Hay station in crisis

Community station Hay FM is in crisis. The station has brought forward its Annual General Meeting to decide what to do about its $15,000 – $20,000 debt and to elect a new board to help it through its difficulties. The AGM will be held next Tuesday evening 16th July in the Hay Council Chambers.

The cash-flow crisis has been precipitated by the station’s latest BAS Tax bill, which is $5,000, but is symptomatic of a wider problem of decreasing sponsorship revenue and not enough volunteers. In regional areas like Hay, drought is also a an ever-present threat to earnings. Station Manager Airlie Circuitt told AMT about the current difficulties.

CIRCUITT: Local businesses are quite prepared to pay high rates to advertise on the regional commercial stations, but they see their sponsorship of our station as a donation. In fact they are getting great value for their money – we sound slick and we produce a great product for them. We are heard in most businesses on the main street and a survey nine months ago showed that over 70% of the town listens to us. Yet sponsorship rates of about $30 per week have not changed in years.

AMT: Are your creditors demanding the money?
CIRCUITT: No, they are willing to help us by continuing credit and accepting part payments for our bills whenever we have the cash flow. The latest BAS bill is the last straw – I was nearly sick when I opened it. There are so many small businesses in the same boat – the level of bankruptcy in small business lately is horrendous.

AMT: What is your workload like?
CIRCUITT: There’s me and one other paid staff member, plus a commission salesperson on a small retainer. I do more than a 40 hour week for less than $10 per hour. My work includes invoicing and admin, news, 15-20 hours on air and some production. Our sales person is one of our best presenters and also spends a lot of time on air and our producer is the same. We care about the on-air product and make it sound good, but because we sound so good people think we must be making a squillion – we’re not!

AMT: Sounds like you need more volunteers.
CIRCUITT: Yes, but we haven’t had time to do a membership drive for a while, we’re too busy keeping the station on air. A lot of people hear us and think, they sound good, they don’t need us – but we are sending a message, we do need them. We have also not had much time to apply for grants, so there is no money coming in there.

AMT: How much is membership?
CIRCUITT: $15-20 for families and less for individuals. There is a threshold for this sort of thing and you can’t go too high or people say its not worth it.

AMT: Is your board supportive?
CIRCUITT: They have always been supportive, but have generally left us alone to get on with it. We are pretty self sufficient and independent, and we produce the goods. But now I think we need a different kind of board to help us through this stage. That’s what I’ll be hoping happens at the AGM next week.

AMT: How far does you transmitter cover?
CIRCUITT: Our old transmitter broke in a storm a while ago and is still in for repairs, so our current transmitter gives us coverage of the town with a radius of about 50kms. Not much in the middle of such a big area like this. We have recently upgraded some of our studio equipment, we used to have a $50 mixer and a couple of old Tascam reel to reels, but things are a little better in the studio now.

AMT: Your recent survey showed high listenership. How was it conducted?
CIRCUITT: The Hay On Track Development Corporation conducted the survey about 9 months ago, they surveyed 10% of the town’s population and found that we had 73% of the listenership.

AMT: What other stations are heard in your area?
CIRCUITT: 2RG, Star FM, 2QN, 3SR, Triple J and the ABC from Wagga.

AMT: Do you think you’ll get the support you need at next week’s meeting?
CIRCUITT: Yes I do. I hope so.

Airlie Circuitt can be contacted on 02 6993 1205 and will welcome any offer of assistance to the station.