The death of Radio Live

by Colin Peacock / 16 November, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - radio

Photo / supplied

 Fourteen years after launching “the new voice of talk radio”, MediaWorks will silence Radio Live and jobs look set to go as a classic hits station takes over. Mediawatch looks at why and what might replace it.

“There is a wide gap in the market below ZB and National Radio and we're looking to take it,” MediaWorks chief executive Brent Impey said bullishly ahead of Radio Live’s launch in 2005.

“We are determined to impact the landscape of news and information based radio in New Zealand,” he said.

Mr Impey promised programmes “more akin to the way public radio has done it” as well as familiar news-based talk shows and talkback.  

He was probably pleased when the critics called it “National radio with ads". Over the years, Radio Live did add variety to talk radio.

Sunday Business was the country’s only dedicated long-form business show on radio until 2015 and eclectic weekend shows like Weekend Variety Wireless (still going strong) were a counterpoint to news and sport-based chat elsewhere.

Duncan Garner's Drive show doggedly chased stories of the day from 3-6 pm and the host got out and about round the country whenever he could. 

But in commercial terms, NewstalkZB has dominated the market for talk radio since it was created in 1987.

The pressure increased when offshore private equity firm Oaktree Capital took over MediaWorks, but despite high profile (and highly paid) hosts like Paul Henry on the roster, Radio Live lost the ratings battles year-after-year.

Under controversial chief executive Mark Weldon, radio news was mashed together with TV under the joint Newshub name in 2016.

The company’s various radio networks have remained profitable, more so than the TV arm of the company in recent times.

Paul Henry didn't have the pulling power to make Radio Live a talk radio powerhouse.  Photo /  Facebook, Paul Henry

But most of the money and big audiences are in its music radio stations  – brands like Magic which will take over Radio Live next year.

Magic offers hits from the '50s, '60s and '70s. A separate stream called Magic Talk will occupy Radio Live’s existing frequencies in 2019 and it will be run by the music radio side of the business.

In a memo to staff MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson - formerly a radio executive in Australia – called it “a talk music hybrid” and “a strategic move for our business”.

What will it offer listeners?

Mediaworks chief news officer Hal Crawford. Photo / supplied

Not even MediaWorks knows, it seems.

In another memo, chief news officer Hal Crawford told staff the simulcast of Three’s AM show and Newshub at 6am will remain, as will weekend farming show Rural Exchange.

But he said he didn’t know what will replace other current Radio Live shows. Mediawatch understands Magic’s music will simulcast in the evenings.

Mediawatch was told as many as 18 jobs are on the line - among them are some of the well-known hosts.

Why make a “strategic” move without getting the plan in place first?

MediaWorks is due to present its content showcase for 2019 to advertisers and the media early next month. It may have want to have the new station ready to promote at that time.

But the motive will be mostly financial.

Oaktree Capital made a one-off investment to create Newshub and an integrated newsroom to house it in 2015. It put more than $22 million more into MediaWorks in the following two years.

Michael Anderson, MediaWorks chief executive. Photo /  supplied.

Last May Newsroom reported Mr Anderson as saying Oaktree wasn’t prepared to stump up any more money and that he had hired two Australian consultants “in what looks like a last-ditch attempt to sort the station out.”

The company has had to work hard to finance debts of more than $70m this year and reduce operating losses against revenue of about $300m.  

NBR reported in May MediaWorks has been periodically been in breach of its banking covenants in the previous two years.

“We had to do a lot of work internally and wrap our arms around staff to settle things down a bit,” Michael Anderson told NBR, after a difficult financial year.

But the scrapping of its major radio news brand, several jobs and dumping the vision of an alternative voice in talk radio for classic hits can only have unsettled them further.


This article was originally published by RNZ.


James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth gap
102456 2019-02-15 14:54:45Z Politics

James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth…

by RNZ

The week before a major tax report is released, Green Party co-leader James Shaw has again challenged his government partners to back the tax.

Read more
Jealousy, murder and lies: The killing of Arishma Chand
102448 2019-02-15 10:28:12Z Crime

Jealousy, murder and lies: The killing of Arishma…

by Anneke Smith

Arishma Chand was just 24 when she was murdered.

Read more
Top wine picks from Central Otago
102233 2019-02-15 00:00:00Z Wine

Top wine picks from Central Otago

by Michael Cooper

Tucked into small corners, Central Otago vineyards offer nuggets worth digging for. Wine critic Michael Coopers offers his top picks.

Read more
Ivanka and her tower of crumbs
102404 2019-02-14 10:33:12Z Arts

Ivanka and her tower of crumbs

by Preminda Jacob

For two hours each evening, an Ivanka Trump lookalike has been vacuuming a hot pink carpet at the Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Read more
Youth mental health is in crisis and NZ is failing to keep up
102393 2019-02-14 09:52:16Z Social issues

Youth mental health is in crisis and NZ is failing…

by The Listener

The introduction of a free youth mental-health pilot for Porirua, and later the wider region, is welcome news, but it's far too little, far too late.

Read more
Guyon Espiner: Year of delivery begins in defensive crouch
102387 2019-02-14 09:21:07Z Politics

Guyon Espiner: Year of delivery begins in defensiv…

by Guyon Espiner

For a government promising 'a year of delivery' it has begun in something of a defensive crouch.

Read more
American futurist Michio Kaku's predictions for life on Planet Earth
102217 2019-02-14 00:00:00Z World

American futurist Michio Kaku's predictions for li…

by Russell Brown

Civilisation on Mars, movies with feelings, digitised human thought & recorded memories are just some of the changes we can expect, according to Kaku.

Read more
The fatal attraction of new Netflix series Russian Doll
102349 2019-02-14 00:00:00Z Television

The fatal attraction of new Netflix series Russian…

by Diana Wichtel

Netflix dramedy Russian Doll is confounding, random and annoying, but stick with it.

Read more