Killing the radio star

I’ve been noticing a trend of media-outlets slagging off Radio New Zealand. Just over the last week we’ve had the Herald on Sunday and Paul Holmes on Q + A take potshots at those wonderful people at RNZ.

From Q + A:

MAXINE Well in a free market world price environment it’s a fallacy to say that the citizens in that country may well be better off as a result of that, the fact of the matter is that they aren’t …

PAUL You shouldn’t be listening too much to old hippies on national radio.

I guess we also shouldn’t be listening too much to old hippies on national television either eh, Paul?

Then the editor of The Herald on Sunday commented:

“The worst thing we can do is be boring. A good guideline is National Radio. If its media commentators start tut-tuting about on of our stories, it usually means we’re on the right track. National Radio staff have no concept of working in a commercial market.”

I guess the core value being critiqued here is whether we appreciate detailed journalism that isn’t just infotainment.

I’m the first frog to bang my head when Sean Plunkett is bolshy or Katherine Ryan misses the point. But most of the time they’re providing a very valuable public service.

Democracy relies on an informed public and RNZ are very informative. They have a wide range of shows that deal with a wide range of issues. Occasionally they do make the leap into infotainment, but they generally do it with the emphasis on the info part.

RNZ is one of the last bastions of detailed journalism in New Zealand. While many outlets signal their entrance into the infotainment arena by doing things such as bumping John Key’s explanation on tax for Robin Brooke’s apology, RNZ still does the bread and butter:

The market does have a place in journalism, which is why we have stories like this, this and this. It is also why your eyes start to bleed because of the high concentration of advertising whenever you visit a private media companies website. There is nothing wrong with publically funded radio and some of the best radio—such as the BBC—is state funded.

Have you seen any other examples of the mainstream media hating on their state-funded comrades at RNZ?

27 Comments Posted

  1. Liberty, many things could be beyond you (and me too, perhaps) but surely the issue is we have a politically mandated decision that has National Radio and Concert funded by the state so that it has not had to resort to sponsorship, commercials and the like. IF the government wishes to change it should seek a public mandate rather than reduce in real terms the funding, called capping, so as to ensure either reduced services (quantity and quality) or sponsorship/commercialisation.

  2. Graham, because funnily enough there are plenty of radio stations out there that don’t get funded through compulsion. The state doesn’t produce a newspaper. BFM broadcasts quite happily funded by a combination of voluntary subscription and advertising. Why National Radio and Concert FM listeners should have their tastes subsidised by taxpayers is beyond me, but apparently the Greens and the left think it is critical that 15% of the radio listening audience force the other 85% to subsidise their tastes. How can you justify that sort of wealth transfer unless you think RNZ is good for people, even those who don’t this so.

    Oh and the Nats are hardly privatising or commercialising it, it is getting the same cap on funding as other areas of government spending. However, if all the listeners paid NZ$60 a year then RNZ could remain and be commercial free.

  3. Gosh, morals enter the fray. The notion of services existing only if folk pay directly is of course a classic libertian one. Why not have the same opt-in for the fire service, or the police, who seemingly, but erroneously are my last line of defence, or disease prevention. Some public goods/services are paid for via the tax system have been mandated, and this in the case of RNZ for a very long time. If National want to privitise/commercialise it should seek a mandate.

  4. The BBC is not state funded, it is funded through the television licence fee. So not everyone pays for it, just those too scared to evade and avoid the rather draconian operation behind the licence fee collection.

    How many people who support Radio NZ are offering to put their hands in their pockets and cough up some of their own money to pay for something they like, rather than continue to get the state to take money from everyone to pay for something that 85% of the population doesn’t listen to?

    Or is this just another case of “it’s good for you, even if you don’t think it is, so just pay for it, because we like it?”.

    Concert FM obviously ought to simply be sold, as much as I love classical music, there is no case for those who do to be privileged by having a commercial free radio station funded by everyone else. National Radio could well be sustained if all those who feign love for it paid for it.

    Frankly if you’re unwilling to do that, how can you morally campaign to make everyone else who doesn’t care, do so?

  5. I too am a RNZ fan, and am frustrated by the ads and poor quality production when listen occassionally to the commercial stations. I also listen between midnight-6am, and would be distraught if I have to listen to either talkback or ads during this period of sleeplessness. The material/programmes are good value then and the presenters are wonderfuly idiosyncratic.

  6. It’s one of those “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” things. I love Radio NZ any day, but its real value is always brought home to me after enduring 5 minutes of commercial radio with the constant ads and lame nothingness comments.

  7. Ouch, real music takes another blow! Some of usprefer music to ads!)
    Thumbs up to RNZ.
    Can you believe over here in Melbourne we are gearing up to march to save live music!? Thats were we are at here in Australia. Scary stuff.

  8. sleepyday, there is also no death metal available on commercial radio, or free-jazz, or indie folk, or… but I’m not crying out for the state to provide it. I enjoy classical music too, and listening to the same opera’s my father has performed, but I don’t expect the state to provide it for me.

    It is wrong to compare Concert FM to Libraries and Art Galleries and even RNZ; those entities are containers for a complete range of arts and information. Concert FM is a niche provider of largely classical music.

    If the state is going to provide a non-commercial radio station for music then it must be willing to support all musical genres, just like libraries and art galleries. And I suggest, that such a station would have the potential to be brilliant.

  9. Decanker. The point made by a number of the commentators on David Farrar’s blog was not that classical music was of any greater or lesser merit than the other genres you mention but that it tends to have less appeal to commercial interests. Consequently, scrapping concert would result in NO classical radio being available on-air in New Zealand. We need state funded radio – including Concert in much the same way as we need libraries and art galleries and the NZSO.

