A UK media icon, one of Britain’s most successful presenters across television and radio over five decades and the presenter of programmes including Deal or No Deal, Saturday Morning Swapshop and Noel’s House Party – it’s perhaps surprising to hear that Noel Edmonds is now a resident of New Zealand.
Edmonds insists he's not escaped Britain, but rather fallen in love with New Zealand. His professional inability to sit still has travelled with him, and Edmonds has found himself founding a new ad-free online radio network called Positivity Radio.
Only receiving permanent residency as lockdown hit in March, Edmonds tells The Drum the country is ”a paradise.” The move followed a series of visits over the last three years, and was sealed after his appearance last year on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, filmed in Australia. Within months he created a local digital radio network with 100 stations, with the help of a team based in Europe.
“I‘ve been involved in digital online radio for some time and I‘ve got a fantastic team around the world, but principally in Europe, and we‘ve been developing all sorts of media projects online.
”When I started to think about this country, which is now my homeland and how it will come out of the lockdown, I realized it‘s going to have some major challenges. I mean, the economy has been decimated. The tourist industry has been completely destroyed. So I thought; ‘Why don‘t we create a network of community radio stations online to promote New Zealand, to bring together communities and offer businesses the chance to communicate their offerings, and also support vulnerable people in society?’“
Creating the network in just six weeks, Edmonds says he's found a positive local response. Positivity Radio includes three main stations serving the whole country, alongside a host of community stations.
“[The stations] are outward looking. They’ve got lots of tourist information. They are very upbeat, full of great music and positive affirmations. And the idea is that when people will be able to come here, they’ll come here realizing this is actually the most positive place on Earth. What we have got here now is a communications platform that will help Kiwis as we move to a new reality.”
Edmonds believes that while coronavirus has been a worldwide tragedy, it still offers “a massive opportunity” for people who want to embrace change.
“You’ve only got a look at big corporations, at airlines that have folded or are folding... so many of these big businesses actually had massive debts. They were actually being run in an irresponsible way and when this happened, they couldn’t survive.
“The only way we are going to come out of this, certainly in my new homeland of New Zealand, is by focusing on small businesses. We have to encourage people to create their own entrepreneurial ideas and we have to give them the right platform to deliver. We are not going to get to the new reality with a robust economy in New Zealand or the UK if we rely upon the old corporate network,” he proclaims.
Edmonds online radio venture recalls the presenter's ill-starred 2013 attempt to lead a consortium to acquire the BBC. Edmonds still believes the institution’s license fee funding model is “not sustainable” and that the institution itself is threatened by the pace of change.
“The passage of time can lead to you being redundant or irrelevant. It happens to individuals. It happens to people who present TV and radio shows. It certainly is happening to the BBC. What happened?
“The listener, the viewer, became king. We can now access all of the information and entertainment we could possibly want on a phone, a tablet, a desktop. It probably comes out your fridge and your toaster as well – you've got smart speakers around the house. Everything Lord Reith talked about when he established the BBC is actually irrelevant now.”
Despite having left the country where he made his name, Edmonds is set to enjoy a second career as a New Zealand radio mogul. Whether he intends to import a gunge tank south of the equator remains to be seen.
Listen to the full interview with Noel Edmonds as part of The Drum's Can-Do Festival including discussion around his views on the BBC, his case against HBOS, his experiences in setting up Noel's House Party, his views on the character of Mr Blobby and much more.