Integrating Seamlessly With The Lowest Common Denominator


EVERYONE HAS HAD  a good laugh at RNZ’s “Music Strategy” featuring “The Ten New Zealanders”. The idiocy of modern marketing is always good for a chuckle or two, and these crude stereotypes have certainly provoked a lot more than that. Less amusing, however, is the sheer vapidity of an in-house culture willing to lay such inanity before its governing body. That the RNZ Board of Governors accepted such a presentation, rather than throwing back in the faces of its supposedly professional authors, is way beyond unfunny – it’s just bloody sad.

Reading the material, one is shocked by the authors’ disdain for making any kind of case more sophisticated than. “This is what we want, can we have it please?”

Take, for example, RNZ’s supposed “goal” of expanding the public broadcaster’s reach to encompass half the New Zealand population by 2022. This sort of “planning” is nothing short of Stalinist in its towering ambition. It seems inconceivable that there was no one in RNZ who, when presented with their bosses’ “Two Year Plan”, didn’t object that the achievement of such a goal would require the setting aside of all professional broadcasting standards. If such objections were made, however, then it is equally clear that the answer from above was “So?”

Professionalism is not highly valued in these presentations. Rather, it is not-so-subtly suggested that such considerations might actually be part of the problem with RNZ. Certainly, there is a fairly obvious prejudice against the high-culture featured on RNZ Concert. Such programming seems to be regarded as evidence of Pakeha elitism at work. In the material presented to the board, this is framed as being, if not a “bad thing”, then most certainly as “something to be avoided”.

Permeating the whole “Music Strategy” is a level of anti-intellectualism that, once again, would not be out of place at a Soviet-era exhibition of “socialist-realist” art. Just as the Communist party of the Soviet Union commissioned the production of endless paeans to the heroic qualities of Soviet workers and peasants, RNZ’s “strategists” make plain their urgent desire to cram the public broadcaster’s schedule with the heroic cultural production of Aotearoa’s shamelessly neglected “youth”.

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Indeed, it is clear from the material released by RNZ Management, after multiple Official Information Act requests, that what was being contemplated in the rolling-out of its “Music Strategy” was something between an old-fashioned Soviet purge and an old-fashioned Bolshevik coup. The quiet and deeply knowledgeable professionals at RNZ Concert headquarters in Wellington were to receive the career equivalent of a bullet in the back of the head, while the Auckland studios of RNZ were to be taken over by the woke graduates of the nation’s “communication studies” courses – along with the cream of the student radio stations RNZ’s strategists are clearly intending to replace with “RNZ Music”.

In their own words, RNZ Music (Version 2.0) is “an entirely new brand for young NZ (all 18–35). RNZ Music v 2.0 utilises traditional broadcast and new digital technologies to generate and share content. Content that is curated by influencer talent that RNZ will source from within the diverse target audience. This will foster a sense of strong national identity and will promote NZ culture to a young Aotearoa.”

If that isn’t a clear enough statement of intent, then try the following description of the “talent” the new entity is looking to recruit:

  • The new team will be Gen Z and Millennials.
  • They will have social clout within the new audience
  • They live the life and reflect the audience’s lifestyle back upon itself

RNZ’s strategists even offered up an example of “Best Practice” who can serve as a role model for their talent. Ebro Darden, of Hot 97 (New York) Beats 1 Radio, points the way forward for a public broadcaster whose staff will no longer be “just radio announcers” (like those awful cardigan-wearing old reactionaries at RNZ Concert!) but “musicians, comedians and social media content creators.” They will use their “influence within the community to spread the message far and wide to RNZ’s new social audience”. Naturally, RNZ content will integrate “seamlessly within their personal feeds.”

There’s plenty of examples of Ebro Darden’s “best practice” on YouTube. If RNZ’s management is serious about adopting Hot 97 (New York) as a template, then they should lay in a good supply of flak-jackets – they will need them!

But, maybe that’s the idea. RNZ management seems to glory in “disrupting” the expectations of its core audience. Those expectations, based on the “inform, educate, entertain” formula laid down by the first Director General of the BBC, John Reith, in the 1920s, and adopted without demur by New Zealand’s public broadcasting services ever since, are clearly out of favour with RNZ’s new breed of cultural commissars.

Fuelling their contempt is an ageism so intense that, if women, LGBTQI+, or people of colour were its targets, then the jobs of RNZ’s bosses would be forfeit. They appear to hate their most loyal listeners with a passion as odd and inexplicable as it is self-defeating. How else to explain the unmistakeable decline in RNZ’s professionalism? As if the exercise of sound editorial judgement and a strict adherence to the taxpayers’ expectations of fairness and balance are yet more manifestations of white colonialist privilege to be swept away.

