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Miscommunication over Concert plan

Editorial

So the Concert FM brouhaha has finally reached its climax and been defused by a Government announcement that it will look to free up another FM frequency, and explore funding options for a multi-media music brand.

RNZ last week revealed plans to transform Concert into an automated non-stop music station which would stream online and play on (inferior sound quality) AM radio from May 29, to free up its FM frequency and resources for a proposed youth channel targeting more diverse audiences.

The Prime Minister and Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi responded by saying it was a matter for discussion, and politicians could not interfere in programming and operational issues. Perhaps they were distracted by Waitangi events.

Five days of growing anger, fronted by former prime minister Helen Clark and supported by luminaries such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa — and including a plea for activism from arts philanthropist Jack Richards at a packed final concert of the Tiromoana Summer Music Series here on Sunday — saw Jacinda Ardern change tack on Monday, expressing her frustration that RNZ had announced the proposed changes when Faafoi had asked for time to discuss alternatives.

Yesterday the RNZ board issued a media release welcoming the FM frequency opportunity, and chief executive Paul Thompson fronted on RNZ's Checkpoint where he admitted they did not ask for an additional frequency for the youth channel before going public with their plans to take Concert off FM.

Thompson told his interviewer Lisa Owen — both former Gisborne people who have risen to the top of journalism in this country — there had been a “miscommunication”.

“I think we obviously didn't explain it clearly enough, and when we were talking about our plan, there was an assumption that it wouldn't be obvious initially that the FM transmission would be affected, and I think that was just a glitch in the communications.

“We did believe that we had carefully briefed everyone we needed to about our plans, but there was miscommunication over one key point. And that key point (was) over whether we would be talking publicly about the loss of Concert on FM . . .

“How we got there was very bumpy and rocky,” he said, “but we do think that it's really affirming that the Government has endorsed our strategy, that RNZ needs to become more relevant to younger people, and a new music service is a great way of doing that.”