Mitch Harris: Took a swipe at Radio Live management.
'The new voice of talkback radio' has been silenced because you need another pop music radio station...yes, you do...really...

THIS WEEK IT WAS ANNOUNCED that Radio Live would soon be going off the air, permanently. Launched fourteen years ago as 'the new voice of talk radio', it will be all but history in little more than a month. 

It will be replaced by Magic FM. That station plays a diet of 1960s-based 'classic hits'. Although Mediaworks says that the station, described as 'Magic Talk', will continue to broadcast TV3's AM Show and Radio Live's Drive Show that's unlikely to last for long given that the station is targeting an audience that wants to hear The Eagles or Elvis rather than the opinions of Duncan Garner.

Mediaworks, the station owner, has raised the white flag and surrendered talkback radio to Newstalk ZB. While Newstalk ZB is suffocatingly conservative Radio Live at least let the air in occasionally. Yes, it was home at various times to right wingers like Paul Henry, Michael Laws and Sean Plunkett but it could also accommodate the more liberal views of someone like Karyn Hay, now doing a weeknight show on RNZ National. It was also home, I might add, to Graeme Hill's wonderfully diverse and informed Weekend Variety Wireless, a show that modestly described itself as 'possibly the most interesting show on planet Earth'.

Over the years there has always been someone who has popped up to declare that the state has no role to play in broadcasting. We're told that private interests can run broadcasting more efficiently and that 'market competition' will ensure that there will be a diversity of programming and voices.

Last year a former Labour Minister of Broadcasting, Steve Maharey, argued that state-owned Television New Zealand should be sold off. When asked if he also thought RNZ National should also be sold Maharey, an advocate of 'third way' politics in the Helen Clark Labour Government, declared that such a sale was 'consistent with policy'.

"You can't have one rule for one, and not another," he told journalists.

With the demise of Radio Live we should remind ourselves of what private interests have provided us with in the way of radio. 

New Zealand commercial radio is dominated by NZME Radio and Mediaworks. The two networks provide a slate of radio stations broadcasting an unrelenting diet of pop music. The tedium of the programming is relieved only by the banality of the DJ's who appear to have the collective IQ of 4. Much of the programming is also becoming increasingly automated.

The one exception to the diet of pop is Newstalk ZB, but this is the home of rabidly right wing hosts like Mike Hosking, Leighton Smith and Larry Williams.

So it has been left to the state-owned RNZ National to provide the diversity of programming and voices that commercial radio has so abjectly failed to do. A special mention should also be made of the dozen community access radio station around the country who broadcast not only community-made shows but international radio shows like Democracy Now. Oh, they are also funded by the state.

Meanwhile the reality of corporate capitalism will kick him for some twenty Radio Live workers who are expected to lose their jobs in the 'restructuring'. Radio Live night time host Mitch Harris took a swipe at management on air declaring that the station had been ground down by 'a series of people who were television people and didn't know anything about radio.'


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