Wellington Scoop

RNZ executives defend themselves against restructuring criticism

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson, left, and board chairman Dr Jim Mather at the Economic Development, Science and Innovation select committee today. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Report from RNZ News
RNZ executives today fronted up to Parliament to mount a defence against accusations they bungled the Concert restructure that has now been shelved.

Last week, the public broadcaster announced a plan to remove Concert from its FM frequencies and automate it, and use the FM frequency for a new youth station. The government intervened and is looking at freeing up another FM frequency.

Board chairman Jim Mather told MPs he and the chief executive did everything they were supposed to and acted properly including in their interactions with Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi.

“We as a board could quite simply have sailed along comfortably over the tenure of our three-year terms and accepted the status quo, or as we have done, chosen to make some unpopular but ultimately appropriate decisions about the future of RNZ.”

He said the option of securing a third FM network for the planned network for young New Zealanders was explored in mid-2019.

But he said there was a miscommunication over how much RNZ was going to say in its staff consultation, after a meeting with Faafoi.

“There was clearly a misunderstanding as the minister thought our consultation process would be halted while MCH looked into the FM frequency availability, as they were tasked to do at that meeting. There is absolutely no logical reason why RNZ would purposely ignore such a request from the minister.”

RNZ’s chief executive Paul Thompson told MPs he had raised the option of using the 102 FM network with officials last year, but did not push any further after being told that would be a very difficult thing to do.

Mather also told Nine to Noon the plans to cut jobs and restructure RNZ Concert came after a significant misunderstanding.

On Wednesday, the proposal to restructure RNZ Concert was withdrawn.

Thompson said he met staff in the music department to withdraw the proposal.

He said things had changed with the government now indicating it would support the youth music service.

Thompson said, over the next month, RNZ would develop a new strategy for Concert aimed at improving its audience. It will also work with the government on the new service for young people.


  1. George Burrell, 13. February 2020, 16:15

    Thompson said, over the next month “RNZ would develop a new strategy for Concert aimed at improving its audience. It will also work with the government on the new service for young people”. RNZ as stated above is not a living being. RNZ is controlled by a bunch of people with a sinister agenda.

    How alarming anyway! As a member of the audience, I don’t want to be improved, and especially by Paul Thompson. Here is a man with zero credibility, having told Concert staff they were facing layoffs, then a week later having to confess he was not allowed to carry out his plan. Lawyers were lying in wait to nail him if he tried! The staff of Concert FM deserve a huge helping of humble pie from this low-flying chief executive. Apologise, to the public as well, man! Thompson then needs to get out of their lives. Professional and dedicated management (and governance) of this area is a necessity. We need people who understand the business of public service.

  2. Peter Kerr, 13. February 2020, 17:07

    I agree, George Burrell. What a damned cheek this individual Thompson has to suggest the audience needs improving; all the improving that needs to be done is at Board and “senior” management level.

    If the fiasco that unfolded last week represents the level of management at RNZ, then the Board needs be rooted out and replaced with clear heads who have a mind to foster a lasting professional public radio service. They in turn can appoint managers who are dedicated to public broadcasting, not to people who delude themselves they have something to offer because they had experience in unrelated jobs.

  3. Michael Martin, 13. February 2020, 18:21

    I agree with both comments above. Just last week, a blogger named John Michael Greer addressed this same topic:. A few juicy quotes:

    “If you’ve built your career and your identity around the notion that people are incapable of living their own lives without having you around to tell them what to do, discovering that they’re ready, willing, and able to do without your services can be a shattering experience — and discovering that they see you as an officious and intrusive petty tyrant, rather than being grateful for all the help you think you’ve given them, is even more so.”


    “The ideology and mentality of the managerial class take it as a fundamental truth that human societies can only thrive if they are controlled and manipulated by an educated elite of experts. Those readers with a taste for intellectual history can trace that notion all the way back to Plato’s Republic, that fantastically dystopian Utopia of philosopher-kings spouting “noble” lies and sending heavily armed Guardians to enforce their will, so that human beings could be made to behave the way that Plato thought they should behave. It’s been a theme in politics and history ever since Plato’s day, but it had its greatest flowering in our own time — specifically, in the seven decades between the end of the Second World War and the era of Trump and Brexit.”

    And finally:

    “We’ve had seventy years of increasingly intrusive management by highly educated experts, and the world has gotten worse. Machiavelli pointed out that people will forgive the murder of their parents before they will forgive the confiscation of their family assets, and thus it should have come as no surprise that the flashpoint turned out to be economic. The neoliberal economic policies that were supposed to bring prosperity to all brought impoverishment and immiseration to most, while allowing a privileged few to wallow in kleptocratic absurdities: that was where the match met the fuse and the fuse led straight to the powder magazine.”

