Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is “frustrated” that RNZ pushed ahead with announcing proposed changes to its Concert radio station.
RNZ is planning to take the classical music station off the FM frequency and replace it with a new station aimed at reaching a wider, younger audience.
Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report the government had asked for time to find an alternative.
“I feel very strongly about this. When I came in as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, one of the priorities I had was access – that we need to broaden the access of all New Zealander to the arts,” she said.
“I understand that RNZ has obligations to all New Zealanders, and it is their view that they are not catering for one sector. But it is my view as arts minister that one does not need to come at the cost of another.
“My frustration here is that I see this beyond a programming decision and into a structural decision.”
She said when Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi was briefed – very recently – on some of the proposed changes, he expressed concern and one of his clear concerns was over the loss of FM frequency for Concert.
“He explicitly asked for time so that we could see if whether or not there was something we could do to prevent the loss of the FM frequency for Concert. RNZ went ahead and announced this regardless.”
The real story here is of Government incompetence. Helen Clark has pointed out Labour made manifesto commitments towards Concert FM stating they would make sure Radio NZ doesn’t reduce funding to Concert FM.
But Labour didn’t seek to implement their promise. They could have done so through the Crown Entities Act which allows the Minister to amend the statement of intent or performance expectations for Radio NZ.
Radio NZ doesn’t have to implement a party’s manifesto but it does need to statements of intent or performance expectations.
So the problem was one of their own making. Radio NZ has backed down, but if the Government was competent they could have prevented the fracas from ever occurring.