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Rosemary McLeod on Barbarians

Written By: - Date published: 1:08 pm, February 28th, 2010 - 23 comments
Categories: broadcasting, Media, news - Tags: , , , , ,

One of the best pieces I’ve seen about the idiotic minister of broadcasting Jonathon Coleman wanting to starve or bend National Radio into the level of stupidity that the NACT’s prefer. Rosemary McLeod writing “Quality radio easy target for the barbarians” in the Sunday Star Times this morning.

LET’S BY all means shag about with National Radio. For one thing, it’s there. It’s always there. Isn’t that a drag?

For another, let’s do it just because we can, and because so many other things we’ve tinkered with railways, telecommunications, building regulations, stuff like that have been such triumphs that we can proceed with confidence, whistling.

Having been inflicted with an apartment in a leaky building that we had to start rebuilding at enormous expense  before getting a settlement four years later, I have a distinctive aversion to knuckleheads barbarians of the right fiddling with things that they don’t understand. It appears that Jonathon Coleman is either one of them or that he is being a victim of some sock-puppetry by Stephen Joyce as has been speculated.

Joyce definitely is a knucklehead barbarian in my opinion – good on boasting, and largely useless on delivering anything constructive, and barely adequate on the destructive. Just look at his stupidity on SH20 extension in Mt Albert. Somehow now going back to the tunnel option is going to cost half what it used to. Yeah right..

Service is a boring word. It makes you think of the old public service, when people who worked for the government didn’t get paid a hell of a lot, and consequently didn’t have monstrous egos. That was a regrettable state of affairs. Monstrous egos are far more amusing.

And let’s call National Radio elitist. Let’s assume that real people don’t appreciate radio without ads, and that waking up to Sean and Geoff on Morning Report is some kind of terminal agony for them. Let’s take it that intelligent questioning as opposed to frenetic babbling or raucous opinion is something proper people place no value on.

Talking about monstrous egos, my bedside radio tuner glitched last week. I had to try listening to Mike Hosking on Newstalk  ZB first thing in the morning. Freed from the constraints that used to bind him on national radio he sounds like a total f*cking moron babbling about nothing much. It is difficult to determine where the boundaries are between the advertisements and the news. I guess that the salary is a bit better for Hosking.

But I found I preferred the religious station down the frequencies a bit that I could also tune to, and not in way religious. But at least the guy there doesn’t sound like he put ‘P’ into his morning dietary supplement that he is pushing between slogans and headlines of ‘news’. Perhaps Jonathon Coleman is more subtle than expected and simply wants to make the religious stations the only save haven from the drug-crazed egos of advertisement laden radio.

The weird thing about it is that in Aucklands hyper-saturated radio market, Mike and his show are one of the better news sources – if you remove National Radio. Of course that really shows the difference in level between any radio station with ads and one without.

Like all media, the need to make your running costs with advertisements means that the media will always fall to the lowest common denominator. Just look at TV1 and two. There appears to be a valiant attempt to raise the standard on TVNZ7 (on FreeView), and News at 8 is now the only NZ TV news I watch because it is less stupid than the others. But I don’t think that it last and will eventually fall to endless trivial entertainment dressed as news. As McLeod says..

We killed serious current affairs on television long ago, so let’s follow through with its last hideout. Serious current affairs can be embarrassing for so many reasons to so many people: let’s pause to admire TV’s endless forensics, celebrities, chefs, degrading competitions, and soap operas with tons of ads. They’re a far, far better thing.

It costs $45 per year each for the ad-free parts of Radio NZ.

It is the national broadcaster for potential emergencies like the tsunami alert this morning. If we have a real emergency, then it is the only effective national network that will work on batteries and doesn’t waste them with advertisements

It provides the voice of the country to our enormous expat community overseas who want to keep informed on events back home (and therefore have zero interest in ads). Facebook blocking international signups is why the growth in the facebook group “Save Radio New Zealand” has slowed – now a bit over 16k people on there. If you haven’t signed up then do so.

Yeah, I’m sure that the advertisers and ‘sponsers’ want to get into National Radio’s enormous audience. Of course they will make that audience dissipate. We have more valuable things to do with our time and the literate amongst us will just switch to net. I’m afraid that I have a distinct aversion to advertisements and idiotic broadcasters babbling in the morning. They soak up my valuable wakeup time, and I don’t learn a damn thing.

BTW: There is a protest in Auckland tomorrow.

