RNZ propose dumping Concert programme and targeting ‘youth’

Someone at RNZ thinks it is a good idea to turn off an older audience and cater for younger people by dumping the Concert programme (and 17 staff), and converting to something targeting a younger audience (who tend to live online).

This has stirred up protest by older people, including Kiri Te Kanawa and Helen Clark.

RNZ: RNZ set to cut back Concert and launch new youth service

In the biggest overhaul of its music services in years, RNZ is planning to cut back its classical music station RNZ Concert and replace it on FM radio with music for a younger audience as part of a new multimedia music brand. Mediawatch asks RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson and music content director Willy Macalister to explain the move.

The broadcaster is proposing to remove RNZ Concert from its FM frequencies and transform it into an automated non-stop music station which will stream online and play on AM radio.

It would be replaced on FM by a service aimed at a younger, more diverse audience as part of a new multimedia “music brand”.

RNZ Concert would be taken off FM radio on May 29 and the youth platform would be phased in ahead of its full launch on August 28.

RNZ’s music staff were informed about the proposed changes this morning in an emotional, occasionally heated meeting with the RNZ music content director Willy Macalister, head of radio and music David Allan, and chief executive Paul Thompson.

According to documents for staff, the move would eliminate 17 jobs at RNZ Music, including all RNZ Concert presenter roles, from late March.

Those would be replaced with 13 jobs at the new youth platform, while four remain in the downsized RNZ Concert service and RNZ Music in Wellington.

The documents for staff say the proposed changes are aimed at securing new audiences for RNZ.

While its listenership is predominantly Pākehā and skewed towards older people, the new music brand would target people aged 18 to 34, including Māori and Pasifika audiences, the proposal says.

If they are after new audiences, why not ditch news and current affairs programmes and replace them with talk back about trivial topics?

Why not ditch radio altogether and switch to streaming? That’s where the growth in audiences is.

Some dismay has been expressed.

Stuff: Axing of Concert FM ‘disenfranchising’ for older RNZ listeners

According to RNZ, the weekly cumulative audience for RNZ Concert is 173,300 – or 4 per cent of the population aged 10+.

A Facebook group named Save RNZ Concert had more than 5000 members, and a change.org petition had more than 2000 signatures as of Friday morning.

Arts Centre of Christchurch chairwoman and the former chairwoman of Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Felicity Price, said it was a “bizarre decision”.

“To sack all its engaging hosts and use taxpayers’ money to instead set up an Auckland radio/online radical sharing alternative that would be more appealing to the non-white youth market is simply absurd, short-sighted and surely in breach of its charter of ‘reflecting New Zealand’s cultural identity’ and ‘recognising the interests of all age groups’,” she said.

Many Concert FM listeners were elderly and enjoyed interacting with the presenters. Having an automated service would disenfranchise that sector of society, she said.

University of Canterbury senior lecturer Patrick Shepherd said there was a ground-swell of protest against the proposal.

“The musical community are up in arms and I think rightly so … Having a contemporary and classical music station doesn’t make the books balance but as a society we want that there because it has value in our community and is a vital part of our culture. It’s like closing down an art gallery because not enough people are going there,” he said.

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi said he was working on a plan to address concerns raised by “loyal listeners”.

He met with RNZ’s chief executive and chairman last week and “made some concerns clear to them” about aspects of the plan.

A spokesman for Faafoi said the concerns were reminding RNZ of its charter and ensuring it understood the feedback of all listeners.

The organisation was struggling to attract a youth audience, and the proposed youth station was one way to address that.

They may still struggle to attract a youth audience, and turn off the audience they currently have.

Stuff: Dame Kiri te Kanawa calls RNZ proposal to dial down Concert an ‘inestimable blow to the arts’

New Zealand opera legend Dame Kiri te Kanawa is leading the chorus of outrage over a proposal that will gut RNZ Concert in favour of a youth-focused radio station.

In a statement, the world-renowned opera singer said losing the station would be “an inestimable blow to the arts in New Zealand”.

“So many of our young artists have become known to a wide audience thanks to broadcast on RNZ Concert. I sincerely hope that the powers that be in RNZ will reconsider the backward step announced in the media today.”

Clark, who held the arts and culture portfolio during her nine years as prime minster, said the decision was a “severe diminution of the cultural services available to New Zealanders”.

“The plans to decimate the Concert programme need to be seen in the context of the National Library no longer wanting to have an overseas collection and the National Archives deciding to drastically reduce its opening hours,” she said.

“What will be next? Such decisions raise serious concern about the level of support for cultural services available to New Zealanders.”

NZ Herald: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark wants Ministers to scrap plans to ditch Concert FM

She tagged Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi in the tweet.

Clark even went as far as saying there was a “pattern here of destruction of cultural services available to New Zealanders”.

In response, Robertson said he was looking into the issue.

