Category: Radio

Branding Checkpoint

CAPTION. Mary Wilson would have conducted a more rigorous interview with Renae Maihi.

The Checkpoint interview:


RNZ star presenter John Campbell has worked hard to diminish the worst excesses of celebrity journalism from his days at Campbell Live on TV3. The editorialising. The personal takes.

Sir Robert Jones.

This week he interviewed a Rotorua filmmaker and writer Renae Maihi who is organising a petition to remove Sir Bob Jones knighthood because of his comments in a scrapped NBR column, deemed racist by some.  In my opinion the interview was deficient. It was more about identifying the branding of Campbell and Checkpoint than it was about debating an issue. Maihi was articulate – a media person – and capable of dealing with challenges to her position. It was a debate on free speech not feelings and Campbell should have challenged her assumptions. That is what Checkpoint would have done before Campbell when “Scary Mary” Wilson was in charge.

Checkpoint has some serious wins under Campbell, but Campbell reverts to chat when he agrees with protagonists.  I understand a change in approach to the show had been recognised when senior executive Gael Woods was at RNZ. Woods was made redundant last year and has lodged personal grievance case was due to be heard by the Employment Relations Authority in Wellington in April. A different approach seems to have won approval from senior management at RNZ.

Two weeks after the brouhaha over Bob Jones’ offending column in NBR. Checkpoint revisited the issue with a Skype article on Maihi who had organised the petition with 58,000 signatures. Jones has a reputation as a stirrer and publicity seeker.

Renea Maihi – writer and film-maker.

His column that included a small segment suggesting Maori should use Waitangi Day to show their gratitude to their colonisers. Jones’ insists it was satire. It was only online for a day before the NBR responded to criricism and took it down.  Jones resigned his commission with NBR.

Jacinda Ardern has said the government was not going to remove Jones’s knighthood. In that context, the ongoing story is a debate on freedom of speech . The main problem with the column was that I was not very good. Screen grabs of the offending article were on the internet. But it’s still not clear how many people actually read it in full; Maihi  is entitled to her view. But for seven minutes on Checkpoint we had the state broadcaster examining the hurt she felt – that people were saying such things 250 years after colonisation that hurt Maori people’s mana. She felt media should not publish material that was disparaging toward Maori. She did not buy the satire argument.

“We have to be very responsible what we are putting out in the media, We want people feeling good about it. To which some would say. that’s the price of freedom of speech.

“You just get to a point where we are still having to defend out mana, and we need to sort this out because it has to stop.  Messaging is very important,” Maihi said.

So this will no doubt add to the campaign for those who believe some things cannot be said.

Campbell related to Maihi’s angst, and that seemed to colour his interview. We were treated to an insight into the morals of Campbell household which he said had a policy to “not be a dick”. But it was a soft interview on an important topic. Freedom-of-speech versus the right to not be offended. There was no debate on the premise of the campaign: That the state should punish people who say things that cause offense to others. Checkpoint did not question whether opinion should be regulated.

In my opinion, this interview was more about branding for RNZ. Signalling its priorities. It’s what you would expect from The Project. The Wireless, and The Spinoff,  not Checkpoint.








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Let’s keep an eye on the new State TV channel

CAPTION . Can Broadcasting minister Clare Curran ensure that the new RNZ TV is independent?


Call me a doubting Thomas, but I’m wary about government plans to establish a new TV channel with public broadcasting values. The National Party neglected broadcasting for nine years, and punished Radio New Zealand by starving it of funding. However,  I worry that Labour will be too hands on.

I can understand that RNZ is grateful that Labour is promising expansion with a new TV channel to run in tandem with its radio and digital arm.

But politicians have a love affair with TV, and the public should maintain a sceptical eye on how Labour runs its new low budget TV channel. Labour needs to spell out again how the new channel will be independent and non- partisan.

John Campbell will likely be a star of RNZ TV

Labour has promised  it will be independent. But we need some more details before its plans for a new public media commission are pushed into place. The surprising Labour manifesto item developed late in the piece turned swiftly into policy,  and now it has turned into action. When the policy was announced two weeks before the election, few thought Labour would win.

Labour talks ri included the Coalition for Better Broadcasting and academics. I guess that other cultural folk and individual broadcasters would have been asked. But RNZ itself was not consulted, nor were Fairfax and MediaWorks, which have complained that the creation of another state TV channel  will make it hard for commercial channels to achieve scale.

Private sector objections are no a reason to scuttle the plan. The New Zealand public has been diddled for decdes with NZ On Air commercial TV shows ignoring the need for genuine public interest media. And journalism is in trouble. We need to be careful the government profiles a solution and does not make the problems worse. 