23 comments on “Rosemary McLeod on Barbarians ”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    I agree completely with McLeod’s (and you) comments on the value of NatRad and the reasons for leaving it untouched. The arguments being put forward for protecting NatRad are very strong. But RNZ is more than NatRad.

    I’ve yet to hear anyone advance a cogent argument as regards Concert FM not having advertising. To suggest it shouldn’t is pure snobbery, IMHO. Classical and jazz stations supported by low key advertising abound. They don’t end up sounding like a commercial pop station, but they do support themselves.

    If people want uninterrupted clasical music they can listen to any number of streaming stations – Concert FM offers very little that can’t be found elsewhere and what it does that is unique (broadcasting the relatively tiny amount of NZ classical compositions) could be shifted to NatRad.

    And I haven’t seen audience figures for RNZI (how many Pacific Islanders even own shortwave radios?) or why we should keep those transmitters going when anyone can listen online and/or RNZ could allow stations in the Pacific rights to rebroadcast whatever they considered appropriate.

    Nor have I ever understood why RNZ should have to wear the cost of running the Sound Archives… why is audio kept separately to everything else in the National Archives? Wouldn’t it be better if curators could keep all relevant material ona an incident or a period of history together? And wouldn’t that make it easier for researchers?

    And since the NZSO survives on a mixture of centralised funding and subscriptions while maintaining its integrity, why shouldn’t those who support and listen to NatRad be given the facility to become subscribers if they so wish? That doesn’t mean such funds substitute for any government funding but rather that they supplement it.

    I’m all for public radio where it fills a role commercial radio can’t or won’t. I’d like to see more money spent on it, not less… more to NatRad and the establishment of a NZ version of Australia’s Triple J, but with a wider brief of supporting all forms of NZ music, not just that aimed at the young.

    Simply because Coleman’s plans are wrong doesn’t mean RNZ’s operations shouldn’t be reviewed. A bit of intelligent horse trading rather than this conservative “no change” approach could offer the opportunity to create something more suited to contemporary NZ.

    • Clarke 1.1

      Rex,

      All your suggestions are useful approaches with potential merit. However the fundamental problem for me and a whole bunch of other RNZ supporters is that changes will be made for reasons of blind ideology, rather than because the service can be improved.

      Let’s review and enhance RNZ, by all means – but would we trust Coleman and Joyce with the job?

      • Rex Widerstrom 1.1.1

        I agree it’s ideologically driven. If it wasn’t then suggestions like mine (and, no doubt, those of a lot of other people) would be being kicked around rather than what’s happening. I’m just suggesting trying to make the best of a bad situation…

        As to your second paragraph, I can only reply… you may very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

    • lprent 1.2

      Agreed on the sound archives. I can’t see any particular reason for RNZ to have it. However also I can’t see the NACT government being willing to lift the budget for the National Archives to do the investment to take it over either. At present I suspect that the direct staff is minimal and the costs are extremely low. Shifting responsibility, the physical archives, and staffing it will be expensive.

      I’d take a bet that the concert programme would require a substantial investment to be able to market themselves to do a sponsorship / advertising /subscription model. The reason why is that it is a really low-cost operation. It is very close to being a semi-automated radio station at present with very very limited staff (unlike NatRad). Startup for shifting its operational model will require that they get a marketing and admin staff at least and it would take a number of years.

      Furthermore I suspect that there isn’t much demand for either sponsorship or advertising of a classical station otherwise there would be some commercial stations already doing it. I haven’t heard any.

      The subscription model would be an even more expensive operation to setup and would take several years and substantial startup investment. Certainly that is the experience of the NZSO from what I understand about it.

      Since I can’t see this government wanting to do the required investment above the existing operations budget, then I’d suggest that going down that route for the concert programme would just be a different way of getting rid of the station.

      The government either wants the concert programme or it doesn’t.

      If it doesn’t then it should introduce the legislation so it could just be shut down and the NACT’s take the rap for it. You could then hope (and I wouldn’t bet on that) that the ‘market’ would fill the gap in coverage.

      If the government wants to shift concert FM to a different operating model, then it should introduce legislation to do it (and take the rap for it) and put in the startup investment to allow it a good chance of succeeding.

      I have no idea about the shortwave. But that is a purely political decision that the NACT’s should make. In fact I’d suggest that right now, RNZ should charge McCullys foreign affairs budget anyway on a cost + depreciation level at least. I’d be interested in seeing legislation to that effect (which the government takes the rap for).

      NatRad is the one that I’m interested in protecting – it is clearly something that the commercial radio is incapable of doing. It consumes most of the non-commercial budget of RNZ. It requires more money to carry on running at its existing level. If the government doesn’t want to fund it at the current level, then they should amend legislation so that it can drop services – for instance by dropping the hours it broadcasts.

