Radio Woodville in Woodville near Palmerston North, New Zealand, will be 25 years old on the 1st June 2023.
It is rather Unique in so much as its one of New Zealand’s first all volunteer owned and operated FM Radio Stations. It is truly a Community Radio Station to Inform Educate and entertain its listeners. The need for a way of making Woodville stand out from all the other small towns that are found on the Main arterial routes up and down the Country.
The idea came from Eric Bodell who was one of the residents of the town. Eric was a former employee of the NZBC and all of its derivatives and after threatened redundancy was running his own electronics repair business in the town. He presented the Woodville Main Street Committee with the idea to have music playing up and down the foot paths of the CBD to set an atmosphere where the towns people and visitors passing through that made this place feel special. The initial Idea from the Woodville Main Street Committee was just to play piped music through speakers mounted under the verandas but that poised some problems getting wires across roads and highways to connect up all the speakers. However there seemed to be an opportunity to get a number of people involved. A lot of people who lived in the town at the time were unemployed. His suggestion was to set up a small studio where the equipment could be housed to play records and cassette tapes from. He had a console from A station in Masterton that had all the facilities needed to make it happen. The Set up cost would be very small. Some further investigation found that a small FM transmitter could be used to get the signal across roads and highways to radios connected to these speakers. That’s how it began. Since then it has grown from strength to strength.
As their 25th anniversary approaches we take a look back at their first 20 years on-air.
Radio Woodville: 1st June 1998 to 1st June 2018
20 Years of Broadcasting
Station Manager Eric Bodell was there at the start and he’s still there. He looks back at how it all happened, and how it keeps happening.
Back in 1998…
Radio Woodville came out of an idea from the Woodville Main Street Committee. Like a lot of small towns, Woodville was struggling, with a decline in employment opportunities as businesses were starting to close down or shift to bigger centres.
(Back then, in 1998, Woodville was home to Railways workers, Broadcasting engineers, workers at the clothing factory, at the Oringi Freezing works, the NZ Post Office, the BNZ Bank, Scanpower, and the regional authorities. There was also a larger number of unemployed and retired residents.Woodville also attracted people from outside the district due to the more affordable housing available here.)
So Woodville Main Street Committee had a plan – to make Woodville a place where people wanted to stop to have a nice break. Several ideas were put forward like hanging plants, clean footpaths, newly painted shop fronts, and some background music that would make a good atmosphere for those passing by.
I was asked to attend the MS meeting because as a local business owner — Midland Electronics, (which was also struggling a bit to make a living) I’d be likely to if know if it would be possible to pipe music through speakers to both sides of the shopping areas to help set the atmosphere.
I set to work and through Midland Electronics, did a quote to supply and install speakers outside all of the shops, running from a CD player and amplifiers. There was one major issue – getting wires across the highway and across Ormond Street. I worked out I could install a small FM Transmitter at a central location and feed receivers in each block and both sides of the street. It also meant that shops outside of this area could also be included.
I presented the quote at the next meeting, and after some discussion it was approved and the expenditure was passed. I then suggested that if a small studio was set up in an empty shop we could also engage some of the willing unemployed to play the music and also include weather and time checks and some ads promoting the local businesses. The meeting agreed to that, and public meeting was called to gauge interest, with ads in the papers. Much to our amazement over thirty people attended the first meeting, and after we explained the proposal almost everyone wanted to take part.
We bought a transmitter at a cost of $1100 and I sourced a second hand broadcasting desk that could be used. The chairman of the Woodville Main Street Committee, lan Bailey, was able to organise premises next to the Lindauer Restaurant at 52 Vogel Street. The street speakers were installed and the equipment was assembled and connected. Tests were carried out in the last week of May, and everything worked!
Some training was given to the very enthusiastic group of volunteers of how to operate the console and the rules of Broadcasting were explained. It was agreed that the Station would go live on the 1st of June, 1998. The event was advertised and a small group of volunteers gathered on the footpath outside the studio. lan Bailey otlicially declared the station open and the very first programme “Breakfast with Bob”
went to air, with Bob Crosado at the mic.
Bob went till l0.00am and then the volunteers all took their turns presenting their shows through the day and on into the night. This went on all week and on into the following weeks, way into the future.
