In the past few months an advisory group commissioned by the Government and made up of representatives from student radio, access radio and some brilliant young people was asked to consider the network among other options for enhancing radio services for youth.

This group has strongly recommended a commercial-free network. The BNET, access radio and Mai FM have also voiced their support.

Those of us who have championed this idea for many years have done so with the belief that it will enliven and empower young people and make New Zealand a more exciting place to live. If we let this opportunity slip away, it will not come again and we will never know what wonderful things might have unfolded.

The national frequency is available, it would cost about the same as Concert FM. All that is now required is for the Government to believe in young people and recognise the powerful and positive influence they might have on our culture with a radio service that belongs to them. Neil Finn, speech to Apra Silver Scroll Awards, 2002

The latest radio ratings are in and, predictably, Kiwi FM continues to rate poorly - and that's something of an understatement. It's actually rating abysmally - which is nothing new.

In the three cities in which it broadcasts it couldn't muster more than a 0.3% radio audience share. In Auckland it rated at 0.2% (same as the last survey) and in Wellington and Christchurch it rate at 0.3% ('up' from 0.2% in the previous survey).

This station is not in decline because it has never actually risen to any heights to decline from. It was a misconceived idea from the very beginning and one that effectively torpedoed the Neil Finn backed idea for a non commercial youth radio network.

This would of been a network that would treated young people as citizens rather than consumers to push product at and a network braodcasting programmes of relevance to New Zealand's young people.

Instead we are still stuck with Kiwi FM, the station that plays nothing but New Zealand music and which hardly anyone wants to listen to.

As Russell Baillie wrote in the NZ Herald back in 2006: 'The station was a brave and well-meaning idea. But it was one stuck in the past, to a time before New Zealand music went mainstream.'

We have the former Labour Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey to thank for this ridiculous situation.

Without warning Maharey came to the aid of MediaWorks which was planning to close Kiwi FM after just a year on air.

Maharey gave the commercial broadcaster the three valuable FM frequencies reserved for a youth radio network. How all this came about is a bit of mystery - especially since Labour had come up with the idea of an youth radio network in the first place - but its clear that MediaWorks Brent Impey lobbied Maharey hard. Impey was worried that a non-commercial youth radio network would pull audience away from the MediaWorks stable of stations such as The Rock and More FM.

Maharey defended his decision on the grounds that Kiwi FM would have a year to prove itself and then the situation would be reviewed.

Kiwi FM didn't prove itself but Maharey went back on his promise and never conducted any review.

And so Kiwi FM remains on air today and three valuable government owned frequencies are going to waste.


  1. The difficulty is that National have no interest in establishing a youth radio network. As Neil Finn said right back in 2002 Labour had the chance to do something great but instead caved into Mediaworks blatant attempt to destroy the YRN.


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