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Welcome to Save Radio New Zealand

This website – like Radio New Zealand itself, is owned by you – the people of New Zealand.

We are a group of ordinary Kiwis who are concerned by the government’s plans for Radio New Zealand. We have come together to show the government how much Radio New Zealand – National, Concert, International and Archives – means to us, and to persuade the Minister and the government that messing with Radio New Zealand would be politically unwise.

We have members from across the country – and many living overseas as well. We span all ages, all backgrounds, and our voting preferences are spread right across the political spectrum. We may differ in our opinions on how this country should be run, but we all agree that some things are worth paying for – and one of these is Radio New Zealand.

We have created this website as a companion to the original Facebook group, which was founded on 17 February 2010, and which reached its 20,000th member on 20 March 2010. The website will grow over time and contains useful information about Radio New Zealand and the government’s plans for it, as well as info about the Save Radio New Zealand campaign and ways in which you can take action to protect our only remaining public broadcaster, and keep it free from commercialisation and sponsorship.

Why should we care about Radio New Zealand?

Why should we care about Radio New Zealand? Not least because democracy requires an informed populace that has access to disinterested news reporting and the discursive and probing analysis of social and political issues and is beholden to no-one other than its listeners – not to government, not to political parties, not to power elites, not to commerce, not to the hawkers of goods and services.

Brian Edwards, 20/02/10

Background

What the Minister said

On 17 February 2010 Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman stated that Radio New Zealand’s funding would be frozen “for the forseeable future” and that he had asked the Chair of the Board “to come back to me with a plan for how Radio New Zealand is going to sustain its services.”

One News reported that “Radio New Zealand has been asked to consider radical moves such as vacating its Auckland building and getting commercial sponsorship for its classical station, Concert FM. But official documents show the RNZ Board is resisting change, and they also show Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman and his officials warning Board members should comply, or face the sack.”

The briefing for the Minister’s meeting with RNZ read “Members of Boards who are not able or prepared to meet these expectations might need to move on and be replaced by members who can.”

The Minister clarified this by saying that “no one wishes the issue to get to that point”, “but I have made my expectation clear on behalf of the government and the board now needs to come to the party.”

What Radio New Zealand said

On 18 February 2010, Radio New Zealand reported that:

[RNZ Board chair] Ms Grice also confirmed the board is considering a range of options to save money, including turning off Radio New Zealand National between midnight and 6am and broadcasting to some parts of the country on AM rather than FM.

Ms Grice refused to answer directly questions about whether she thought cuts could lead to a “dumbing down” of the service.

But Radio New Zealand chief executive Peter Cavanagh said that, inevitably, quality would decline as funding got tighter.

…the board says Radio New Zealand has already made operational cuts and programming changes, and any further reductions would result in what it says would be a “dumbing down” of its service.

Radio New Zealand – the KPMG report

The problem for Radio New Zealand, and the argument being made to the  Minister, is that it is already operating at maximum efficiency, and that there is nowhere it can make savings without significantly affecting the quality and/or range of its services.

The KPMG Report, a “baseline funding review” of Radio New Zealand, carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage in 2007, found that “Radio New Zealand is operating efficiently in the delivery of its outputs under the charter. There are no significant opportunities to redeploy resources more efficiently.”

The report actually recommended “$6.7m additional operating funding in 2008/09, increasing to $8.5m in 2010-11, including covering increased regional representation, pay rises, leave cover and restoring the travel budget” together with “40 extra staff by 2010-11.”

What all this means

A “funding freeze”, when combined with inflation and the increasing costs of essential services such as electricity and rent, would actually end up being a “funding cut”, especially in the light of the KPMG report findings. It seems clear that Radio New Zealand would have to drastically change the way it operates in order to achieve Bill English’s request that it needs to be “creative and flexible, and providing better value for money”.

The Save Radio New Zealand campaign is here to tell the government that, in the words of one of our members, we “like it just the way it is” and that the government would be making an error that could have serious consequences at the next election if they persist in attempting to change this national treasure, this taonga that is Radio New Zealand.

Join us. Together we can make a difference.