Radio NZ says review is not about cost cuts.

State radio is conducting a softly-softly review of Radio NZ Concert, but it seems to be more about presentation than content.

However I wonder if the review can be limited to tinkering, given the financial pressure on RNZ.

As things stand, the review is playing at the edges.

Radio NZ wants to inject more personality into the station's programming, with more comment and discussion on the music and the music makers.


Presenters would contribute more, said RNZ head of radio John Howson.

But it would not be a fundamental shift away from the station's focus on "fine music". The review was in its early stages, but he was taking account of Concert listeners' passionate interest in the station.

However there was no direct consultation with support groups such as Friends of Radio New Zealand.

Indeed, the passion from the days of the Save Radio New Zealand campaign - which was largely about funding freezes - appears to have dissipated.

Radio NZ insists the review is not aimed at finding costs to cut. But it would be surprising if that wasn't the subtext, while the Government is still refusing to boost funding.

The review follows the departure of RNZ Concert manager Roger Smith at the end of last year, after six years in the job.

He has been replaced by Jimmy Stewart, a broadcaster whose expertise is in radio generally rather than classical music specifically.

Stewart is a close buddy of NatRad summer host Phil O'Brien and has a background in commercial radio. He took part in a recent 40-year reunion in Wellington for the rock station 2ZM.

More recently Stewart was involved in the reconfiguring of Radio NZ's afternoon programming, including the new programme featuring Simon Mercep.

Two heads

The review of Concert is just the latest change at RNZ under chief executive Paul Thompson, including the creation of the new roles of head of radio - veteran RNZer Howson, who exits in a year's time - and the hiring of new broom Carol Hirschfeld as head of content.

One source suggested the review of Concert may be a test of how the old and new faces can work together.

According to Howson, Nielsen statistics show Concert reaches 5 per cent of New Zealand listeners.

Concert costs about $5 million, so those listeners are in a privileged position.

Some people believe that as a public station Concert does a brilliant job on a remarkably small budget.

Peter Hoar is a senior lecturer in communications at AUT University, specialising in radio, and sometimes provides reviews for Concert FM.

It was valuable in serving the needs of New Zealand musicians, he said.

In Britain, one commercial fine music station had "dumbed down" content, while BBC Radio 3 was like a discussion among dons at Oxford University. However Concert had taken a middle path and had been highly successful, he said.

Maybe so. But I'd question why classical music followers enjoy this $5 million sweetspot while National Radio keeps having its budget pared back.

Given the state of the media, NatRad is too important to have to suffer from trying to carry Concert.

A Radio NZ source believes that NatRad is doing - and will continue to do - well out of the intense competition between the two right-wing breakfast radio hosts: Mike Hosking at NZME. and (later this year) Paul Henry at MediaWorks.

The (optimistic) hope at RNZ is that Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson can entrench Morning Report's gains in Auckland.

This Government appears to have eased back from an ideological hatred of RNZ, something that happened before one-time Morning Report presenter Maggie Barry became minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

But I'm hearing National still wants to put the financial squeeze on.

Screen time

Spare a thought for Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce in his role role as cheerleader-in-chief for the taxpayer-subsidised screen industry. Joyce has been one of the more sensibly sceptical politicians on the benefits of generous subsidies to Hollywood - but his boss is in donkey deep with Hollywood, so Joyce needs to be on side with them.

The Screen Advisory Board was set up to advise the Government, but is also a nice toehold for the industry as it maintains its grip on incentives. It includes Sir Peter Jackson, Jon Landau, James Cameron, Jane Campion and Andrew Adamson, and met for the first time last week. By some accounts the meeting was a low-key affair; Sir Peter was photographed in bare feet.

The participants were gracious but perplexed to find themselves hauled into a press conference and hastily arranged photo call.

Unfortunately there was not much news about the body and the media was obliged to focus on the fact that the first of the three sequels to the blockbuster movie Avatar has been set back a year because of delays in completing the scripts. This, the media advised us, was a good thing, because there was a shortage of studios anyway because of the brilliant success of the taxpayer incentives.

Woman talk

Sir Peter is influential but I wonder whether all the high-fliers' influence helps local film-makers.

I do hear that Jane Campion, who made Top of the Lake, set around Queenstown, has a very strong focus on improving the lot of women film-makers in New Zealand.

It was "completely disgusting and teeth-clenchingly irritating" that such a small proportion of movies was directed by women, both in New Zealand and globally, she said last week.

According to an analysis of NZ Film Commission (NZFC) feature film development applications and funding in the past five years, female producers are well represented at 52 per cent. Thirty-four per cent of all feature film applicants included a female scriptwriter and numbers are increasing.

However female directors are significantly under-represented, with just 8 per cent of feature film funding applications naming a female director.

According to the NZFC report, female directors are (slightly) more likely to be successful - 12 per cent are named in projects that win funding.

Maori TV

Maori Television has named two new senior executives to the positions of head of corporate affairs and head of content. A surprise appointment - given the size of the organisation - was Rick Osborne as head of corporate affairs. His past employers include Fonterra, Air New Zealand, Telecom and the Bank of New Zealand. He was also a former chief executive of the Communication Agencies Association of New Zealand, and was general manager of corporate affairs at New Zealand's largest listed company, Fletcher Building.

Mike Rehu has been appointed head of content. Rehu's record includes being head of content production for Fox International Channels for seven years and a decade with ESPN Star Sports as senior producer and director.