  4. Neil Douglas, 13. February 2020, 18:24

    I’m fearful that The Concert Program is in for a painful and prolonged gutting.

  5. Alf the Aspirational Apteryx, 13. February 2020, 22:00

    Dear Michael Martin, I love those quotes. We are sick to the tail feathers of so called “experts” who are no more than shills for the ideology of the elites.

  6. Michelle Gove, 14. February 2020, 10:39

    CEOism has gone viral with people with ‘no expertise’ running our organisations at sickening expense. To add insult to injury, CEOs bring in a Big 4 Accountancy Company with next to no expertise to write, in over 100 pages, that the CEO’s plan is really wonderful…. Yes, we are sick of experts.

  7. Hugh B, 14. February 2020, 14:46

    Concert review: A short, modern piece composed and performed by duet Paul Thompson and Jim Mather, conducted by Kris Faafoi. The diverse audience of all ages was brought to stunned tears at the outset by this dramatic, awkward and badly constructed and performed piece, a piece that echoed the dark, bland music-hell corridors of mis-used power. Timing and musicality were absent. There were “misunderstandings” between conductor and the incompetent duo of musicians, whose playing simply did not resonate with their audience. Their painful rendition amplified a core lack of talent and, it must be said, naivety in the art of music, probably resulting from their narrow world-views and flamboyant, religious-like worship of the gods of commerce during their piece, that did not sit well at all with their discerning and grounded listeners. The piece began in pianissimo, Thompson playing against a hum of alt-fact youth music hype. The intent to remain quiet was suddenly overridden by an undoubtedly unanticipated crescendo from the audience that peaked at sforzando, drowning out the musicians. The piece ended in a whimper, a tragedy of malfunction. This performance by Thompson, Mather and Faafoi is hopefully relegated to the dusty boxes in the basement, where we store our old, dated, pop music collection, never to be heard again.

    Seriously now. According to the 2019 RNZ Annual Report, the CEO – presumably as the highest paid employee – received $500-509K in the year ended June 30 2019, up from $440-449K the previous year. With such financial rewards comes accountability, and there’s only one way the CEO, Board Chair and other involved managers can be held accountable in this case and that’s to be shown the exit door.

    And you have to wonder why tiny organisations such as RNZ (and Wgtn Cable Car, etc) even need a CEO, it simply is an excuse to ask for exorbitant amounts of money. In this case it’s playing with taxpayer money, so they don’t even have the same financial risks and expectations in the public sector compared to the private sector.

  8. Rob Mitchell, 14. February 2020, 17:46

    Spin … glides over the gaps on the fourth floor of Radio New Zealand House in Wellington, where a temperature-controlled archive of Kiwi vinyl history and classical music CDs was banished to the basement and replaced by a ping-pong table, a pool table and one large, red sofa.
    Spin that deflects from a deeper, ongoing struggle between the philosophies and objectives of public service broadcasting and its more brash, numbers-obsessed commercial cousin.

  9. Marion Leader, 15. February 2020, 7:45

    Hugh B, I enjoyed your review but you forget that Jim Mather is a very busy man and has to work hard at other jobs such as chairman of the Lakes District Health Board. As a qualified person with an acceptable personal profile he is seized upon by the government to do all this work.
    Rob, he is also awfully good at spin.

  10. Faafetai Jonathan Lemalu‎, 15. February 2020, 11:05

    What i find revealing re the heads of Radio NZ, is how can one expect the CEO/management of a radio station, with clearly no empathy or experience in what music is and does and means for people who listen to the station, a community and its musical practitioners on so many levels of enjoyment, education, emotion, awareness, history and national pride, to understand its/our point of view?

    It’s not their fault they don’t get it or have no ability or intellect to see the benefits of it. That’s not their job or what they’re brought in to do. i feel sad for them as their lives are poorer for it. But you can’t miss something you never had or fight for something you’ve never experienced? They’re simply not wired to appreciate the creative and nourishing qualities of this genre. Ask them what their favourite piece of classical music is? And no, naming tv ads, the running music from Chariots of Fire or The Phantom of the Opera doesn’t count.

    It’s someone’s fault for putting them, specifically, in the position of caretaker of our concert station. There’s no column in a balance sheet for “makes me feel alive and fills me with a kaleidoscope of human emotions”. Music doesn’t have such trivial restrictions. We need someone who simply gets it. If it has to be explained, you don’t get it. [via Facebook]

  11. The Wedding Singer, 15. February 2020, 17:41

    We need people like you Jonathan managing or governing the concert programme.