Brian Edwards Media

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Why should we care about Radio New Zealand?

Ross Giblin/The Dominion Post

Ross Giblin/The Dominion Post

 Why should we care about Radio New Zealand?

Because it is the only broadcast medium in the country that takes the time to examine issues of consequence to New Zealanders at length and in depth. It can do so because, and only because it is a non-commercial radio network. It is not beholden to advertisers, does not need to concern itself with ratings – though many of its programmes outrate its commercial competitors – and its programmes are not interrupted or abbreviated by the irritating presence of advertisements.

Radio New Zealand’s success in commanding a large and loyal audience with programmes such as Morning Report, Nine to Noon, Checkpoint, Afternoons, Kim Hill’s (and formerly my own) Saturday morning show, gives the lie to the proposition that the public are not interested in social and political debate or intelligent conversation. They are.

In contrast the free-to-air commercial television channels offer us quasi ‘current affairs’ programmes such as Close Up and Campbell Live whose function is less to inform than to entertain and whose mandate is to retain the ratings momentum generated by the channels’ preceding news, sport and weather packages.

The entertainment ethos that drives these programmes – and the channels’ network news bulletins as well – is that the viewer has a limited attention span, requires constant stimulation and novelty, and has little appetite for the serious examination of social and political issues. To be palatable, what information the programmes offer must be served up in tasty, bite-sized chunks. Nothing too long, nothing too tough, nothing requiring chewing. The viewer must be given no excuse to reach for the remote to change the channel. Read the rest of this entry »

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