Whether Paul Thompson intended this to happen, or not, the proposal to gut Concert FM has turned into a really interesting public debate. I especially loved this article in Newsroom by Associate Professor James Tibbles, Head of the School of Music at the University of Auckland. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2020/02/10/1025129/rnz-concert-more-than-ratings-and-revenue.
This article discusses the real issue of the arts and the essential role of National Radio. It is a debate we have not had for some time. I have really enjoyed the various voices being raised in defence of Concert FM, but also advocating for the need for a feeder service for younger audiences to enter what many of us feel is, the RNZ house of pleasure, with such informative education for us all on a vast array of topics. I thought the final paragraph in the article was wonderful:
Instead, let’s grow the audience so it reflects our cultural landscape; let’s explore new ways to engage with the thousands upon thousands of people of all ages who ‘do’ classical music, but perhaps aren’t currently actively engaged with RNZ Concert. But let’s not turn it into an automatic machine for the brain-dead. We do not deserve this.
The debate on Concert FM reminded me when one time at CCC when the Councillors, concerned about the proposed rate increase (led by a then-councillor who was sitting at the back of the CCC Council table this week as the same arguments were being voiced about rates increases), decided to close some little libraries. There was an outcry from across the rest of the community. Where we might get a few submissions on an issue we received 1000 on this matter.
The Councillors rapidly retreated, led by the promoter of the motion of basing rates on the “CPI”, in the face of such opposition. The leaders of the objection to the proposed policy were recruited to work with Councillors to develop a “little library” policy for the Council. This working party changed the way small libraries were planned and supported in this City.
Good came from a crisis and I’m sure that is what will happen with the debate over Concern FM and Youth FM.
I remember Paul Thompson as Editor of the Press. He was fair but ambitious. It was clear that he would not be in the City long as he climbed his way up the corporate ladder. However, when somebody stumbles old mistakes are rapidly raised. During the week I received this from Diana Shand:
I am told that in May 2013 it was Paul Thompson, the then Fairfax group executive editor, that argued to support Fairfax Media’s decision to ship up to eight million historic New Zealand news photographs and negatives to Little Rock, Arkansas, for “digitising”.
(if you have trouble with that link…try this https://tinyurl.com/tdktg3w)
After the Herald revealed Fairfax’s plans in May 2013, the ministry intervened and RPA and Fairfax agreed that no item created prior to 1973 could be sold or disposed of without the ministry’s approval. However, it issued “a temporary export certificate” for the whole archive saying it would check for “protected objects” once the collection was digitised.
People tell me that “the digital archiving is yet to be completed, an unknown number of the photographs have turned up on eBay.com for sale and Rogers Photo Archive (RPA), the company involved, is now in receivership facing at least 10 lawsuits totalling more than $94 million. “
“Fairfax Media has gone to court to recover the archives – which also include the photographic records of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, and other Australian publications. Observing from the side lines, is the Ministry of Culture and Heritage which allowed the export of this taonga, even though, under the Protected Objects Act, it had the power to refuse the export of photos more than 50 years old.”
“In documents filed in the Circuit Court, Arkansas on December 19, Fairfax argues that from the time the agreement was signed in May 2013, “there were numerous issues raising concern for Fairfax that RPA could not or would not perform”. Under the deal, Fairfax agreed to sell the photographs and negatives to RPA for no charge, and in return RPA would provide separate digital libraries for both Australia and New Zealand.”
An archivist friend observes that “this [Herald article] is from 2015 and …Paul Thompson is now head at RNZ and is gutting Concert FM. The update on this from 5 years ago is that all the pictures are still in the US. We cannot access our heritage, neither the pictures, nor the scans. Yet another example of the attack on our heritage – and it’s the same people at it!”
My response to the media frenzy, which Paul has experienced in the past few weeks, would be that it is important in any society not to destroy a person because they have made a mistake. Instead they should be given a chance to remedy their errors and to learn from them. Paul is a driven man and we need driven people as leaders. A healthy feed of criticism is very difficult for driven people to endure, but, in the long run, is probably really good for them, if they chose to learn from it.
We will watch Paul Thompson. The very wolves he set onto people (including me) in the past will be circling him from now, as per this article https://www.pressreader.com/, and the test of the man will be how he copes. I wish him the best.