RNZ Chief plans to destroy RNZ Concert

Crisis in our intellectual and cultural life!

We reproduce below a report on Stuff website about the unbelievably barbaric plans of Radio New Zealand to sack all RNZ Concert staff, broadcast music without presenters, either live or recorded, transmit on only AM radio which is virtually defunct in New Zealand and throughout the world.

We know no country in the western world that does not have a classical music broadcaster of the kind New Zealand has had since 1950.

We find it extraordinary that a State-owned enterprise appears to be free to act in this way without the sanction of the relevant controlling body or the Minister.

There were warning signals last year with a report that there were plans to shift half of RNZ staff to Auckland.

That was hard to understand when it’s the State that should be leading the way in encouraging the dispersal of employment and the demand for housing to other parts of the country, from a city that seems unable to cater for the results of uncontrolled population growth.

And the ‘popularisation’ of the presentation in recent months, the incessant use of  ‘trailers’, encouraging presenters to exploit their personalities, and to ‘gush’ over what’s about to be played was prescient. It was a warning that management believed its listeners were either children or people without their own feelings about music, their long-cultivated tastes and generally a knowledge of classical music, just as of major literature and the visual arts.

We must wonder how someone so lacking in an understanding of the importance of maintaining fundamental elements of civilised life and culture. could have been appointed to a position in charge of the the nation’s public radio.

Is there any hope that RNZ’s board will reject this absurdity? Not likely, as there’s no one on the board with any sign of an interest in classical music, or indeed in any of the major arts.

When there were moves in the 1980s to undermine through commercial advertising, what was then the Concert Programme, it led to the formation of Friends of the Concert Programme. There were some 50,000 adherents and they stopped it. Unfortunately the record of those members has been lost.

We need to create immediately a new Friends of RNZ Concert, to raise the roof to show the strength of opinion about these unbelievable plans.

The report on Stuff: 

RNZ says new ‘youth oriented’ music brand will lift whole radio industry

Tom Pullar-Strecker 16:20, Feb 05 2020

RNZ has brushed off concerns that a radical overhaul of its music services will take it into a turf-fight with the country’s commercial radio stations.

The state-owned broadcaster began consulting staff on Wednesday on a proposal that would see it make 18 redundancies and axe almost all jobs at RNZ Concert.

It plans to create 17 new jobs at a new youth-oriented music channel based in Auckland that it plans to launch during the second half of this year.

But sources suggested that only a few existing staff were being given the opportunity to transfer.

“There will be a whole lot of new jobs doing some quite new things,” chief executive Paul Thompson said.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson says there will be different views on its new music strategy but it needs to connect with younger audiences.

Public Service Association national secretary Glenn Barclay said RNZ staff were “shocked and upset”.

“They knew change was coming, but nobody expected it would be this far reaching or aggressive in terms of timeframes.”

Concert FM had been part of New Zealand households for generations, and its “skilled and hardworking staff” did exemplary work every day, he said.

“PSA members will meet in the days ahead to discuss this proposal with colleagues, and they will decide on an appropriate response.”

RNZ head of music Willy Macalister said RNZ’s new music service would feature a higher proportion of New Zealand music and “talk content” than commercial radio stations.

But it would also play international hits in order to provide “something that is palatable to a broader audience”, he said.

RNZ’s support of the Rhythm and Vines music festival points to the direction it expects its new music service to take.

“You can’t ‘niche yourself’ out of relevance.”

The new commercial-free service, which has yet to be named, will be carried on FM and made available online, both in a streaming format and “on demand”.

RNZ Concert would lose its FM slot and all its presenters, but would broadcast classical music around the clock on AM, online and on Sky.

Staff whose jobs were on the line have criticised the moves as a step towards replacing RNZ’s music division with “Spotify”, sources said.

But Thompson said it needed to create the new brand and that decision had been signed off by its board.

“While RNZ is doing really well, we just don’t have enough connection with younger New Zealanders.

“The bit we are working with staff on is the impact of the new strategy on them.”

Commercial radio broadcasters NZME and MediaWorks are understood to have had discussions with the Radio Broadcasters Association about RNZ’s new direction.

Its chief executive Jana Rangooni gave a guarded response to RNZ’s plans.

“If the public service media principle of delivering content to New Zealand audiences that are not currently catered for is applied to RNZ’s youth music strategy, this could deliver benefits for all sectors of our industry and for New Zealanders,” she said.

But she said the association would have “serious concerns” if a taxpayer-funded broadcaster launched products and platforms that targeted audiences “already well served by commercial radio broadcasters”.

“We note that there are already many networks operating in New Zealand that service youth music audiences,” she said.

“While it’s true RNZ is non-commercial, the networks it operates with taxpayer funding compete for audiences which has an impact on New Zealand’s commercial networks.”

Macalister downplayed that concern saying a lot of thought had gone into avoiding a clash.

“A rising tide will float all boats. We are going to be offering something that is different.

“There is a section of the audience that is not consuming radio at the moment and we really do hope we can appeal to them.”

That would involve the new service supporting more “grass roots” music, emerging artists and live performances, he said.

Commercial radio businesses might “talk a bit loud at the start, but I think everybody will be okay and we will all get along”, he said.

Thompson said it would be “pointless” for RNZ to launch a service that replicated what the commercial market already did well, and said it would aim to offer any new content it created to other broadcasters.

“We have this strategy of ‘radical sharing’ because that is how we are growing our impact.”

RNZ would do “all it could” to support existing staff through the consultations, Thompson said.

But he said changes of the kind RNZ was considering were “always really difficult”.

“Of course there are going to be different views and opinions of this,” he said.


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