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April 13, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Radio New Zealand is for old fogeys. It wants to change this perception. Emma Hurley investigates.

Radio New Zealand wants to attract a younger, more diverse audience, and make use of new forms of media.

On 25 March, RNZ CEO Paul Thompson and Board Chair Richard Griffin spoke at a public meeting on the future of Radio New Zealand.

Currently, 40 per cent of listeners are 65 or older, and Thompson says RNZ need to address their demographics.

He says RNZ are “not representative of the community we serve” and need to address more diverse audiences.

He wants RNZ to use online and audio-visual media, and says new youth-orientated website The Wireless is “the most exciting innovation from RNZ in recent years.”

Elle Hunt, producer at The Wireless, said that the website is unique in that it caters specifically for young New Zealanders.

“We see our point of difference as our focus on serving 18- to 30-year-old New Zealanders. There’s a lot out there for young people, sure, but not a lot that’s specific to this demographic, in this country. No other mainstream media outlet in New Zealand has made that under-30 age group a priority, and we have the advantage of being free, and commercial-free, as well.”

Hunt said the service had been well received, and encouraged students to become involved.

“We’ve been really pleased with the response thus far – we attracted 111,000 unique visitors since we launched in November last year and attracted 27,000 unique visitors last month. The signs are we’re starting to build a regular, committed readership.”

“We’re always on the lookout for new contributors, especially those with video or multimedia skills. If there’s something you want to see us cover, let us know. If you see something you like, share it around your social networks.”

After speaking, Thompson and Griffin answered questions from the audience. There were not many young people present.

When asked about RNZ’s funding situation, Thompson said there is “enough money to do what we need to do in the next year or two”, but RNZ will need more capital in the future.

RNZ’s government funding has not been increased in six years.

Attendees were concerned about advertising or political influence compromising RNZ’s integrity.

Thompson says RNZ will remain “vigorously independent” from political and commercial pressure, but does not rule out considering sponsorship for some programmes.

RNZ reach 500,000 listeners per week, but Thompson hopes to double that figure to one million by 2024.

Salient spoke to Dr Peter Thompson, Media Studies lecturer at Victoria, about the future of RNZ and public-service broadcasting.

RNZ say they will remain politically independent, but are considering introducing sponsorship. Dr Thompson says he would not object “too hard, for example, against the idea that Concert FM could carry a sponsor for some programmes.”

“However, there’s a slippery-slope argument to say if you do that for Concert FM it’ll be Morning Report sponsored by ANZ, and I think that would be unacceptable.”

“The independence of a public-service broadcaster is guaranteed by the fact that it doesn’t have to chase ratings and revenue in every single time slot.”

In reflecting the range of ethnic and regional issues, Dr Thompson said RNZ does a better job than most commercial broadcasters.

“It is difficult to strike a balance between serving the NZ public as a whole and serving all communities and interests on a local level.”

“That’s why we need community radio services, iwi radio stations and the National Pacific Radio Trust in the wider media ecology.”


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