‘Switch’ to be thrown after months of local programming
Thursday, May 26, 2011 – Kristine Walsh
THIRTEEN months almost to the day since it first went to air, the switch will be pulled on a radio station whose founder had hoped to fill a totally-local niche.
“It’s pretty gutting but the reality is that we didn’t get the support from businesses that we’d hoped for,” said SwitchFM operator Drew Kirk, who has sold his frequency to national broadcaster The Radio Network.
“We’ve had a great 13 months on air, but they have been 13 months when I have worked without pay.”
After years of experience in both music and business, Kirk last year paid $11,000 for the 105.3 frequency, planning to use it as a vehicle for local issues and music. Further investment in software and equipment followed, then novice radio station captain Kirk set about learning the ropes of programming.
“I was really keen to offer a music alternative to what was being played on the mainstream stations and people really liked that,” he said. “And we had a few shows focusing on things like organic gardening, jazz music and blues.”
Shows like the Tuesday Bluesday programme — prerecorded by local port services manager Dean Craw — were “a huge hit”, Kirk says: “That one used to trigger lots of calls . . . guys from building sites would ring up wanting to talk about the music,” he said. “We also got lots of interest from out-of-towners who would arrive in Gisborne, tune in and just love the station.”
That was a bit of a problem. With limited resources, Kirk could not invest in things like internet streaming to cater for listeners out of the reach of Switch’s frequency.
“Something like low-power or on-line streaming might be an option for the future, but it’s not really something I’m thinking about right now.”
Switch was just too young to be in a position to prove to potential advertisers that it was worth investing in, he added.
“We know from what people were saying that we were getting some big numbers, but we hadn’t been around long enough to get onto radio surveys so we could get that information across.
“Obviously it’s disappointing not to have got the advertising support we needed to continue, but at the same time we want to sincerely thank those businesses that did get behind us.”
While he was disappointed, Kirk said that, in regard to the station’s future (or lack of one), “the buck stops with me”.
“I got into it because I am absolutely passionate about music but perhaps I could have been stronger about putting myself forward,” he said. “I do feel a bit bad for our listeners . . . we had great support from them and I feel like I’ve let the team down a bit in terms of giving them a voice.”
Once he has aired his final show, and cleared out Switch’s Childers Road premises, Kirk planned to do a bit of work on the family farmlet to blow out the cobwebs that have appeared after more than a year of “sitting on my backside”.
After that, he may do something to do with music. He may do something to do with youth. He may even do something to do with radio.
“Probably what I have learned from this experience is that, rather than going in with all guns blazing, you should make sure there is a real groundswell of support first,” he said.
“What Switch has shown is that there is a passion in the community for something that has a strong local focus. It’s just a matter of harnessing that.”
– SwitchFM will go silent on June 4 or 5.
© The Gisborne Herald 26 May 2011.
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