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Why RNZ Concert matters

The NZCF Board expresses its deep concern regarding the recently-announced cuts to RNZ Concert…

For NZCF and our members – thousands of singers across New Zealand – RNZ Concert is not a streaming service. For the 10,000 secondary students who take part in The Big Sing each year, for the young composers, conductors, teachers and singers building careers and ensuring NZ arts are represented internationally – for all these people RNZ Concert is not a playlist. It’s a platform, a forum, a community. It’s a context in which our unique culture is recorded, archived, discussed, debated, celebrated, critiqued. There is no other forum delivering all this. There is currently nowhere else where this rich exchange of ideas and identity flourishes.

RNZ Concert listeners of all ages have spoken out passionately in support of this taonga. NZCF speaks as well from the perspective of arts organisations and practitioners, to affirm that RNZ Concert is an absolutely essential part of the ecosystem that is NZ’s cultural life. We believe the entire arts landscape in NZ would be profoundly affected by the loss of this service and that the management of Radio New Zealand profoundly misunderstand their own product and its vital role in the cultural life of Aotearoa.

This government has championed, and the arts world has embraced, a shift towards more diverse and accessible arts, that reach into the far corners of our communities. RNZ’s charter reflects this mission to support New Zealand’s voice, and to nurture and protect that which makes us New Zealanders. If ANY radio station fulfils this obligation, it is RNZ Concert.

NZCF, like dozens of other arts organisations, receives Creative NZ funding based on deliverables in terms of reach, diversity, and the building of dynamic and resilient arts. RNZ Concert plays a key role in helping all of us build and connect with audiences, within NZ and beyond, with recorded concerts, in-depth interviews, background programming, arts news updates and constant and relevant connections with contemporary New Zealand.

This government, in its 2017 manifesto, promised to:

“Ensure that the development of RNZ … does not result in any reduction in the funding or quality of content and delivery of any of their current specialist services including, but not limited to, Radio NZ Concert.”

Clearly cutting presenters reduces quality of content; moving to AM reduces quality of delivery. Most egregiously the removing of presenters, and specialist talk-programmes that showcase, explain and contextualise NZ music and its practitioners removes the ability to ensure relevance to NZ audiences.

The young people who flock to The Big Sing do so knowing they are part of a bigger picture – their contribution is recorded, it’s talked about, it’s broadcast: in short it is valued. NZCF’s diverse audiences and engagement with youth through music that ranges from classical to jazz to pop to religious to contemporary NZ compositions, and our education and outreach programmes – all these are testament to the fact that classical music is far from an elitist and ageist pursuit. We know the same is also true of orchestras and other music organisations who have spoken out in defence of RNZ Concert this week.

The arts and public broadcasting are inextricably entwined. The broadcasting professionals who stand to lose their jobs are arts professionals. Management of RNZ have an obligation to effect public broadcasting values of diversity and access and to recognise public broadcasting’s role in the wider cultural landscape: we urge a halt to this plan and a commitment to fully resourcing RNZ Concert so that it can continue to fulfil RNZ’s charter responsibility of ‘reflecting New Zealand’s cultural identity’.

If you would like to join the campaign to save RNZ Concert, here are some ways you can add your voice:

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