Everytime I write about Kiwi FM a number of critical missiles are launched my way and my most recent post was no exception - although this time I received a couple of 'unhelpful' emails, which didn't add anything to the debate.

I'm not obsessed about Kiwi FM. I usually only comment when the six-monthly ratings are released. At the same time, I think that its also important we don't treat Kiwi FM as a permanent feature on the airwaves. This is a station that was supposedly given a 'one year trial' to prove itself - failed that trial - but remains on air nevertheless.

Kiwi FM was failing - indeed the station was about to be closed - when the Labour Government came to the rescue.

Like Neil Finn and others I remain irritated that despite all the hard work that clearly went into preparing the groundwork for a non-commercial youth radio network (YRN), the former Labour Government did a deal with Brent Impey from Mediaworks. This was in early 2006

Neil Finn at the time said that the (YRN)

"...was effectively sidelined by the Labour Government after eight years of putting together forums and advisory groups and with the overwhelming result from all of those that young people wanted it and that it was the best idea out there to improve radio services for young people. I took part in a few of them, some of them were without me, but certainly the Government got plenty of incentive and very good information and a model was drawn up, but they just ignored it and there's been no movement whatsoever."

The former Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey didn't even both to consult with the supporters of the YRN. Instead he mades a deal with Impey - the same man who had previously argued that the FM frequencies should never be given by the Government to anyone (ie the YRN) for free.

Said Neil Finn:

"I can't understand how [CanWest] can be that the main opponent of youth radio and the main opponent of any Government interference in radio is now the recipient of three frequencies and courtesy of NZ On Air a whole lot of free programming....Brent Impey, I've got a letter from him saying that a YRN - a youth radio network - would ghettoise New Zealand music by putting it, by separating it. Well, I think that's exactly what Kiwi has done."

This deal was made without the usual competitive process.

Maharey at the time claimed that the deal would not jeopardise the future of any public youth radio network. Maharey was clearly just making things up as he went along because Kiwi FM effectively torpedoed the YRN.

Maharey also said this: "It's a one-year trial to see if people like [new general manager] Karyn Hay can make a go of it."

Basically Maharey provided some not insubstantial corporate welfare for a multinational media organisation that consistently argued that there should be no 'government interference' in broadcasting - except when it was of benefit to Mediaworks obviously

Three years later Kiwi FM is still on the air broadcasting to a farcical 0.2 percent of the total radio audience.

Although a Kiwi FM staffer claims the cumulative audience has grown, albeit slightly, what he doesn't say or just doesn't know, is that Kiwi FM's audience has been in decline ever since Maharey bailed the station out.

For example in March 2006 Kiwi FM had 0.6 percent of the total Auckland radio audience - today it has 0.3 percent.

This is a station going nowhere. It is a impostor occupying three valuable FM frequencies that should be home to the YRN - a network that would have enriched youth culture and provided a range of shows on youth-related issues and concerns.

The ratings prove that while people may support New Zealand music they don't want to listen to it exclusively.

Kiwi FM is simply irrelevant.


  1. I was frustrated in the Labour Party debate (such as it was) about this. It seemed obvious to some of us that young people should be entitled to a non-commercial radio station just as older people get with RNZ National and Concert.

    The powers-that-were argued that student radio gave us what we needed (it doesn't: it's commercial) and that we couldn't afford it (wrong).

    For what it's worth, we'll be trying again to get it as Labour Party policy. And some of the key people who were not in favour are no longer involved in the organisation.


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