Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Rage and change: RNZ's music problem

21 Responses

  • Hans Versluys,

    What happens if RNZ Triple Yooth fails? How will the expertise now available at Concert FM ever be brought back?
    Currently Concert FM broadcasts huge amount of hours of performances by NZ musicians and singers (not just records by NZ artists as they do on pop music stations). It records massive amounts of live performances of the NZSO, APO and countless others, including Womad, which makes it one the truly Kiwi radio stations.
    All down the plughole, I suspect.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2011 • 33 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    why we’re being presented with a zero-sum game

    exactly

    Outside of frequencies, I’m really concerned at Concert being gutted, its a vital avenue for a lot of music and musicians (local and international) – it’d not be nearly so bad if a slightly changed version of the current station was simply switched to am leaving room for this new “youth” station but they’re seemingly stripping all of that out

    I do also wonder the impact on student radio – if commercial radio is naturally worried about the competition Student Radio must be terrified given how strapped for resources they are

    as an aside, over a decade ago I worked for a digital music store (we only did local/nz music) – when RNZ played a track by a kiwi we’d instantly see sales for that song/artist, nothing else produced such a response… its not just youth that enjoy homegrown fare

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 540 posts Report Reply

  • Ned, in reply to Hans Versluys,

    You contrast a what if scenario with the fact that ConcertFM is failing. This isn’t an attempt to kill it but to save what they can.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2020 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish W,

    I think everyone needs to chill and believe that when they say youth targeted station, all us mid 30 to mid 50 years olds will actually probably quite enjoy it, we all love our regional bfm, active,radio one stations but this presents an opportunity to provide one of those with actual real funding..... To compliment the local stuff on a national level that we all might enjoy.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2019 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Roger Horrocks,

    That is a thoughtful overview, Russell, and the complications you mention are certainly part of the situation. My own view is that they should basically leave Concert alone, as it is, because it is not merely a station - it is an established community, a culture, to which much of the local tradition of classical music (the composers and the performers, young and old) are thoroughly connected. It has specialist staff and does a great job of recording concerts. It is locally the only station of its kind. Uproot that culture and it is likely never to be fully re-created. Like the listeners of any station, I have always grumbled about one aspect or another, and Concert could certainly do with some fine tuning. But our country, with its comparatively small population, is a fragile place for communities and cultures of that kind, and it is just not a good idea to muck around with them in any drastic way. I support many other types of music also, and agree with you about jazz and the 'brown kids in the suburbs' - they need more exposure - but those are different communities and different needs. I would hope that even those who don't listen to classical music themselves would see the value of diversity.

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2011 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    While I have no problem with the creation of a new public service radio station, aimed at younger diverse listeners (other than skepticism as to whether this will work in the age of streaming and in an already saturated market), I have a serious issue with what seems to be the subtext of the proposal.

    The reasons given for the cuts are: that Concert FM plays to a small audience; that this audience is predominantly older; and that the Concert FM audience is not sufficiently diverse.

    Firstly the smaller audience: isn’t the purpose of public broadcasting to reach audiences that would not necessarily be served by commercial media? I would have thought the relatively niche content for 170-odd thousand listeners would be exactly the sort of thing public service radio is there to do.

    The older demographic served by Concert FM should be an argument FOR the retention of Concert FM. Who else is serving this demographic? Advertisers aren’t interested in them. They deserve to be entertained and informed as much as anyone.

    The lack of diversity in content and audience is another matter altogether. Putting aside NZ’s track record of fostering outstanding Maori and Pasifika musical artists who go on to excel on the world stage, is there a problem in supporting art forms which originated predominantly in the Northern Hemisphere? Shall we also stop publicly funding the NZSO, the RNZ Ballet, Opera NZ, our regional orchestras, our theatre companies, our dance companies? These are all art forms which derive from European traditions, which tend to appeal to older (smaller) audiences, and which are, dare I say it, elite.

    Yes, ‘elite’. This is a word that is can be an anathema to NZ’s traditionally egalitarian world view. The judgement that no-one is entitled to raise their heads too far above the parapet, underlies our ‘tall poppy syndrome’ - one of the biggest hurdles to anyone wanting to excel at an art form. Anyone who strives to forge a career in one of the ‘elite’ arforms, knows exactly the levels of criticism and opprobrium they have to endure as they try to earn their place. Services like RNZ Concert FM validate these people, affirm their career choices and uphold the possibility of a life and vocation in the arts.

