Thursday, March 30, 2023

It's true, then: go woke, go broke

So TodayFM is buggered. A mate's cruelly calling it YesterdayFM. 

I’m not going to dance on its grave. No one should rejoice when people’s livelihoods are on the line. But the station’s failure comes as no surprise.

It was conceived and born in unpropitious circumstances. Its progenitor was Magic Talk, which had grown out of Radio Live.

Remember Magic Talk? That’s the MediaWorks-owned station that got rid of John Banks after he appeared to agree with a caller who described Maori as a Stone Age people.

As I wrote at the time, that statement offended a lot of people. Being offended is one of the prices we pay for living in a free society, but the woke Left were outraged and demanded Banks’ head.

He was soon gone. MediaWorks chief executive Cam Wallace, freshly arrived from Air New Zealand and presumably keen to make a big impression, boasted that the former cabinet minister and Auckland mayor wouldn’t be back as long as he was in charge.

We learned from that episode that former airline executives aren't big on such nebulous values as free speech. Bums on seats is what they understand. MediaWorks quickly buckled in the face of boycotts by major advertisers Vodafone, KiwiBank and Spark, who weren't interested in free speech either.  

Sean Plunket was the next to go. He too was targeted by vindictive woke zealots. Peter Williams lasted a few months longer. He walked because he felt his position had become untenable due to pressure over his stance on Covid and vaccine mandates.

By the end of 2021 Magic Talk had cleared the decks of its embarrassing conservative hosts and MediaWorks was ready to rebrand the station (at a reported cost of $9 million) as TodayFM, with a glowing roster of politically more acceptable hosts that included big names Tova O’Brien, Duncan Garner and Rachel Smalley.

Unfortunately it’s been pretty much downhill ever since. By the end of last year, TodayFM’s ratings had tanked to a derisory 1.4 per cent share of the market. Martyn Bradbury called it the worst result of any talkback station in New Zealand radio history.

Meanwhile, Sean Plunket had responded in the most effective way possible to his falling out with MediaWorks: namely, by setting up The Platform, which appears to have thrived in inverse proportion to TodayFM’s headlong decline.

But even as TodayFM’s ratings agony continued, it appeared to have learned nothing. It required its hosts Leah Panapa and Miles Davis to make an on-air apology and submit to a humiliating ritual called Rainbow Tick training after they offended the wokerati by making the outrageous suggestion that only women could get pregnant.

That sent a resounding message to the station’s dwindling audience, who would quite reasonably have wondered why a radio station should expect loyalty from its listeners when it showed none to its hosts. The punishment of Panapa and Davis would also have signalled that TodayFM was more concerned with pandering to carping objectors than with providing daring, stimulating and entertaining radio. 

At that point O’Brien, Garner et al must have been feeling cold shivers, yet as far as we know they did nothing to support their colleagues. It now seems clear they would have had little to lose by taking a stand, since the whole shebang was obviously on the skids anyway. 

By then Wallace had fled back to the airline business. He was followed by the wunderkind Dallas Gurney, MediaWorks’ director of news and talk – the guy who made Panapa and Davis walk the plank. Now, only two weeks later, the whole ship has sunk.

The conclusion to be drawn from all this is that MediaWorks didn't deserve to run a talk station in the first place. Even before it launched TodayFM, the company clearly had no respect for the idea that controversial and provocative ideas should be freely aired and debated in an open society, which is the very essence of talkback.

Another lesson might be that no talk station can survive by trying to ingratiate itself with people who never listen to the radio anyway. As the saying goes: “Go woke, go broke.”

Footnote: RNZ has gone big on the TodayFM saga but has been strangely reticent about another radio story of public interest - namely, the unexplained absence for the past few weeks (unconnected, according to the New Zealand Herald) of two of its most popular hosts, Jim Mora and Karyn Hay. Listeners' curiosity can only have been heightened by the PR smokescreen emanating from the RNZ head office, which seemed calculated to deflect attention from the subject of the paper's inquiries. Whatever the explanation, they are two of RNZ's most likeable presenters and I look forward to their return.


