The Broadcasting Act 1931, which established a National Broadcasting Service under the New Zealand Broadcasting Board, records that in 1925 the Minister of Telegraphs signed a deal with the Radio Broadcasting Company of New Zealand Limited allowing the Minister to acquire their assets – seemingly in anticipation of such a nationalisation to create a public service broadcasting network. Radio New Zealand’s origin therefore begins 98 years ago.
I have listened to RNZ for fully half of that near century. I am old enough to recall reading the YA (National) and YC (Concert) radio programme schedules which were equally weighted in pages with the two television channels in a newspaper-size NZ Listener. A NZ Listener owned by the public broadcaster, of course – everything like that was owned by the state, why wouldn’t it be? I remember tuning in on Sunday afternoons to the Goon Show (repeats) on my transistor. The game shows with familiar British voices were timeless – only betrayed in their vintage by a scratch on the record. The mode was collar, tie and jacket required, the tempo was glacial, the excitement level set to beige. That was the ‘80s, it might as well have been the first time around in the ‘50s. As a Goon might remark: state radio was in black and white.
The editor of The Daily Blog brought to my attention that RNZ has evaded for some time any serious criticism or review. Are they getting a free pass in part because their own Media Watch programme has been presumed to be the last word in reviews (when they never seem to find fault with themselves)? Is it kid gloves for those wrapped in the public good? Wisely, the editor has insisted my opinions on RNZ today are essential and should be covered on a weekly basis in the run up to this year’s general election. This is the first of those reviews – a brief overview.
As I write this I had RNZ National on in the background and had to snap the radio off because the songs on this show, the Saturday request show, are so bad they are literally unlistenable. Horrendous. All the worst versions of all the worst songs by all the worst musicians. This gawdawful, pathetic shite! Why play requests that are this bad? What’s the point in that – where is the quality control, where is the exercise in editorial judgment? However this is, incredibly, depressingly, maddingly exactly what their own audience want – that is the nature of a request show and look at what that is telling us. This is essentially the problem: their legacy audience and their expectations. The RNZ Charter, last time I looked, baked in the legacy audience as the determinant of what RNZ can do and this has justified atrophy at every level. Tokenism/wokenism on-air is a superficial distraction to a Pakeha cultural pillar that is still in stultifying black and white.
A useful gauge I have found for understanding any radio station is what it sounds like in the second or two when you randomly go past on the tuner. It is everything you need to know. If an ad is playing it is most likely ZB – that’s what they do, ad whores. If it is dead silence it is highly likely to be Concert – no hurry at all, smug. If it’s American, and they will usually be saying Ezekiel or Josiah etc it is Christian. And if it is the shittest song in all the pathetic pantheon of shit songs it will be RNZ National. It’s what they do, you can’t get away from it – or at least I can’t for the next harrowing few months.