Arts shock: radio station dumps local voices

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Manuka Arts Centre, ArtSound studios on left.

In an unorthodox bid to get the public to “donate, participate, rejuvenate,” the board of Canberra arts radio station ArtSound FM yesterday (October 14) ceased broadcasting its own programs.

Board chair Amalijah Thompson has described the shock move as a temporary interruption and says the next step will be an on-air relaunch of ArtSound at an unspecified time.

In a formal statement she said: “Bold steps were needed and bold steps were taken,” adding, “It has been clear for some time that without bold action and significant financial support, ArtSound will cease to broadcast.”

In a letter to amazed members, she announced that current committees would be spilled and reconstituted and that a temporary program grid will consisting of automated music selections and syndicated programs would also feature regular pre-recorded messages about the “Donate, Participate, Rejuvenate” campaign to raise awareness of the station’s need for financial support.

Ms Thompson said the decision had not been taken lightly and that the “interruption” would allow the board to focus all its energies on what she called “the key matter of fundraising and community engagement.”

The station has a long history in Canberra. Originally Canberra Stereo Public Radio it sent out its first transmission in 1983. Later, reconstituted as ArtSound FM, it moved to the Manuka Arts Centre in 2006.

Despite a flurry of happy fund-raisers and book fairs, it is well-known that in recent times, ArtSound has undergone several turbulent years of disagreement about future directions, with the changing face or community broadcasting adding to what Ms Thompson calls “a perfect storm of challenges.”

“The challenge for ArtSound,” she said, was to formulate a new business model. To that end, she said, a “re-commissioning body” was being established to review current programs and meet with remaining program teams. The aim was to create “a truly independent, resilient, economically viable station.”

In the wake of the shock announcement to members on Friday, which came without notice or explanation, “CityNews” understands that three presenters have resigned over what they saw as a peremptory decision, with others threatening to jump ship to other public broadcasters and some remaining members querying the wisdom of dropping live programming while simultaneously appealing for donations from listeners.

One disaffected volunteer presenter commented: “They plan to rid the station of presenters they aren’t happy with, get rid of the programs they don’t like and limit the music to what they consider is acceptable.”

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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