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Tutira Mai Nga Iwi (Line up together, people): Constructing New Zealand identity through commercial radio

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This article addresses a controversy within New Zealand radio broadcasting policy. As part of its activities to ensure the promotion of New Zealand content in the media, the non-government public organisation New Zealand On Air funds music recordings, promotional videos, album promotion and radio airplay initiatives targeted at the commercial broadcasting sector within that country. Supporters of the organisation, and its music sector agent provocateur Brendan Smyth, point to the increase in New Zealand music sales, improved concert attendance and greatly enhanced representation in mainstream media and popular culture as evidence of the scheme's resounding success. In some popular music genres, New Zealand content has increased from under 2 representation on commercial radio playlists to over 20. Detractors argue that in attempting to increase the quantity of New Zealand-sourced music that is broadcast, funders have favoured to the point of exclusion music that emulates international repertoire in order to appeal to conservative radio programmers, and in so doing have decimated that which makes New Zealand popular music uniquely kiwi. The article seeks to shed light upon the conditions and decisions that led to this situation, rather than attempt to reconcile these two divergent positions. However, it also endeavours to point to some possible lessons that may be found in the case of New Zealand music radio for broadcasting policy-makers and those who would seek to promote local music through radio programming interventions. The title of this article refers to a popular traditional Maori song often used in a powhiri ceremony, greeting newcomers to the marae. An exchange of songs takes place, and Tutira Mai is the Maori language song most often learned by non-Maori speakers for the occasion. It is thus ingrained in both Maori and non-Maori New Zealand culture alike and is taken here as symbolic of a coherent bicultural New Zealand-ness, as problematic as that concept may be.

Keywords: Maori; New Zealand; deregulation; music policy; music radio; quotas

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/rajo.5.1.19_1

Affiliations: Birmingham City University.

Publication date: December 4, 2007

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  • The Radio Journal is committed to high-quality, diverse research in the arena of sound broadcasting. The journal is published in association with the Radio Studies Network, the UK's association for researchers and teachers involved in radio studies. Articles examine all aspects of audio media from practice and production in the industry to approaches towards teaching radio studies in institutions. 
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