January 20, 2005

Farewell Channel Z

From its humble beginnings, Channel Z stirred the pot when 'everyone else' was looking elsewhere. Channel Z was something else.

Being an Aucklander, I first heard Channel Z in 1997. I gave it a week or should I say, it took me a week to 'click' and I never looked back. Jon & Nathan left Ice TV and later hosted a very very funny and highly intellectual and stimulating breakfast show - quite unlike any duo I've heard before. The station was gooood. The Dick84 breakfast show was a breath of fresh air. It brought me my daily (insert benny hill type music)... News. It inspired me to live by one of my mantras: "Never dwell in the past, unless its hilarious".

Times were good. The music was mostly hot, the people were much like that of an adopted family and Channel Z helped me grow as a person. Seriously, it did. I really enjoyed the "Resurrection Selection" which was hosted by Phoebe Spiers, which she would dedicate the 10-11am hour weekdays to old school rock tracks by bands like Porno For Pyros and Headless Chickens. Class.

Theres a lot of negativity out there by non-true listeners and some ex-staff. They are confident that the format sucked after 1999 and was not worth listening to. Wrong.

The first night I heard Bomber on talkback was in 2002. I missed the kerfuffel back in 2000, but happened to tune into a show about date rape. What great radio I heard. How relevant, how topical and how smart was that. He then moved onto talking nuclear issues with Nandor, then giving advice to some pimply kid about confidence. Kudos to Bomber for sticking his neck out and being human. That's youth radio. I was talking about it all week.

Channel Z was a cheap station to run for Canwest. It had a great profile when the Big Day Out rolled around every year. You'd see homemade posters saying "Channel Z is Big Day Out" on high profile spots around town, or plastered to the sides of houses dotted up and down the motorways. Listeners would hope that the Channel Z spies would choose their poster and throw a swag of Big Day Out passes their way for their effort. I went to the 2003 Big Day Out because of Channel Z. It was my first ever Big Day Out. I still talk about that day.

In 2003, Jon & Nathan left. A widely reported tongue in cheek cash payout unfolded in the tunnels at Kelly Tarltons, and the Dick84 breakfast was no more. James Coleman took over with his KFC shakes. ..Putting all the stuff in a quarter pack in to a blender then drinking it..

Timely really, as Channel Z lost their 94.2 frequency (in a completely ass, but predictable decision by their owners) in Auckland to sister station The Edge less than a month later, and although they moved to 93.8FM - it was based at Waiheke Island where reception was a real problem - even in the Channel Z studio they couldn't get their own broadcast clearly. Canwest duly threw a bucket of cash toward the government, which eventually got them back on the Skytower 5 or 6 months later. Channel Z lost nearly all of its audience over this this time, and it has never recovered. Last survey 2/2004 = 54,700 listeners 10+, 18 months after the fact.

They kept on trucking though, James Coleman's "Coleman Sessions" continued. It was a series of intimate recorded shows from York Street recording studios that gave the station a new intelligence when relating to their music. They were goooood shows.[pix]

Jacquie Brown brought us "Pop Goes The Weasel" - a weekly show that has in-studio guests (musicians and others) to compete against each other in bizarre rounds of musical trivia, in an effort to win a hot dinner date with said host (who still has trouble saying the number '1').

2004 saw that infamous tv ad, where a guy would be listening to The Darkness 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' on his car stereo (well before any other station picked it up), he changes the station when Bomber comes on and his beaten up car suddenly blows up, much in a Monty Python style. From then on, a nice recurring effect of this commercial was anytime you heard that song, it became a mental reference to Channel Z, even if you were listening to the song on ZM, The Edge, The Rock or elsewhere. A nice piece of marketing, a well chosen song, although it didn't hammer home the 93.8 frequency was 'back'.

Its interesting, coz it seems to me that Channel Z had once again become an underdog station, much like its beginnings. Bugger all listeners, but really ace radio.

I have a lot of untouchable happy memories of Channel Z, like a lot of its former listeners. Its a shame that it cannot continue. Channel Z was a plumber in many ways for New Zealand music and unsigned bands, and boy they were knowledgeable when it came to their music. Clever bastards those guys.

As I've grown, I've always thought of Channel Z as a luxury station. When Karen Hay dropped a bomb and announced that she will return to radio, and Channel Z was her chosen station, a flood of emotion came over me. Radio With Pictures back in the 80s was an amazing eye-opening TV show to me and thinking about it now, having Karen announce that Channel Z is the only radio station she would be comfortable working for, pulled on my fragile happy childhood emotions that are attached to Radio With Pictures back in '82. Karen is a smart woman. In my eyes, she has that John Peel-like 'spark' about her. Quietly clever. Its a shame it had to be short lived, but better than nothing at all. Who knows, she may host the new breakfast show, or not.

Initial reaction by the industry to the loss of Channel Z has been without shock, saying its long overdue. This day has been coming, and there have been two people who hold the strings for Channel Z over this time. These people loved the station, loved the passion of its staff, so fought tooth and nail to keep it running. This seems to be an acceptable compromise for them in keeping a lot of the essence to which Channel Z has been built, with a seemingly more attractive way of boosting audience figures. A secondary fallout effect of this will no doubt move straggling diehards to eventually settle on either The Rock, bNet or move off to iPod land.

It has to be said though, that the new station (Channel Z's successor) "Kiwi FM" will be 100% NZ Music. That's good, although the name, or term "Kiwi" is under fire by many. Dubber prompts another discussion completely that Kiwi FM can be a 'replacement' for Channel Z or anything "is the notion that New Zealand music is a genre.." "..Kiwi FM is not a substitute for NZ music on any of the other corporate multiplex stations. Enjoying More FM is not a separate experience to enjoying NZ music. It's part of the same package".

Theres more to say of course, but im getting a bit tired now, and I have the Big Day Out tomorrow so I will leave you with the official press release and a much more detailed history of Channel Z.

Enjoy the remaining days of Channel Z - we have it until 7pm Waitangi Day.

I wonder what their farewell song will be... Suggestions?


NoRockets said...

wow.. I loved Channel Z for years too. Haven't listened to much radio/tv lately (last year or so) but when I do it's often Ch.Z. I loved the new rock format and the smart presenters - especially loved nathen and his guitar playing - actually bailed him up in a cafe once to sing his praises, he didn't mind at all. and yes, Karen Hay is one smart cookie and her show is good when I've heard it.

I spose it's good there's plenty of kiwi music to keep a station playing it 100% of the time - but I'll miss Channel Z. Thanks for the heads up - I'll make the most of it's last week.

Jo Hubris said...

I think Channel Z should play 'Channel Z' by the B52s as their last song, of course.

And just to be pedantic, I'm going to point out that it's not actually Jacquie Brown who does 'Pop Goes the Weasel', it's Down Low Productions. A little birdie tells me that you haven't seen the last of it though.

Richard said...

Its coming to C4 I hear... I was aware of the production company, but felt linking to a website that never gets updated is not worth my readers time.

Richard said...

Channel Z's last song was 'Pretty Vacant" by the Sex Pistols. It played around 3:10pm on Feb 6. It was followed by the "Kiwi" teaser voiced by Grant Hislop, a brief silence, then a continuous loop of bird song from a sfx CD until 7pm, when Helen Clark launched "Kiwi".

Anonymous said...

Benjamin Said...

Channel Z and another CHCH station Channel Green got me hooked on alternative music from six/seven.

Good music, that hardley gets play or none at all.

However, The Rock played Freak by Silverchair and Change by Deftones on the night of the 15th august 2008 Is Z waking up Again? Hmmm?...