  10. I definitely support keeping Radio NZ (well) state funded. Even if I only listen to it for a few hours a week. The non-commercially sensitive interviews, rather than two minute sound bites, with politicians etc, are points of reference for other media from tv stations to newspapers to blogs. We need a voice that is not driven by commercial motives, case in point, John Key being bumped by Robin Brooke on Close Up.

  11. toad: I think David Farrar is right. I don’t see how you can rationalise having a state-funded (largely) classical music station without having state-funded hip hop, pop or rock stations. They’re all just different musical genres of equal merit. For every classical listener there’s a heavy metal or folk listener.

    And I’m not arguing for a state-funded rock station (even though I imagine it would be really good as they wouldn’t be commercially driven so I wouldn’t have to listen to Nickelback)

  12. hey frog, thanks, the laddie has a few probs yet nothing time and experience can’t fix.

    I followed thro on JQ’s link to find the backstory—there’s always a backstory isn’t there! From there, I seem to recall, another connect to tvnz which kindly included a top positioned pic.

    My immediate question is how long has that 171 address sign been there, and in that color?

    Others to follow if opportunity presents relate to fairly comprehensive audit. Initially for that authoritative(ie board or minister) costs list, top to bottom categorised say down to $1mn for any one.

    Good, and good look, would be the Minister’s expression of responsibility that any give and take would be two-way. That is to say how any change to the status quo in respect of this government’s betterment intentions has attached regulatory needs change. Otherwise folks would decidedly read a one way only private-public determination.

    There’s much more to say, no time right now to say it.. here’s awaiting.. the responsible reward for RNZ’s longtime public reliability.

  13. Anyone who wants to save their eyes bleeding from all the excessive advertising on commercial websites, I suggest you try using the Firefox web browser, and then look into getting a couple of add-ons (customised tools for your browser) that stop many advertising tools.

    Namely, try Adblock Plus which stops many advertisment media being downloaded saving you time and traffic, and Stylish which allows you to apply customised styling to websites, you can then choose from already prepared styles from

    Happy add-free browsing everyone!

  14. Hate to be a conspiracy theorist but looks like the right is looking to give RNZ the chop and fill the void with some Murdoch owned right wing crap like Fox.

    There has been a huge decline in the quality of news services around the world as staff numbers and budgets are cut and those left are forced to use ready made stories fed out from a few large sources. These tend to reflect the views of the corporations that own them, the jouno’s who work for these organisations are pressured to follow what ever the ‘line’ is and actively self censor, naturally.

    Take for instance embedding (more like capture) I’m not even going to mention the slide into infotainment !

    Every democracy needs an inquiring and active media

    What will I set my alarm clock to if not RNZ ! Classic Hits – Nooooooooo!

  15. tomfarmer: I totally agree with your point about beauty being in the eye of the beholder — especially when it comes to Sean Plunkett 😀

    Daniel Miles: Why thank you. Those organic, ethically-picked tea leaves are not just for making tea with.

    Further to Russel’s comment here is a post from Jake Quinn who blogged about the situation with more clarity than I could reveal at the time.

    RNZ is one of NZ’s taonga; any loss or cutbacks to the service would be a loss to Aotearoa.

  16. I listen to Radio New Zealand every lunch hour and you can’t say that Mike Mora is boring as he has brought a lot of diversity to the show by having an engaging dialogue with two or more people.

    It is the personality of the reporter on the show, not whether it is a private or public concern which is what the idealagogues of Act/Nat would have us believe.

    I loved Matinee Idle; that should be on every Saturday afternoon.
    I remember growing up in the UK in the fifties the national radio had some thing like Matinee Idle every Saturday afternoon with personalities such as Ken Dodd, Arthur Askey and THE GOON SHOW !!!!
    Great stuff!!

    Having said thet National Radio does need improvement especially the long range weather forcasting which is diabolical.

  17. I guess now we know why the right has been running their little anti-RNZ line – to soften the ground for an attack on RNZ. This from TVNZ news tonite:

    “5. Radio New Zealand chairwoman and board members are likely to be sacked if they do not undergo cutbacks put in place by the Government. Commercial sponsorship has been floated as an option as has going back to an AM frequency which would save $750,000. “

  18. frog,

    I guess you hit the point well of infotainment. In advertising I understand they call it advertorial—yeah neither ad nor editorial. But the payer’s way, as it were, with extreme unction from editors so doing this stuff. And readers slamming the copy into waste baskets etc.

    It’s hard in this world of making your own reality. Why undermine it is my question.

    At another level I’d like take the foolish THOS editor to task for your included quote..

    “The worst thing we can do is be boring. A good guideline is National Radio. If its media commentators start tut-tuting about on(sic) of our stories, it usually means we’re on the right track. National Radio staff have no concept of working in a commercial market.”

    Who appears to know nothing whatsoever about major international and quite possibly small national audience forces. Postmodernism vs Modernist for instance. Nor the necessity of institutional journalistic benchmarks. Nor adequate and healthy standards.

    BTW: editors should well know how one’s “boring” is another’s beauty. In a commercial market.. saturated that it is.. who the heck needs more? That’s one better the powers-that-be could try do something about!

    And no, I can’t say I like the seemingly managed news programmes of RNZ these days. Assigned talking points, as some refer to it. Likely at commercially-experienced instigation. Wrong-headed – including the wrong way around – programming.

    Organic was better, but back then news harbors were never harbingers. And laws were open-enders for the benefit of more people, not for the use of some to go hide and dodge accountability. Note, heh, these commercially-tainted edges..

    So, okay, guys have gotten together and dribbled their dislike of scrutiny from something like mediawatch, but face it who else is asking them the whys and wherefores..? And how come now.. before wasn’t it great being a legend in their own minds!

    Two pennorth. If it starts a fire someone make sure to grab the hose..

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