Kiwi FM

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Kiwi FM
Broadcast area 3 markets in New Zealand
Slogan "About The Music"
First air date 1996
Format Alternative music
Owner MediaWorks New Zealand
Webcast Dialup

Kiwi FM (previously known as Channel Z) was a New Zealand alternative music radio network. From 1996 to 2005, as Channel Z, it broadcast alternative and local music for a youth-oriented market. From 2005 to 2015, as Kiwi FM, it broadcast predominantly New Zealand independent music, to showcase local music across a wide range of genres and enable greater access to an international market for local contemporary artists.

The station broadcast in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on FM frequencies and globally through an internet stream. During its later years it operated as a non-profit subsidiary of MediaWorks New Zealand, and was affiliated with XFM and Triple J.


Early years[edit]

Channel Z logo

Channel Z began as an modern rock and alternative rock radio station with a youth to adult demographic in Wellington from 19 August 1996, expanding to Auckland in 1997 and Christchurch in 1999. . Channel Z was named after the B-52's song of the same name, and played a vital role in lynchpining alternative NZ and international artists other stations claimed were too "dangerous" to play. John Diver was the station's first programme director and Martin Devlin, John Diver, James Coleman, and Olivia were among the station's earliest presenters. The station was part of the More FM group of stations, which in turn became part of CanWest-owned RadioWorks.

In 1998, longtime presenter Pheobe Spiers and breakfast hosts Jon Bridges and Nathan Rarere joined the station. The network expanded to Christchurch in 1999, with Willy Macalister presenting a local daytime show and Melanie Wise presenting a night show alongside the national network programme. In 2001, local shows in Wellington and Christchurch were abolished in favour of networked programming, Jon and Nathan's breakfast show was replaced with a James Coleman breakfast show, and Bomber and Clarke Gayford moved from Nights to Drive.[1] The station's frequencies were reallocated from 94.2 to 93.8 in Auckland and 91.7 to 94.7 in Wellington, while it remained on 99.3 in Christchurch.

Programme changes[edit]

Your music, your voice
Sounds Different
About The Music

There were major changes in 2003 with the cancellation of the breakfast show, the 94.2 frequency in Auckland being used to launch The Edge and Channel Z being subsequently moved to a lower powered 93.8 frequency, there was a decline in Channel Z's listenership. This ultimately led to the demise of the station, as many listeners were unable to tune in, although eventually the transmitter was relocated to the Sky Tower from its previous position on Waiheke Island. Channel Z's final apparent song was Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols.

Channel Z made several compilations in its radiospan. The compilation tracklistings are either chosen/voted for by the listeners online, or the radio station compiles the most requested or fitting songs. All Channel Z compilations feature New Zealand bands: Channel Z-[The]Best of 1,2 and 3, Channel Z Up Loud! and Channel Z Coleman Sessions.[2]

Kiwi FM launch[edit]

Jason Kerrison, far left, was one of Kiwi FM's first hosts.

The station Kiwi FM was launched on Waitangi Day, 6 February 2005 and was opened with a speech by then-Prime Minister Helen Clark. It was created to replace alternative station Channel Z which had failed to deliver on its ratings.

The initial station ran for around a year and was rebranded in July 2006 when legendary New Zealand music journalist Karyn Hay stepped in as General Manager with Andrew Fagan as music director. On 1 May 2006, the New Zealand Government granted Kiwi FM access to new FM frequencies, under an agreement that kept the 100-percent Kiwi music station on the airwaves. Then broadcasting minister Steve Maharey said the station had been granted the use of three FM frequencies for an initial period of one year, during which time it would work towards becoming a not-for-profit organisation. As part of the agreement to use the frequencies, the station's brief was to be to significantly expand its content to include a greater range of New Zealand music.

The new organizational structure for Kiwi FM was rather unusual: it was set up as a partnership between Government Ministries for Broadcasting and Economic Development and listed media company MediaWorks. The new network was implemented in less than three months, launching on 17 July 2006 with a number of respected staff members - including Opshop frontman Jason Kerrison, the Twitch lead vocalist Fleur Jack, former student radio breakfast hosts Wallace Chapman and Glenn 'Wammo' Williams, actress Danielle Cormack, Blindspott frontman Damian Alexander, The Bads' vocalist Dianne Swann, and former Mockers and Lig frontman Andrew Fagan.