R Singers said...

I dunno Karl, I just caught a bit of the Panel on RNZ (that car only has a Japanese radio and doesn't get Hauraki) and the their talking heads reckon it was "white anted" by MediaWorks music stations because it drains away money that the music stations have earned.

They used a two word phrase involving an animal so obviously it's true.

Doug Longmire said...

This is a perfect illustration of hand-wringing self destructive wokerati whose management policy is to cancel any person who does not toe their p.c. line.
This crowd would be good mates with the thug mob that attacked Posy Parker and her associates for the fearsome crime of saying a woman is a female human being, and that biological men should stay out of female spaces.

Patrick said...

I'm not sure about Karen on RNZ (although I've always thought she was awesome from her Radio with Pictures days) but Jim? Where is Jim? He's a great interviewer: well prepared, takes his time, curious and gets his guests to relax and chat merrily away. He's not like most interviewers, thinking about the next question, butting in and trying for a gotcha soundbite. His guests almost always sign off with a variation of "I really enjoyed that - thanks Jim".

As for Today FM, I really enjoyed Rachel Smalley's pursuit of Pharmac - and I'm sure those guys will be breathing a sigh of relief.

Patrick Blackburn

Chris Nisbet said...

I doubt you'd have found room to dance on its grave, what with all the other people doing it.

I wonder if we'll get to hear from any of the presenters on The Platform.

Steve Ellis said...

Go The Platform. Saying it as it needs to be spoken. Not woke and should never be broke. Great public radio. Steve Ellis

Ian Penrose said...

Karen Hay and Jim Mora were almost the only two reasons left to listen to RNZ. RNZ, like many formerly respected institutions, have totally lost their way under this woke, corrupt, and socially divisive so called government.

R Singers said...

I've just noticed that wokester Hayden Donnell posts under the RNZ MediaWatch banner. I guess that's the death of that segment too.

Anonymous said...

Well written article. John Hutchins, Masterton

Eamon Sloan said...

Listened to Duncan Garner for an hour or so most mornings (Mon-Fri). I found in many ways he was in touch with the callers. As soon as he became aware that a caller had a compelling story he gave them a lot of time and space uninterrupted – maybe because the producer was in his ear. Other times he could go in the opposite direction to make his points and talk over the top of callers. While he would contest ideas I never heard him insult a caller on air. Often he would keep a caller on hold to resume after a news break. I rate him as one of the good guys. So I might miss the hour or so listening despite some of his idiosyncrasies.

Karl du Fresne said...

I never heard Garner's TodayFM show but he's always struck me as a straight shooter.

Doug Longmire said...

Truly - the mainstream media is now a train wreck.

Tom Hunter said...

I’m not going to dance on its grave. No one should rejoice when people’s livelihoods are on the line.

Why not? They would - and did on those people who lost jobs and careers because the scientifically stupid and worthless vaccine mandates. I don't know whether they danced on the graves of Banks, Plunket and company but given their ideological preferences it seems likely, and in any case they were complicit in their silence.

You obviously have great synpathy for these folk and even this radio station because it was your world for so many decades. But I'm sorry to say that world is dead and I just don't think you can bring yourself to say that.

Without sounding totally nihilistic I can say that I have hope that your world of journalism will return, but in the same way that The Platform would likely not have got started had Plunket not been fired from the dying MagicTalk, the same work of the Phoenix will not happen until the entire current system burns to the ground: hence Die MSM, Die.

Karl du Fresne said...

I gave up defending the mainstream media a long time ago and agree that it doesn't deserve to survive in its present form. That doesn't stop me being concerned for some of the casualties, not all of whom are responsible for their predicament.

Paul Peters said...

I see Stuff is looking at a paywall. That will separate the True Believers from the casual browser looking for the latest local road fatality. If they can't make enough there is always the ''Quality (they never qualify that with good, bad or indifferent) Journalism'' fund to fall back on, maybe?

Anonymous said...

Where is Jim?