The banality on display in “The Ten New Zealanders” section of RNZ’s “Music Strategy” is emblematic of the organisation’s fundamental misunderstanding of the public broadcaster’s role. RNZ’s job is not to swallow up the entire radio audience by pandering to the lowest common denominator and surrendering the professional broadcasting standards developed over decades to a crass format designed to “integrate seamlessly” with the personal feeds of 18-25 year-olds.

The purpose of a public broadcaster is to set the bar so high that its private sector competitors are dissuaded from letting it sink too low. It is about letting people find that one place on the dial where commercial considerations are absent; preconceptions are challenged; and the imaginations of people from all cultures and classes are given wings. Like the public libraries they so perfectly complement, public broadcasters are refuges for the mind; places in the heart; tonics for the soul.


  1. You have to wonder how the CEO and some board members ever rose to the positions they hold.
    They still fail to understand what public service broadcasting is supposed to be doing = still pumping out marketers’ slogans, obsessed with branding and market share and demographics.

    And as it happens, I don’t really think that Chris Faafoi is going to come up with much – again, mainly from a commercial broadcasting background (calling for a PWC report is a bit of a clue too).

    If the audience thinks that the war has been won (whether with Concert FM or RNZ in general). they’re mistaken. One battle only has.
    Btw…. Tom Frewan has a good take on things in his “Anatomy of a Blunder” on Scoop

    And nothing more pathetic than an ageing generic managerialist going through his mid-life crisis trying to be ‘down with the kids’

      • Probably said this before @SaveNZ, but as many have said – the thing about ConcertFM is that it didn’t have to be a case of either/or (ConcertFM/Yoof Network).
        Thompson (equipped with his mid-life crisis), and McCalister (both with their managerialist kaka, control freakery et al), thought they’d try it on …… AND they still will as long as they grace the halls of RNZ.

        But, if they were really genuine in their desire to create a public service radio network “targeting” the “yoof Demographic” with its own “Brand” – then they’d NOT have nobbled The Wireless, and encouraged it to evolve organically into an On Air service – especially since RNZ is now into content sharing.
        There were AND are ‘opportunities “in this space going forward.
        And what’s worse is that there’s nothing magical about radio frequencies or their ‘commons/public ownership/guardianship’ now that science has discovered them and their capability OTHER than the likes of the neo-liberal church saw an opportunity for them to be commodified , and money to be made -.
        And one way of doing that was to fleece RNZ and its predecessor of their/our own asset and use it for an earn.
        Again……there is no valid reason, other than a desire to worship at the neo-liberal church, that we cannot have something like a 100FM IWI Radio netowrk (local and networked as appropriate; a 101FM National; a 102FM Concert FM; and a 103FM The Wireless.
        And even more than that – unless you’ve thoroughly succumbed to the idea that the commons and public assets are their for private gain, there is no reason for 2 free-to-air television channels – informing, educating and entertaining (including the kids)
        We’re now a population of 5 mill, or near enough knocking. The old affordability argument was used when it used to be 2 mill.
        All that’s changed over the course of growth is that ticket clipping, highly paid salaries and needless management structures have become normalised and that the neo-liberal church members are not really that imaginative – they constricted by the teachings (and learnings) in their Bible (going forward)
        Have to say, some of their flock are getting pretty desperate too, but the good thing is that they really are a funny sight to watch.

    • OwT I agree with almost all of what you say.

      I had a long thought out comment but have lost it, haven’t go good save at present. Must set that up, note to me. But these people at RNZ seem to be generics all right – let them go and manage some soap marketing client. They are just tunnel-visioned narrow-minded graduates from business school pre-programmed to go with the flow of flood water. They will sweep all before them, and slap themselves on the back for being change agents. They are too close to how they were when they had nappy changes, and haven’t learned much of value since.

      Just to change the subject – to look at character as being the base for an individual’s thinking and discernment, I have recently been introduced to the idea behind the old Confucian virtue of Jen which can be called ‘human-heartedness’. The present management of RNZ, that is RadioNZ, is wanting to disrupt the humanness of our society and are floating on the sea of technology which seems to receive more attention that the radio content; the exchange of information and creative sound, that is what radio can do so well.

      Audio is received by one part of the brain, it is fast and low tech compared to visual. We need to have the audio, regard it as important, people actually talking to other people. We are becoming seduced by the visual experiences constantly offered. I think it has been found that we are losing the capacity to distinguish between what is real, and what is fake that we see and remember from the screen.

