From John Barr (Head of Communications), RadioNZ
Thank you for your recent communication with RNZ about proposed changes to the way we produce and broadcast Spoken Features content. We do appreciate comments and feedback from our audiences and the sector groups who take a close interest in the programming we provide, not only on traditional radio networks, but also across our multi-media platforms.
I am pleased to be able to give you an up-date on progress as we develop a fresh approach to commissioning and producing feature material for podcasting, publishing and broadcasting.
I’m sure you will appreciate that it was not appropriate to share the review proposals or our future planning until we had completed full discussions and a consultation about those proposals with our staff. Our teams have already generated a host of new ideas which we are looking forward to exploring and developing. While many of the finer details are still being worked on, we have made some decisions which we believe will sharpen our story-telling and make it more engaging, relevant and accessible within the cost constraints of RNZ’s fixed funding.
I’d like to share our thinking with you.
A New RNZ Podcast Unit
We are delighted to announce that a new RNZ podcast unit is to be established in July headed up by multi-award winning journalist Tim Watkin, formerly executive producer of The Nation, deputy editor of the Listener and winner of the prestigious Wolfson prize for journalism. Tim is absolutely passionate about RNZ and the role it can play in telling great stories and he will be engaging with the RNZ team, using their audio expertise to make this happen. The unit’s goal is to create multi-media story-telling, which draws on commissioned and in-house podcasting and radio skills to build the best audio, visual, and written content around fiction, non-fiction, topical current affairs and social issues.
The unit will call on the expertise of the wider RNZ team and we expect this to result in our best-known presenters and journalists also playing a role in the creation of material which works online and on-air. The new unit begins operation in mid-July but it will, naturally, take some time for the first podcast material to be generated. We know from responses to research that there is a growing appetite for podcasts which can be downloaded and consumed whenever people choose to access them and we feel our proposed initiatives will allow us to reach a far more diverse audience than is currently the case.
We believe we have the skills and expertise to emulate the success of podcasting produced by quality broadcasters like NPR and the BBC. We want to give New Zealand’s culture a voice and want this content to reflect our country’s stories.
The proposal will mean some existing programmes change or cease to exist in their current format. This does not mean RNZ will stop covering the subject material – it’s just that we will be telling the stories in a different way.
RNZ will continue to explore a wide range of science and environmental topics as it has in the past through multiple programmes across the schedule including Saturday Morning with Kim Hill, Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman, Nights with Bryan Crump, This Way Up, and Our Changing World.
In addition to our own live radio programming, New Zealanders continue to be well served by broadcasts of international material from the BBC and others, RNZ News, our online content and an extensive archive of relevant science based stories. It is an archive that deserves much greater exposure than it currently receives and our intention is to ensure it is being cleverly and regularly mined for material to be used on-air and online.
For now, as new concepts evolve and podcast initiatives are developed, the Our Changing World programme will continue to be produced each week - albeit in a revised form. We will be broadening our reach by inviting external partners, contractors and subject experts to come and help make content with us. For example if we decide to make a series focussed on the rise of genetics in science and medicine, we will look to collaborate with experts in this area.
An important element of this change is ensuring that the material is flexible and topical enough to work on both digital and radio platforms.
With the new approach to production we are looking to refresh the way in which we write and stage our output with a closer working relationship between radio and digital giving greater reach and accessibility to all science based content – and just as important – giving us the ability to deliver that content to new audiences in the way they prefer to receive it.
The establishment of a dedicated podcast unit to enhance the delivery of feature content is a significant step forward in multi-media for RNZ. By drawing on commissioned and in-house expertise we have the potential to build the very best audio, visual and written content around fiction, non-fiction, topical current affairs and social issues.
Please be assured that, as we develop this fresh approach to commissioning and producing feature material for podcasting, publishing and broadcasting, our commitment to the values of public service broadcasting remain as strong as ever.
We will need to balance the reinvigoration of our story-telling against the constraints of restricted funding but we are absolutely committed to delivering high-quality coverage of issues that are of specific interest to our diverse audiences.
Thank you again for your interest and for taking the time to contact us, I do hope you will continue to enjoy the programming offered by RNZ on air and online.
Head of Communications