Can you hear that?
Its the sound of waves breaking on Napier’s Marine Parade.
It’s a magpie calling on a fence in Waipukrau.
Then there is the roar as hundreds of cricket fans cheer when Ross Taylor sends the ball soaring over the boundary for six at McLean Park!
These are all familiar sounds to Hawke’s Bay locals, but may not be so well known to those outside the region.
Recently the chances of Hawke’s Bay locals and others further afield hearing Hawke’s Bay over the airwaves became slimmer and slimmer and one of New Zealand’s biggest media organisations, NZME (“New Zealand Media and Entertainment”), was at the centre of both.
One affected me indirectly, while the other had a more personal impact.
“Larakin Lads? Local’s Loss!”
In February NZME announced plans to potentially replace their “The Hits” network’s remaining regional breakfast shows with the Auckland-based “comedy duo” of Jono and Ben, who they had head-hunted from rival network, Mediaworks, last year.
As I’ve written before there is already, in my opinion, far too little local input and regional relevance in networked stations like “The Hits” where, in 2015 I estimated around “158 announcing positions across the country are covered by the same 8 people in Auckland.”
New Zealand commercial media’s regional markets have been continuously written off and downgraded for years now.
It’s a self fulfilling prophecy – The media outlet cuts back on local content or relevance, so the local market switches off and / or turns to social media, so the media outlet loses money, so they cut back even further…
Hawke’s Bay had been fortunate to retain at least some local content during this time via NZME’s “The Hits” and Mediaworks’ “The Breeze” breakfast shows remaining local, broadcast from Napier and Hastings studios respectively, but this Jono and Ben announcement certainly seemed to threaten that status.
New Zealand media’s talent pool is shallow enough as it is without just swapping the same people around and simulcasting them on yet another network.
We’ve already had that here: The current Breeze Hawke’s Bay breakfast hosts used to do The Hits’ Hawke’s Bay breakfast show, while one of The Hits’ current hosts used to do The Breeze’s breakfast show, and the other used to do The Hit’s local breakfast show in Taranaki, but moved to Napier to take over from the announcer who moved to The Breeze.
Their Taranaki show became simulcast from Auckland soon after they left.
Confused? I can’t blame you!
Imagine how frustrating it must be for new talent wanting to break onto the airwaves in Hawke’s Bay, or whatever region they may hail from!
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of either network’s local breakfast show, but at least they are Hawke’s Bay content on Hawke’s Bay airwaves.
As I write this NZME’s plan had been downgraded to see the Auckland duo replace only Canterbury’s The Hits breakfast show.
It’s a lucky escape for Hawke’s Bay and the other regions who narrowly avoided yet more locally-irrelivent media content taking over.
Telling staunchly proud and self-sufficient Cantabrians that:
“You’re getting Jono and Ben for Breakfast!”
“But, we don’t want Jono and Ben, we want relevant local content and talent!”
“Too bad, you’re getting Jono and Ben for breakfast!”
Is just dooming their operations there to failure, isn’t it?
When will media management ever learn?
“Chew For Chwenty Chew After Chew”
Not long after the Jono and Ben move was revealed NZME’s Radiosport and New Zealand Cricket announced they would be going seperate ways after broadcasting cricket across New Zealand’s airwaves for over 20 years.
NZ Cricket didn’t want to commit to Radiosport’s five year offer, citing advances in technology and a changing media landscape discouraging them from tying themselves into broadcasting on radio for that length of time.
(This opinion apparently failed to take into account that Radiosport has also been broadcasting over NZME’s online streaming service “iHeartRadio” for some time now)
So, from the end of this domestic and international cricket season the dulcet tones of Brian Waddle, Jeremy Coney and their cricket commentating colleagues were out of jobs and will no longer keep summertime gardeners company.
New Zealand Gothic:
Transistor radio playing test cricket,
Freshly mown lawn,
Reel mower quietly pinking in the background.
Ladders, planks & tin of paint set up
For a fresh summer coat on the weatherboards..
