In defence of 'Morning Report'

Radio New Zealand's John Barr disputes aspects of Monday's editorial, ''Public broadcasting's future''.

Several points need to be made to opinions expressed about Radio New Zealand news and the agenda-setting Morning Report programme.

New Zealanders have a great appetite for quality public service broadcasting, and public support has never been higher for Radio New Zealand, making it one of the most successful public broadcasters anywhere in the world. Latest radio industry research from Nielsen media confirms that Radio New Zealand's Morning Report remains the country's most popular radio programme.

Contrary to the suggestion in your article, there has been no move to resort to ''bite-sized chunks of information'' on Radio New Zealand news bulletins. Bulletin durations have not been shortened, in fact they have been extended, and new half-hour bulletins introduced, including one at 5.30am on weekdays.

It is also incorrect to say that government ministers are rarely interviewed on Morning Report. Many government ministers readily appear on Morning Report because it is the only serious breakfast news programme on television or radio and reaches more people than any of its commercial rivals.

Ministers such as Bill English, Judith Collins, Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee generally appear on the programme when asked. The claim that Morning Report has simply ''become a follower of news released overnight and usually carried by newspapers and other media outlets'' has to be challenged - for the very obvious reason that Radio New Zealand News is a 24/7 operation quickly responding to late breaking stories that fall outside print deadlines for the morning papers.

Morning Report provides three hours of uninterrupted, commercial-free news coverage of all major stories of the day, along with detailed Pacific, Maori, rural, sports and business news and stories from the regions. That's why it remains the agenda setter for so many New Zealanders here and around the world. We all take enormous pride in the fact that New Zealand's only national public service broadcaster is also the most popular radio service in the country, delivering quality public broadcasting of the highest standards to all New Zealanders.

- John Barr is Radio New Zealand's communications manager.

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