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"FOOLS ON THE HILL" KEEP CENTRAL FM ON-AIR

A remarkable six-day stint broadcasting from the top of a windswept local peak was recently a key factor in the survival of Waipukurau (New Zealand) station Central FM. Operating in the best pioneering tra ditions of radio, staff headed for the hills after financial and legal prob lems threatened to put the station off- air indefinitely.

Station Manager Sharon Rayner says the decision to broadcast live from a shed atop Two Peaks, eight kilome tres east of Waipukurau,was taken when the station was locked out of its premises early one morning. "We felt we had two choices," says Sharon. "Central FM was faced with certain closure if forced off air indefi nitely, or we could pack the knapsack and wander the mountain track to the station's Two Peaks' transmitter site. So we packed."

Broadcasting gear was begged and borrowed, and by early afternoon on the day of the lock-out staff had tapped into the transmitter and test transmissions were broadcast. Sharon continues the story:

"Facilities were primitive to say the least - a 4 x 2 shed in which equipment was hastily set up, to be manned 24 hours a day until further notice.

"Word got around fast, and before the day was out, hundreds of CDs were raided from private collections, the tent was pitched and food, glorious food began arriving by the carload. During the week that followed there were more 'fools on the hill' than could ever been seen in the studio at 'Scott Base'.

"Community support was tremen dous - cell phones ran hot with birth day calls, messages of encourage ment, competitions, and listeners wanting directions for delivery of a ton of stuff including television (reception was great), more food, chairs, a gas heater, portable toilet and his and her shower facilities - which blew away during the week's blustery, cold winds.

"The 'Primitive Radio Rascals' were credited with great sound and a whole lot of entertainment, while back on the ground, temporary 'Scott Base' was set up opposite the sta tion's permanent address, and it was business as 'unusual'."

After a week of broadcasting from Two Peaks, the new owners, the landlord and a former owner finally reached agreement and the station was rehoused in its Northumberland Street premises.

Sharon Rayner says the exercise, "while incredibly stressful for all concerned due to the politics leading up the lockout," was incredible in terms of building team spirit and loyalty. And, now under new ownership, Central FM is still basking in the glow of its permanent place in the hearts of the community.

"We have been, and strongly continue to be 'all over your earwaves' and our Mohammed to the mountain experience has gone down in local history," says Sharon.

Central FM's Primitive Radio Rascals were: Terry Casserly, Robyn Casserly, Renee Casserly, Donald Parkinson, Darryl James, John Swinburne, Tracey Lancaster, Greg Prebble, Lee Prebble, Darren Franklin and Sharon Rayner.

Reprinted by kind permission of Median Strip. © 1997 by Median Strip

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