Story: Radio

Page 6. Public and community radio from 1989

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NZ On Air

In 1989 the government established the Broadcasting Commission, soon renamed NZ On Air, to take care of the social objectives of broadcasting. Its remit redefined public broadcasting as local content: New Zealand-made programmes reflecting New Zealand identity and interests.

The Kiwi Hit Disc

In 1993 NZ On Air devised the Kiwi Hit Disc to promote the radio play of New Zealand music. Compilations of New Zealand songs were sent out to radio stations on a monthly basis, to provide them with a continuous supply of new material by local artists. The scheme was later rebranded NewTracks.

NZ On Air was required to ensure a range of broadcasts providing for the interests of:

  • women
  • children
  • people with disability
  • minorities, including ethnic groups.

In 2001 the list was extended to include programmes for youth (14–21), and programmes which reflect the spiritual and ethical beliefs of New Zealanders.

NZ On Air was initially funded by the television licence fee, which was abolished in 2000. Since then NZ On Air has received direct government funding.

Public radio

Radio New Zealand (RNZ) is New Zealand’s public radio broadcaster, funded through NZ On Air. RNZ has three principal services:

  • RNZ National, a news and information-focused programme with a strong commitment to New Zealand culture
  • RNZ Concert, focusing on music – mainly classical
  • RNZ Pacific, a short-wave service that broadcasts to the Pacific Islands.

In the 2000s RNZ developed a prominent presence on the internet, providing real-time streaming of its programmes, on-demand access to most programmes as soon as they were broadcast, and a range of web-based material supporting live programmes. RNZ has a wide and eclectic audience; RNZ National attracted the largest audience share of any radio network in 2011, while RNZ Concert was said to have the largest per capita audience of any classical music station in the world.

The power of access radio

The Iranian Cultural Society had a Farsi-language programme on Wellington Access Radio, with a potential audience of 50 Farsi-speaking families in the Wellington area. They had a simple way of determining that all of their potential audience was listening: whenever the programme advertised a social event, all 50 families turned up!

Access radio

New Zealand’s form of community broadcasting is access radio. Resources and training are provided for community groups and individuals to make their own programmes. ‘Outside’ help is limited to basic radio skills training and access to technical resources. Minority ethnic programmes tend to dominate the schedule.

In 2013 there were four community access stations in the South Island and eight in the North Island. The communities involved range from rural Wairarapa to the melting pot of Auckland.

A ministerial directive in 1989 required NZ On Air to fund access radio. NZ On Air also concluded that radio was the most effective broadcasting medium for the country’s diverse communities. The deregulation of frequencies and markets in the late 1980s and 1990s opened up radio to community groups.

Access radio broadcasters tailor their programming to be eligible for NZ On Air funding. Community access radio therefore enjoys an unusually high level of state funding and support.

How to cite this page:

Brian Pauling, 'Radio - Public and community radio from 1989', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 July 2024)

Story by Brian Pauling, published 22 Oct 2014