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Tsunami shows importance of Radio NZ

Written By: - Date published: 12:18 pm, March 1st, 2010 - 26 comments
Categories: Media - Tags: , ,

You know, I struggle to see how the government can justify cuts to Radio New Zealand’s funding after its outstanding coverage of the tsunami yesterday. While the other radio broadcasters were jammed up with bee pollen adverts and deer horn aphrodisiac jingles, RNZ had informative, up to the minute information from all over the country.

In a time of ever-shrinking newsrooms RNZ is becoming more, not less, important. What other media outlet has reporters in every part of the country and the nationwide reach to get information to the public in times of national emergency?

Even the Minister of Civil Defence, John Carter, was full of praise for Radio NZ’s coverage this morning. Perhaps he can have a word with his mates around the cabinet table about the importance of a properly functioning public broadcaster. Because make no mistake, when the screws come on it’s the regional reporters who’ll get the chop first.

26 comments on “Tsunami shows importance of Radio NZ ”

  1. Bill 1

    Was all part of that oppression through safety culture really, wasn’t it? Swathing us in and force feeding us rusted barbed wire wrapped around with cotton candy wool.

    Quite ridiculous that RNZ’s very own version of special correspondent Tricia Takanawa in Akaroa was telling us the water was….well, there.

    Meanwhile, we got special reporting of the water in Hawaii. Which was in Hawaii. Right where it should be. Oh, and because it was the ocean, it was all going up and down a bit, kind of like how the ocean does.

    Perish the thought that the populace had been merely informed of the possibility of a tsunami and advised on what danger signs to be on the look out for if they were going to be on the coast in spite of recommendations not to.

    Hell, no. We got to get a ‘Special Tsunami Report’ with all the shit and bollox of wall to wall reporting of paint drying.

    If word had to be out there, all that was necessary was for all stations to carry a properly informative newspiece on their normal news slot.

    • Roger 1.1

      Interesting analysis, obviously the warnings were overblown but the point is that there were emergency warnings and people were ready to report. The fact that the ‘Special Tsunami Report’ didn’t meet your high standards is a reflection of the good planning and high priority placed on Civil Defence warnings. RNZ fulfilled its role admirably, they can’t be blamed for the absence of the tsunami warned about. Regarding your comment that this should sit in a regular news slot is laughable. How about we make all tsunamis time themselves around our news announcements to ensure minimal loss of life. Maybe John Key could bring up the posibility of reducing the number of tsunamis because of the lack of funds warning against them? The next round of WTO negotiations seems like a good place to start.

      • Bill 1.1.1

        There was a twelve hour or so lead up to any potential tsunami hitting NZ. That’s how many news slots? Giving, or attempting to give a blow by blow, minute by minute account of something that is yet to…actually, only maybe… eventuate, over a period of hours is trash passing itself off as news.

        As I’ve said, information would have been preferable to sensationalist hype. That too much to ask?

        btw. I don’t back any cutting in funding for RNZ. But the amateurish, non-informative and sensationalist tsunami coverage is not a good example of a reason to not cut.

  2. Onomatopoeia 2

    … and meanwhile concert radio played, for the amusement of a few hundred already wealthy people, music written by dead Germans 200 years ago. If the tsunami taught us nothing else it is that it is vitally important that the taxpayer continue to fund the musical tastes of a small minority of already rich people.

    • Roger 2.1

      And meanwhile others listened to Murray Deaker prattle on about cricket to armchair coaches in between adverts for erectile dysfunction and back problems…

      • Onomatopoeia 2.1.1

        But you do not pay for Murray Deaker, Roger: the erectile dysfunction people do. You do pay for the dead Germans. And the people who listen to the dead Germans are quite capable of paying for it themselves. Do you see the difference?

        • Roger

          I have the choice to listen to the dead Germans too, other minorities I am also paying for include Maori and Pacific focussed news and programmes, radio stories for pensioners, programmes catering to other minorities that (some) cannot pay ro themselves. I pay for greater depth of analysis and journalism than can be expected from commercial stations and other interviews of people involved in projects and industries that I would not actively seek. I am happy to pay for this because this includes minorities in the community into a shared medium and happily enjoy some programmes myself. I don’t want to have the public option downgraded so that the people that drive the decisions on what is broadcast being exclusively the same people that promote solutions to erectile dysfunction

  3. tc 3

    Yes but such is the case when you prepare for the worst and it never comes…..makes for dull radio but safe punters. Maybe you’d be happier if a big wave took a few out to make it ‘listenable’…..oh the humanity.

