Radio NZ unsure of listeners' 'appetite'

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 07:13 26/03/2014

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Radio New Zealand has been "flying blind" as to what its listeners want, chief executive Paul Thompson told an audience of public radio fans in central Wellington last night.

Six months into the job, Mr Thompson outlined his vision for the public broadcaster to 150 Wellingtonians in a public question- and-answer session hosted by Labour MP Grant Robertson at St John's in the City.

While Radio NZ tracked listenership levels for its programmes, it had failed to explore how they could appeal to a wider audience, Mr Thompson said. "We do fly blind a bit as to what the appetite of the community is. We don't have a strong idea of what they want."

The broadcaster had 500,000 regular listeners over 15 years of age, but wanted to double that in 10 years. Also important was attracting younger listeners and a more socially diverse listenership. Forty per cent of Radio NZ's listeners were over 65, and were largely Pakeha.

More niche initiatives like The Wireless, a multimedia youth website launched in October, would be rolled out in coming years, Mr Thompson said.

Visual content online would bear equal weight to radio content in future. "If we just remain a radio broadcaster we're going to become more marginal."

Editorial restructures have been widely reported in recent weeks, with flagship programmes Morning Report, Checkpoint, Afternoons and Sunday Morning all gaining new presenters.

Reports that head of news Don Rood had been asked to reapply for his job were untrue, Radio NZ chairman Richard Griffin said at the meeting.

Security of funding was raised by several audience members. Radio NZ has not had its funding increased in six years. Mr Griffin said funding or income from assets would increase by $2m or $3m in a year's time if he was still at the broadcaster, but would not be drawn further on the matter.

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- The Dominion Post

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