“I am advised it is still a consultation and we will be talking to RNZ about their options.”

Speaking to media this morning, Faafoi said he was also looking at ways to mitigate some issues around Concert FM.

Faafoi said that he met with RNZ’s board last week and outlined some of his concerned about the proposed move.

Maybe it’s an RNZ decision and not up to the Government, but I guess the current Labour leadership can just blame this u-turn on NZ First.

Save RNZ Concert on Facebook now has 6,910 members.

The Minister, please Save RNZ Concert AND fund the new youth network petition currently has 4,083 signatures.


Leave a comment


  1. Duker

     /  8th February 2020

    They arent ‘dumping’ Concert program, it just will still be broadcast to its tiny audience without ‘presenters’ and they will still record concerts for live? or later playback
    This is typical of these sort things, misinformation takes over as the opponents know the actual story doesnt have any bite

    And yes , its RNZ decision which has its own board for these sorts of things.
    Please save the gratuitous NZF digs without a shred of evidence , you are better than that PG

    • The Concert programme as it is will be dumped.

      The proposal is to dump it from FM, and set up a quite different programme on a very dated and inferior AM station. And all the staff who will be dumped may disagree about the amount of bite in the story.

      This is a very awkward RNZ proposal for Labour, especially at the same time they are proposing to dump the current RNZ altogether (ok, merge it with the much larger TVNZ, effectively dumping it as it is).

      • Duker

         /  8th February 2020

        And NZF role ?
        Frequency shifts on radio arent that unusual …heard of Radio Live. Was it ‘dumped’
        And since when did AM become dated and inferior, I doubt most listeners can tell the difference these days on modern equipment…I know I cant when I switch around on the car radio.
        Dont forget it will be streamed for those who dont go for ‘dated’
        Some audiophiles even claim ‘vinyl’ has better sound than common digital music formats …but I doubt most listeners can tell the difference….

        • “And since when did AM become dated and inferior”

          Since FM came out. FM isn’t prone to interference like AM, and is significantly higher fidelity (it uses a wider bandwidth).. That’s why AM is now mainly used for talk radio and FM for music.

          Taking classical music broadcast from FM back to AM is a bit like going from CD quality back to cassette tape, a backward step.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  8th February 2020

            I was amazed to hear that cassettes are making a comeback. The real problem with them is when the tape inside comes out and gets tangled. A faceted pencil worked if it wasn’t too bad. I remember having one of those cassette player/radios that everyone seemed to have and how old & cumbersome the records that went before seemed. Now I love the old vinyl records again.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  9th February 2020

          FM broadcasts stereo, AM doesn’t – surely a major issue for classical music.

          • Duker

             /  9th February 2020

            Its available in stereo on TV channels

            Concert is on Channel 422 on Sky

            and for those without Sky but can get Freeview ( the digital TV broadcast)
            RNZ Concert is on Channel 51.
            There is also the ‘direct from satellite’ ( Opus) with suitable equipment and with no subscriber fees

            The mainly elderly audience doesnt have the hearing to know the differences between AM and FM ( that applies to a lots of different things, which is the high quality and which is Kmart etc)

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  9th February 2020

              Who wants to have the television on so as to be able to listen to the radio? It makes no sense.

              The remark about the audience is insulting. People with an ear for music can tell the difference between good and poor quality.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  9th February 2020

              It might not matter with radio that’s mainly talk, and wouldn’t be an issue for talkback whose listeners are probably not very discerning, but classical music played and sung by virtuosos deserves better.

  2. artcroft

     /  8th February 2020

    I wouldn’t mind a publicly funded radio station (commercial free) that played Irish music on repeat. Van the man and U2- the beginning and end of music.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  8th February 2020

      What about the good old days of Queen, KISS, the Stones, the Clash…now THAT’S music.

      I agree about Van Morrison.

      • Still the good old days, Queen is touring New Zealand at the moment. I’m going to the gig in Dunedin on Monday.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  8th February 2020

          Not quite the same without Freddie Mercury….I’m still envious.

          I forgot the WHO, Sweet, Alice Cooper, Slade…

          Has anyone else seen BLERTA ? I wanted to be part of them when I grew up.

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  8th February 2020

    There are plenty of commercial stations that cater for ‘youth’, surely. Why have a taxpayer funded one that will duplicate those already playing hiphop, rap and other such ‘music’ ?

    • Duker

       /  8th February 2020

      Thats why they will be plenty of opposition to the ‘youth music’
      Nights with Bryan Crump on RNZ for a few hours each week day evening gets a bigger audience than Concert for 24/7. Even the bloody classical music in its live and other formats has very old and privileged audience, who are used to getting what they want

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  8th February 2020

        Well, we’re paying for it.

        It’s not as if this was the only radio station on air.

        They need to read the story of the old man and the donkey, where he tries to please everyone and pleases nobody.

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