Key Points:

The males in my household have a fondness for shiny new things. This means they can't be let loose in an electronic shop. I learned this when I sent them to buy an electric jug and they came home with a DVD player.

So I am not surprised that they're seduced by the idea of a shiny new waterfront stadium. It's exciting and expensive and big. If we build it, they say, we'll get used to it. We may even love it.

I can see their point. We wouldn't be having this argument if we were talking about plonking an opera house or an art gallery on the waterfront. And given the national obsession with rugby and sports in general, maybe a sports stadium is as good a public use of that ugly, inaccessible space as any.

But seeing how public opposition is escalating at the same rate as the estimated costs, I fear my menfolk are out of luck.

So there you have my obligatory stadium comment. What I really want to talk about is Pacific Island broadcasting, which, considering the fair dollop of public money it's absorbed so far, is probably something we should all be paying attention to.

The flagship since August 2002 has been Niu FM, the national Pacific Island radio network, an expensive undertaking which has so far chalked up $20 million ($8 million for its first three years and another $12 million for another four years), plus millions more for 11 FM frequencies (by way of comparison, the last FM frequency in Auckland sold for $6 million).

All of which I was once in favour of, particularly as one of my aforementioned menfolk was involved in the creation and launch of Niu FM. Now I'm not so sure.

Niu FM held its annual general meeting at Mt Roskill this week. The board was in a determinedly jolly and self-congratulatory mood, despite the threat of a coup from a consortium of disaffected former employees and members of the community, who called for a vote of no confidence in the chairman, the board and the CEO (it was never put to the vote).

When it was launched four years ago, Niu FM was in the hands of community-owned Auckland radio station 531pi. But weeks into the contract, Niu FM's Government-appointed board (the National Pacific Radio Trust) decided it could do a better job of running the network, and after eight months on air sacked 531pi.

It moved the network out of Otahuhu and into Ponsonby, and appointed one of its own, Sina Moore (the eldest daughter of Samoan writer Albert Wendt) as chief executive - apparently unperturbed by her lack of broadcasting, media or commercial business experience.

Both sides alleged a breach of contract. Lawsuits were filed in the High Court, but after a mountain of affidavits and legal fees it all came to nought. Peace (but not forgiveness) was restored after an out-of-court settlement and an apology to Radio 531pi from the board chairman, Simativa Perese.

More than three years after the bitter and costly split, the two are merging again, at the behest of Government officials who have decided that it makes no sense to have two Pacific Island radio stations in competition in Auckland, especially when one of them (Niu) is getting $3 million of public money a year and the other (531pi) is getting $200,000.

Will anyone ever ask what that split cost in dollar terms? A million at least, by my rough estimate, but of course no one is taking any blame for this. Why should they? Everything is just fine.

The board was "outstanding", Perese told the AGM. It had navigated "the whirlpools of uncertainty and distraction to begin building a pathway up the mountain of opportunity".

It's just a shame that the people who turned up to see them weren't quite as thrilled with their performance.

There was too much rap music during the day, they complained. The programmes were targeted at a younger audience at the expense of older Pacific Islanders. When they were targeted at younger kids they included songs with overtly sexual lyrics or swearing.

There were examples of DJs making derogatory comments about striking Pacific Island workers and newsreaders who couldn't pronounce Pacific Island names. And what had happened to the network's original raison d'etre - to provide information for Pacific Islanders least able to access the mainstream?

A trustee, Maureen Passmore, defended the network's targeting of the 10-39-year-olds. It's the younger audience who need the language more, she said, unaware perhaps that the younger audience listen only during the day, when there's a heavy diet of hip-hop, and that radio has never been a proven teacher of second languages.

At any rate, the younger audience wants entertainment, not information, and they tend to get it from the higher rating Mai FM and Flava.

In the more than three years the board's been at the helm, Niu FM has grown: it now has more money, more frequencies and double the staff. But it has considerably fewer listeners.

Over the past year alone, it lost more than a third of its audience, nearly 24,000 in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch combined, according to the radio survey by Research International. It languishes at 1.2 per cent of the Auckland market, below everyone else.

Perese is at pains to explain how tough the competitive Auckland market is, and how difficult it is for a network which has to meet "public broadcasting" obligations. But the fact remains that when Perese's board took over in 2003, Niu FM was rating at nearly 3 per cent of that tough Auckland market.

According to Research International, the network now has a total audience in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch of just over 46,000 (though it claims to have between 80-90,000 nationally). Just under two-thirds of those listeners are Pacific Islanders.

Perese and his board seem satisfied with that. But is that good enough?