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Maureen Sinton (BA, MCS, AUT) is a PhD student at Auckland University of Technology. She is a former prominent talk radio producer, television producer, and television programmer. Her research interests include talk radio and public service radio. She agreed to a short interview with M+AD Daily … 

What was the path that led you to tackle a PhD in Talkback Radio?
I had a 30 year career in media – 13 years in radio (music and talk producer, programme director) and 17 years in television (programmer TV One & Prime, and producer).

Like many in the radio industry I started straight from school, (my Dear Departed Dad could never see the logic of tertiary education for women) so never got around to the university thing.

But six years ago I decided to plug that gap and began a BA in Maori Studies at AUT, then moved over to the Communications School for my Masters. By this time I had decided I quite liked being a student.

When I went to the graduation gown-hire place for my Masters regalia, I looked down the racks and saw the gowns and tudor bonnets worn by the doctoral graduates and thought maybe that’s me next time.

I’m now a year in … two to go (hopefully). 

“I have listened since the early ’70s when we could just hear Eccles Smith on Radio i crackling through our old radiogram in Whangarei.”

Why talkback ?
I liked the idea of tackling a populist topic. While there has been quite a lot academic study, especially out of Australia, on talkback, a lot of the focus has been on the callers, not so much on the listeners, of which there are many in New Zealand.

I thought it was timely, especially with the addition in the last few years of web 2.0 interactivity, to examine why it is still so popular after half a century.

My thesis is very straightforward: Why do people listen to talkback radio?

I am currently interviewing participants – both people who listen, and also hosts, for their views. Of course, getting people to admit that they listen to talkback can be difficult – it’s akin to owning up to an anti-social addiction.

Do you listen?
Absolutely. I have listened since the early ’70s when we could just hear Eccles Smith on Radio i crackling through our old radiogram in Whangarei. I then went on to produce talkback in the early/mid ’80s.

So I am a fan – despite some of the ideologies that are  expressed.

How is it being a mature student?
The undergrad and masters days were exciting but also challenging. You have to organise yourself financially and most of the students were 30-35 years younger, so you lose a peer group.  But it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I love the learning.

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