RNZ's chief executive and chairman felt the heat from both Government and Opposition MPs this morning, as they fronted up over the poor handling of the RNZ Concert saga.

Under pressure from Labour's Deborah Russell, Paul Thompson, RNZ's chief executive, appeared to blame Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi for a "significant misunderstanding" which led to RNZ announcing Concert FM would be switched to the AM frequency.

"The Minister absolutely understood that we were going to continue with the staff consultation but where the glitch was, was whether the Concert on FM part of it was in scope. That was the confusion."

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Asked who was confused, Thompson said: "I think by the Minister."

He later walked those comments back, saying it was RNZ's fault for not being clear enough.

RNZ had proposed moving Concert FM to an AM frequency, to make way for a more youth-focused channel.

The shift was the subject of an avalanche of criticism, including from former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and Heritage, said this week that the Government would be dusting off an old frequency, 102 FM, for the youth-focused channel.

That meant Concert would remain on the FM airwaves.

Radio New Zealand chief executive Paul Thompson, left, and chairman, Jim Mather, during their appearance before the Economic Development, Science and Innovation select committee Photo / Mark Mitchell
Radio New Zealand chief executive Paul Thompson, left, and chairman, Jim Mather, during their appearance before the Economic Development, Science and Innovation select committee Photo / Mark Mitchell

But, speaking to MPs at a select committee this morning, both Thompson and RNZ chairman Jim Mather said the broadcaster was told by officials midway through last year that there was little chance it would be able to use the 102 FM frequency for its planned youth radio channel.

Thompson said he was told by officials that it would be "very difficult to be able to gain access to the frequency, and to the funding required to support it".

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"Therefore, we went on to develop our proposal as it was presented last week."

He confirmed that RNZ never explicitly asked for the 102 FM frequency; only that the broadcaster got the sense it was not a possibility.

Speaking to media after the committee hearing, he said he should have "potentially" done more in pushing for the frequency to be made available.

Mather, who proactively addressed the Concert FM saga before taking questions from MPs, said Faafoi was briefed on the strategy and the potential impact on RNZ Concert in August last year, October last year and, most recently, on January 29 this year.

He pushed back on any suggestion that RNZ had ignored the Minister's advice to hold off on moving Concert FM to an AM frequency.

"There is absolutely no logical reason why RNZ would purposely ignore such a request from the Minister – aside from the fact that there was a significant misunderstanding."

He said Faafoi thought the consultation process would be halted while the Ministry of Culture and Heritage looked into the FM frequency availability, "as they were tasked to do at that meeting".