Hard News by Russell Brown

"They know that we're not being straight-up"

Another journalist provided me with a copy of this short, startling clip of Theresa Gattung explaining the incumbent telco business model: using "confusion" as a "marketing tool" to maintain prices and margins. I don't know its exact provenance - just that it was at "a conference", and it may well have been plucked out of context. But it is, nonetheless, an extraordinary revelation.

Further on the impending new world of telecommunications: "naked DSL" appears to have entered the media lexicon, if the Star Times' editorial yesterday is anything to go by. And rightly so. It changes everything - and puts us in the vanguard, rather than five years behind the OECD.

As someone observed to me over the weekend, it's "a huge shift in the perception of broadband in this country. Instead of being an adjunct to your telecommunications services, it becomes your telecommunication services. People with Skype will be dropping their landline connections in droves for pure ADSL lines."

And it doesn't appear to present any major technical problems. The exchange operator (Telecom) would simply assign a fictitious number to the DSL line, with all services suspended. It would involve a tech visit to install a new jackpoint and that's basically it.

And guess what? The line could even be left "live" for dialtone but restricted solely to 111 and technical diagnosis tasks.

Christiaan Briggs dropped me a line to point out this new service in Britain: a flat monthly fee for mobile voice and data, using WiFi in nine city centres. He quite likes the look of the NetGear Skype phone too.

Meanwhile, Juha speculates on the leaked Cabinet documents. I actually have a theory, based on a conversation I had on the evening of the announcement, but I think it would be unfair to implicate anyone without proof. Suffice to say, I'll be interested in the results of the inquiry.

Had a top night out on Friday at the New Zealand Music Month party at 4.20 and the Rising Sun. I spent a bit of time in the public bar watching the league test (sigh …) so didn't see all the acts on show, but I thought Farmer Pimp seemed nice and quirky, the Electric Confectionaires were a little too nice, and Cobra Khan were really impressive (they need to shed any vestige of the whiny American punk and just concentrate on being a great Antipodean rock 'n' roll band). Concord Dawn (well, just Evan, looking like a sweaty bog monster under the lights) played late and were wonderfully full-on, although I could only handle short bursts.

I spent quite a bit of time yarning to various people in the outdoor smoking room, which took over a fair chunk of K Road. Among othjer things, it appears that a New Zealand iTunes Store is not a wholly lost cause. Apple continues to talk to local music industry interests, but also continues to push back any launch dates.

This may be because (a) we're a pissant little market that Apple will get around to when it can be bothered, (b) Apple wants to nail down video distribution rights for the likes of the Daily Show before it opens any new markets, or (c) a combination of the above. It's certainly not because the local industry is being obstructive. Quite the contrary.

Also, it seems that the government and the record companies are very near a compromise on the format-shifting issue, but don't expect an amendment to the Copyright Act this year. This is an extraordinarily slow-moving issue.

But most of the talk was about the out-of-the-blue announcement that the government is to hand $20 million worth of FM frequencies to Canwest's Kiwi FM. And the overwhelming view is that Steve Maharey, fondly believing he was making a good-news announcement for New Zealand Music Month, has committed an unbelievable cock-up.

A measure of how septic things have quickly turned can be gained from the knowledge that on Friday, a succession of Kiwi FM hosts took juvenile on-air potshots at Neil Finn. That's just silly: if ever there was a day for Kiwi to keep its nose clean, it was Friday.

It may be that something workable could have been crafted here: after all, Canwest is a clever company and Karyn Hay, the newly-appointed general manager, is a smart woman. Perhaps - in an open and contestable process - Canwest could have washed up as the best contractor to run such a venture. But there wasn't an open and contestable process.

The announcement - apparently made without consulting the industry - is a vague and half-arsed commitment to Kiwi "working towards" not-for-profit status over the next year. There are serious questions as to whether anyone actually wants an all-NZ format (the ratings suggest otherwise), and as to how Kiwi's present style will be changed. This is, after all, a radio station that carries hourly advertising for Mermaids strip bar.

I was on the same youth radio advisory group as Neil Finn, and we put a lot of work into ways that existing b-Net and community stations could be embraced rather than smothered by any new initiative. It appears that we might as well not have bothered.

Dubber has been covering the story on The Wireless since it broke, Wammo from RDU made the minister sweat in a scoop interview, and Chris Hocquard appeared opposite Maharey on Close Up on Friday night.

PS: Yes, I know the Virtual Super 14 chart isn't here today, but I'm flat-out preparing for an important meeting in an hour's time, and I promise it will be up tomorrow.