    As for the dead germans, not my cuppa, but then it’s great for those times you need it. Like annoying the kids on a long trip as they didn’t charge up their i-pods….awww what a shame.

    I’m sure i’ll enjoy it more one day and I’d like it to be there …anyway it’s dirt cheap radio, a playlist and the odd announcement.

    Coleman’s an idiot savant……the news will be the last thing cut, fringe stuff will go first like that yawnfest Laidlaw has on sundays but then thinking’s not a strong feature in NACT is it.

  4. lprent 4

    Like annoying the kids on a long trip as they didn’t charge up their i-pods .awww what a shame.

    Nah – parents never stir up their kids….. 😉

    The problem is that having a serious radio network that is hardened against natural and unnatural disasters is like having an insurance policy. The time you absolutely know that you need it is when you actually need it. Like a 8.3 earthquake hitting Wellington (one can only wish 😈 ).

    Then you’ll find that people who have stored radios and batteries become the centre of most attention in disasters. People want real information about what is happening. The place that they get it from are the state radio systems.

    Similarly you’d find that it becomes the most effective means to coordinate people on the ground. Tells them where the water is, where the food is, and where the field hospitals are. Also tells people where they can go to help most effectively.

    Meanwhile you get maniacs wanting to dismantle the basic emergency systems. It is simply foolish.

  5. Onomatopoeia 5

    Meanwhile you get maniacs wanting to dismantle the basic emergency systems

    In times of great crisis, listening to Wagner will help us all.

  6. BLiP 6

    Its just such a pity the Dads’ Army Captain Mannerings at Civil Defence couldn’t resist the temptation to make themselves feel important and burn up what little goodwill they have. If Radio New Zealand had proper resources it would have found out for itself the boffins had over exaggerated the “killer tidal wave”.

    • Armchair Critic 6.1

      “If Radio New Zealand had proper resources it would have found out for itself the boffins had over exaggerated the “killer tidal wave'”
      I don’t think so. Predicting the height and wavelength of the waves, as well as the time at which it would occur is a real feat of mathematics, involving at least one very complex hydrodynamic model. A model that runs quick enough to produce answers in time for them to be useful is unlikely to provide sufficient detail at a local level. A model that provides detailed answers at a local level will create enormous quantities of useless data as a byproduct of the computation, to the point where there will be too much to analyse, and will take so long to run that the answers will be provided too late. And the driving parameters for a model that can produce quick answers (a coarse bathymetry, salinity, temperature changes, stratification and coriolis effects) will be quite different to the driving parameters for a model that accurately predicts local effects (a detailed local bathymetry and an accurate prediction of the boundary conditions, which is especially useful when trying to predict seiching). The size of the elements in the computational grid will also be quite different. Not to mention the lack of data available to calibrate the models – these are relatively rare events.
      I doubt there are “boffins” out there that could have done a better job of predicting the effects of the tsunami.
      Taking a conservative approach is entirely reasonable, and expecting the hydrodynamic models of the pacific ocean to be able to precisely predict the size of waves thousands of kilometres away is kind of like expecting a global climate model to predict the weather in Auckland on Boxing Day 2057 – totally unrealistic.

      • BLiP 6.1.1

        Predicting the height and wavelength of the waves, as well as the time at which it would occur is a real feat of mathematics, involving at least one very complex hydrodynamic model. A model that runs quick enough to produce answers in time for them to be useful is unlikely to provide sufficient detail at a local level

        What about sending out a plane a couple of hundred kilometres to see if the thing exists in the first place?

        • lprent

          They only rear their ugly heads close to land.

          On the open ocean they are quite low in height – a metre or two at the best, and usually lost amongst the lower energy waves. However as they dissipate energy against a rising seabed, they go vertical (and slow down).

          At sea, the only real way to detect them is a pressure sensitive to detect the pressure wave.

          • vto

            Or by, you know, just a weird feeling, that something just happenned. One must always be open …

  7. Ron 7

    So BLiP – were you one of the people agreeing with Paul Henry when he went the CD brass over the lack of info about the Samoan tsunami? If not I BET you’ll be the first to get a kick when some idiot who decides to take the kids to the beach despite the warnings is killed in the next tsunami.