Kim Hill has TV experience.

Curran said that Labour had set aside $38 million had been set aside for the new channel in the upcoming budget. It s a very small amount given the costs associated with starting a TV channel. Curran has talked encouragingly about setting up a public media funding committee for RNZ +, distinct from NZ on Air,  to allocate funding for projects. The Ministers office says that the appointees to that Commission will decided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The makeup of the Commission – and the definition on what RNZ + will show, will decide the integrity of RNZ +.

it is essential that Labour and RNZ take a wide interpretation of pubic broadcasting and serves the wider audience – including working class people. Curran insists that the Public Media Commission will be apolitical and independent. But the public need to be sure that RNZ + does not solely become a vehicle for identity and interest groups,  and the ideological liberal view of the world that has dominated at RNZ.

New Zealand media is at a pivotal point and Labour is enjoying an extended honeymoon with the media. Globally there are big changes afoot with the growth of big social campaigns.  We need to ensure that RNZ + stands apart from ideological fashion – it remains objective and sceptical in the tradition of public broadcasting, dealing with different points of view.

Will Wallace Chapman get a TV show?

The NZ Herald reported yesterday that RNZ is already facing big challenges, in part over the costs for its existing focus on televising existing radio shows, such as Checkpoint. There have been question marks over the potential for a pro- Left bias in the RNZ digital product.

Clare Curran and Labour may do a fabulous job  creating a new  public broadcasting service, however, in my opinion,  there is good reason for the public to keep an eye on how RNZ+ develops. 

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Oliver-Kerby Exits ZB – Heads For Coast

NZME announced today (Monday) Bernadine Oliver-Kerby, is to co-host the new Coast Breakfast show with Jason Reeves from January 22. Oliver-Kerby is newsreader for NewstalkZB on Mike Hosking Breakfast. She launched her radio career 13 years ago.  A replacement on ZB will be announced in the coming weeks. Oliver-Kerby is also well known for her work as a presenter and reporter on TVNZ.  NZ Herald Focus and Sky Sport. The decision follows a controversy over a new sports quiz show on Sky T, hosted by her and including other sports reporters. The show was set to start before Christmas but was delayed to early 2018 over Tony Veitch big noting his role in the show. His involvement led to attacks by activists and journalists who believed that he shouldn’t be allowed on TV due to his past assault of his partner. . At best, Veitch’s comments that it marked his return to TV and were disrespectful to Oliver- Kerby. who is the main host. Veitch subsequently withdrew from the Sky show.  Footnote: Good luck to her. She is a good newsreader and will be missed.



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Turning Checkpoint into Campbell Live: Two Years On. Opinion

Friday, December 15 marks the two-year anniversary of John Campbell being appointed to replace Mary Wilson presenting Checkpoint  – a heavily promoted event that marked the start of celebrification at Radio New Zealand. Clearly. it was not a wholly bad idea. After decades of presenting itself as an objective purveyor of news and opinion. RNZ decided to offered heart on sleeve broadcaster and nice guy match the profile of Paddy Gower, and Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB.

Has the appointment of a celebrity broadcaster been good for RNZ as an institution? Continue reading Turning Checkpoint into Campbell Live: Two Years On. Opinion

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RNZ: From Red Radio To Celebrity Radio Spinoff

All Media have gone a little haywire since the advent of Jacindamania, with a leftward slide that reflects the more liberal mood under a Labour government. Mainstream media are catering to the new mood. but RNZ is leading the pack.

Third wave feminist activism is in fashion and we older men who purportedly run the world are ruling it as well,  even if the main critics are are just younger pale folk from well-heeled suburbs.

Under head of content Carol Hirschfeld RNZ has assembled a team of “stars” led by John Campbell. with Jesse Mulligan and to a lesser extent Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson.

A public broadcaster needs to think about reflecting a range of views, some of which will not be shared at journalist get togethers at nice city restaurants or dinner parties in Grey Lynn and Parnell.

I sense this a phase we are going through – this madness of activist led media and twitter virtue signalling each day – it Is inevitable after nine years of a conservative government with knives out for media.

While the new Government settles in and we wait for somebody to take charge. – we are living in a nether world of twitter storms and Facebook outages. Remember the election campaign:


Continue reading “RNZ: From Red Radio To Celebrity Radio Spinoff”

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Ryan Rathbone: Leaning Over The Edge

CAPTION: Ryan Rathbone is National Content Director for the top rating music station, The Edge FM.

Ryan Rathbone was headed for Canadian radio, but detoured to New Zealand instead to take up an offer overseeing youth stations at MediaWorks. Rathbone later took over as national content director the Edge, a jewel in the crown for MediaWorks, the top-rating radio network nationwide.