When there was no one available to do an air shift the station played 828 2XS on our frequency of 88.6 MHz.
So the station was on the air and already we had a group of dedicated listeners. The operating costs of the station were low and these costs were covered by income from a small amount of advertising and donations from the public and Woodville Main Street committee.
A dedicated group of volunteers continued on the air. Some that come to mind are Dave Jensen, Carole Hunt, Vicky Spicer, Nigel Kernahan, Bob Crosado, Peter Pollitt, Gayle Cresswell, Andrea Hamblin, Brian Letherby, Brian Gallaher, Paul Bailey and of course me, just to name a few. It was interesting that almost all of the staff on air worked using nom de plumes – Pete the Squeak is one.
However after a few months it became clear that there was a problem. Our frequency of 88.6 was being interfered with by the very strong station in the next channel. The RNZ Concert program on 89.0 MHz at 10,000 watts was splashing over onto 88.6, which was transmitting with a power level of 0.3 watts.
The station lived under an Incorporated Society umbrella of Main Street. After about two and a half years of operation it was agreed that the station should apply for its own incorporation and the Tararua Radio Society came about to provide protection to its members.
The Management Committee of the new society then made an application to the Radio Frequency Service’s Radio Inspectors group to see if there was a fix for the interference caused by 89.0 MHz. They wrote back to the Societies Committee granting permission to use the frequency of 100.6 MHz at the same power level of 0.3 watts. The assigned frequency was a good move and allowed a number of people who did not have any coverage before to now hear us. The downside was that this was only a temporary allocation, as this band would be auctioned off in the very near future.
The Stations Committee decided to try for one of these frequencies and were lucky to win a place in the auction – 97.0 MHz, but limited to 50 watts. On the 17th of October 2004 the Station was granted an Evaluation License for 97.0 MHz and at 50 watts, people with poor quality receivers could finally hear us. On the 31st of October 2010, Radio Frequency advised the station that the evaluation period for the 97.0 MHz frequencies was complete and the frequency was now ours to use.
While the frequencies were changing up and down, the station also moved — from 52 Vogel St to a new building. Roger Manaia was able to find us a new studio location, in the Woodville Business Agency building at 79 Vogel Street next to Harold and Karen McCarthy’s Accountancy business. This was a good move in that it gave us more room and two separate areas. The front room was a good studio and the back room doubled as a workroom second studio und tearoom with our own toilet!
All was going well for the station. The structure of Station Manager, Program Director, Sales Manager, Announcers and technical person worked well. The Committee also did a sterling job, putting the station on the pathway to success.
The station’s Log book does make interesting reading and has a good history of the day-to-day activity. It’s full of entries about people calling in to see us and see the station operating, and also talks a lot about equipment failures, like CD players failing and wanting to become mousetraps.
In May 2002 the station took a step forward and bought a second Computer to use with a program called Wave Cart, which reduced the cart machine faults and audio level problems between carts.
The gaps on the roster were a problem and 2XS did not fit into the overall flavour that was supposed to be broadcast when no one was at the mic. So we bought a 5-disc CD player to fill in the gaps when staff were not available — we’d load it up, set it on repeat and that would get us through the night.
The mixing console was still the Barry Cook 8 channel special, which served and continues to serve the station well. Overall, the station sound was very similar to our professional mainstream stations. But it soon became obvious that the 5-disc player wasn’t quite the answer to our problems – we needed a computer to carry the program where the gaps were and overnight.
We installed a third computer called “Alph”, running a program called Wave Station which played music, commercials, stings and all the other stuff that made it sound that some one was there.
In the beginning of 2011 the station got a new full height transmitter rack, because MediaWorks wanted to use our frequency in the Masterton district and offered to give us another lrequency to use in the Woodville area — 99.6. It needed another evaluation period since 99.6 didn’t fit into the existing frequency plan. and l told MediaWorks if they wanted the frequency they’d have to cover all the costs, including a suitable transmitter with sufficient power. Our existing rack was too small to fit all the equipment, and we were again lucky to get a second hand rack from 2XS.
During the mid part of 2011 the station heard about a surplus ICM mixing desk in Tauranga at IZA that we could have, provided we went up and picked it up. After some months of rewiring, the desk was finally installed in the studio and put to air. Just prior to that we’d moved the Barry desk from the Studio and set up in the work room, which became Studio 2, and the station ran from there for a few days till the new desk was commissioned.
