Radio New Zealand Concert, the classical musical branch of Radio New Zealand, does not usually make the headlines. But music lovers of classical music fans across the country have been raised after the public broadcaster announced it was cutting much of the station to make way for programs aimed at younger audiences.
The ensuing fury sparked disputes on social media over whether classical music is elitist or just for the elderly and prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to enter it.
The station attracts around 170,000 listeners per week in New Zealand, heavily biased towards people aged 65 and over, according to the broadcaster.
But fans rallied last week when Radio New Zealand proposed to throw its classic arm FM station in May, replacing it with a youth radio station in August. Some 18 jobs would be cut, with new positions created at the youth station, RNZ said.
An automated classical music program, without presenters, would be broadcast online 24/7. Some have scathingly called the planned format a classical music “jukebox” sector.
“This amounts to a brutalization of cultural life in New Zealand,” said Helen Clark, former New Zealand prime minister. wrote on Twitter. Others have said Clark’s argument is elitist. “The idea that there are smart arts and stupid arts is completely wrong,” said a Twitter user.
On Monday, more than 23,000 people had signed a petition urging Radio New Zealand to reconsider the decision and a Facebook group of 10,000 people called “Save RNZ Concert” was discussing how to protest, with options such as marches and actions. in justice. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the New Zealand opera singer, said the station was “iconic, very important” and compared her gutting to the removal from the All Blacks rugby team.
As opposition to the move grew – in perhaps the biggest controversy the station has ever sparked – Ardern added her doubts to the pile, saying she was “frustrated” that RNZ had announced the disappearance of the station. conventional station without asking for government help first.
She announced Monday that her cabinet would consider its own plan to free up the proposed youth station’s FM frequency so that Concert could remain at its current frequency.
Ardern did not explain whether his government would offer separate funding for the operating costs and ongoing salaries of the conventional station. Radio New Zealand is fully taxpayer funded; it does not collect any royalties or subscriptions and does not broadcast advertising.
Its funding was the source of public angst and pre-election promises, and sometimes fluctuated depending on the party in power. When new funding was frozen by New Zealand’s former center-right government – which believed the broadcaster was left-leaning – more than 30,000 people signed a petition calling for more money to be released.
Many on social media decried Radio New Zealand’s decision to use the FM frequency freed by Concert’s disappearance on a youth station, pointing out that young people were more likely to broadcast music rather than listen to the radio , and were already supported. by existing options.
“I understand that RNZ has obligations to all New Zealanders, and they are of the opinion that they are not looking after just one sector,” Ardern said in the RNZ interview. “But I think, as Minister of the Arts, that one doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.”
A spokesperson for Radio New Zealand declined to comment on Ardern’s comments until the organization’s board met to consider his counter-proposal.
Research commissioned by the broadcaster and seen by the Guardian expressed concern that Radio New Zealand was not relevant “to people at all stages of their lives” and failed to connect with non-audiences. white – especially Maori, Pacific Islander and Asian groups, all growing demographics in New Zealand – and young people.
As a public service broadcaster, RNZ has an obligation to serve all New Zealand audiences and does not appeal to a diverse enough population to do so, according to the study.