      This kind of semi-privatization by constraining budgets is just political cowardice by a government wanting someone else to make decisions for them. Most of the non-commercial services of RNZ are required by legislation.The NACT government should make a decision and put through the required legislation with the appropriate budget to allow the changes to take place. For what NACT needs to do, they need to take the political heat for it – something that they clearly are unwilling to do

      • Rex Widerstrom 1.2.1

        I’m just dashing out…

        Funding the archives: agreed. I think there’d be eventual economies of scale but it would require proper investment up front.

        Sponsorship of a classical station: No one wants to do it when Concert FM is already serving the market ad-free and the market is too small to fracture. Sponsored classical stations operate in many other markets. Sponsorship could be handed off to a PR firm on a mainly commission basis.

        Charging RNZI against Vote Foreign Affairs: Interesting idea with a lot of merit. I have a vague memory that that may be the case in Australia. I’ll see what I can find out.

        This kind of semi-privatization by constraining budgets is just political cowardice by a government wanting someone else to make decisions for them.

        Agreed totally. And worst of all, it denies the opportunity for a complete blank slate reconsideration of the whole model, as we’re doing here. It’s just blind fumbling about with no clear outcome in mind except saving a few dollars.

    • Patrick Baron 1.3

      I have to qualify your comment regarding “…there isn’t much demand for either sponsorship or advertising of a classical station otherwise there would be some commercial stations already doing it”. Commercial radio made a brief foray in Concert FM’s territory in Auckland with Fine Arts FM during the late 1980’s. Fine Arts FM from memory was essentially a commercial analogue of Concert FM and employed a similar presentational format albeit with advertising that was carefully tailored for its audience. Fine Arts however was closed down after 24 months presumably as it was unable pay its way (it was a standalone operation) or perhaps more likely because the license holders received a good offer for the 91.8 frequency. This aside, the point I wish to make is that despite the failure of Fine Arts, what it proved is that as station such as Concert FM is likely to have an audience profile that will be of interest to advertisers. However as you also note the major challenge for Radio New Zealand would be finding a way of profitably exploiting Concert’s commercial potential without incurring a lot of overhead (perhaps via the Radio Bureau?).

    • chris 1.4

      I think concert has scope to become some form of RNZCulture or RNZ arts with a bit of money thrown at it and they could develop a really innovative combination of online and radio and truely create a home for the sonic arts on our airways that wouldn’t really cost that much to either run or setup, it just needs some smart thinking behind it.

  2. Cnr Joe 2

    hear hear LP

  3. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    Kiwi Fm is a commercial station that plays entirely Nz music , but recieves some government funding as the format isnt fully viable yet.
    Radio NZ could drop its lame attempt to play music for under 21s. They could also dump the radio plays.
    And does Nine to Noon have to have so many long interviews with totally irrelevant authors , that have no connection to NZ.

    • lprent 3.1

      …so many long interviews with totally irrelevant authors…

      I like them. It is also something that I don’t hear on any other station or any other media. I find them particularly useful when I’m looking up the authors later as well.

    • felix 3.2

      Not sure what you mean by “music for under 21s” but if you mean the Saturday music shows on NatRadio I think you’ll find they’re more widely appreciated than you might think.

    • chris 3.3

      labour completely fucked up the kiwi fm thing and it is because of that that we’ll prob never have a publicly funded youth station. I still can’t forgive them for just giving that spectrum to a station that is nothing more than a smart attempt by brent impey to stop RNZ adding a youth station. stupidest thing they did in govt., all for a bit of positive press around the farce that is NZ music month

  4. prism 4

    Just loved the bit about Nat Radio being for the elite but paid for by all taxpayers as if it was some luxury instead of the bulwark of a well-informed democracy. That so many people are apathetic citizens or determinedly uninformed because it makes a better gripe, is even more reason to have Nat Radio available to turn to when you are checking information for integrity and breadth. Having any part sponsored even the concert program is a bad move. It is too easy to start snipping here and docking there and soon public radio will end up gelded. It can’t be allowed to be this year’s project to reorganise by some rather vacant politician each time there is a change of government.

    As to the concert program being elitist, that could be argued, but if we are not careful we could fade back towards the WW2 level. Many European economic refugees brought with them a love for high quality European music and culture and got many of our present cultural bodies fired up. I love the Topp twins, country yodelling, pop, rock, but we need to nurture also the fine performance musicians and their music otherwise they may again become a rarity.

