After around ten years of broadcasting, originally as a Kiwi-only music station and more recently with some international artists thrown in the mix, MediaWorks has announced that Kiwi FM will close on March 31.
When asked whether there will be any job losses or whether the staff will be deployed elsewhere, MediaWorks' group head of communications Rachel Lorimer said a small number of staff are affected.
"We are talking with them about their future."
In a release, Leon Wratt, group content director for MediaWorks Music Radio, said: "There are now more options than ever to discover and listen to home grown music, and it is time for us to focus on other priorities, including extending George FM and Mai FM’s nationwide reach. I want to thank the Kiwi FM staff, past and present, the musicians and record labels that have supported the station, and most importantly, the listeners.”
Kiwi FM has been broadcasting on non-commercial Crown frequencies in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and, as such, it is not allowed to turn a profit (although it was allowed to run ads). After March 31, these frequencies return to the Crown. It also broadcast online via kiwifm.co.nz.
When it was launched in 2005 (it rose from the ashes of Channel Z, which started in 1996), it was criticised by some as being unnecessary and, like the NZ on Air grants, akin to social welfare for New Zealand music. It dropped to only 20,000 listeners a week in 2012 and the latest radio survey showed the station had 28,000 listeners tuning in each week (as a comparison, fellow MediaWorks station The Edge attracts 465,000 every week and has a massive social following, George FM attracts 78,300 every week and Mai FM attracts 176,500 every week). And, over the years, it has served as a stepping stone for some of the country's best radio broadcasters.
Back in 2012, its obligations to play only local music were changed and it announced a 60/40 split between New Zealand and international music. Most commercial stations play around 20 percent Kiwi music. MediaWorks says the station is responsible for approximately one percent of the home grown music played on New Zealand radio stations.
MediaWorks spent $7.4 million buying rights in the frequency auction last year—and it forced NZME into a massive purchase for Newstalk ZB's frequency in Christchurch. It also announced that it would be launching a new national station this year, but details about that have yet to be released.