Cricket commentary from McLean Park, Bay Oval, Seddon Park, University Oval and all the other grounds around New Zealand will fall silent on the airwaves from April.
Personally, it meant an opportunity I never thought I would have was lost.
Because for three domestic Supersmash T20 cricket matches at my beloved McLean Park, I was one of those Radiosport commentators!
Late last year I got a phone call.
I had mentioned on Twitter earlier in the year about wanting to do cricket commentary, or had been doing my usual social media promotion of McLean Park / Napier / Hawke’s Bay, when I got an email from someone at RadioSport asking if I’d like to send in an “audition tape”, as they were looking to expand their regional roster, and Hawke’s Bay was somewhere they felt they were a bit thin on the ground in.
I was taken aback – Knowing what media in NZ is like (see above), this was not just something that comes along every week.
Unlike The Hits, cutting back regional resources, Radiosport was trying to expand – Having local voices at the likes of Hagley Oval and McLean Park.
So I recorded an ad-libbed over of commentary on my phone one evening after my daughter had gone to bed and emailed it off.
I didn’t hear anything back, so thought I must have sucked and forgot about it.
Until I got a call one afternoon in November.
It was Malcolm Jordan from Radiosport. “Did I get back to you about your audition tape?” he asked.
I replied “No.”
“Oh, sorry, we liked it! We’ve got some Supersmash T20 games coming up at McLean Park in December and January, would you like to commentate them?”
And so began what would unfortunately turn out to be one of the shorter careers I have had.
Which is a shame. Because it was great fun!
I’ve played it for years, and followed it for even longer.
This was an opportunity to watch the game I love at a place I love and tell the nation (and anyone else listening online around the world) all about it!
And they paid me to do it!
But the money wasn’t the best part.
The best part was that they BELIEVED IN ME!
The day before my first match Malcolm phoned me and went through some pointers for commentating he had sent me.
“We didn’t pick you for no reason. We know you can do this!” he said (or words to that effect).
Because while I believe I am capable of doing the things I want to do, that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot if no one else does, too.
I’d be a multi-media star broadcasting Hawke’s Bay to the world by now if it did!
It’s not even something I’m used to in my day-to-day, non-writing job of a decade and a half!
So to have someone believe in me, pretty much out of the blue was, well, unbelievable!
The games were played and I think I did a reasonable job for my few times in the commentary box.
A personal highlight was I got to step out onto the pitch block in the centre of McLean Park – the closest I would likely get to playing there!
My short stint was completed, pay was deposited, and I looked forward to possibly doing it again next season.
Except as it currently stands I won’t get to.
I know I’m no Richie Benaud, Ian Smith, Jeremy Coney, or Brian Waddle.
I was never going to be able to chuck in my current job and set off on an international cricket commentating career after a couple of T20 games.
But this was an opportunity – something that doesn’t come along very often.
It was a light at the end of the tunnel that said If I stuck at this and worked on it there was a chance, a possibility, AN OPPORTUNITY that somewhere down the track I MIGHT just be able to make a career of it.
With NZ Cricket and Radiosport parting ways that light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a freight train coming the other way.
As I wrote in a tweet about the Provincial Growth Fund recently:
“Opportunity really is the thing.
It is hope, it is promise.
Opportunity gives people a chance.
Without opportunity there is no future.”
I lost an opportunity I never thought I’d have which is a real mind bender on its own.
But that made it a bit harder. Beause it wasn’t just a job gone – it was the opportunity.
Gone before it ever really got started.
I saw an interview with Frank Zappa a while ago about how the music industry lost its cool:
He talks of “cigar chomping executives” in the 60s taking a chance – Giving something they didn’t understand an opportunity.
Where as the more modern execs had a “we know what’s best for you” opinion.
We’ve seen both of these cases in Hawke’s Bay media already this year.
We need more opportunity for regional media, and the people who can make that happen.
And far less of the Auckland-centric “we know what’s best for you” executive mindset.
There may not be another opportunity for them to change, or fix the current system.