The Better Public Media Trust (BPM) is among the many RNZ Concert supporters who will be relieved that the government has stepped in to ensure RNZ Concert stays on the FM band.
But BPM still has concerns.
- Will RNZ still be sacking all the staff as initially planned, and turning it into an autoplay station?
- Will the high-quality recordings of New Zealand orchestras and other important performances continue?
“Perhaps, along with the frequency, the government needs to throw in the budget to fund the youth radio network as well?” said BPM Director, Myles Thomas.
“It’s surprising that RNZ apparently went ahead with the announcement to can RNZ Concert in favour of the youth network, despite requests from the Minister, Kris Faafoi not to,” said BPM Director, Myles Thomas.
“The public response has been significant, and it just shows what can be achieved when people mobilise, calling in help from an ex-PM and other heavy-hitters.
“To their credit, the government is listening. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister Faafoi have discovered an unused FM frequency, originally set aside for youth radio, that RNZ could actually use for youth radio.
“RNZ has no choice but to accept, and we hope that like the government, RNZ will hear the level of public anger and not make any changes to RNZ Concert at all.”
RNZ’s decision and the outcry throws into question Paul Thompson’s aim to increase RNZ audiences to one million a week. This desire to maximise its audience pushes RNZ to behave exactly like a commercial broadcaster – chasing audiences.
As we’ve seen, sometimes that is at the expense of what makes public service media so important – providing content for niche audiences.
The fact that RNZ has failed to provide for youth, Pasifika, Māori and ethnic audiences is also significant, and that lack of growth can be sheeted back to sustained lack of funding for many years.
The change in fortunes for RNZ Concert comes after a lot of hard work by various elements of the campaign to save it. The Avaazpetition has reached 25,000 and the Change petition is on 8,000. But much more important than signing a petition and joining a Facebook group, were the countless people who wrote to MPs and media causing such a stink that a change was inevitable.
Better Public media remains hopeful that RNZ retains RNZ Concert as it is, and that RNZ receives adequate funds from government to build the new youth network.
“New Zealanders aged 18 to 35 also deserve non-commercial radio,” Thomas said. “Although they may have plenty of stations already targeting them, young New Zealanders want more than shouty adverts, high-rotate hits and dumbed-down newsbreaks. Meanwhile student radio coverage is patchy and too niche for many young people.
“A youth network has the opportunity to inform young people, to inspire them and entertain with different music types and content types – essentially everything The Wireless was but on radio too.
“Many of the audience are streaming music or in the great misinformation space known as social media, so a youth radio network has its work cut out for it. But slowly it could successfully attract this audience back to locally produced content. Being non-commercial and on radio will help.”
BPM applauds RNZ’s efforts to setup the youth network but not at the expense of RNZ Concert.
While the government focusses on RNZ, perhaps it might like to also address concerns the BPM has about advertising appearing around RNZ podcasts. RNZ shares web content with commercial platforms and that’s not a problem because display advertising on a webpage can be passed over quickly. But RNZ podcasts on apps such as Stitcher and others, now often include a shouty 30 second pre-roll audio advertisement that cannot be ignored. They have no place before an RNZ podcast.