I was kind of surprised that Kiwi FM’s station manager Karyn Hay chose to respond to my criticisms of Kiwi FM – this is hardly the NZ Herald website – but perhaps its an indication of just sensitive Kay is to criticism of her struggling station.

As the rating shows, hardly anyone listens to Kiwi FM and, indeed, Hay agrees that her station is not a ‘ratings winner’. No, at a truly dismal 0.1% of the total radio audience it is an unmitigated ratings disaster.

Unable to defend her position on ratings grounds, Hay tells us it’s not about ratings!

Apparently it’s about ‘championing the ‘difference and diversity’ within New Zealand music – although only if its ‘alternative’ music (tough luck if you are a country and western singer from Westport).

But how can Kiwi even be doing this when few people are listening to this ‘difference and diversity’?

A clue to Hay’s thinking can be found in the thoughts of former Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey –and the man largely responsible for the Kiwi disaster and the kneecapping of the proposed non commercial youth radio network (YRN).

The amount of New Zealand music on New Zealand radio has been increasing in recent years – but that figure has been artificially boosted by the fact that Kiwi plays nothing but New Zealand music.

Back in 2006 Maharey claimed that the increase in New Zealand music on New Zealand radio ‘proved’ that New Zealanders wanted to hear more New Zealand music on the radio.

Of course this increase – from 18.6 percent in 2004 to 20.4 percent in 2006 – was a false figure because it was artificially boosted by Kiwi FM’s one hundred percent New Zealand music playlist.

It’s clear that both Hay and her friends at the Ministry of Arts and Culture think they are championing New Zealand music simply by playing more of it on the radio - the fact that no one is listening to it is irrelevant.

It’s a little like having an exhibition of New Zealand art – but no one turns up to see it. But Karyn Hay will be there to show you around if you might, one day, decide to drop in!

On the issue of the YRN Hay says it was never intended to be a substitute for it.

Well, I never thought it would be - and that’s why I object to the fact that Kiwi is occupying the three FM frequencies that were, whatever Hay might say, implicitly reserved for it.

Hay says she doesn’t know why the YRN was sidelined by the Labour Government.

I suspect it was partly the result of Maharey's ideological obstinacy but it could hardly have helped that Canwest's Brent Impey not only actively lobbied against the network but also lobbied Maharey to allow Kiwi to take over the three frequencies. Impey was worried that stations like The Edge and The Rock would lose audience share to the YRN. For Impey, the bottom line is always the almighty advertising dollar.

Finally, there’s no guarantee that the three frequencies will not be sold off by a future National Government. The failed Kiwi FM is hardly convincing evidence that the three frequencies should be kept.


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