Mike Yardley was something of an exception to the talkback radio rule - he was a liberal.

For fifteen years or so he hosted an immensely popular 9am-midday talkback and news show on Newstalk ZB. Thanks to his show and the preceding breakfast show show of John Dunne (brother of Peter) and Ken Ellis, Newstalk ZB ruled the commercial radio roost in Christchurch.

Yardley was good at what he did and never avoided asking the hard questions of both national and local politicians. He often hauled Mayor Sideshow Bob over the coals who, I suspect, grew to dislike Yardley. So Yardley must of have been doing something right.

After fifteen years he left his show for new non-radio pastures and was replaced by Ali Jones. More conservative than Yardley she nevertheless maintained the focus on local issues and concerns.

She ran, for example, a series of excellent shows on Sideshow Bob's bailout of Dave Henderson and I posted the transcripts to one interview on this blog.

But all this came to an end when The Radio Network decided that the people of Christchurch didn't really need any local news shows. The breakfast show was axed in 2008 and Ali Jones was shown the door in 2009.

Despite being a major metropolitan centre, Christchurch does not have any local news radio. Instead the people of Christchurch are supposed to make do with the Auckland shows of Mike Hosking and Leighton Smith. Personally I'd rather stick my head in a bucket of ice cold water than listen to the right wing Smith.

Not surprisingly Newstalk ZB in Christchurch has suffered a dramatic drop in ratings, losing over five percent of its audence. In the competitive world of commercial radio losing just one percentage point is a disaster , a drop of over five percent suggests that a station has gone into meltdown.

Mike Yardley has remained silent on events at his former radio station but he broke his silence in his column in the Christchurch Press on Saturday.

He wrote: 'ZB's heart and soul was underpinned by its local stripes' and that it provided the station with 'its winning dimension'.

On the wiping away of its local stripes Yardley commented that ' a surreal situation' had been allowed to develop.

He went on to say; 'Newstalk ZB has been rendered hopelessly incapable of courting or reflecting the public passion over the ECan turmoil - because its a local issue. Similarly what is shaping up to be feverish city council election race can't be covered with any depth due to the network restrictions.'

We're often told how well commercial radio does things. Indeed the present Minister Of Broadcasting seems to think that Radio New Zealand could do with a good dose of these 'superior' commercial values.

Those same commercal values have been responsible for depriving Christchurch of any local radio news shows with the result that thousands of people have tuned out of Newstalk ZB.


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