In February 2012 Kiwi FM changed their playlist to play 40% international artists while still playing 60% New Zealand artists. The international artists include alternative artists that don't normally get airplay on commercial radio, similar to the New Zealand music already played.[3]

On Friday 20 March 2015 MediaWorks announced the decision to shut down Kiwi FM on midnight 31 March, with parent company MediaWorks New Zealand choosing to focus instead on "dance music and hip hop".[4]

Channel Z revival attempts[edit]

An online petition and forum was started by Jonathon Kerkhofs and Hayden McCabe, called Bring Back Channel Z. The website had a forum, with rumored members that include former channel Z presenter Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury and known musicians. The website was run for a year before funding ran out and the site was forced to close. The campaign was featured in Rip It Up with a letter as included from co creator Jonathon Kerkhofs. The magazine was largely skeptical of the potential success of the web site giving it as much chance of success as "a Pop Idol winner has at a second album deal". In the same issue Bradbury, who was at the time editor of Rip it Up, cited the need for a station such as channel Z to support the New Zealand music industry. He claimed "Channel Z served an important role between the Student Radio Network and the commercial stations" and that with it gone "NZ music is going to find it a much harder place to get heard". To date the petition has attracted over 1400 signatures, far short of the 10,000 expected to be necessary to have any influence.[5]

Channel Z was briefly revived on The Rock.

On Monday 18 January 2010 a version of the Channel Z format was brought back on radio station The Rock. From 7PM to 10PM The Rock aired Channel Z Nights based on the modern rock format similar to that of Channel Z in the early 2000s.[6] The show failed mostly due to the music being similar to the rest of the days music played on The Rock, and not adhering to Channel Z format. The show was canned a week before Christmas the same year. Both The Rock and Channel Z came under the same ownership in 2001 when Channel Z owner Canwest purchased RadioWorks with all stations eventually falling under the same management umbrella.[7]

Other Kiwi FMs[edit]

In 1988 in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty a local station called 898 FM was renamed to Kiwi FM broadcasting on 89.8 FM. The Kiwi FM station played Hit Music similar to Magic 91FM in Auckland and ZM. In 1993 Kiwi FM was rebranded as The Breeze but this station was completely separate to the current The Breeze station both in the Waikato and even the original The Breeze station in Wellington, a similar station was launched in Auckland replacing Magic 91FM. In 1997 this frequency was taken over by The Radio Network and used to launch ZM into the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

In Te Puke a local station called 92.9 Kiwi FM and then for a short period known as Kiwi 89FM operated. This station was independently owned and operated by Whakatane based station One Double X - 1XX from September 2001 to May 2011.


Channel Z programmes[edit]

Martyn Bradbury was a Channel Z host from 2001 to 2004.

The Dick 84 Brekkie with Nathan Rarere and Jon Bridges took the breakfast slot from 1998 to early 2003, while James Coleman hosted the Coleman Breakfast Programme from 2003 until the station closed in early 2005. Local programming played during the daytime slot, until a nationwide day show with Phoebe Spiers was launched in mid-2001.

The James Coleman Radio Programme played on weekday afternoons and in particular featuring a regular segment where, live on air, Coleman would telephone an elevator in central Wellington, and pretend to be a representative from Schindler's Lifts (an elevator service company), usually causing confusion for the elevator users. Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury and Clarke Gayford syndicated night show, launched 2001, replaced the Coleman show in 2003.

Other local and specialist programming aired during night and weekend slots. Riot!, a punk show, aimed to break through new punk/alternative punk acts from overseas and New Zealand. Talkback with Bomber, a left-leaning youth-oriented Sunday night talkback show, was broadcast for most of Channel Z's life.[8][9]

Kiwi FM programmes[edit]

Until its closure, Kiwi FM utilised new digital media to archive and catalogue shows of importance to international audiences. At its closure in 2015, the schedule included the Charlotte Ryan Breakfast Show, Days with Dylan and Afternoon Delight with Dan. More than a dozen specialist music programmes were broadcast every week during evenings and weekends. Automated music played overnight.[10]


FM frequencies[edit]

Before its closure, Kiwi FM broadcast on FM frequencies in New Zealand's three major centres. These were given back to the Government when the network closed.


External links[edit]