Joe Hendren

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Corporate welfare for commerical radio operator Cam-West

During some quite random web surfing, I came across a very interesting interview with NZ musician Neil Finn criticising the recent Government decision to bail out the failing Kiwi FM, a station owned by transnational broadcasting operator Cam-West.

"I can't understand how [Cam-West] can be that the main opponent of youth radio and the main opponent of any Government interference in radio is now the recipient of three frequencies and courtesy of NZ On Air a whole lot of free programming."

"...I think Brent Impey, I've got a letter from him saying that a YRN– - a youth radio network - would ghettoise New Zealand music by putting it, by separating it. Well, I think that's exactly what Kiwi has done."

Finn long championed the idea of a national youth radio network, to be run in a similar fashion to National Radio and Concert FM. Laila Harre strongly pushed the idea while she was Minister of Youth Affairs, and I heard at the time both Steve Maharey and Trevor Mallard were supportive of the idea. Cam-West CEO, Brent Impey strongly opposed the youth radio model, no doubt keen on the income Cam-West gains from the overload of advertising broadcasts on its commercial stations.

Finn also told the NZ Herald
"It really irks me that [CanWest's] Brent Impey is basically getting frequencies that he very strongly argued should never be given by the Government to anybody for free."

According to Finn the youth radio network
"...was effectively sidelined by the Labour Government after eight years of putting together forums and advisory groups and with the overwhelming result from all of those that young people wanted it and that it was the best idea out there to improve radio services for young people. I took part in a few of them, some of them were without me, but certainly the Government got plenty of incentive and very good information and a model was drawn up, but they just ignored it and there'’s been no movement whatsoever."

Now as Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey has propped up a failing Cam-West station. So its a complete dole out of corporate welfare for a company that opposes Government interference in radio. Neil Finn can't understand it either.

"So, you know, it just makes you ask the question what are the Government hoping to achieve from it, other than currying favour with a commercial broadcaster?"

I also loved Neil Finn's suggestion of how to help New Zealand bands make it internationally.

"Well, get Air New Zealand to provide a few empty seats to musicians and buy a big hostel in London that people can hunker down in and stay there for, for as long as it takes. Because that's what it takes, you have to go there and be in their faces and hunker down. That would be a very practical way of helping a lot of different people. They've never really taken that idea on board."

That could so work. Thousands of young pilgrims from New Zealand on their OE's could visit the musicians to give them an enthusastic crowd away from home!

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