The founder of the National Radio internet streaming service has lashed the Radio New Zealand executives who have ordered him to shut down, accusing them of bad faith.
Michael Sutton, who first discussed the privately-run service with Radio New Zealand in 1995 and has run it live since 1997, says he has never seen the proposal RNZ insists has been on the table since last August.
RNZ spokesman John Barr told IDGNet last week that Sutton had been invited to submit proposals for a service consistent with RNZ's new internet strategy - which does not include a 24-hour live service - but had failed to do so.
"The chairman [of the RNZ board] wrote to me and said he thought I should accept what was on the table," says Sutton. "But there was nothing on the table. And I suggested to him and the board that actually they were not seeing what was going on.
"And now, in March, I receive a letter basically saying that there has been a deal in play all through 2000 and encloses supposed correspondence to me - which I've never seen."
Sutton claims he was similarly excluded from the state broadcaster's internet strategy review.
"The chairman and I spoke on four different occasions and every time he said he would make [RNZ business manager] Ken Law meet with me - and he never did. And then Ken Law put a business paper forward saying, we're not going to do live, we're doing a thing with Xtra. They met with me and said they were shutting down rnz.co.nz and suggested I help Xtra."
Sutton says he helped set up the archived National Radio service at Xtra that RNZ sees as a replacement for his live service.
"I'm the guy who actually delivers all of Xtra's multimedia. It's my machines that I built, which are sitting inside Airedale Street, and which I control from my home in Wellington. It's all coming from my hardware."
An industry figure who has worked with both Sutton and RNZ acknowledges problems with the design of Sutton's site, but believes the bitter falling out could have been avoided.
"He's very bright and very skilled - but I think there was no one at Radio New Zealand who knew how to manage the skills that he's got. I think they're more used to blander business types and they were just thrown by this excitable boffin. At Xtra they just sat him down and outlined what was required.
"You also have to take into account that the (RNZ) board isn't really very savvy in this area. They haven't had any well thought-out online strategy."
Sutton says he has made considerable personal sacrifice to keep his service running - including trading his skills off to Telecom in exchange for bandwidth.
He says that although he has not paid for the use of the public radio content, the move to make the service subscriber-only (costing about $250 a year) in 1998 was not his decision, but by order of RNZ CEO Sharon Crosbie.
He says he was able to present RNZ with a proposed service package for its own streaming service in 1999, at a cost of $120,000 annually, compared with the $2.4 million Telstra Big Pond charges for the same service. He says his site shifted 55Gb in January.
For now, the last paid subscription to Sutton's service expires on March 31 and unless something happens, his service will cease. Sutton says he is now waiting for a letter from RNZ outlining which parts of its service would not provoke copyright issues and might still be available for internet delivery.