The Edge FM breakfast teams a ratings winner,

Rathbone had given it a big makeover and the quarter three survey from GfK saw a big boost.“When you make change to a heritage brand you usually go down, not up, so it was a massive relief,” he said. The gods were on his side. The new GfK ratings system incorporated smaller provincial centres, which had been ignored in the past, and The Edge had an unrecognised big following. MediaWorks has been on the ascendancy lately in Auckland, taking audience away from NZME, which controls the other half of New Zealand’s commercial radio duopoly.

Three years after leaving his job programming 2Day FM in Sydney, Rathbone sees subtle differences in the two markets.

For the rest of the story. read Mediaweek:

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The Edge FM: Cruise, Crotchgate And Cucumbers

The Edge breakfast crew  – Dom Harvey, Jay Jay Harvey and Chris Randell – are such a big revenue earners for MediaWorks they are even allowed to undermine colleagues at More FM. In case you missed it, last week, The Edge tricked More FM Christchurch breakfast co-host Simon Barnett into thinking he was interviewing Tom Cruise, when it was a Tom Cruise impersonator. Barnett looked silly and sounded devastated. He did not get the joke.

Simon Barnett – tricked.

His co-host, Gary McCormick, was furious and producer Samantha Baxter started sobbing and told her fellow The Edge hosts to “Get a life.  It’s embarrassing. But its hard to be upset for them. Fake celebrity calls are a standard for commercial breakfast radio. But it was surprising they were duped by their own colleagues. In the last survey The Edge had the country’s biggest weekly cumulative reach of 662,300 listeners, ahead of More FM om 517,000.

With The Edge ratings so high Dom, Jay Jay and Chris might feel unstoppable. But there is an old maxim in the media business – be nice to people on your way to the top, because you might meet them again on the way down. They are obliged to be outrageous but they are in the unusual role as husband and wife shock jocks.

Occasionally, the quest for outrage has seen the Edge Breakfast show lose the plot.

In August 2015 the Edge crew had contestants in the  Bachelor competition – women who under contract to Mediaworks – to swallow a cucumber. in my opinion it was demeaning and sleazy at a network that has a lot of kids and teen females innit audience. In April Dom Harvey had published a crotch shot of Bachelorette Chrystal Chenery with a lewd comment.

In October last year the NZ Herald’s Spy reported:

Jay-Jay Harvey disappeared from her morning radio show yesterday morning and hasn’t returned since.

This morning, co-hosts Clinton Randall Dom Harvey opened up about her mysterious disappearance.

“It’s probably time to address the elephant in the room, what is up with Jay-Jay… She was here with us yesterday morning and then mysteriously mid-show she just disappeared.

“It turns out Jay-Jay was in one of the toilet cubicles crying at the time,” the hosts explained.

“Jay-Jay is a sufferer of depression and exhaustion I guess as well. She takes a lot on and she gets to the point where things can get a little bit too much,” said Dom, who said there was “a lot of family stuff going on” in their lives.

Jay Jay cancelled a book tour at the time which described her battle with depression. Media have rightly g0ne out of their way to respect Harvey’s condition and its challenges. It can’t always be easy being a shock jock.



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News Director Exits RNZ Amid Angst

RNZ news boss Brent Edwards is leaving amidst tension in the Wellington newsroom.  Edwards is the news director and head of newsgathering at RNZ. He was formerly political editor, working from parliament. And he has also been a key player in E tu journalist union.

Barry ended funding freeze

His resignation was announced yesterday and it will be effective after the election. The move has shocked new staff and comes at the same time as a contentious restructuring with key news roles moved from Wellington to Auckland. RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said Edwards’ resignation was a big loss. He did not know whether his news director role would stay in Wellington, or whether it will be moved to Auckland. RNZ has restructured the role of another senior executive Gael Woods.

RNZ CEO Paul Thompson

Her future is unclear. I am told Auckland chief executive Eileen Cameron is also stepping down soon. though this is not directly related to the restructuring. RNZ claims that a move to Auckland is necessary due to the high risk of an earthquake in Wellington. This view makes some sense. But staff said the implementation has been clumsy and harsh and appears to have “come from nowhere.”  Thompson had told staff that around 50 positions will move north over several years.

Richard Griffin: Journo turned RNZ chairman

Edwards did not return a call. But sources say that he – long with the director of news programmes – Mary Wilson –  questioned news restructuring plans. In the Budget the government rannounced an end to athe punishing funding freeze at RNZ. Negotiations were with Minister for Culture and Heritage, Maggie Barry, a former presenter on RNZ Morning Report. The RNZ negotiator was Richard Griffin, a former RNZ political editor.


