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September 23, 2013 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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VUWSA Referendum 2013

Should VUWSA cease to fund the Victoria Broadcasting Club (the current student radio station) from 2014?

What is the VBC?

The VBC, or the Victoria Broadcasting Club, is Victoria University’s very own student radio station. Tucked away in the Student Union Building, behind The Hunter Lounge and right next door to Salient, the VBC has been in operation since it was first established in 2007.

If you are lucky enough to live within the area that the VBC broadcasts to (pretty much just Kelburn, but sometimes Newtown if you’re lucky), you can tune in on 88.3FM—otherwise head to tunein.com/radio/VBC-883-s87209/ to stream online. Check out page 47 for the VBC show roster, plus details on how to get your very own radio show.

Who pays for it?

You do! Every year, when you pay the University exorbitant amounts of money (read: get StudyLink to pay for you), part of your fees is the Student Services Levy. This charge, which cost you $676 this year, is used by the University to fund things that make your time here (outside of lectures) better. Things like Student Health Services, the Rec Centre, Salient, and—you guessed it—the VBC. Every year, VUWSA negotiates with the University as to how much of this Levy will go towards funding student media; in 2013 the student-media grant was $160,000. $130,000
went towards producing Salient; the rest was used to operate the VBC. This money pays for a part-time Station Manager, who is responsible for training new hosts and managing the show roster, and the station’s broadcasting fees.

What happens if we all vote to cease funding?

Under the VUWSA Constitution, the VUWSA Exec cannot be bound by a referendum that requires them to make financial decisions.

However, if an overwhelming majority of members vote in favour of cutting off funding to the VBC in this referendum, it would be savvy for VUWSA to at least investigate the issue—y’know, for the purposes of democracy and all that jazz.

It is possible that the VBC could be run much more economically—put volunteer students in charge instead of a paid manager; cut the radio broadcasting and only stream the station online. However, without these broadcasting facilities, the VBC’s scope to grow is somewhat limited—its online stream only supports 250 individual connections at any one time. This may not be that great an issue, though—after all, the highest number of listeners the VBC has attracted at one time within the last year is a mere 33.

If you’ve ever been into the VBC, you’ll understand that the radio station is in a bit of a sad state: equipment is old or broken; the radio won’t stream on the University’s internet; a part-time Station Manager doesn’t have sufficient resources to fully train all new staff, and no one buys advertising time. Without a dedicated group of students who derive pleasure from broadcasting their own voice to ~0 listeners (results may vary), there would be absolutely nothing—and no one—to keep the radio station existing at all.

Aside from the Station Manager, there is no one within the University who takes responsibility for the VBC. The University defers to VUWSA, who—until recently—has deferred to the VBC Trust. The Trust, which once ‘owned’ the VBC, was found earlier this year to have been deregistered; has more liabilities than assets to its name (shhh, don’t tell the IRD), and is notoriously difficult to get in touch with.

The reluctance of anyone to take responsibility for the management, or not, as the case may be, of the VBC cannot go unconsidered in looking at the success, or failure, of the student radio station’s ability to serve students. Without any committees or formal settings for the performance of the station to be discussed, it has flailed and wasted time and money it could have used adapting how it engaged with students. However, with the changes to the Publications Committee made at VUWSA’s AGM where this referendum motion was born, the VUWSA Executive can now theoretically delegate any forms of student media—whether it be radio, or a Tumblr of gifs—to fall under the control of the Committee. It is hoped that this will lead to a more collaborative strategic approach to student media as a whole, if both the VBC and Salient are addressed in the same meetings. Ultimately, any decision on the VBC’s future lies at the discretion of the Executive.

Within VUWSA, feelings towards the VBC are mixed. At the beginning of the year, President Rory McCourt toyed with the idea of canning the station completely, or seeking to hand the contract to operate the station over to someone else. Due to more pressing issues taking priority, however, neither of these avenues were investigated this year. Looking ahead to 2014, it seems that (if elected), VUWSA Vice-President (Academic) and presidential candidate Sonya Clark would more likely be pro-VBC than her predecessor, having been a host of the Breakfast Show in 2011. Her commitment to fixing VUWSA’s dire financial situation may affect this loyalty, however.

In terms of what this means for where your money’s going, the contracts for the services VUWSA provides are re-negotiated with the University every year, and it is unclear exactly how and when this process takes place, and whether the same funding will be allocated year after year. If VUWSA were to cease funding the VBC, this could mean that that money could be redirected to other media projects, such as Salient, or that the contract would simply be reduced in value to reflect the VBC’s absence.

What is everyone else doing?

