    National radio’s job is to go out and promote knowledge of the sciences, culture, great music, etc…..that could be a portal and eye opener to kids who might never have any other access to it.

    A government radio should not be there simply to reflect current consumer design, created by slick marketers.

    • Agree. Classical music must be readily available in Hi-Fi stereo sound. AM does not do that.
      Hi fi people prove this: the SACD (better than CD for hi fi sound) was introduced, but only the buyers of classical CDs bought enough SACDs for the producers to keep making SACDs. Most SACDs recently produced have been classical music. I know that the majority of young people have moved to streaming anyway, but the CD/SACD point remains valid. Classical music is probably the most complicated, and SACD buyers have proven that classical music needs the best sound technology.
      To put classical music back onto only low-fidelity, dull, mono AM sound where young people will have no access because young people never use AM….
      This is not just marginalizing classical music for young people – it looks more like an attempt to eradicate it

  11. RNZ is becoming like TVNZ minus the adds. Put Commercial Idealogues in charge, Griffen, Thompson et al, and RNZ is hyping and trivializing. Dumbing. RNZ was a treasure, no longer. It is increasingly outsourcing it’s content production to privateers. This has largely gone un noticed. This sneaking privatization/government control smells like a PPP jackup. RIP RNZ. Can’t wait for the new con/de/struction with TVNZ!

    • Well it hasn’t really gone that unnoticed – the signs have been there for a while. Even to the extent of instructions on news bulletins and the weather such as “Back to Kathryn Ryan shortly” – I don’t mean the programming notes announcing other RNZ services.
      Increasingly, it became evident to me that those without an understanding of what PSB is about were in charge a few years ago. It probably was to a few people that were exited – or chose to exit over the past months as well.
      It’s a bit funny (funny as in stupid, not as in humour) the timing as I mentioned in my comment (above), and now – given the backlash already (more to come), the TIMING of it all. A few OIA’s might have to come although I hope not. Funny how it all suddenly became only ‘consultative’ when the changes were so imminent.
      And be sure that when you both start giving “stakeholders” more of the buzz – better you make sure WHO the actual “stakeholders” are.

      Definitely the wrong move Willy and Paul – but I guess that’s what you get paid the big bucks for eh? You’re not in Guatemala now Dr Macalister

  12. Bomber, I am a music teacher and I am disappointed in your comments, here. This is a neo-liberal ploy to again run down a fine public service and then flog it off. RNZ Concert is a marvellous station that should not be relegated to AM with its poor mono sound quality. Classical music deserves to be heard in FM stereo and it is most certainly not only for old people – just ask the students in the two orchestras or two choirs that I run at my school.
    Most people in the 18 to 30 demographic that the government is aiming at with this new FM station do not even listen to the radio, as they get all of their music through streaming, the internet and their ‘phones. They won’t listen to this new station any more that Kris Faafoi listens to RNZ Concert.
    Belittling and then ultimately disposing of RNZ Concert is another move that inches the nation’s knuckles ever closer to the ground. I thought that a chap like you would see this as part of the dumbing down agenda, which it clearly is.
    What do you want your own children to listen to when they get older? What is it that stands up as among our greatest musical achievements? The majesty of Beethoven and Gershwin, or Kanye West and BTS?

    • Disappointed Conductor – Agree 100%, thank you.

      I think Paul Thompson and Chris Faafoi the absolute epitome of how a community can function two or three steps beneath cultural mediocrity, and still think that they are performing a community service. Wrong.

      You speak of the ‘dumbing down agenda’. Unfortunately, this pair having the audacity to try to wreck RNZ Concert and expecting to get away with it, suggests that the dumbing down has already been done.

      What I find particularly odious, sad, and truly lamentable, is that this is yet another assault upon our European cultural heritage, and upon our quality of life.

      Thompson, Faafoi and co, may believe music to consist of the noises of near- naked girls wrapping themselves around poles, or the sounds accompanying pre-arthritic hip and crotch thrusting, and indeed these may be the values which Thompson and Faafoi seek to embed in their own offspring, and in New Zealand’s offspring, but depriving them of the wonderful experiences of a broader musical canvas, is myopic; it is also potentially separating many New Zealanders from the cultural roots with which we may all need to connect to live healthily. There’s a hell of a lot more to the spiritual dimension of life than watching All Blacks trying to demonstrate their superiority to apes.