    My unease about RNZ management’s plan to remove resources from Concert FM is compounded by the reluctance of politicians to get involved in ‘operational’ matters. It strikes me that this plan is far from ‘operational’ and is entirely based on policy decisions that are to do with devaluing traditional ‘elitist’ art forms that appeal to older Eurocentric audiences. I’m interested to know whether our government upholds this view.

    In the 30 odd years I have been a professional arts practitioner, I have seen our arts organisations eroded by diminishing real levels of funding, the growth of management tiers at the expense of practitioners, the scaling down of levels of ambition in works due to lack of resourcing, and the collapse of sustainable career paths in the arts for practitioners. I know that arts funding is political hemlock, but am I being paranoid when I see RNZ’s ‘operational’ decision as another deliberate nail in the coffin of this country’s cultural soul?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Walter Nicholls,

    Concert’s share has even ticked up a bit to 4% of the listening audience

    My understanding of maths is that 165000 listeners is close to 3½% of the total population – do 85% of NZers listen to the radio? I guess they might.
    The RNZ line is that the proposed changes do not end Concert FM but since they remove everything that makes Concert FM better than just streaming classical music on Google Play (presenters, careful curation, interviews with local and visiting musicians etc, and the ability to listen in the car), actually they do.
    Considering youth: Concert FM in its current form is I think the only radio station my kids (18 and 20) listen to, all their other music comes online. I’ve often thought that there is room for a quality music-oriented radio station following the Concert FM model – it just needed to expand its range. I’d be pleased with New Age Mondays, Baroque Tuesdays, Jazz wednesday, Hip hop Thursday and Bollywood Friday .. I’d just not tune in on Thursdays.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 42 posts Report Reply

  • Walter Nicholls,

    Also sorry for the paywalled link but this 2 days ago from the UK:
    "Radio 3 has posted its highest audience ratings in three years as young people migrate to classical music ... Radio 1, the BBC’s flagship youth station, slumped"
    Dangerous to assume what applies in the UK applies here but interesting nonetheless.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 42 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Concert plays a lot more than Classical music: they play orchestral music from all over Europe and spanning hundreds of years, plus contemporary and New Zealand composers; choral music; opera; jazz; visual arts interviews; contemporary ambient (I first heard Rhian Sheehan on Concert); and a lot more.

    They record and archive and play performances from the NZSO and Auckland Philharmonic as well as more specialised instrumental groups.

    The presenters have a depth of expert knowledge and an ongoing connection with both the performers and the audience. They're a community hub.

    There could be more Māori, Pasifika, and other non-European content, sure. Can't we add things rather than throwing Concert in the bin??

    So there is a limit to how many stations will fit on the FM band. Why can't we have internet radio for the local youth music? Surely the young folks are more likely to stream content on their phones than to listen to radio broadcasts.

    Let the older peeps keep their Concert on the radio and their mental health. Let the rest of us stream Concert+, which is all the current content plus added diversity. Everyone wins! It will cost more, but as Helen Clark said, "Some things are more important than money".

    Let's invest more in our culture, and expand our music industry and musical community in all its wonderful diversity. Maybe we could fund it by paying Peter Jackson a bit less.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Those who support Concert might like to sign the petition, which now has over 20,000 signatures.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    CBC's TuneIn app is worth a look. Plenty of content, general and local: music, sports, podcasts and shows, with the option of making your own podcasts. Pretty good.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Tautoko Roger and Simon. The only thing to add is that this move to eliminate Concert FM comes in the shadow of what looks like a much larger plan to eliminate RNZ entirely – or rather, to submerge it in a ‘new’ broadcasting entity along with TVNZ. I can’t fully express how misguided I think this is. Risking our only and well-loved public service broadcaster, by throwing it into the snake-pit of commercial TV seems beyond reckless. I’d love to hear someone present a positive picture of how this might improve public service broadcasting in NZ. I just can’t think of an upside that isn’t ridiculously implausible.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Walter Nicholls,

    Dangerous to assume what applies in the UK applies here but interesting nonetheless.