    Just thought if Nat Radio had to have sponsorship to run then it could get the suppliers of emergency beacons, batteries etc to fund the tsunami warnings. That would be the logical commercial thing to do. Couldn’t get funeral director ads – that would be tasteless.

  5. ?Anyone remember the demolition of New Zealand’s finest recording studios in Broadcasting House by Don McKinnon, to make way for the grandiouse and palatial new Parliament building these jokers thought was needed to house their egos – which fortunately never happened. Another fine public asset squandered.

  6. Puddleglum 6

    Rex, I have to disagree. My only experience of a commercial classical radio station was something (if I remember correctly) called ‘Classic FM’ or some such in the UK. It had a ‘playlist’ that recycled through the day (I got to the point of contemplating shooting every lark in Britain just to ensure that I’d never have to be reminded of ‘Lark Ascending’ ever again!).

    And your point about elitism raises another pet hate of mine. What I REALLY find elitist is people (often from right wing parties) telling others that its elitist to want government to fund the ‘high-brow’ arts in their various forms. The heavily pregnant implication (not inference) in that line is that ordinary people don’t (or perhaps ‘never will’) prefer the best that their culture has conjured up in the various arts. That’s insulting and completely ignores a long history of participation in and appreciation of the so-called ‘high arts’ by working people whenever they were able. The ‘proles’ went to Shakespeare’s plays; Italian operas were sung by every social class in Italy (they were ordinary people’s entertainment and repertoire), working class groups for novel reading and criticism were widespread in the 19th century, including women from sewing factories in the industrial north of the US.

    What has happened in the last century or two is a slow loss of access, for ordinary people, to the best of what our (or any) culture has to offer. This has largely happened because of the ‘marketisation’ and commodification process applied to the arts with a vengeance and the move to the incorporation of increasingly expensive technology and other systems that make ‘performance’ hugely costly. In that environment, the only way that the bulk of people can access at least some of the artistic ‘best’ is for governments to provide access to it.

    There’s a fundamental difference of opinion here, I think. One view (what I call the marketers’ view) is that people have their particular preferences (who knows why?) and so we’ll give them what they want. The other view (what I call the artist’s – or perhaps even entrepreneur’s – view) is that you have something good to give and so you provide it for people to respond to as they will and you assume that, given your common humanity, what you like will resonate with at least some others. The longer that someone operates in a market setting the more conservative they become and the more the emphasis shifts to the marketer’s view (do market research, find what people want, give it to them). That’s a tragedy.

    Humane and human lives require the time and effort to become skilled in the appreciation of the best that humans are capable of in dance, music, literature and the rest. Ghettoising people, via the market (which, of course, ’embraces’ the masses from a particularly tender age – i.e., from birth), into B or C grade ‘flight of the bumble bee’ versions of the best answers the old question of ‘am I my brother’s keeper’ in a particularly sinister way (gaol keeper).

    • prism 6.1

      Yeah, with promotional and mind training techniques used by advertising agencies you can bend the public’s preferences and then claim to be following them. Also on the idea of the mass demand being what should be catered to, how do people know anything different – if we are always getting what we know – we will always get what we’ve always had.

  7. chris 7

    actually someone on the facebook page made a good point: concert fm gets about the same amount of money as rowing does from sparc. i know what i’d rather have. I think there’s actually a valid line of reasoning pointing out the hypocrisy of govt. sponsored sport vs. culture

  8. reddy 8

    http://www.seek.co.nz/job/community-relations-officer-mining-consents-temporary/rest-of-sth-island/16855178/80/1/

    anyone want to work as a mining consents person in hokitia for the conservation dept?

  9. notTim 9

    “concert fm gets about the same amount of money as rowing does from sparc”

    excellent point.

    and great post lprent.

  10. I dont listen to radio at all but was just wondering if concert FM broadcasts solely concerts and if so does it broadcast hiphop, metal ,punk or rock concerts ?

    • prism 10.1

      Good question. The concert progam would be great place a for broadcasting entire concerts of a wider range of music than classical, also NZ hip hop and other NZ musical ventures – though if you listen to Nat Radio on Sat and Sun afternoons you will hear new music and older releases often with interviews with these now veteran musicians.

  11. randal 11

    rw.
    nowadays the desire to squash radionz is not only ideological but low brow anti intellectualism from the national capons and wiseacres who want everything but know that somebody a lot smarter than them has provided it.
    so when we let the oiks “HAVE A TURN” we then have to put up with this kind of basically infantile resntful behaviour.

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