      How these sort of Philistines wield the power to narrow and lower other persons’ quality of life, I don’t know, but I am angry with them both, and I will vote National – or any party – which undertakes to save RNZ Concert – even if it means voting for bloody Bridges or Bennett, or the peculiar Greens.

      • Thank you for the nice comments, Snow White, but please don’t ever consider voting National if you want a radio station like Concert to survive. Steven Joyce was hungering to sell off Concert and John Key was a walking cultural vacuum – the current lot are no different. Remember, National want to privatise every aspect of life. If it does not produce a dividend for a shareholder, then it is of no value to them. It is the neo-liberal way. Please have a look at Social Credit!

  13. Further of the woke idiocy of this government. How can a “youth radio station” be a more important priority than funding schools properly and banning school donations? More important than funding health properly so people without health insurance don’t have to wait years for a hernia op? More important than funding universities properly so they’re not obliged to treat students as “clients”? A government without a clue, only surviving because of comparable levels of ineptitude on the opposition benches.

  14. Two points on this..

    Firstly, it’s not an “Either or” situation with RNZ Concert and the Youth Network.
    When the Govt opened up the top of the FM band 100-108MHz to radio, they reserved 101.0 Mhz to 104.1 Mhz for 4 nationwide networks, each taking 0.8 Mhz of space.
    1 – National Radio FM 101.0 to 101.7
    2 – CURRENTLY UNUSED 101.8 to 102.5
    (The Akl, Wtn, Chch “Kiwi FM” station was here)
    3 – CURRENTLY UNUSED 102.6 to 103.3
    4 – Pacific Island network 103.4 to 104.1

    Concert FM can stay where it is AND we can have the youth network on the 2nd or 3rd reserved slot. Just needs the transmitters to use those frequencies.

    Secondly, it needs to fill the gap between student radio and mainstream FM. General/eclectic shows at breakfast & drive, and genre-driven shows outside that.. crucially the playlists need to be curated by the DJs – not dictated by station management or labels. Imo the “DJ as curator” is a crucial part of this – look at John Peel for example of this dine well. The reach of the station is important too – a NZ-spanning network allows youth in Timaru or Taupo that don’t have a B-net station access to sounds outside commercial pressures, and hopefully youth talkback on a national level too.

    • See my comment(s) above.
      But take a step back from all that! I’d like to know why its now accepted for a public broadcaster to have to even go grovelling for frequencies (and more widely) – transmission facilities they once used to own (Other than some neo-liberal disciple saw the potential for an earn a while back)

      It’s even worse than that too. Radio interference hasn’t been seen as any sort of priority (especially on the AM band) since your God knows when – well before the last update of Wellington Trolley buses anyway. And now they’re proposing it as a platform for music.

      The market the market.
      And I suspect even the commercial broadcasters will be screaming a lot louder if this brainfart gets to go ahead.
      What’s worse is that MBIE’s (The Ministry for Everything, and probably soon to include propaganda) capability and resource is probably even less than that devoted to Immigration and the exploitation of people.

      But yes – Concert FM CAN stay where it is, AND we could have an ON AIR type The Wireless, AND there are opportunities to provide for IWI based Radio.
      But after this past week, its become clear there just isn’t the will

  15. “Concert FM will still be available on AM without the presenters, so think of it as the Gold Card minus the ability to catch the ferry to Waiheke on weekends.”

    Who listens to music on AM?

    That is a death warrant for Concert Radio, if RNZ does that, as AM does not offer good sound quality, not like FM.

    Why discriminate against lovers of classical music presented by good presenters, and favour only those who like music that younger persons may prefer?

    If RNZ had any decency and principles, they would cater to all generations and keep Concert on FM and also cater for popular other music on FM, perhaps on FM and AM, as FM may not be available in some parts of remote regions.

  16. This is just the few remaining hacks/journalists circling the wagons as they become increasingly irrelevant in a modern world where anyone can get better journalism for free on a phone.

    I say flush the lot. Nobody cares outside of a little clique of luvvies.

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