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Hard News - Doing It For The Kids

GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ... so we have a date with democracy on November 27, and not November 6. The Prime Minister has apparently surprised the pundits and disappointed some of her caucus by going for the earlier date.

Why? Here's something you might not know.

If you're Prime Minister of New Zealand for two years, you qualify for a Prime Ministerial pension of $6000 a year tax free, and cars and drivers for life.

If you're Prime Minister for less than that - ie, if you are Geoffrey Palmer or Mike Moore - you get zip.

Jenny Shipley clocks up her two years on December the 8th. With the election date she has chosen, final returns are not due in until December 16, giving her a week's grace, even in the case of a Labour landslide. Win or lose, she gets the money and the driver. You heard it here first.

Anyway, get your hands out of your pockets, that's the Prime Minister I'm talking about. Congratulations to bFM's Gemma Gracewood for her excellent coverage of National's broadcasting policy launch this week.

Stationing themselves at York Street Studios, Shipley, Bill English and Marie Hasler made National the third party, after Labour and the Alliance, to promise a national youth radio network.

The rockin' atmosphere was, it must be said, a little spoiled by the Prime Ministerial minder who actually went around ordering scruffy young muso types to stand up straight and get their hands out of their pockets while they were talking to the Leader.

It got a little more excruciating as bFM listeners waited while English tried to think of answers to the questions "What was the last New Zealand gig you went to?" and "What's your favourite New Zealand CD?" After claiming that whatever he liked it was bound to be "old stuff", he blurted out something about Split Enz.

Well, okay, why should the Treasurer have to be a groovy guy, even if he is only 37? There's no law against being square, is there? I'd just suggest then that he, Roger Sowry, Tony Ryall and Nick Smith desist from publicly styling themselves as "the Brat Pack", because they are truly the oldest thirtysomethings in the country. Jesus, Sonia Davies had more brat in her than all of them put together when she was an MP and she was about twice as old.

Anyway, so Gemma's roving mike found the Prime Minister, who was at least able to testify to a passion for the light jazz musings of Malcolm McNeill.

But she came over all Ashburton when she was asked her opinion of King Kapisi's popular selection of as Fox of the Year in the bFM Music Awards. The correct response here is to wing it - say, ask if this Kapisi's guy's any good.

But ... "Oh, you're just trying to trap me," said the PM. Look, I know Gemma's smart, but you'd think the Prime Minister of a whole actual country might perhaps be able to think of some response other than, "you're trying to trap me". Good one, Jenny.

Anyway, on the issue of the widely touted youth radio network, it seems to me that most people have missed the point that whether it's made by National, Labour or the Alliance, it's a cheap and somewhat empty promise.

The government has been preparing to sell off as many as 200 FM frequencies - possibly more than the market could absorb. Reserving some merely means forgoing a bit of revenue that might not have been that great anyway. Nobody has presently offered any money to actually run the thing.

There are other questions: what, for instance, is the role of student radio, which carried the flag through all the years when the government didn't care? I suppose that's easy to say when you're living in Auckland and you have access not just to the B, but to various bFM knock-offs. You might feel a bit different if you were growing up in Invercargill.

To look at it another way, why do grown-ups and oldies get a public radio service in National Radio and Concert FM while the youth don't get anything that isn't wrapped up tight with the sponsor's product?

To be honest, though, I'm less than convinced about the youth radio network. But I'm more convinced by Labour's package than the government's late conversion to the cause.

Judith Tizard is the only MP who has been in constant touch with the local music industry in the last few years. National's proposed Music Industry Forum is pretty much a direct rip-off of Labour's Music Commission. And Labour also backs what, to me, is the most effective policy of all - local music quotas.

Horrors! Muriel Newman, Act's resident dimwit, declared this week that quotas would mean that "New Zealanders are forced to listen to material that they would not voluntarily listen to."

Hello? I listen to material that I would not voluntarily listen to just about every time I switch on the radio! The opponents of local quotas are in the grip of the fantasy that quotas deprive them of choice - ie, that they themselves actually choose what they hear on the radio. They don't.

At best, people listen to a radio station where the programmer selects a genre that meets with their preferences. In that respect, the only thing that will change under quotas is that music produced in a small market with few resources will have a fighting chance against music that comes in with the full force of the global culture industry behind it - the money, the magazines, the movies, the videos and the US radio format sheets.

There is simply no downside to a reasonably applied quota, unless you believe that music created by New Zealanders will somehow drag down the quality of our radio. In which case, come out and say it. Actually, I fear the reverse - that the demands of radio will spawn more crappy pop groups than we've ever seen here before. But at least it'll be our crap.

Anyway, it seemed as if the theme of the week was Doing It For the Kids, even if the kids didn't want to be done for. Yes, that was me on Holmes on Monday night, and no I didn't spend the whole time nodding in a glazed fashion. It just looked that way.

The Holmes show's "whacky" "youth" reporter Tony Veitch gathered together 15 voters in the 18-39 demographic. Like the Treasurer, I am 37, and I think they only asked me along in case the kids clammed up.

They didn't, but it might have been better if they had. Some of what they said was not exactly deep.

They wanted honesty, but they wanted to be sold a political product like it was a new energy drink.

They wanted it to be about policies, but they wanted a glamorous presidential candidate.

They complained that no one had any policies but they hadn't done anything to find out what the policies were. These parties all have Websites, you know.

They weren't sure if they would bother voting but they worried about the East Timorese, who have died in numbers for the right to do just that.

It was not very impressive. But wait. There's more. Or rather, there was. Not satisfied with asking a bunch of leading questions in support of his proposition that the kids don't care and that it's all the same bollocks anyway, whacky young Tony cut the answers to fit his requirements.

Some of the young voters actually did say some thoughtful things and demonstrated a knowledge of the issues, but that all went. Indeed, the preference seemed to be to give some of the more dull-witted participants much of the airtime. I suppose I ought to be flattered that I got none.

It was, shall we say, revealing. Memo to Tony Veitch: next time you feel the urge to call me, don't.

And to anybody who thinks it might be cool or clever to not vote, don't be a dork. The right to vote is precious and by no means universal in the world. And rights are only any use if they are exercised.

So, now that we are in the shadow of an election, please make sure you're registered to vote. If you're not sure, call 0800 36 76 56 or - and this is actually very cool - visit www.elections.org.nz, read it up and check your own enrolment details online.

But enough. The world is in union and the Rugby World Cup is upon us. Me, I'm all in favour of the All Black backline reshuffle. Not only do Jeff Wilson, Jonah Lomu, Tana Umaga and Christian Cullen add up to a staggering swag of firepower, but playing Lomu gives you better choices on the bench. Carlos Spencer as impact sub - that's my call.

And that's all ... G'bye!

HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 8.45am on Fridays and replayed around 4.30pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. A digest appears monthly in Re:Mix magazine. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to http://www.95bfm.co.nz. You will need Real Audio 3.0 to be able to listen, plus a 28.8k modem. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

HARD NEWS ON THE INTERNET appears at Scoop, at http://scoop.co.nz , at Akiko at http://nz.com (which is the home of the Hard News mailing list) and is posted to local newsgroups.

------------------------------- Russell Brown's Hard News is distributed by mail and the Web as a public service of Akiko International, New Zealand on the Web. http://nz.com/ For help with subscribing, unsubscribing, etc, send a message with the body "help hardnews" to majordomo@nz.com. Information about Akiko's web services can be obtained from our site, or by writing to sales@nz.com


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