New Zealand radio’s big myth

For years, the New Zealand radio industry has trumpeted that this country has “more radio stations per capita than anywhere else”.

This “fact” has been repeated by countless journalists who apparently can’t be bothered working out the numbers for themselves.

In 1999 I sent the following letter to the editor of Unlimited magazine, and an abridged version subsequently appeared in the magazine.

Dear editor:

On what basis did Mark Story and Russell Brown decide that “New Zealand has more radio stations per capita than anywhere else in the world” (Stayin’ Alive, Unlimited, June 1999)?

A quick glance around our own backyard, the Pacific, turns up at least ten countries or territories with higher ratios than New Zealand.

The Cook Islands, for example, have twice as many stations per capita as New Zealand. Niue has eleven times as many. And Norfolk Island, with 3 radio stations for a population of 2200, has roughly 25 times as many stations per capita as New Zealand.

Isn’t it about time journalists stopped recycling this myth about New Zealand radio and moved on to investigate the real issues: whether deregulation has truly increased competition in the radio industry and whether having more radio stations has given us better radio service?

Neil Sanderson

Background Note:

Population figures are estimates as at July 1998 from CIA World Fact Book:

Population 3,625,388. 200 radio stations (your figure).

Cook Islands
Population 19,989. 2 radio stations: CIBS and KC FM.

Population 1,647. 1 radio station: Radio Sunshine.

Norfolk Island
Population 2197. 3 radio stations: VL2NI-AM, ABC Regional and ABC Fine Music.
Not counted: VL2NI-FM which is mostly simulcast of VL2NI-AM.

Other countries/territories in the Pacific with higher ratios than NZ: French Polynesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Northern Marianas Islands, Palau, Tuvalu. (Several other places have ratios similar to NZ and the ratios are increasing as new stations are built.)