In making this post, I want to make it VERY clear that this is simply my opinion. Even though I am on the committee of the Independent Broadcasting Community, who run Contact FM and have put in a submission, it does not necessarily mirror their view at all. This stuff is just me having a rant – nothing more, nothing less.
89FM has been a shambles for the past decade. It started when the Waikato Students’ Union decided it was a good idea to sell long term assets (that some would say were making a profit, but that’s also debatable) in order to meet short term debt. That was a bad idea, but was the response WSU had to voluntary membership. The assets of Contact FM Ltd (Contact was then run as a company owned by WSU) were sold off after the board and staff had said to the staff members at Contact FM that it wouldn’t be sold, and the company was dissolved. That wasn’t the end of the mistakes though – the situation could have been managed better at most steps along the way.
On April 1st 2011, 89FM went silent, as the Waikato Students’ Union had not renewed their license for 89FM. The station that, at that point, was on the air, Rush FM, stopped broadcasting. Rush had only been on the frequency since October 2010. Not only did the airwaves go silent, but so did the Ministry of Culture and Heritage – nothing was heard from them regarding the frequency bid until the last week of July. By saying that, I am not at all saying we should have heard from the Ministry before then. Firstly, I don’t know the process that the Ministry was going through in order to prepare for the frequency bid. Secondly, I wouldn’t have been aware of any correspondence between the Ministry and related parties as at the time I was not on the IBC Commtitee.
Then it happened – July 22nd 2011, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage edited this page with details of applications for 89FM in the Waikato Region. Six weeks were given for submissions – a period which closed on Friday 5th September. There have been six submissions received, according to the Waikato Times. The IBC (ie Contact FM) and Community Radio Hamilton are two. I am aware of a third, however it would be inappropriate for me to disclose that if the group doesn’t want to disclose it themselves. The remaining three are a complete mystery. There are a number of guesses that have been had, but obviously, they are just guesses. We may find out some/all of those parties soon, but that’s not certain. We definitely will find out one if the frequency goes to one of them.
Obviously, my opinion is that Contact FM should be returned the 89FM frequency. I guess returned is the wrong word, given the Contact FM now and the Contact FM that was on 89FM are technically different things – one a company owned by the Waikato Students’ Union, another the trading name of a completely independent incorporated society. While I do think Contact would be best on the 89FM frequency, I also think that Community Radio Hamilton is deserving of a high powered FM frequency. Community Radio does have a high powered AM frequency though – this is why I feel Hamilton and the Waikato have a lot more to gain from 89FM going to Contact. Right now, our 88.1 frequency is not giving the best value for money so to speak.
I am looking forward to Wednesday, when we should find out who has picked up 89FM. It will be good to finally have the shambles that has been 89FM for the past decade finally sorted out, no matter which way it goes.