    Couple of things there. Radio 3's audience boost followed what was widely decried as a dumbing down – especially the cutting back of non-classical specialist shows,

    Also, the actual numbers are interesting: a bit over 10 million listeners weekly for Radio 1, just over two million for Radio 3 – and 2.24 million for BBC 6 Music, which is the music station I would like. 6 Music, which is digital-only, has gone from strength to strength.

    Interestingly, Radio 3's share is only 1.3% – which makes Concert look good!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Walter Nicholls, in reply to Russell Brown,

    6 Music, which is digital-only

    It is on DAB radio* which is equivalent to being on FM, but that is a whole other story to get into (NZ: spectrum use, broadcasting equipment, receivers in the hands of the public). As to Freeview which we do have - I've never seen a car receiver for that either.
    ( * Yes I know that's digital, ie what you said)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 42 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I am still a bit unclear on what the benefit is to RNZ or the RNZ audience by the merger.

    Surely after several decades of financial neglect there isn't really much in the way of savings that could be made by merging it into another organisation to save money and even if there were non trivial savings, would that not in effect gut the current organisation (given that it is quite small).

    Does merging the two somehow give RNZ / radio more money to be spent? If so, how? Or is it just diversion of commercial advertising revenue towards bolstering or enhancing the radio offering?

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1024 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Ben Austin,

    Whatever happens, the re-merger needs to make sure there's more RNZ in TVNZ - think the old TVNZ6 & TVNZ7 - instead of the other way round.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Ben Austin,

    I am still a bit unclear on what the benefit is to RNZ or the RNZ audience by the merger.

    Yes- it looks to me like endangering everything good about RNZ in an effort to solve another problem - the lack of public broadcasting on TV. RNZ have already moved into this space, with video-journalism and live-streams. I'd love to see them push that to a channel on free-to-air - with the addition of factual/public interest programming, a bit like TVNZ7.
    Instead, it seems we're going to get a horrible mash-up. TVNZ, whch costs in the region of $300m a year to run, will continue to chase the $300m a year it currently pulls in in advertising. And because that revenue source is declining - and likely to continue to decline - they'll be increasingly desperate to keep it. They are likely to receive some public money and maybe a remit to do some more 'public service' programming. But that is a daft unwieldy unworkable compromise. We've been there with the charter.
    There's no way RNZ fits neatly into this picture. Combining RNZ and TVNZ newrooms might seem to increase the news resource overall. But it feels like a disaster to me. editors will be unlikely to prioritize radio journalism over the flagship (vital for ratings!) 6 o'clock news. The culture of the newsrooms is quite different and the chance of RNZ culture prevailing is very small. The nature of the journalism they do is different in tone, content, length, breadth, focus - you name it. The chance the 'star' journalists at TV will spend much time or efforts doing radio reports is small.
    We stand to lose the best (IMO) newsrooms in NZ. The journalists will likely remain, at least for a while, pushed into different formats perhaps. But the producers and editors? What is the chance a TV-focused entity will cherish the radio side? What is the chance an organisation still totally dependent on advertising - as has been signaled - will prioritise public service over ratings? What is the chance TVNZ's bosses will embrace a public service ethos, after decades of focus on ratings-driven ad revenue? What and where is the benefit Kris and co see?
    I just wish someone would tell me how it could produce more and better public service broadcasting. I can't see it. It looks like risking everything we have in RNZ in some hope of getting something better on TV. And as someone who has listened to and relied on RNZ most of my life, this fills me with mortal terror.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    For someone who has worked in television for the last 25 years, this fills me with terror too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I could sort of see it making sense if RNZ, like TVNZ/whatever 3 is now called were all in the same city/area AND there was quite a bit of new money coming in, so it could be plausibly argued that the newsrooms could cohabit and the new money keep the public service brief. But it isn't that way.

    It seems like a defensive measure, like TVNZ/3 merging. That almost makes more sense really. Two Auckland based newsrooms who both run commercial operations.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1024 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    The same newsroom supporting different agendas, schedules, formats, and values is a recipe for disaster, IMO. For it to work, you'd have to build it up slowly from shared values - and that would take time and, IMO, a news service that's not dependent on advertising - or part of an organisation that is. Public service and delivering eyeballs to advertisers are incompatible objectives.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    They are fighting for two different processing areas in the brain.
    The visual cortex in the occipital lobe and the primary auditory cortex which lies in the superior temporal gyrus of the temporal lobe.

    One size does not fit all...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

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