The Station did its first Outside Broadcast from the Band Rotunda in Fountaine Square on December 11 2004, for the Woodville Christmas Parade. We had to use a pirate frequency link in the 400MHz band to get the audio to the Studio over the top of the Hawkes Bay Farmers shop. We spent four hours setting up, and Pete did the on-air duty playing carts and CDs.
This was the first occasion the station was seen operating outside of its studio complex.
With the increase of power the committee wanted the station to spread its coverage. With some planning and some small amount of equipment a repeater transmitter was installed at the Pahiatua Fire Station operating at 0.3 watts on 88.3 MHz.
In 2009, Scan Power – one of our major sponsors – provided the station with a Ceiling fan to go some way towards reducing the heat in the studio. Some time later (not written in the log book) the new building owner, Mr Graham Frankum, added a Heat pump into the studio room, which overcame the cold in winter problem as well.
In 2010 we joined forces with Inspire Net and they provided a broadband connection so that we could use the Internet for emails and downloads, and soon we figured we could use it for outwards streaming of our own audio as well.
Graham Frankum was a good landlord and we were saddened by the news that he had to sell the building. Judy and Paletta bought the building and we remained tenants until in March 2012 we received notice to vacate. Several ideas were floated around with quotes from garage builders, container sales people, and vacant building landlords being approached.
Woodville is a small tight-knit town and word got round to Mike James (of Mike James Plumbing). He offered his former office area for a modest rent of $70 per week. We went and had a look and all agreed immediately that this is the right place – the increase of room especially would be a huge relief, although the increased amount of rent could be a challenge. On the weekend of April 27, 2012 the station moved to the new complex. It was interesting to those who were involved with the shift just how kitsetted the station really was.
The Barry Cook Desk was back on the air at the old studio while and the ICM desk was first to be moved. Once we had that in place and operating, we removed the transmitter rack and Radio Woodville went quiet for almost 2 hours. We’d already installed a temporary antenna on Mike James’ roof so all we needed to do was power the antenna and the audio from the desk and the station was back on the air. As soon as the rack was in place the connections were made and 99.6 was back up and running. The other equipment, Furniture and Antenna pole followed later and we were again grateful to the assistance of Gerard Murray who helped pull down the lattice tower and shift the generator shed.
The move was a good time to repaint the antenna pole – Alec Devonshire and Matthew Kells got to work and scraped and repainted it in our own back yard at the station. Les Fryer built a new concrete antenna foundation and when we were ready the Armstrong team hoisted the tower up, with a bit of help from Scan Power.
Our red and white tower is now a focal point in town and can be seen day and night by those who pass by. Because we are off the main foot traffic area, the station decided that it needed to make itself stand out.
We also commissioned Bettina McCulloch to paint the two front plate glass windows with our call-sign and our motto. lt did the trick because now everyone knows where Radio Woodville is!
These days, Radio Woodville is often out in public. Initially outside broadcasts were done from a camper van kindly loaned by Gerard Murray, with the first on March 8th, 2015 from the Woodfest event at the old Rugby grounds.
Also in 2015 we were offered a very modest Oxford Caravan to buy and we were able to turn it into our very own Mobile Studio. It is now a complete radio station, with its own transmitter, antenna, PA systems, generator and all the studio equipment that you need to run a station. We use it on a number of occasions through the year and it is also used by our sister stations when they venture out of their studios. ln an emergency it is the fallback that will keep the Radio Woodville on the air. We will be keeping our listeners Informed Educated and Entertained no matter what!
It’s a tribute to everyone involved that we’ve kept Radio Woodville on air for 20 years. But as we head into the future, keeping going is going to get tougher — we need to come up with new ideas to raise the profile of the station and to boost fund-raising, through advertising, sponsorship and donations. I’m confident we can do it – after all we’ve got this far!
Here’s to another 20 years!
Station Manager & Chairman, Radio Woodville Society
From the booklet “Radio Woodville: 1st June 1998 to 1st June 2018 – 20 years of broadcasting”, published by the station to mark their first 20 years of broadcasting. Some images from the station’s website have also been added.
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