    • Sadly ‘the market’ of mostly private media operators has paved the way to the lowest common denominator becoming the standard now. The target generations know nothing much else, it seems, so the remnant naked skeleton public broadcasting media, being RNZ, has to ‘fit in’ and join the ‘trend’ already set since the 1990s, when privatisation took place and was celebrated.

  2. It is all a foolish attempt to keep a national radio service relevant in 20 years time, and find a reason for the RNZ organisation to exist in 2040.

    There is a great case for a national ‘broadcaster’ (broadcasting is not how they will transmit) that does audio as well as audio-visual, but I don’t think radio will be the primary technology.
    Other technology offers so much more E.g. wouldn’t it be great to be able to skip back 15 seconds to hear an interviewer’s question again, or click a link to the report being discussed!

  3. “Content creators” – embarrassing isn’t it. I lived in Australia during the noughties and enjoyed the high standards of the ABC – a brutal contrast with the current intellectual level of RNZ. When driving I occasionally stumble upon Katherine Ryan’s morning show, but can rarely tolerate more than a few minutes of it. The other day I heard one of her guests lamenting that she’d read only books by ‘cis-males” during the past year. Said guest made a solemn resolution to spend the next 12 months reading only books by people from sexual minorities. Never mind whether the authors have anything interesting or profound to say, or any literary talent – the point is that they’re “underrepresented voices”. The only relief from the earnest woke mediocrity of RNZ seems to be Matinee Idle – the wit of O’Brien and Morris enables them to fly under the radar.

  4. RNZ are just going through the same as media works when they got rid of Campbell Live and more serious local content and stories.

    They are destroying ‘news’ as well as ratings for their ideology, and now it is all about the trivial, consumerism and the perceived identity of self. Community, and social conscience is out, under neoliberalism.

    It was in the cards as soon as NZ journalism decided about 20 years ago they only wanted to pay $15+GST per news story and screw over real journalists and it’s not worth paying for real news which is expensive to obtain, while giving themselves a massive pay rise at executive level for their fabulous profit driven thinking. Sarcasm.

    That strategy cleared the road ahead for journalism in NZ, to now be advertiser paid for content, cheap disposable staff and yay youth fit that model (if you can get free stories and content from desperate people wanting a career, or wannabes in the public, all the better), and cheap overseas or syndicate content, fake news and click bait is fabulous too ….

    I guess we also have RNZ target market, diversity consumer to promote in the future and some tips in the music how to get rich as a Gen Y ….

    Punjabi singer gets home detention for drivers’ licences bribes

    “In the video for his song ‘Jail’, Brar depicts a character who lives in a showy house, owns expensive cars, carries guns and has just been shot in the shoulder. It has had more than 4.3 million hits on Youtube.”

    How could you deport such a quality, gun touting, money loving, bribe focused, man from NZ! He’s the future model of the country!!!! Sarcasm.

    • Nanak would be rolling in his grave (as I’ve said before).
      There are are a number that fall off the rails and indulge in shady stuff – often starting out as a need to survive, but then greed gets the better of them (just as with non-Punjabis, – Filipinos, Poms Okkers Kippers Spiks Yanks Itis Krauts / Miks, Proddies, Buddists, Hindus, Sikhs, Rastas et al).

      AS far as the immigrant population goes, the trick might be to fix immigration policy so that we don’t get folk (from wherever) coming here and within a short time becoming destitute. having to rely on their wits and having to do whatever in order to survive.
      I wouldn’t trust Kawaljit Singh Bakshi as far as I could kick him for example, even though outwardly he’ll preach morality and ethics. Like any other neo-lib type convert, the greed takes over and status becomes king, and they’ll use any excuse to rationalise their behaviour (such ‘self-reliance’ in the case of that wanker and the likes of KSB, or they think that because they had to go through shit, it makes it OK for them to rort others).
      ‘Wankers’ is the best word to describe it. Belief and faith simply turns into ritual often as they worship at the altar of the ego and the dollar

      • Before worrying about overseas entitled nationals coming to NZ (and let’s face it, seems to be a lot more to fix that being destitute for them) like character and attitude in NZ.

