An open letter to the board of WMAfm

wmaAn open letter to the board of WMAfm

When I first moved to Castlemaine I would tune in to WMAfm occasionally to try and what was happening locally.  Most of the time I heard the same music repeated hour after hour with nary a presenter in earshot – most disappointing.  When I listened in the evenings there were some interesting shows but they seemed to be a bit thin on the ground.  Lately, that changed, the grid filled out, the muzak dried up.  Broadcasts sounded more relevant to what was going on in town.

Having had a bit of experience with radio in Melbourne and finding a station that was doing something that I wanted to be a part of, I decided to get in touch.  The station manager, Martin Myles was very welcoming and energetic.  He had a vision for the station that was in line with its mission statement – to be an exemplar of community radio.  Martin realised, as I did, as all the readers of this letter will, that we are lucky to live in an amazing town with a deep pool of talent and genius.

It is a great pity that the board of WMAfm has chosen to end its association with Martin who did excellent work transforming the station into something representative of the whole community.  During Martin’s time as Station Manager, WMAfm moved from being an under-attended station to a living entity with a full grid broadcasting a wonderfully diverse range of shows.

Locals now have a place to tune in to check the pulse of town, not just sporadically, but all the time.  And not just the pulse of a week day morning clique.  This is the essence of community and it is rightly celebrated by those who listen in – and there are loads listening in now: every one I speak to in my travels around town agrees that the station has blossomed.

In an email to presenters announcing Martin’s dismissal, the WMAfm secretary advised that the “decision was made in the best interest of our members and WMAfm.”  WMAfm’s mission statement states that it aims to be the small community radio station by which others are judged and a station in which its volunteers can have real pride.  I am concerned that the committee’s decision to sack Martin is based on personal politics and not the best interest of the station as a whole – presenters and listeners.  I challenge the committee of management to provide evidence that they have the whole community’s interests at heart, and not just those of a select few.

May WMAfm continue to be a guiding light to other stations and to our listeners, providing an eclectic and inspiring mix of programming that showcases all facets of our splendid community.

With best wishes for the future
Yours sincerely
Paul Mortensen

Posted in Featured slide, Letters, Live in Castlemaine, Local news, Top Stories

32 Responses

  1. Chris

    For the committee of management at WMA, success can be very threatening it seems.

    The WMS committee is;
    President – Ken White
    Vice-President – Rod Hadfield
    Secretary – Bettie Exon
    Treasurer – Robyn Thomas
    Committee – Ian Braybrook
    Committee – Fergus Niall
    with Dr. Ed Griffin as Liaison Officer.

  2. Simon Browne

    Great letter Paul and I too share your disapointment. I look forward to the committee’s response

  3. klare lanson

    I totally agree Paul, it’s a crying shame that this happened, just as a new chapter of the station’s life begins. I just hope that the situation is quickly and effectively resolved and that the voice of the goldfields stays strong.

  4. Deb Moreheart

    It seems the Committee are not interested in new listeners. If it’s a Community station how do I get to go to meetings and vote? Surely everyone who loves the new music and programming will want to do this?

  5. Jane

    I was really enjoying a number of new programs and the fresh and interesting content on the radio.

    So many great new shows and new presenters came in on the invitation of the Martin as the new manager.

    It’s a real shame that with Martin’s dismissal, our community may also lose all these new shows, volunteers and presenters and the diversity of views, content, guests, and music they brought to the local airwaves – as well as the extra advertising and sponsorship that came in too.

    I agree with Deb, it seems the Board are not interested in new listeners, and are out of touch with their (potential) audience.

  6. Jen2

    I couldn’t agree more with all the previous comments. If WMA reverts to it’s “musak” format, I presume all their new advertisers will desert them, as probably will their new listeners. It seems a few online complaints about the changes have sent the Board into panic mode, and so a slash and burn notice was issued, starting with the new manager.