Looking to other student radio stations around the country, the VBC certainly sticks out as the poor cousin. Earlier this year, Radio Control, Massey University’s student radio station, received $60,000 in funding from the NZ On Air scheme, while Otago University’s Radio One received $45,000 from their students’ association as a birthday present. In Auckland, the hugely popular bfm, born from a University of Auckland capping stunt, is New Zealand’s longest-standing independent radio station.

Given the current state of the VBC, and the fact that it has never really ‘taken off’ like its counterparts, perhaps it is high time VUWSA cut its ties with the VBC, and began to focus time and resources on other avenues of student media—such as TV and web—instead. On the other hand, perhaps focussing solely on the commercial viability and success of the radio station is a focus on the wrong thing. If a radio show takes place and nobody hears it, does it mean it was of no value to the students who broadcast it? After all, without the pressure of having to impress scores of listeners, the VBC is the perfect place to gain technical broadcasting skills; perfect your DJ set, or just something to feel a part of outside the daily grind of going to and from your lectures.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

Comments (4)

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  1. Ok a host on the VBC I would like to point out a few inaccuracies with your article.

    First off VBC can be stream to any computers and this has been possible since April 2013. Secondly there are a few companies that have paid for advertisements (granted this is a small number).

    Lastly if cafes/bars on Vic Uni campuses streamed VBC it would improve listenership and would encourage more companies to advertise on VBC.

  2. Richard Keys says:

    Howdy,

    I have been involved in student radio on and off for a decade or so, having hosted shows on Radio Control at Massey Palmerston North, and MUNT FM – Massey Wellington – which has subsequently disbanded.
    I feel that a student radio station is a key component in the culture of a University, importantly though it must be integrated alongside other initiatives – online content/streaming broadcasts, events/gigs etc, and so forth. In order to achieve this it needs funding, staff, and enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers.
    Radio Control for example used to have as many as two full time staff & possibly a third part-time staff member, it also used to work closely with the student newspaper and actively host events on campus as well as having a large pool of dedicated volunteers many of whom were involved in the local music scene.
    What are the limitations that have prevented the VBC from developing further: lack of finances, lack of payed staff, the geographical peculiarities of Wellington relative to the broadcasting signal/output possibly poses a significant limitation, a lack of involvement with the local music scene…

    Salient receives $130,000 dollars – whilst VBC a rather pitifull $30,000 – I would suggest here-in lie the main limitation, if the student body is interested in having a viable radio station, and the benefits to the student culture that it can provided, it needs more funding as a bottom line. From there a full-time staff member, it’s own website/dedicated stream (rather than through a third party service), and the capacity to host more events (at the Hunter lounge?) and at music venues in town. It should also no doubt be broadcast on various locations on campus.

    • I think the part time station managers is all we (if we get bigger then maybe full time). I think VBC needs to stream at eating places around, currently all the cafes/bars (there are 5, exulding Bec’s – associated with HumanFM) play their own music.

      I think if they all streamed VBC listenership would increase and if a roster was on the wall by the entrances then people would be able to find shows that they like.

      They would be encourage to listen in again, also companies would be more willing to advert on VBC if they that large numbers of students in cafes/bars would hear their advert.

      The problem currently is that people don’t listen because they think either they can’t on uni computers (its a lie – they can) or they feel its too much work to go online and find the stream. Playing VBC in cafes/bars around uni would get students listening and might bring in new regular listeners.

  3. Adam says:

    Kia Ora.

    Must say, I fail to see the point of this article.

    Great way to shit where you eat, catch my drift? As a huge beneficiary of VUWSA financial support, Salient should be looking to act as the big brother in this situation; the older, wiser, more experienced and better paid big brother (it is clear you consider Salient to have established itself amongst the echelon of student magazines/toilet paper), who can perhaps offer friendly advice and guidance to kid brother, the VBC.

    You guys virtually share the same office, and I know for a fact that you didn’t consult any of the volunteers or managers at the radio station regarding this atrocious spit of an article. What exactly were you trying to prove?

    (I notice the writer decided not to put their name on the piece either? Grow some hairy ones.)

    Personally I think that the VBC, if organised, funded, and engaged with properly, could fill a day’s worth of bored student procrastination with worthy, interesting, marketable content.
    In fact I know that it could.

    There are a procession of new and talented hosts with interesting ideas for shows hanging out up there each week, and I feel as if it would only need a little bump in the right direction for things to tighten up, look ship-shape, and to then attract a wider audience.

    Radio is still a great way to reach people. Remember that.

    You want to talk about wasting money?
    Walk into the VUWSA building and just try to count the number of Salient issues, still in their printing bundles, collecting dust (and all kinds of disease) around the place.

    First, lower your tone. You are not the hottest cumrag off the press.
    Second, engage in a debate. You could at the very least, at the very basic level of journalistic integrity, have ASKED somebody who was involved, before publishing this tirade.

    Sincerely,
    Adam

    Radio Enthusiast and VBC Supporter

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