Comment

RNZ feels impact of music radio revival

RNZ National has followed its commercial radio counterparts and lost audience during - and after - the election campaign.

The GfK survey released today shows that in the 12-month period to April this year 569,400 listeners tuned into RNZ National in an average week.

That is down 17,000, or three percent, on the previous year.

Figures for the commercial stations were released last week; Newstalk ZB also lost 17,000 listeners to slip below the half million mark at 488,900.

Both RNZ National and Newstalk ZB remain well behind the country’s number one station, The Edge which increased its audience by 26,000 to almost 640,000 listeners.

The survey saw the music stations, particularly those owned by MediaWorks roar back into favour. The Breeze was up a massive 52,000 to move into second slot with a total of 580,000 listeners.

RNZ’s head of radio, David Allan, said he was happy that RNZ had maintained its ranking in the market, “but this was clearly a very good book (survey) for the music stations. I think it shows that covering the election campaign and the aftermath didn’t work for live radio.”

RNZ flagship Morning Report programme dropped 21,300 listeners, or nearly five percent, of its audience. This is the first setback for a programme that has been re-energised since Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson took over as hosts.

RNZ will be hoping that this is not a sign the show has peaked and is starting to trend down.

The network's other key properties, Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan and Checkpoint with John Campbell, both had relatively small drops.

Unfortunately for RNZ, the revival of the music stations did not extend to its own. RNZ Concert had the same number of listeners as the last survey – 145,800.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson has previously told Newsroom that he is looking to change the broadcaster’s music strategy. So far nothing seems to have happened.

Thompson will be looking to quickly establish a rapport with newly-appointed RNZ chairman Jim Mather.

Mather is almost the polar opposite to his predecessor Richard Griffin, the former press secretary to former National prime minister, Jim Bolger.

Griffin, known for his loud and almost theatrical style, oversaw a period of financial austerity at the state broadcaster.

Mather, the quietly-spoken former head of Māori TV, is likely to preside over a period of expansion and he will almost certainly want to see better coverage of Māori and Pasifika issues.

While the amount of Te Reo spoken on RNZ has increased notably under Thompson, there has not been a lot of advancement of Māori reporters in the mainstream programmes.

RNZ lost its highest-profile Māori journalist, Mihingarangi Forbes, earlier in the year.

Mather will also want to know exactly what led to Carol Hirschfeld’s departure. When he ran Māori TV, Mather hired Hirschfeld to run his programming department and the two had a strong working relationship.

While Mather has been outside the media scene for five years running the Māori tertiary institution, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, he will find some familiar faces when he walks into RNZ HQ in Wellington.

RNZ’s head of business transformation, Alan Withrington, used to be Mather’s CFO at Māori TV and Stephen Smith, head of audience strategy, was another of his key executives.

It would be a surprise if Paul Thompson doesn’t have a good line on his new boss by the time he arrives for his first board meeting.

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