Open letter from Charlotte Wilson
To Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, Grant Robertson, and Kris Faafoi
If you allow RNZ Concert to be axed, then Labour will lose this election. We are your supporters: liberal, educated people who have so far been delighted in the Labour government and Jacinda Ardern. But doing this to us is such a massive slap in the face, I can’t possibly vote for you and my friends and family all feel the same. Unless another party promises to bring Concert back, then for the first time in my life I will have to abstain.
It’s very clear what you are saying to us: I don’t like your culture, so it doesn’t matter.
This is what this chief executive has been telling us for some time – he hates classical music, and over the past few years I have watched him bleed it dry. Not only that, the atmosphere within Radio New Zealand can only be described as partisan, suspicious, and unsupportive, and I would say that has been trickling down from him.
I’m an announcer for Concert, so I have insider knowledge of this. I’m highly trained in music and radio, I’ve also worked for BBC Radio 3, currently I am also a long-distance host for one of the NPR stations in the USA.
So, I rejoiced when the Labour govt gave $10 million or so to RNZ. I rejoiced further when they topped it up to something like 12: and especially when the Prime Minister herself specifically mentioned Concert as one of the intended beneficiaries. But not one cent of that has RNZ Concert seen.
We are treated worse than poor cousins: here I am, one of only three voices sounding on air on the three RNZ networks at any one time, but I don’t get te reo training. I don’t get tech support when the automated music system once again breaks down. I don’t get so much as an answer when I need information on how much of the dawn service to take on Anzac Day.
We don’t even get an operating manual for the studio. They can’t afford to print the pages.
And yet it seems that almost every week a new job has been posted for web content, graphics, video … Paul Thompson has been spending money like water on his vision for broadcasting, which is not the vision in the charter. And yet did he not pledge to support Concert and support the charter, when he got the job? How is he able to do this to us?
And how could you, the Labour government, allow him to get away with it? Just because classical music doesn’t make enough money?
Broadcasting is not just about money. Broadcasting is about community, and culture. And culture you cannot monetise.
RNZ Concert broadcasts NZ concerts, NZ made features, NZ announcers, NZ music. There’s the NZ history of the formation of the broadcasting orchestra and the music schools and the connections NZ music has made to the world; and all these things are a massive part of our culture and heritage. These are the things that formed our characters and interests, these are the things that give happiness and meaning to our lives. These things are us. And there are very many of us, the young and the old of us, the poor, the rich, every colour of skin in New Zealand. Clearly there are more of us than you think.
And there are so many options! Look at all that institutional wealth that Concert holds. All that music, one of the greatest music collections in the world. Let alone the knowledge and skills of its people. Why not semi-privatise if you really must have it make more money? (Like NPR?) Why not have it ditch the news
bulletins and feeds from National, which cost so much trouble? Are you really so determined to strangle our culture that you won’t even consider alternatives? Are you really going to take away the lifeline of the elderly, the fastest growing demographic in the world: are you really going to take away the inspiration for our children? What will our music students have to turn to now.
Please save our culture. Please save us. We depend upon it, we need it for our happiness and quality of life. If you do let it go ahead, then the only legacy you will leave behind is this: Labour Killed Concert.
Charlotte Wilson is a casual presenter at RNZ Concert. This is an edited version of her letter.