The Government is attempting to take shelter from the onslaught of protest about RNZ plans to downgrade its Concert station by suggesting it is required to keep at arm's length from RNZ's operational decisions.
It's easy to understand why they might want to seek shelter. Not only is former PM Helen Clark hurling brickbats but so is former Finance Minister Michael Cullen, who has labelled the plan "cultural vandalism".
But the arm's-length requirement under the Radio New Zealand Act is intended to ensure ministers don't interfere in news, not to distance themselves from major decisions about the business.
Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have both suggested this weekend that the Government must keep its distance from RNZ decisions.
"We are not going get involved in programming or operations decisions that RNZ makes," Faafoi told RNZ's Mediawatch programme on Sunday. "We are not allowed to."
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Then Ardern told reporters at the Big Gay Out in Auckland today that some fair and valid concerns had been raised about Concert, which she would talk about on Monday.
"What I will say is that RNZ of course has operational independence and so decisions that they make have not necessarily come from Government."
The Radio New Zealand Act is clear that ministers may not direct RNZ in respect of any particular programme, allegation or complaint; or in the gathering or presentation of news or the preparation or presentation of current affairs programmes; nor the responsibility of the company for programme standards.
But what RNZ is proposing does not fall into that category. It is making a major change to a core part of its business. Concert is a station with many programmes within it.
It is not a programme and the board is not simply making a programming decision.
Interference would be if Faafoi or the cabinet instructed that a certain host be taken off air, or insisting that Fat Freddy's Drop be played every week or banning Celine Dion's version of Brahms' Lullaby.
The Government cannot legitimately hide behind the excuse of "operational independence".
There have been miscalculations all along the way on RNZ's plans - which involve sacking 17 Concert staff, making it completely automated with no hosts, and putting it on the AM frequencies in order to free up Concert's coveted frequency for a radio station for younger listeners aged 18 to 35.
Faafoi has been involved in a poor process.
He may have known about the board's big plans but he did not share them with senior colleagues until recently.
Commercial radio stations whose audiences and incomes may well be impacted by the state broadcaster knew well before Faafoi's colleagues.
Either he didn't realise controversial plans require top-level consultation or he didn't think it would be controversial. Either is a failure.
But it is hard to imagine any minister not anticipating the high-volume backlash from avid listeners whose loyalty to RNZ has been trashed.
The state radio broadcaster is facing upheaval from two proposals: this one being done by it and the other being done to it – an agreement in principle for a single broadcaster to be created from RNZ and TVNZ.
Unlike the private sector, that merger does not have to go before the Commerce Commission but at least it is having some finer details on it done by PwC, a company that is already well versed in the complexities of state broadcasting models, having reported this term on overseas models.
The proposal for a merger was not canvassed before the last election. It will be next time.
Given how controversial the RNZ plan is for Concert, it too needs to have the brakes applied and RNZ's ultimate owners, the taxpayer, given a say.