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Pre-election Job Cuts As RNZ Continues Move North

CAPTION RNZ is moving more jobs to Auckland.

Radio New Zealand is planning a small but significant shake-up of its news division, including key roles being moved from Wellington to Auckland. Only four roles will be affected,  including one on-air position. But my source says there may be a greater impact on staff being unable or unwilling to move north. Away from news, it is understood that longtime overnights announcer Lloyd Scott is moving on.

Lloyd Scott

RNZ is explaining the latest shakeup as an aftershock from the Kaikoura earthquake. It showed how the capital and the RNZ head office were vulnerable to natural disaster. RNZ has a legislated role for communications during a civil defence emergency. However, some Wellington staff believe there is a natural bias at the RNZ board of governors which sees Wellington as hidebound by past practices. The Auckland office is perceived as part of the new look RNZ. The image head of content Carol Hirschfeld appearing on an RNZ podcast dressed in gym gear for a promotion of a fitness programme is said to illustrate the change.  It includes a more relaxed approach to the depiction of brands. This new approach has been supported by chief executive Paul Thompson. As Auckland has grown, relations between the two offices have become strained. Thompson and key news management have been based in Wellington. Former Checkpoint host Mary Wilson is in a senior news role in Wellington, while John Campbell and the new Checkpoint team are in Auckland.

RNZ CEO Paul Thompson

So is Jesse Mulligan, and in some ways, the Auckland office has come to epitomise the new look RNZ. The specifics of changes are to be spelt out on Wednesday. RNZ stresses there are only a small number of changes. But the timing is significant given the impending general election. Thompson said any changes to the news would not affect election coverage, In the last budget, the government ended a punishing nine-year funding freeze. It allocated an annual $2.8 million increase on top of the $32 million it has been given since 2007.


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No sweat at RNZ over gym video plug

Once upon a time, RNZ was extraordinarily careful ensuring it did not promote brands in its content. It is understandable for an organisation whose main point of difference is that they have no ads. RNZ executives were once obsessively stayed clear of promoting brands. The world is changing. Last week the head of content at Radio New Zealand, Carol Hirschfeld, was decked out in gym gear at Les Mills for the latest episode for the “Healthy or Hoax” podcast series. The item was about the intensive Hiit workout programme offered by some gym firms. But in my opinion, the item came across as a promotion for the programme offered by Les Mills. RNZ wrote:

“As the Healthy or Hoax podcast team, led by host Carol Hirschfeld, found out HIIT definitely has some benefits. The most obvious is that you can finish a workout in 20 minutes instead of an hour… or more.


Senior public servant Carol Hirchfeld stands tall at Les Mills

By all accounts the item went across well public. I wonder if this is due to it starring former celebrity Hirschfeld fronting the programme. RNZ appears to be experimenting with its own image. The head of the podcast team Tim Watkin has had astonishing success recently for the political series The Ninth floor, with Guyon Espiner interviewing former Prime Ministers.


Does Radio New Zealand have a Radio NZ to spell out the promotion of brands, he said this came down to journalist oversight.

RNZ Auckland HQ: The Les Mills gym is just down the road.

I asked Carol Hirschfeld how she – a senior public servant with responsibility for content – had come to don her gym gear front the lifestyle series.

“Tim Watkin asked me. I was happy to do so at his request.”

Why was Les Mills chosen to take part in the recent podcast?

“RNZ  journalist/producer Kate Pereyra Garcia, who came up with the concept for Healthy or Hoax, had been looking to set up a session at a Les Mills gym in Wellington. She asked if I would be happy to be involved and do an exercise class. I thought it would fun and a good first person account for the podcast. I then recorded at a Hiit class at a Les Mills gym in Auckland.”

Was there any conflict of interest between RNZ and Les Mills?


Was the fact that her Finlay Macdonald is attached to Les Mills a factor in the decision to feature Les Mills?

“No.  For the sake of transparency,  I mention in the podcast my husband does work for Les Mills.”

Do you believe the coverage promoted Les Mills and its service?

“The headline for the podcast episode which was in part recorded at Les Mills reads high intensity exercise too much of a good thing. The podcast is clear about the drawbacks of Hiit.”

Can you clarify the process at RNZ for handling exposure of brands and potential conflicts of interest?

“Like all media organisation, at times we feature different commercial organisations in our features content. Those editorial decisions are made by the producers of the content.  Conflicts of interest are dealt with by executive producers/editors and ultimately the editor-in-chief (CEO Paul Thompson).”




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