Wellington Scoop

RNZ Concert being moved off FM, and automated; 17 staff will lose their jobs


Report from RNZ Mediawatch producer Hayden Donnell
In the biggest overhaul of its music services in years, RNZ is planning to cut back its classical music station RNZ Concert and replace it on FM radio with music for a younger audience as part of a new multimedia music brand.

The broadcaster is proposing to remove RNZ Concert from its FM frequencies and transform it into an automated non-stop music station which will stream online and play on AM radio.

It would be replaced on FM by a service aimed at a younger, more diverse audience as part of a new multimedia “music brand”.

RNZ Concert would be taken off FM radio on May 29 and the youth platform would be phased in ahead of its full launch on August 28.

RNZ’s music staff were informed about the proposed changes this morning in an emotional, occasionally heated meeting with the RNZ music content director Willy Macalister, head of radio and music David Allan, and chief executive Paul Thompson.

According to documents for staff, the move would eliminate 17 jobs at RNZ Concert including all presenter roles from late March.

Those would be replaced with 13 jobs at the new youth platform, while four remain in the downsized RNZ Concert service and RNZ Music in Wellington.

Marc Taddei: RNZ destroying a success

The documents for staff say the proposed changes are aimed at securing new audiences for RNZ. While its listenership is predominantly Pākehā and heavily skewed towards older demographics, the new music brand would target people aged 18 and 34 including Māori and Pasifika audiences, the document says.

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

Last month chief executive of commercial radio industry umbrella group the radio Broadcasters Association – Jana Rangooni – voiced her concerns about a potential new youth station. “We would have serious concerns if a taxpayer-funded broadcaster launched products and platforms that targeted audiences already well served by commercial radio broadcasters,” she told Stuff.

RNZ has been looking at drawing younger audiences with music since 2015 when an internal review concluded its “approach to the delivery of music content remains in a time warp.” A year later – with little fanfare – the ‘RNZ Music’ brand was launched as part of a strategy to bring in new listeners.

At the time, Thompson told Mediawatch he wasn’t interested in duplicating commercial broadcasting on the air or online. “Why would we provide anything the commercial broadcasters are quite happily doing?” he said. “I hope what we do will pull in more people – especially online – but I don’t see it as a massive audience growth initiative.”

The station also launched youth-focused digital platform The Wireless – which had some music content – in 2014. But it was closed and folded into the rest of rnz.co.nz in 2018.

[Many of the comments below were first published on Twitter.]


  1. Traveller, 5. February 2020, 16:32

    The 18 to 34s don’t need a new radio station – they are fully supplied with the music of their choice via Spotify and the other online service providers. RNZ Concert however is/was the sole provider of music by NZ musicians and NZ composers…..What a blow for the entire New Zealand music community and its audiences. And as for moving an FM music station on to AM – that’s just weird.

  2. Mark Cubey, 5. February 2020, 16:53

    Cat, meet pigeons.

  3. Dave Armstrong, 5. February 2020, 16:55

    … and that was Symphony No. 23 in F sharp major by Josef Haydn ‘The … Phlegmatic’… now we have…. what?…. put that down…. no don’t…. please….. don’t I’m just finishing……but ARGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!

  4. Philip Matthews, 5. February 2020, 17:00

    One doesn’t want to come across all “barbarians at the gates”, but sacking Concert FM staff to launch a yoof channel that the kidz don’t want to listen to? Teenagers don’t want to hear from the Government and there’s not exactly a shortage of commercial contemporary music stations. Daft idea.

  5. Fergus Barrowman, 5. February 2020, 17:17

    This is really shitty RadioNZ.

  6. Margaretanne Roger, 5. February 2020, 17:34

    I have learned so much about all aspects of classical and other genres of music from the fiercely talented presenters on RNZ Concert. They teach, guide, amuse and challenge. By all means target other demographics, I want young people to enjoy the music as much as I do. If that means new programming and presenting styles, I’m sure staff would embrace that. I beg management not to proceed with this half baked idea.

  7. Craig Ranapia, 5. February 2020, 18:18

    Does RNZ know or care that Concert FM has been a pretty awesome platform for young classical musicians, singers and composers? Has given young people access to performances that shouldn’t only be accessible to wealthy people in the main centres?

  8. Morgan Godfery, 5. February 2020, 18:22

    Maybe, if you wanted to attract a new and diverse audience, you should’ve hired a māori to present Morning Report…Anyone who answers the question “how do we attract a younger audience” with “an FM radio station” should be immediately fired and banned from ever working in media again.

