Sean Plunket : Hoping to emulate his ratings success on Radio Live.
Magic Talk is conspicuously lacking in magic.

FOR THE UNINITIATED (and good on you), Magic Talk isn't a discussion about card tricks and sawing people in half, its the radio station that replaced the ratings failure that was Radio Live. 

Having been unceremoniously dumped off the prime Auckland FM band and sent to the AM wilderness, the station has proven to be little more than Radio Live lite. This is Radio Live with less hosts, less producers, less shows and, given the amount of time the hosts spend talking to themselves, a station obviously with less listeners.

What Magic Talk isn't though is less right wing. The masterminds behind the niche station for magicians (sorry, I couldn't resist that one) have pressed the conservative turbo button and flushed away what little liberal content there was on Radio Live. There is no place for an intelligent and informed show like Graeme Hill's Weekend Variety Wireless on Magic Talk.

The station saves money by broadcasting its sister  music station for long stretches of time. But when the station isn't playing Elvis Presley and The Beatles, its confirming the prejudices of its listeners via a slate of conservative hosts. It begins with the simulcast of The AM Show at breakfast featuring the not-very-liberal views of Duncan Garner and Mark Richardson then winds its way through ex-TVNZ's Peter Williams, failed Radio Live host and former Opportunities Party spin doctor Sean Plunket and then through to Ryan Bridge, Leah Panapa and Tony Amos. Amos, the son of former Labour  government minister Phil Amos, is mildly centre-left but not too much to frighten the horses. But he's tucked away on the midnight and dawn show anyway and out of harm's reach.

It seems that Mediaworks have decided that they will try to reproduce the ratings winning formulae of Newstalk ZB and double down on the conservative content. That could prove to be problematic.

Historically, the principle reason why the likes of Mike Hosking, Leighton Smith and Larry Williams have been able to capture most of the largely conservative audience that listens to talkback is that  they have not been slow to stoke the fires of prejudice and bigotry. Minority groups like refugees, beneficiaries and, yes, Muslims have all provided easy fodder in the pursuit of ratings.

Perhaps its a coincidence that two of the chief offenders, Leighton Smith and Larry Williams, have both retired in recent times but, in the aftermath of the Christchurch terrorist attack, it will have to be a particularly unreconstructed and unreflective talkback host to continue to engage in the same kind of behaviour that we have seen in the past.

It was the noted American philosopher Barry Manilow who asked the pertinent question; 'Could this be the magic at last?'. After listening to Magic Talk on a regular basis ever since it went to air in January, I have to inform Barry that Magic Talk is decidedly unmagical. 


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