        Brar had a job like his cohorts, and was not destitute, it was easy money for all of them, selling drivers licences for bribes, thanks fucker for our increasing road toll…

        our entire work force is starting to have to prosecute all these overseas fraudsters operating for years and pay for their jail stays and criminal justice charges, and nope they are not destitute they are greedy for easy money and it’s all nationalities, Joanne Harrison,

        when caught in NZ they invariable tell lies and get off and go on to increased crimes here,

        some of the youth coming with the migrant parents are the epitome of entitled and are starting to kill others, and get off with their behaviour by spinning a lot of stories aka (when caught drunk on duty at the hospital, Venod Skantha got off by lying about his dead mother)‘disgusted’-earplugs-worn,

        Not to mention 51 dead from our CHCH murderer who apparently sailed through his gun licensing while listing references that had never met him!

        Who knows how many will die in NZ from coronavirus while our woke government and media and bloggers are more concerned with anti racism messages, than saving lives and following best practise.

        Now apparently only those who were overseas nationals even seem to be tested for coronavirus, everyone else is seems to be excluded, including Tracy Martin!

        Thanks (sarcasm) we all know who is going to die from the virus then, and who will get the special treatment and priority!

        • If you look at Brar’s backstory – it’s no different from many others.
          Parents wanting the best for their kids and to have what they think is a better life than they’ve had – conned by crappy agents and bad immigration policy trying to prop up shitty PTE’s and labour hire companies. They were lied to and fleeced – you’ve no doubt heard that a lot of it was sold as “a pathway to residency”
          Kids feel an obligation to repay their parents for the outlay they’ve made sending them here (often the equivalent of the cost of building a bloody house where they’ve come from). And often the debt incurred in sending kids here places what little they have in jeopardy.
          The sense of entitlement you refer to is no different from many Kiwis travelling overseas – often with dual citizenship or entitlements accrues as a result of their parentage. And they do the very same sorts of things in order to live and work offshore – like relationships with locals et al. I notice “Calling Home” – a regular feature on RNZ Sunday has no shortage of Kiwis telling their stories.

          Bad policy, under-resourced agencies who don’t even have the capability of adequately monitoring the mess they’ve created for themselves means the whole system has become a joke. All made worse when most of those agencies have a management culture that the likes of Arjun Rahman faced when trying to alert ‘authorities’ to what she was witnessing at the coal face, and asking for help.

          Where people see an opportunity for an earn, most will take it, for some – even if morality and ethical behaviour goes out the window. Thirty plus years of ‘greed is good’, treats and trinkets and the media we have – being in the state it’s in has taught them that .

          I’m not surprised in the slightest Brar’s mother had a heart attack.
          But for every Brar, there are just as many trying to do the right things.

  5. The line up looks as if it is out of a textbook or audio on marketing strategy. If so, there are many segments that are not shown above. Perhaps because the pictured look as if they are all in the age group of 18-35.
    Who know very little about real life as it unfolds in the world, and even their own country. It’s all too tiresome I think, they can create better scenarios on screen to present at their next meeting to form the basis of the plan for the next five years and which will meet the targets set by their generic business managers.

    They are a bit bemused that so many people are so behind the times and the plans they are setting. Such conservatives, no imagination. And bringing up irrelevant ideas of their own FGS. A few meetings for them to bring up their boring old complaints, a few concessions to deal with the easiest of the professed problems and we will be on target for that bonus. And we have ideas we can present for our next contract, moving on.

  6. Problem with radio and also television and much else of the media is that they have generally been dropping quality standards for decades now, aiming at the lowest common denominator that would satisfy enough out there to ‘consume’ their products.

    Where are thorough, good quality documentaries, where are serious political and other discussions, that were once still quite common in the 1970s and to some degree also in the 1980s.

    Infotainment and reality BS took over from the 1990s on, and hence any one born after will not even know what good quality broadcasting or media would look like, it appears alien to them.

    So to then lower the standards even further, in order to ‘please’ the dumbest and most primitive minded, that will ensure that the wider public, that is most of them, will end up so brainwashed, conditioned and dumbed down, as no generation before them ever was.

    As long as it is hip or cool, and fits in with the modern day social media and other trends, then it is ‘good’ now, if it is too awkwardly different, too special, sophisticated and mentally or emotionally demanding, then it will be ignored and passed by, as we cannot have such ‘stress’ out our populace.