    I call it the Cave Creek syndrome. After that awful event the letters columns were full of arm chair experts calling for heads to roll because the guys that built that platform had used 4×2 and six inch nails. IF DOC had always used concrete footings and 12 inch coach bolts and a zealous reporter had done a Sunday Start Times article on it (as they do) the same old farts would have been calling for heads because of the ridiculous expense on the grounds that we’ve been builiding stuff outta 4×2 an six nails for generations and nothing has ever gone wrong.
    Same – in my opinion the media should have a ten minute message saying – “a tsunami is on it’s way – if you go to the beach you’re an idiot”. But you and your mates would be all over them when those idiots get themselves washed away and Close Up does an interview with a teary wife sobbing over her lost hubby.

  8. Ron 8

    PS – no boffins forecast a killer wave. They said – “a surge is coming – it could be big, best not go to the beach”. Neither them nor you could have given any better info than that.

    • BLiP 8.1

      Here’s the boffins acknowledging they overstated the threat. Check it out. Learn something.

      If you want to compare a deliberate false warning with the application of ignorance derived from some sort of “blokey, can do, No. 8, she’ll be right” attitude that came out of DOC as the result of underfunding, go right ahead. I’m sure you’ll understand if reality ignores you in the meantime.

      • Bill 8.1.1

        Three things.

        1. The science and the unpredictability surrounding the exact extent of any tsunami.

        2. Bureaucrats over-reacting and playing the fear/safety/control card. Again.

        3. Media sensationalising and broadcasting trashy hype instead of information. As usual.

        2 and 3 are the causes for concern.

        And I notice that in the link above it is the media of 3 trying to lay the blame for reality not matching their hype on the science and the scientists instead of conducting an honest appraisal of their reaction to, and their subsequent behaviour in relation to information coming from them (‘them’ being the relevant segment of the scientific community).

        How does the chain of communication look in these scenarios? Are the actors in 2 mediating between 1 and 3? If so, why?

        • BLiP

          The coverage on television indicated that at some deep rooted level the broadcast media was disappointed there wasn’t carnage and mayhem. The media seem to realise just how ridiculous they looked with half a dozen “live” reporters scattered throughout the country breathlessly reporting in excited tones as a wee trickle rippled up the beach. Angry that its been made to look so silly, the media turns on the providers of the warning and the people that ignored its self-perceived gravitas.

          What worries more more than the threat of a tsunami is that some politicians are now calling for the Civil Defence bozos to have the power of arrest!! They seem positively angry that some of the people were insufficiently frightened to do what they were told by some old geezer with a yellow arm band and clip board that they should now, somehow, have the right to detain citizens and prevent them from lawfully going about their business.

          • Bill

            Bit like rain coming down but sending out sports reporters to provide streaming live commentary on the cricket match…the one that isn’t happening yet because of the rain….the one that might happen if the rain stops.

            That’s not ‘being prepared’ in my book. It’s plain fucking stupid.

            And when the ‘not happening yet, might not ever happen event’ concerns something that is potentially disastrous, then I’d say that the mentality driving the streaming live commentary and reporting is not simply plain fucking stupid, but utterly irresponsible and dangerous into the bargain.

            It’s like neurotic mamma is telling you there might be a deadly spider in the bath (she saw one on the property yesterday) and so you ought not to go there but come fearfully running to her safe protecting bosom as opposed to educating you to identify deadly spiders and encouraging intelligent action should you come across one.

            And yes, if you don’t do as mamma asks then the cotton candy wool falls away to reveal something far less comforting and far more nasty.

      • Ron 8.1.2

        “Deliberate false warnings” is a deliberate overstatement.
        They said (in the article you reference): “It’s a key point to remember that we cannot end the warnings. Failure to warn is not an option for us…..We cannot have a situation that we thought was no problem and then it’s devastating. That just cannot happen”

        My point remains the same: If they had said “Well, it COULD be bad but we don’t know” and people had died, you’d be the first to get stuck in.

        • BLiP

          Its a bit worrying that you feel you can read my mind given a scenario that doesn’t exist. Perhaps explains how you missed this bit:

          International scientists acknowledged they overstated the threat but defended their actions

          • Ron

            Didn’t miss it Blip. I simply quoted the conditional phrase they used after the bit you selectively quoted. Yeah – probably presumptious to believe I know what your response would be. Probably right, though.

  9. Salsy 9

    For what its worth, we were staying in remote batch right on seafront with no electricity, just dim lights and Radio New Zealand blearing out of an ancient valve contraption… needless to say, it simply cannot be off throughout the night – its utterly impractical to assume natural disasters will consider the National Party budget constraints and try to occur during open hours..

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