Government makes 'bullsh*t' decision to silence Hutt Radio, manager says

Hutt Radio volunteer John Regan in the station's studio at Naenae.
JARED NICOLL

Hutt Radio volunteer John Regan in the station's studio at Naenae.

The government has made a 'bullsh't' decision to silence Hutt Radio, according to its manager.

After about six years in operation, Hutt Radio will sign off for good from April 1 after the Ministry of Culture and Heritage decided to hand over its 106.1 FM frequency licence to Wellington Access Radio, which will shift away from 783 AM.

Hutt Radio general manager Rex Widerstrom described the frequency application process as "bullsh*t".

Hutt Radio volunteer Ginny Brewer reads the news at the station in Naenae.
JARED NICOLL

Hutt Radio volunteer Ginny Brewer reads the news at the station in Naenae.

He felt it was unfair for the ministry to challenge his station's future financial stability because while NZ On Air gave funding to access radio, it gave none to Hutt Radio.

"So the people who are responsible for starving us of funds then turned around and said 'we don't believe you're viable because you're starved of funds'."

Hutt Radio volunteers offer time on air for free while Access radio charges users.

He criticised any doubt over his station's ability to extend its coverage from the 25,000 or so listeners it claims already tune in each week.

Hutt City Council had allocated $5000 for repeater transmissions, which would now have to be handed back.

A ministry spokesperson said Wellington Access Radio Society was considered the strongest applicant having experience as a community radio station in the Wellington region for 34 years.

"And with the capability to extend its community reach through the Hutt Valley region.

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"Coupled with this, the society is professional, providing a reliable and strongly community-based service inclusive of many ethnic groups."

Hutt Radio failed to meet required criteria that included supporting local and regional character, democratic and civic participation; to promote innovation and a diverse range of content; to facilitate wide access to technical, cultural and social broadcasting, and provide for long-term broadcasting developments.

Widerstrom refuted each of the points, emphasising his station's diverse range of programmes and willingness to let almost anyone get on air.

Hutt Radio broadcaster Mike Dee said aside from 12 to 14 hours a day of local content, listeners would also lose access to the BBC World Service, which the station transmitted overnight, and to ethnic programmes aimed at the Samoan, Tokelaun and Filipino populations living in the Hutt. 

A Wellington Access Radio spokesperson said the station was planning special things for the Hutt Valley.

 - Stuff

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