The Hot List winners: radio brand and radio show

4. Hottest Radio Brand: RNZ

Nominees: The Breeze, Mai FM, George FM, The Edge, Radio Sport

Once seen as something of journalistic backwater, RNZ’s getting trendier, more innovative, more progressive and, in times of strife, its non-commercial approach appeals. 

Talking to head of digital Glen Scanlon, RNZ’s evolution into a mulit-platform broadcaster is no overnight response to digital disruption. As he explains it’s long been trying to do new things.

He goes back to 2013 when The Wireless launched before fast-forwarding to the rollout of its VoxPop app last year that enables radio networks to quickly and easily collect, package and play the voices of its people to its audiences. It’s generated international attention and is being trialled by a US show.

Meanwhile, work to improve its website and app continues.

“We haven’t got it perfect and things will always move and shift,” he says pointing out the rise of voice-activated technology.

With voice being an essential part of RNZ’s o er, Scanlon says it’s a great space for it to be playing in and it’s already making the most of Amazon Alexa. For those with the RNZ Flash Briefing installed, asking Alexa, “what’s the latest news?” or “what’s my flash briefing?” will deliver an up-to-date news briefing.

“It’s exciting, the growth and use of devices like these overseas, and they will soon appear in all places and parts of life.” 

The voice of New Zealand

The importance of voice to RNZ is reflected in its staff being encouraged to use te reo in their broadcasts. 

“We are New Zealand’s public broadcaster and te reo is an important part of our culture,” explains Scanlon. “We should definitely be encouraging people to know more about it and sharing what we can.”

However, while many listeners responded positively, RNZ did receive criticism for pronunciation and some expressed frustration in not being able to understand. For Scanlon, this pushback is the result of people not understanding the language and opens an opportunity for RNZ to become an educator, something it’s doing with translations on its website.

Its use of te reo is in keeping with its duty to “reflect New Zealand’s cultural identity, including Māori language” as outlined in the charter, as well as its purpose of being a public radio company serving the public interest.

Scanlon says it also has an obligation to reach as many New Zealanders as it can with its stories and helping it to fulfil this are partnerships with 24 organisations including Stuff, MSN, TVNZ, Bauer and The Spinoff.

“Once upon a time, media companies didn’t speak to each other and now they are. It’s resulting in better content.”

He gives the example of the Black Sheep podcast series created with Stu and the Panama Papers investigation which saw RNZ team up with TVNZ and Nicky Hager. 

And beyond other media companies, it’s teamed up with Te Papa to create the Ours: Treasures from Te Papa podcast showcasing national treasures.

Scanlon adds that partnering up will support the ecosystem of journalism in New Zealand which it doesn’t want to disappear.

Looking at its own work, Scanlon says RNZ “wants to be where New Zealanders are and reflect the experiences they are having” so it’s looking to do more regional coverage and in-depth pieces as well as Pacifica and Māori coverage.

This coverage sits alongside breaking news, and Scanlon says it takes its role very seriously in news events and times of trouble like the Kaikoura earthquake, during which people look to RNZ for information.

Those plans to expand the remit of its content are just a few it has in the pipeline to improve its o er, and some of them were already on the cards before the government announced its $15 million injection into public broadcasting, says Scanlon.

The wait is now on to see how that funding will be allocated and what the government’s RNZ+ looks like. 

People’s Choice: RNZ

5. Hottest Radio Show: Radio Hauraki’s Bhuja

Nominees: Radio New Zealand: Morning Report, The Edge: Jono, Ben & Sharyn, More FM: Jase & Jay-Jay, Newstalk ZB: The Mike Hosking Breakfast, George FM: George Breakfast 

Having provided years of well garnished banter and hot-headed interviews, the team at Bhuja have taken out this year’s Hottest Radio Show. We touch base with the dynamic duo, Leigh Hart and Jason Hoyt, to see what makes Bhuja such a tasty mix on the radio. 

How long has Bhuja been going for?

In its current form, Bhuja has probably been going for a couple of years, but many say the original Bhuja show was broadcast from Stonehenge over 5,000 years ago, and that’s probably why they never finished that monument.

What makes Bhuja tasty?

Bhuja radio much like its name-sake Bhuja snack mix, by its very nature it’s a variety of flavours, aromas and food groups, meaning there is something in there for everybody most of the time. This also means that there are elements that people hate; I am talking of course about the raisins in Bhuja mix.

Who is your audience?

Rather than target an audience directly we prefer to have them come to us which means we have a wide variety of listeners, young, old, male, female, sane and insane. In general, I would say the listeners are of above average intelligence and don’t take everything too seriously. Also, we have a lot of listeners called Andy for some reason.

What is the best thing about radio?

The best thing would be touching people whether it be through the air-waves or literally when we go on tour. I am talking about good touching of course. The other good thing is being ‘used’ for our pure talent as opposed to ‘our looks’ which is why Jas and I both have incredibly successful TV careers. Also, the satisfaction you get when you hear a listener received a prize just 18 months after having won it, that gives you a warm feeling inside. 

Favourite moments on Bhuja?

There have been so many favourite moments. Interviewing big names like Neil Finn and Brandon Flowers can be pretty awesome. The Neil Finn experience, however, has been tarnished by the fact that he no longer talks to us after I accidentally broke one of his guitars and Jas destroyed two and half years of demo recordings.

But the real highlight is getting to talk to everyday Kiwis on a regular basis.

Known to provoke a few of your interviewees, Neil Finn and Ray Meagher (Alf Stewart) to name a few, have any interviews turned sour?

See above question. Most interviews have gone extremely well which is a testament to the preparation we put into each one but on occasion, they have gone sour. I would say only around 40 percent have gone sour, and many of these have involved people that were deceased at the time but Jas was unaware of that fact. 

How do fellow shows such as The Late Night Big Breakfast, Screaming Reels, and the Alternative Cricket Commentary, work hand in hand with Bhuja?

They all work very well together, which is either a testament to our incredible organisational skills and our ability to compartmentalise, or it means it’s the same content re-hashed into a di erent format. I would like to think it’s a little of both!

Speaking of hand in hand, Jason Hoyt, Leigh Hart, you’ve become somewhat of an iconic duo, how is the relationship coping after such a long period of sustained success?

Like any top iconic duo (think Lennon/ McCartney, Simon/Garfunkel, Hall/Oates) Jas and I have our ups and downs. But we are professionals, so we have learnt to deal with my ups and Jas’ downs! (I suspect if Jas was writing this he would agree but may focus more on my downs and his ups!) The trick is to pay someone a compliment before you tear their work to shreds and belittle them. We leave any issues at the door and come back the next day determined to make a great show for the Kiwis out there who are relying on us to get them through the drudgery of their everyday lives! (That might be slightly over-stating it). 

People’s Choice: Bhuja

We’ll be posting the rest of the Hot List winners over the next week. To get a print copy of the Hot List, subscribe here to NZ Marketing.​

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