  7. Democratic Capitalism ( Or capitalist democracy) is destined by its very definition to always pander to the lowest common denominator to sell them shit to make money from them and generally exploit them.
    To be less polite, they’re harvested by those whom own the capitalist democracy ( In this case, ours. )the capitalist, common denominator believes they’re free within. Enter the concept of the logical fallacy to keep selling that logic.
    The lowest common denominator is always the broadest market base therefore etc and so forth and what not.
    In other words, us scant few lot with minds of our own and with our creative and inventive logic who can unpick the stitches on the sacks of bullshit they sell us will, under the tyranny of democratic capitalism, be always relegated to the ‘minorities’ status therefore irrelevant to the common good and that is that it is the greed that is good. Nothing else. That is clear, surely?
    The only way I can see that, that might change is by compulsory voting.
    And from that, one would hope and fucking pray, a healthy and enduring SOCIALIST democracy might emerge.
    Not great news, though, for the tax loop hole, (more a black hole) the money fetishist multimillionaire and billionaire money cultists who enjoy tossing our money into.
    RNZ is a fuck up. It became so some time ago. The Listener is a neutered, de-clawed old kitten that lounges about reading middle class recipes on ways to cook vegan oatmeal sausages. Show it controversy and it’d have a heart attack.
    We are currently in public media free-fall and as such, we have no real idea of what the fuck’s going on.
    And ‘They’ love that. Indeed they need [that] to be enduring.

  8. “Music Strategy” ?!.

    Whoever Controls the Language, Controls the Culture.
    Whoever Controls the Media, the Images, the Sounds, Controls the Culture.
    Whoever Controls the Culture, Controls the Story.
    Whoever Controls the Story, Controls the World.

    The Leader of 10,000 Horses.

  9. Beautiful lyricality.

    The present culture is all about the present. Our culture was always leaning into the past — didn’t think ourselves clad without the knowledge of our civilisation. Mirrors upon mirrors upon mirrors, the young folk Nat Rad hope to cater to. Yet we were much less knowledgeable about actuality in the shadow of Queen Victoria.

    Intelligence and facts should be RNZ’s motto. And keeping in mind the ideals of the BBC.

    I prefer intelligence, facts and adventure. RNZ can be dolorous, having to be official.

  10. Thank you Chris Trotter.
    The management-babble you quote in the article says it all about the acuity of those determined to drag us all down into mediocrity.

  11. “Permeating the whole “Music Strategy” is a level of anti-intellectualism that, once again, would not be out of place at a Soviet-era exhibition of “socialist-realist” art. Just as the Communist party of the Soviet Union commissioned the production of endless paeans to the heroic qualities of Soviet workers and peasants…..something between an old-fashioned Soviet purge and an old-fashioned Bolshevik coup.”

    This is a strange example to use in pursuit of making your point.

    Anti-intellectualism? The USSR? That’ll come as news to all the citizens of that area at the time.

    I know full well what we were told by the US, from the 50s on, about the USSR. But it doesn’t at all follow that there was much – or indeed any – truth to it. I’m surprised that anybody still believes it.

    Just as an example, note the number of music clips now on YouTube, which were recorded by the USSR Ministry of Culture. Crikey….Ministry of Culture? Did we have such an entity in NZ in those days? Ha! Good luck with that….

    There was a period when the Soviet government soured on avant garde art. They felt that material which could be produced by a fellow wiping his bum with a hunk of printer paper wasn’t worth promoting. They felt that art should require technical skills to produce. Many westerners shared that view. Still do.

    The CIA is in the art scene up to its eyeballs and has been for years. Boris Pasternak owes his celebrity entirely to CIA patronage: John Helmer (Dances with Bears blog) wrote on the subject.

    And that explains so much: anybody who has read Pasternak – as I was made to, at school – will know what awful drivel his stuff was.

    Back in the late ’70s-early ’80s, when Jews were leaving the USSR, some of them came to this part of the world. We met such a person, in Auckland, where we then lived. That person (who was working at the UoA) bemoaned the dearth of culture and intellectual pursuits here: where are the theatres? The concerts? The galleries? We were a bit taken aback, in truth: we thought Auckland pretty well-served regarding the arts at the time!

    With regard to the much-touted Soviet purges: the situation was much more complex than we were led to believe. Westerners still claim that vast numbers of citizens died in the purges before WW2. In fact, if the numbers had been as great as claimed, there’d have been nobody left to fight in the war. I can’t right now summon up the numbers, but some western historians asserted a death toll that actually exceeded the population at the time.

    And the sheer size of the Red Army that defeated the Nazis scared the shit out of the Yanks in particular. And the Brits as well, of course.There was a real fear that it could simply have swallowed up all of western Europe. That’s why we got all that Cold War propaganda.

    If you wish to excoriate RNZ’s anti-intellectualism, lack of professionalism and all-round stupidity, it really isn’t necessary to invoke CIA propaganda about the USSR.

    In fact, when it comes to sheer blinding dimwittery and arrogance, the RNZ board is sui generis.

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