  9. Victoria Wray, 5. February 2020, 18:30

    Just had my mum on the phone really upset about this.

  10. Robin Campbell, 5. February 2020, 19:23

    Youth radio. Like a podcast, but there’s only one available at any given time, someone else gets to choose what it is, it can’t be paused, and you have no control over when it starts or ends.

  11. Ali Ikram, 5. February 2020, 19:24

    I heart Concert FM. I remember listening last year to a particularly sad piece. When they came back to the presenter, she was so overcome she couldn’t speak. I don’t think there is a crew in broadcasting who are as passionate or knowledgeable about their work.

  12. Richard MacManus, 5. February 2020, 19:27

    Real shame. Although I don’t listen to as much classical music as I used to, RNZ Concert is my go-to when I want to (or just want some peaceful music to chill out with). Also sad less concerts will be recorded now for posterity.

  13. Bill Manhire, 5. February 2020, 19:28

    Seems to be one more component of the general and seemingly active running down of the arts/heritage sector.

  14. Rev Frank Ritchie, 5. February 2020, 19:30

    In the Aotearoa radio market, youth are already well served. There’s no other networked station like RNZConcert though.

  15. Thomas Coughlan, 5. February 2020, 19:31

    This is quite sad, especially for the presenters losing their jobs. RNZ Concert also does quite a lot of recording of concerts, which is so important for our cultural heritage.

  16. Bronwyn Hayward, 5. February 2020, 19:52

    Seriously? A new youth service? What about the real youth radio of BFM and RdU where all those RNZ journalists cut their teeth—isn’t RNZ a tiny bit embarrassed about this? seriously why not just rethink the programming on National to something more interesting & more podcasts?

  17. James Gardner, 5. February 2020, 20:23

    This is total bollocks. RNZ’s strategy to turn Concert into a lite-classical hits jukebox was always a going to be a disaster. The focus should have been on increasing distinctive online content and features, and NZ music. And shunting it on to AM is nuts.

  18. Alana, 5. February 2020, 21:40

    Don’t do this. Is this RNZ management’s contribution to undermining the government in an election year? Angering a significant segment of people who definitely vote.

  19. Neil Douglas, 6. February 2020, 8:32

    The Concert Program is the only radio station I listen to. I’m really upset by this ‘decision’. How do we oppose it?

  20. Helen Clark, 6. February 2020, 8:59

    The reasons given by RadioNZ management don’t stack up: one doesn’t have to destroy RNZ Concert to establish youth radio services & broaden audiences. This combined with the demolition of the overseas collection at the National Library and cutbacks at ArchivesNZ represents a significant cultural setback. Raise this issue with your MP and ministers. There is a pattern here of destruction of cultural services available to New Zealanders.

  21. Joe Garlick, 6. February 2020, 9:09

    I hear the RNZ music department has been gutted as well, so all those excellent librarians and producers who research and create all the awesome music content on National are gone too. Appalled, angry, outraged is what I am. This youth station is a complete folly.

  22. Phoenix Foundation, 6. February 2020, 9:19

    Wellington needs to fight back against all media shifting to Auckland. We have a strong history of broadcasting and production in this town and we can’t let that die.

  23. Barbara Smyth, 6. February 2020, 9:27

    We need a campaign to save the Concert Program, hopefully orchestrated by the likes of Michael Houstoun, Jonathan Lemalu and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa who have had their sublime talents broadcast to us over so many years.

  24. Jenny Kirk, 6. February 2020, 9:48

    Keep Concert Radio alive please, RNZ. Your knowledgeable presenters provide us with day-long entertainment and excellent music.

  25. vic gill, 6. February 2020, 10:12

    this is crazy. you can get all forms of popular music on commercial radio. how many young folk actually listen to radio these days – most download what they want to various digital devices.

  26. Peggy Klimenko, 6. February 2020, 10:43

    Agreed, Barbara Smyth: we need a campaign to save Concert. And all of us need to support it. Concert is my go-to programme. I listen to it every day, have been a listener since I was young. Like Margaretanne Roger above, I’ve learned an enormous amount about music over the years, from both presenters and broadcast spoken pieces. I have Concert to thank for introducing me to the joys of South American baroque music. I’m infuriated by the proposals. No presenters, and – stupidity upon stupidity – moving it to AM. Who on earth thought that was a good idea?
    This sounds like McConcert: you want fries with that?

