Red Radio Commisars vs Concert FM

Dieuwe de Boer

The story developed rather quickly. The board of Red Radio announced they were killing off Concert FM, the classical music radio station that supports musicians and orchestras up and down the country. Outrage was made. Court action was threatened. Aunty Helen intervened. Concert FM was saved.

Yet something feels off. Let's rewind a little and go back to the initial announcement, which was aimed at replacing Concert with a "Yoof Station".

Mediawatch understands the new youth platform would have a playlist spanning multiple musical genres with a heavy focus on New Zealand music. It would be active on social media.

"Genre is no longer relevant to the audience," the proposal document says.

"We intend to be a broad proposition for everyone . . but its got to have relevance for 18-35 year old audience," Willy Macalister told Mediawatch.


Classical music has been relevant to young people for hundreds of years. That's kind of the point to classical music: it's a genre that's been developed and passed down through many generations. It's not fleeting and it's not forgotten. The apparent declining popularity of classical music has less to do with the genre and more to do with the decline of religion. Many of the best classical works are sacred music, and its composers sought to praise and worship God through music. Modern music is inevitably about self, as the report goes on to confirm.

"One of the things that streaming services have taught us is that when you look at the top playlists, they're not necessarily talking about genres of music. They're talking about emotional state and activities," he said.

Classical music is complex, demands attention, and invites contemplation. It's not really about you. It's about the talent of the composers and musicians, and it's about the complex story the music is trying to communicate.

Of course, the reason for killing off Concert was due to its declining audience, right? Let's have a little look at the radio station's most recent viewership survey:

The fourth and final nationwide GfK radio industry survey for 2019 reflects a solid period of growth for live listening on RNZ National and RNZ Concert with radio results enhanced by continuing growth across digital channels for the multimedia broadcaster.

[...] RNZ Concert is also up compared to the last survey, with a weekly cumulative audience of 173,300 or 4.0% of the 10+ population. This is an increase of 7,700 compared to the third 2019 GfK survey for the network.



Could there be something more nefarious going on? One of the things that puts me off listening to Concert is the top-of-the-hour news update from Communist HQ. Sometimes I tune in and have to turn it off after hearing what sounds like nails on a chalkboard—supposedly "world music". If I wanted inferior noise rather than high art, I wouldn't be tuning in to classical radio. A friend regularly recounts the time he tuned in to hear two presenters gushing about how great this recording of urine dripping onto a recording plate was.

Red Radio have been working hard to destroy Concert FM from within, and yet despite their best efforts it still seems to be going strong. There's the problem with the "successful" backlash: the Maoists will remain in charge and continue to corrupt the station from within until they try again in a decade. Eventually they will succeed.

If the taxpayers are funding public broadcasting, one would assume that the priority would be on preserving our traditional art forms and rich music history. Instead, it seems to be going to those who care more about a rerun of Mao's cultural revolution.

The only solution is to split Concert FM off from Red Radio and have it be a charity that receives its basic funding as a grant. It will then also rely on audience donations, which will be a financial encouragement for the new board to keep Radio Concert within the boundaries of its principles and, hopefully, it will keep the Maoists at bay by stripping their power.

Once Concert FM is independent, you can also defund and shutdown Red Radio completely. That's how I'd kill two birds with one stone, but sadly the vultures live on to try again another day.