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Dom Harvey, music radio and the times they are changing

Dom Harvey and his repertoire of pranks, jokes, personal comments and controversies hit the airwaves Friday morning after 20 years as a host on The edge the national radio station breakfast show.

His sudden announcement this week that he is quitting one of the country’s top radio jobs will be a tear for the show’s loyal morning listeners.

His verbal ability to run blindly through the minefields of broadcast standards, his offhand comments about others, his excessive sharing of his personal life (the details of a sensitive biopsy cannot be ignored) and his ability to bring a smile simultaneously, grimacing and gasping listeners have been legendary. .

Harvey is unlikely to have a radio award to his name as the great prankster and prankster Kevin Black, but his stint on The edgeThe flagship product spanned a whole generation and the success on the air was unquestionable.

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The edge had been an audience powerhouse, consistently the nation’s top-listened station for an average week – until 2019, and briefly again at the start of this year.

It currently ranks third among New Zealand’s commercial stations, with 631,000 listeners throughout the week, behind the sister station. The breeze (671,000) and NZME Newstalk ZB (651,000).

But in the breakfast niche, its appeal has waned and its audience share has fallen both nationally and in Auckland over the past five years. Harvey’s co-host and ex-wife Jay Jay Feeney left in 2017, opposition has likely improved, and The edge overall has lost some of its advantage.

As Harvey leaves the studio, The edge breakfast is ranked 8th nationally and 9th in the crucial Auckland shopping market.

Its share in Auckland has fallen from 6.2 to 3.4 over the past five years in the GfK scoring survey, while rival station ZM steadily dropped from 4.5 in 2016 to 6.9, and to fourth place among City of Sails listeners, from 8th.

The list of Dom Harvey controversies is endless.


The list of Dom Harvey controversies is endless.

ZMthe breakfast team – Fletch, Vaughan and Megan, who left in a sensational way The edgeThe driving time show will clash with former breakfast colleagues Jay Jay Feeney, Mike Puru and Dom in 2014 – is now the nation’s leading morning music station, as measured by cumulative weekly audiences. (News and discussions on Hosking’s ZB show and RNZ Morning report historically have a higher audience than music stations.)

In Auckland, May FMBreakfast with Nickson, Tegan and Jordan always has a comfortable lead over ZM in music.

So while the battle has been long for ZM to the success of the breakfast, the decrease in The edge will have served as Head of Radio at MediaWorks during the last audience inquiries.

Harvey comes out on his terms, citing a need for sleep, exercise and improved mental health and leaving open the possibility of a return to radio in another niche in the future. The edge is a game for young people, music for young people and a station for young people and you can only be the king of children for so long.

The departure also sees him leave a commercial radio industry that is grappling with public demands for more accountability from staff and programs that offend or behave in ways deemed inappropriate or unacceptable in 2021.

The industry is currently rife with controversies over guest behavior and attitudes.

MediaWorks is said to be set to publish its independent investigation by lawyer Maria Dew QC into the company’s culture early next week. Dew’s report has been examining allegations of sexual or racial harassment, discrimination, bullying, and drug and alcohol abuse since 2018.

One of the other MediaWorks stations, The rock, has been the subject of online and media reports of a culture of bad behavior, which the company said after an investigation did not involve current staff. MediaWorks also banned former Auckland mayor John Banks after his on-air support for a caller’s racist views.

Separately, he was criticized for comments by morning host Peter Williams on MagicTalk and, for unspecified reasons, ended the show of afternoon host Sean Plunket.

At competitor NZME, internal and independent inquiries into complaints Newstalk ZBThe conduct of sports host Martin Devlin ended with the allegations against him unfounded.

Harvey has, over the years, had more than his share of complaints about his comments and behavior on the air. He said things about people who went beyond pallor and for which he had to apologize. Type its name and “controversy” into Google and the titles require a decent scrolling down.

Some of the weak points of a career as a top broadcaster.

In some ways, Dom Harvey was a creature from his early days in broadcasting, when men were men and everything was an acceptable target for humor or provocation. A time when people would just follow the program rather than fuss.

But when people literally don’t get the program in numbers, and tides of public pressure demand different approaches and responses from broadcasters, the commercial imperative of commercial radio has its say.

It has been part of a radio success story, brought a smile to a smile and many more have hit the clock – for what seems like an incredibly long time. We may never see his like again.

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that Sean Plunket’s afternoon show has ended for “unspecified reasons”. (Modified July 30, 2021, 10:51 a.m.).

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