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Convergence and radio in New Zealand: investigating media transformation through the New Zealand radio industry

posted on 26.02.2017, 23:54 by McEwan, Rufus William
As a theory of media transformation, convergence is used frequently to describe, explain and even predict the development of contemporary media technologies and practices. The core logic of media convergence suggests that the traditional boundaries separating media industries are dissolving as new digital distribution platforms emerge and established media industries migrate towards them. In media scholarship, this logic has generated considerable debate as to whether these changes threaten to destabilise existing media producers or provide new avenues for commercial expansion. Recent accounts go so far as to suggest that convergence processes introduce a fundamentally new set of cultural conditions that dramatically alter the media and social landscape. This thesis contends that despite its analytical currency in media studies scholarship, media convergence remains an ambiguous concept that lacks the support of focussed empirical research. In particular, research on convergence frequently ignores the stories of both radio as a media industry and New Zealand as a particular national and cultural context. This thesis utilises the New Zealand radio industry to analyse media transformation as it happens, and critiques the use-value of convergence in accounting for these processes of change. In doing so, this study presents an original account of media transformation informed by radio professionals who are both subject to, and responsible for, changing media practices. The study utilises 31 in-depth interviews with radio professionals working in, or closely with, the three largest radio networks in the New Zealand industry. The roles occupied by the participants include senior levels of management, on-air announcers and producers, journalists, sales and marketing agents, and online content managers and producers. Collectively, their narrative details a buoyant radio industry that has avoided financial crisis, maintained its audience, and initiated a response to the burgeoning challenge posed by digital media platforms and evolving audience behaviours. The context in which these challenges are being addressed, however, is rarely framed in terms of convergence, making the utility of the concept a primary point of contention and analysis. This thesis demonstrates that key contextual factors, including the regulatory environment and market conditions of the New Zealand radio industry, are important considerations when predicting or assessing how a media industry experiences and implements convergent media strategies across the layers of technology, organisational structure, and culture. Although the term convergence holds little currency among those working in the industry, the processes of media change presented in this study contribute to a nuanced interpretation of convergence, shedding light on how this concept might be best utilised when investigating the development of the contemporary media industries. Furthermore, as a series of individual, organisational and industrial responses to a changing media environment, these accounts contribute to important discussion within the field of radio studies, concerned with re-imagining radio.


Principal supervisor

Brett Hutchins

Additional supervisor 1

Shane Homan

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Media, Film and Journalism


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts