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.
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.
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).”