Contact FM wants frequency back

Waikato University's original student radio station Contact FM is bidding to get back its 89FM frequency which it lost in 1998.

But present users Backbeat FM says it is already catering for students and wants to stay on the frequency.

The 89FM frequency was used by Waikato University broadcaster Contact FM from 1985 up until 1998, before it was sub-leased out by the Waikato Student Union, which owns the licence for 89FM.

Contact FM ceased to exist and, in a complicated chain of events which panned out over several years, the 89FM frequency was used by UFM, The Generator and now by Backbeat FM.

But the Independent Broadcasting Community (IBC), which relaunched Contact FM on low-power FM frequencies several years ago, has confirmed it will make a bid to reclaim its original frequency in April next year when all radio frequency licences are up for renewal.

Nick Johnston, spokesperson for IBC and Contact FM, said a petition had been launched to back the station's bid for the frequency.

Mr Johnston said members of Contact FM and the IBC believed the station "met the criteria" set out by the Government that a station broadcasting on the frequency catered specifically to tertiary student broadcasting and represented student culture and campus life.

"The majority of our announcers are either current Waikato University or Wintec students, or former students," Mr Johnston said.

"We're all volunteers, there are no paid staff members."

He emphasised that Contact was not out to run Backbeat off the air although he didn't feel a collaborative arrangement between the two stations was feasible.

"The organisations have quite a different agenda and approach," Mr Johnston said.

He said if Contact FM regained 89FM, it would then have the potential to rejoin the B-Net group of current and former student broadcasters around the country.

That would allow it the opportunity to apply for extra funding. It would also allow the station to feed Hamilton and Waikato music to other broadcasters around the country. The station has launched a Facebook page to gain support for its bid.

"As an organisation, we're trying to be open about our plans for the future," he said. "We've worked hard to achieve our current set-up, and meet those guidelines for student radio."

Independent Radio Ltd's Wayne Henderson, the current sub-lessee of the 89FM frequency, did not return calls for comment.

However, Max Coyle, who has stepped down as Backbeat FM station director but still hosts a show on the station, said he believed Backbeat was meeting the Schedule 7 requirements and wanted to stay on 89FM.

"We're broadcasting student-focused content, we have students on-air, and we're involved with training students in radio broadcasting," he said. "And we've been heavily involved in music and culture in Hamilton, promoting local bands and gigs.

"Ultimately we're responsible to Hamilton and its students to provide them with a listening alternative on 89FM, otherwise there would be nothing on air and it would be a waste of a frequency," Mr Coyle said.

"At the heart of what we were trying to achieve was giving something to students in the Waikato that they wanted to listen to."

Mr Coyle said the station had a couple of paid employees, but was not a money-making venture.

The Culture and Heritage Ministry and the Economic Development Ministry will determine the future of the frequency licence next year.

Waikato Times