As of yesterday, Kiwi FM could add “60 percent” in front of its name, as MediaWorks announced a new format that will see the introduction of 40 percent international music. But while the fully New Zealand playlist is set to be sacrificed, the government cash it receives won’t be.
When it was launched in 2005, it was criticised by some as being unnecessary and, like the NZ on Air grants, akin to social welfare for New Zealand music. Since then, it has had a low number of listeners, recently dropping to only 20,000 a week (fellow MediaWorks station The Edge attracts just under 430,000 a week).
Andrew Szusterman, group programme director, hopes diversification is the answer.
“We know that audiences enjoy hearing their favourite New Zealand artists mixed in with international artists, so from now on Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Naked And Famous and Kimbra, will play alongside international artists such as Radiohead, Lana Del Rey and Phoenix.”
He maintains the station’s dedication to promoting local music is as strong as ever. 60 percent New Zealand music is still three times the 20 percent other radio channels are required to play and he believes this change will benefit New Zealand musicians by increasing their exposure.
As it broadcasts on a non-commercial frequency, it is not allowed to return a profit, but the station will retain its $300,000 annual funding from the government for particular programmes as they remain unchanged by the lowering of the local threshold (this funding is given out in the same way that NZOA funds particular programmes on TV channels and it is separate to the licence for the frequency, which is negotiated with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage).
According to the NZ Herald, the amendment of its obligations to play all local content was negotiated last year by Jana Rangooni and ex-Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman.