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7 Days of Radio Silence as College Radio Station in Dunedin Protests Possible Sale

New Zealand's Radio One for Sale?

Fans of the University of Otago student radio station Radio One 91FM in New Zealand were greeted with silence today as the station began a week-long on-air protest against a proposed station sale.

It’s a pretty bold move to take one’s station off the air in protest and I’m guessing that it will have an even more chilling effect than the “College Radio Minute of Silence” that took place over the airwaves of many U.S. stations on April 28th. That particular activism effort was meant to bring attention to the loss of Rice University station KTRU.

According to an article in the Otago Daily Times, “The owner, the Otago University Students Association (OUSA), confirmed yesterday it might sell the station to save money. It has been reviewing all its services ahead of the likely introduction of legislation which will end compulsory membership of student bodies. It has been predicted revenue for all associations may drop by as much as 90% virtually overnight from January next year if the legislation is passed.”

In a press release today on the Radio One is Dead website, Radio One’s Station Manager Sean Norling stated:

“From 10am, Saturday July 2, Radio One 91FM will cease all regular programming for one week.

Radio One 91FM’s Week Of Silence will offer listeners in Dunedin, and around the world, a taste of how the cultural landscape may look should a proposal to sell the station go ahead this month. Radio One’s broadcasting license is a not-for-profit license, meaning the station has little commercial appeal, and as such a sale would be unlikely. The license was renewed this year and extends through until 2031.

Radio One, as part of Planet Media Dunedin Limited, is wholly owned by the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA). In May, OUSA commissioned Deloitte to review its current services and structure. In addition, the review was ostensibly about preparing for the threat of Voluntary Student Membership, and the decreased revenue stream the OUSA would have available.

A review of Planet Media conducted by industry experts earlier this year suggested the station be retained and commented on the exceptional cultural value of Radio One. The review further praised Radio One’s financial prudence and voluntary austerity measures. Despite this, recommendations by Deloitte have proposed the disestablishment of Radio One, which have been discussed and explored by the OUSA Executive.”

The press release goes on to describe the impact of the loss of the 27-year-old station:

“The demise of Radio One could set off a devastating set of dominoes. The existence of independent radio is crucial to the city being a viable option for visiting artists of all persuasions. Dunedin would lose its most established alternative radio station. It is bigger than just Dunedin though; there is a network of stations around the country that depend on Radio One’s existence to remain stable. RDU in Christchurch, Radio Active in Wellington, Radio Control in Palmerston North & bFM in Auckland would all be jeopardised, which is a big body blow to the New Zealand music industry.”

Following their week of silence, regular programming will return to the FM airwaves at 10am on Saturday July 9. In the meantime, Radio One is seeking input from listeners about how to ensure the station’s future. It’s likely that they will also find some allies and ideas amongst the Save KUSF, Save KTRU, and Save WRVU crews thousands of miles away.


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2 Responses to 7 Days of Radio Silence as College Radio Station in Dunedin Protests Possible Sale

  1. Guise Faux July 3, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Radio silence as a form of protest, hmm? Well, I’ve heard of worse ideas. No, wait, I haven’t.

    I’m sure it sounds noble and dignified and taking-the-high-road but it will be ineffective. Months from now, nobody will remember.

    Passive resistance, sit-ins and silent protests are visual events. Radio silence accomplishes nothing other than to prompt would-be listeners to tune in another station that’s actually on the air.

    I remember one particular radio protest. Sometime during the early 1970s, when I was a teenager, a Connecticut FM station that had carved out a niche in the free-form rock format decided to go more commercial. It was the only rock format FM station I could hear from my rural area and I was curious to see what the reaction would be. A DJ locked himself in the studio and aired his grievances for several hours before he was taken off air.

    The DJ’s stunt didn’t prevent the format change to programmed playlist mainstream rock. But I remember the event. That station’s original free-form style and the DJ’s protest stuck in my memory and helped form my notions of what radio could be.

    I doubt this week of silence will accomplish anything or be remembered. Nobody will pass around audio clips of the silence. No audio anarchists will sample and remix audio clips from the week of silence and upload them to YouTube for amusement.

    Wanna be effective? Or at least remembered? Make some noise.

  2. Mike King July 8, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    It seems guise faux was wrong. He probably doesn’t live in NZ though and doesn’t realise how big news this is for the country and that there’s no other actual listenable stations without R1. There’s the point. Also the week of protest isn’t broadcasting ‘silence’, it’s an ambient loop with an occasional repeated public service message directing people to the online action centre ( with the petition, FAQ, press release, submission guide/form, and Facebook hub to save radio one. The story’s travelled around the world and has gotten the attention of national and international industry types in the twittersphere (Neko Case, Ninja Tune, Andrew WK, Wutang Clan, Jaquie Brown, Holy Fuck, DJ Kontrol, Danny Byrd, and more), as well as being picked up by the press. Dunedin music and it’s history is world famous and Radio One is solidly part of that. Stations all over the world can unite over this iconic station.

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