Radio issues hit airwaves

May 13, 2016

For several months a handful of community radio presenters and board members who have been dismissed from Shepparton’s One FM radio station have gone public with claims of bullying, intimidation and conflict of interest among those involved in the station’s operation.

The station’s operations manager Jason Welsh had chosen to remain silent on the dispute; that is until today when he has responded to a series of questions from The News as well as circulating a letter to members and the wider public, where he makes the station’s case for its actions.

On Monday, a written request to the station’s management committee from members for a special general meeting had called for a vote of no confidence in that committee, the appointment of an interim management committee and the drafting of a new constitution, preventing paid staff members from being on the board.

But Mr Welsh says almost half of those 36 people whose names and signatures had appeared on the request had since withdrawn their support for the call and those whose names remained had failed to satisfy the required 10 per cent of the members needed to sign such a request.

In his letter, Mr Welsh asks members and the public to consider the station’s successes in reducing its debt from $653000 to $80000, securing a three-year contract to cover games within AFL Goulburn Murray and associated leagues and winning funding to establish programs for young people interested in becoming involved in community radio.

He describes One FM as a station aiming ‘‘to serve all of our community’’ and invites the community to address its questions and queries to the station with a promise to answer them ‘‘honestly and frankly’’.

We believe that you can’t ask for more than that provided the commitments are made with sincerity and a view to healing the discord that has arisen at the station.

Mr Welsh said a decision was taken to dismiss the volunteers as an absolute last resort after a failed attempt to deal with the dispute via the station’s dispute-resolution policy.

But those members/announcers affected, many who have given decades of loyal service to the station, say they have nowhere to turn and Fair Work Australia won’t represent them because they are volunteers.

We empathise with their sense of hurt, but we hope these latest developments go some way to resolving this long-running and bitter dispute.

The parting of the ways between these members and One FM appears permanent; whether the conflict affects support for the station from listeners and the wider public remains to be seen.

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