Youth Radio Network

The stable door is open. The horse is standing looking out. When will it bolt? When will the Youth Radio Network exist as it now must, ask Mike and Barney Chunn.


A Youth Radio Network was a hot potato when Neil Finn stood up in 2000 and said "This must exist!". Political ideals and vehement commercial radio opposition closed the door on it. Twelve years later Radio NZ has placed it squarely in their 2012 Statement of Intent.

Mike and Barney Chunn applaud the concept and ask the question "How and when?".

* * *

Youth Radio Network. It’s there in black and white in the Radio New Zealand Statement of Intent [PDF] presented to the House on the 31st May.

In detail:
Key Initiatives: Create a Youth Radio Network which will:

  • be on-line only
  • be predominantly on-demand
  • have its own branding and identity
  • have full access to existing relevant Radio New Zealand content; and
  • have new tailor-made content produced as resources allow.

The stable door is open. The horse is standing looking out. When will it bolt? When will the Youth Radio Network (YRN) exist as it now must?

In last November’s blog Watching The Bubble Grow, we talked of a YRN and quoted the now President of Ireland Dr Michael Higgins on the subject of public broadcasting. His quote is taken from his paper titled “Active Citizens or passive consumers? Culture, Democracy and Public Service Broadcasting in the era of an unaccountable market”.

He said:
“One of the important benefits of having a vibrant public service broadcasting arrangement is that in addition to inviting citizens to experience the timeless, the universal, the unimagined, it is also a rich source of creativity – a creativity that is not confined to the broadcasting station or to one activity”.

He also said at that address:
“At the bases of the choices we will make … are some fundamental value choices involving such questions as –

  • What value do we place on the public world
  • What value do we put on issues beyond the immediate, beyond a single life span?
  • How do we wish to remember and be remembered?
  • What do we wish to set free to imagine?”

May we repeat that last line?

“What do we wish to set free to imagine?”

We wish to set free bias, pre-determined conclusions, conservative dismissals and protectionist measures.

The concept of a YRN isn’t new. Neil Finn and Arthur Baysting stood above the parapets in the mid-90s with a strong campaign on the establishment of a YRN. But the National Government of the day was stringent on the ideals of market forces and were addicted to a hands off principle. And the commercial radio broadcasters were putting the pressure on.

Perhaps in the end, the defining surreal moment in National’s inability to comprehend the social benefits of a YRN and the power of local music in general came when Finn  and Baysting managed to get a meeting with prime minister, Jim Bolger, on the subject of the YRN. Finn was first through the door. Bolger turned and looked Neil up and down with a studious eye –
“And you are?”

Radio New Zealand have proposed a Youth Radio Network. Some of you will say it must be broadcast on radio frequencies. Some of you will say a YRN shouldn’t be part of Radio New Zealand. Some of you will say that there are already enough radio stations in a saturated market. Some of you will say no-one can afford this thing and why aren’t young NZers getting on with upping their NCEA marks instead.. And so on.

We think that:

  1. The era of online uploading and delivery systems is now (only just) ideal for a YRN to exist.
  2. There are able-bodied middle-agers with a true understanding of how and why a YRN can exist and how it will operate.
  3. There are vibrant, forward-thinking intelligent young people who can take the reins of a YRN in any form it exists and make something of it.
  4. There are institutions from schools to tertiary establishments; social assemblies and business environments who will champion a YRN and give it the fuel to burn.
  5. Think Radio New Zealand National. Think of a debate between secondary school leaders on issues that affect their constituencies. Think of emerging singer/songwriters in schools whose music isn’t heard on a wide basis. Think of drama on radio and how the voices and stories of our youth can be propagated by those who write and produce them.

The YRN soon to arrive needs to be in the Radio New Zealand shadow. It needs to have a solid structure to maintain its stability and to tick off its compliance to its funders (whoever they might be).
It also needs a young inspiring governing board and a small staff that know the modern technology in its beautiful detail…. and who know that a YRN can propagate a new era in the life, hearts and minds of young NZers.

In the end, it is the modern technology that has led Radio New Zealand to this exciting place. It is the Radio New Zealand CEO Peter Cavanagh who has extensive experience with Triple J the youth radio network across Australia. And it is the Radio New Zealand board of directors who have a vision of a young New Zealand hearing, telling, listening, performing, writing and delivering the language, stories, songs and philosophies of their own special world.

And so one Monday morning soon at 9am the YRN begins.  Who wants to make suggestions as to what that structure might be?

Written by

Mike Chunn

12 Jun 2012

Interests Mike Chunn has worked with original songs all his life from his days with Split Enz and Citizen Band through Mushroom Records (Dance Exponents and DD Smash) to eleven years as Director of Operations for APRA.

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