  27. Tom Bagatelle, 6. February 2020, 11:12

    RNZConcert provides local and international content in multiple genres of music – classical, jazz, ‘world’, electronics, opera, avant guard, early, choral – that don’t have any other champions on air. 𝙉𝙤 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙚𝙡𝙨𝙚 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙘𝙪𝙨𝙨𝙚𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙪𝙨𝙞𝙘. Another aspect about the closing of @RNZConcert
    that infuriates me is the ‘aging demographic’ bobbins. 𝙒𝙚’𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚. 𝙒𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙪𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙢𝙢𝙚𝙙 𝙛𝙤𝙧. I’m 44! I’m not planning on popping off anytime soon!

  28. Elizabeth Kerr, 6. February 2020, 13:00

    A blatant internal resource grab of the FM network and Concert’s budget. For a mythical audience of 18-35 year olds who do not consume music this way. No apparent research here either.

  29. Brenton Veitch, 6. February 2020, 13:09

    How dare you do this to wonderful RNZ Concert.
    Huge backlash incoming.

  30. Lois Griffiths, 6. February 2020, 14:23

    This news is a disgrace. Listening to RNZ Concert, listening to beautiful music from all over the world, enriches our lives so much.

  31. Jann Medlicott, 6. February 2020, 18:51

    I am a big fan for evidence based decision making. No doubt RNZ will have sound international evidence to support this proposed change. Yeah right! No doubt RNZ will have consulted widely with the affected demographics and will have the amassed data from all those focus groups available for public perusal. I seriously doubt it. This is a hare-brained scheme to address perceived inequalities of access by sacrificing our cultural heritage to create an alternative that nobody is going to want. Shame on you RNZ.

  32. Grant Hodgson, 6. February 2020, 19:10

    How much does it cost annually? I think I know a few people who would be willing to pay an annual subscription fee to see it continue . I have listened to many other classical channels on the internet, but have to say ‘ nothing compares’ to the mood-enhancing quality of RNZ Concert.

  33. Grant Robertson, 6. February 2020, 20:50

    I am advised it is still a consultation and we will be talking to RNZ about their options.

  34. John Rankin, 6. February 2020, 21:34

    @GrantHodgson: excellent idea. I suggest that RNZ Concert consider setting up a PressPatron account and add “Become a Supporter” buttons to its web site. Is RNZ allowed to ask its listeners for money?

    Whoever came up with the idea of shifting a classical station from FM to AM must not like music very much. A youth-oriented radio station needs an app for a phone, not an FM frequency.

  35. Pauline, 6. February 2020, 23:34

    Well said everyone…cannot believe any thought of losing the wonderful programmes on RNZ Concert and so enjoy hearing concerts we have not been able to attend. It is always wonderful to see the many young “boys and girls” standing up and not just clapping but cheering. I have been with a mixed group today also upset and have recommended they read the great response from Marc Taddei to this proposed change.

  36. Sam A, 7. February 2020, 5:20

    “I am advised it is still a consultation and we will be talking to RNZ about their options.”
    Grant, good to hear that you have asked for advice. Are you also going to seek answers about the radical changes underway at the National Library and Archives NZ? These are the result of the epic delays to your NALI review. Here is your 2017 election policy, just as a reminder: https://tinyurl.com/wlfk3qp

  37. TrevorH, 7. February 2020, 8:55

    Dear Helen Clark: Please use your standing as one our pre-eminent leaders and the influence of your Foundation to get these planned cuts to the Concert Programme, the National Library and the Archives reversed. Essential foundations of New Zealand’s heritage and identity are being destroyed. It’s vandalism on a serious scale.

  38. Peter Kerr, 7. February 2020, 8:56

    Advice to Grant Robertson and government MP’s: You had better move fast to crush these ideas from RNZ’s management goons. There’s a lot of people mightily pissed off at this; they might just want to deliver a kick in the arse to a party that preaches the value of public radio, yet allows management functionaries to propose dismantling part of what they most value about our broadcasting system.
    The cult of management in a neo-liberal world is nothing more than a wrecking ball.
    Time to get on the phone and start shouting.

  39. Virginia King, 7. February 2020, 10:02

    I agree with the above comments and endorse any move to reverse this idiotic (proposed) decision to reduce the excellent presenters, change RNZ Concert to AM and go digital.

    The younger generation can download Apps if they are so keen to have more “youth oriented music”.

  40. I. Hutchinson, 7. February 2020, 13:17

    More evidence that ageism prevails – IMO! I studied piano for years – also a great way to learn history & other arts. While I also listen to the National programme, Concert has long been my radio station of 1st choice. Relegation to AM?! Who is/are the decision-makers? What does s/he/they really know about what is still called Classical Music – or are they ignoramuses?

  41. Beth, 7. February 2020, 13:55

    Another case of older people being shut out of music which means so much to them. They can not get out to concerts any more, and find the music helps them thru the day, when they are unable to get out, with presenters who are like friends when there are no family close by. When those who made this decision get elderly, I hope there is retribution….What they propose is dreadful for so many who cannot speak for themselves through this media.

  42. Doug Helps, 7. February 2020, 15:03

    This is plain mischief-making, to set youth requirements against older age requirements. It is not a matter of either or. It is a matter of both. BUT why move a very popular program away from FM to where? and bring in a program for a young audience who ar focused on online social media type programs which more than adequately cater for them and who we know are not interested in old fashioned technology such as Radio broadcasts. Warning – do not change something that is not broken, otherwise there will be repercussions – political and marching in the streets. Lastly RNZ Concert FM is listened to by all ages. BUT the older age group is growing in numbers – this fact is undeniable. The learned presenters’ commentary is often the best part of the production let alone the music.

  43. julia mcnaughton, 7. February 2020, 16:20

    I was very distressed to discover that there is a plan to downgrade/move the RadioNZ Concert programme. I listen to this programme for most of every day (and to no other radio station). It gives me a great deal of pleasure, and I will  be very upset if it is changed in any way. I gather one of the reasons it is being downgraded is that only older people are believed to listen to it. Why should this be a reason to alter it? Surely older, retired people are most in need of good quality programmes. Older people are also least able to access new/alternative forms of entertainment and they are also the sector of the population that is most likely to go out to vote at election time. So any government that downgrades it will lose a lot of support!

    I remember being told years ago by an overseas visitor that a classical music programme with no advertising showed just how civilised a country NZ was.

  44. Paul Winter, 7. February 2020, 16:35

    I do remember the drive to save RNZ. It worked and we need to do the same regarding Concert FM.
    Concert is more than just playing classical music as anyone listening to the station knows. The presenters have knowledge and educate the listeners.
    Shutting down Concert with the drive to merge TVNZ and RNZ is a strategy to put the final nail in the coffin of real journalism, art and culture. The younger audience in general doesn’t need another automated station on FM or AM. Music as such is provided by Spotify and other channels. What the community, young and old, needs is high quality public broadcasting with presenters who know what they are talking about. The broadcasting minister stated that he doesn’t want to get involved which implies that he is actually not doing his job and should go.
    Sorry, could go on but I am very upset and better go.

  45. Michael Wood, 7. February 2020, 21:14

    RadioNZ Concert is where I have received my music education. Sorry, AM receiving my music education. Please keep it.

  46. Kara Lipski, 8. February 2020, 9:03

    An automated concert programme? Who are the planners trying to please? Certainly not me. When I listen to music on the Concert Programme I appreciate the explanations given by the announcer. This idea rings of “we know best” and no easy access consultation has been forthcoming.

  47. Richard Perry, 8. February 2020, 14:20

    Leave the Concert program on FM. Who ever suggested it be moved to AM does not appreciate classical music. This is a wonderful service. Put the new program on internet streaming only (cost effective start and test the market) as the so called target audience is more likely to have all the internet capabilities and you won’t disturb your current audience.

  48. Jude McKenzie, 8. February 2020, 14:48

    The one constant through my entire life has been music. To think that a few misguided, misinformed individuals can make decisions like this is disgusting. We are being denied our cultural heritage and at the same time we are under attack (yet again!)just for being who we are and for when we were born. Ageism stinks but the discrimination and disrespect just keeps going on unchecked. This is just another example of it.
    Leave Concert alone, look instead to releasing more funding to expand RadioNZ to include content for the younger age groups. By all means, try to encourage youth listeners but NOT at the expense of the rest of us. As for the proposed move to AM Radio, surely not!! This is the year 2020, not 1970!
    The hackles are up…I appreciate good music and I vote. This is an election year.

  49. TrevorH, 8. February 2020, 16:34

    Well said Jude McKenzie. This destruction of RadioNZ Concert smells like “ethnic cleansing” to me, especially when seen alongside the purge of the National Library. It is ageist and it is racist. It also contradicts a Labour Party Manifesto undertaking but I suppose those are never meant to be taken seriously. Roll on the election.

  50. Wellington.Scoop, 8. February 2020, 17:05

    Comments on this report are now closed, because we have reached the maximum that our system can contain. However, comments are still welcome after other articles on the same subject: RNZ – destroying a success; RNZ – outrage at a giant loss: and RNZ – derision, dismay, disbelief.