    As community radio is not included in ratings, such stations really have no idea how many listeners they have, but at least with a new website WMA now has feedback, which has mostly been positive.

    I gather it’s a new Board, but would have to wonder just what any of them know about radio and what people want to listen to. Not a lot I’m guessing. WMA needs many more members so they can have a say about the policies of the station and who runs it.

    In the meantime, the old guard rules.

  7. Steve

    An excellent letter Paul. You’ve summed it up brilliantly. I believe this to be a petty decision driven by a desire to punish the community for what has happened in areas completely unrelated to the radio station. The damage it is doing to the credibility of the WMAfm committee of management is immense.

  8. Sherri

    Become a member – the board is there to represent the members. The more like minded members the station gets the greater the opportunity to elect a board that reflects the wishes of everyone, not just the few who find it impossible to give up control.

  9. Hans Lartz

    I hear many of the locals who were sponsors with WMA have walked away because of the amount of alternative and weird music being played.The money wasnt coming in and the board had no choice but to act.Besides this some new presenters were turning up not having a clue what to do as they havent been trained properly.WMA has a potential audience of 500 to 1000 people.By far he most popular show, is the football-this is a rural town after all.Before you get a lynch mob together, see what comes out in the wash.

  10. Hans Lartz

    PS, the old Jen calls them stuggled for almost 10 years to make WMA happen.Some have been involved with community radio for over 30 years..they know what they are doing.And no-i dont think the station will go back to playing SOS…Remember, without the old gaurd you would have no WMA to argue about.

  11. Cam

    thanks, an interesting letter.

    I have been fairly un-impressed by my limited dealings with the station, it seemed to me that management was not open to a diversity of opinions – which, by the way, goes against several of the Codes related to the Community Broadcasting Assoc of Australia.

    I agree that without the old guard there would be no station. And I appreciate their many years of hard work. But any community organisation needs to be open to new people. Otherwise it will die as the original people retire. I wonder if this is the intention of some currently involved in the station, rather than sharing it with a broad range of people in town.

  12. Steve

    Hans you’ve made some interesting points. I certainly agree that if it wasn’t for some on the committee we wouldn’t have this radio station. Just as long as they don’t think that because they created it they’re free to destroy it. But many people have worked long and hard to get the station to this point (just look at the many unpaid hours the presenters put in each week!). WMAfm now belongs to the community! Certainly the station is in transition…some sponsors will drop out and others will join. That’s the way things go in community radio. But WMAfm doesn’t need sponsors who demand to dictate music policy. It’s irrelevant whether the sponsors like the music or not. Their potential customers are the ones that should be kept happy! And it may surprise you but some sponsors support the station for no other reason than they think it’s their civic duty! As far as lost sponsorships go, those “know what they’re doing” committee members have been responsible for losing some very lucrative ones. As for the new presenters being under-trained, nothing prepares you for your first time on radio. The established presenters all had shaky starts to their careers. In no time at all the newcomers will become experts.

  13. Chris

    When individuals form groups to pursue a task sometimes members of the group get off task. This is normal and says much about the human condition.
    When the group or some members of the group believe there is a problem within the group a natural tendency is to deal with the problem.
    Should the problem be laid at the foot of one individual or the feet of a collection of individuals and then that one or that sub-group is pushed out of the group and it is discovered the problem still remains, then the problem usually rests with the those who have apparently fabricated or created the problem in the first place.
    The problem could easily have been nothing but a construct for a myriad of reasons – as a ruse, a deception, a cover up, a show of strength and power, personal glory, revenge, a ploy or to influence the share price in one way or another.

    At WMA, Martin, the ex-station manager, did not have his contract renewed after apparently achieving considerably gains for the station, yet the problems of the station remain.
    Interestingly in groups if an individual who believes a problem exists and works hard to lift the status of the problem (“educating the problem”) then leaves the group for whatever reason, the problem can vanish very quickly leaving the group wondering what the hell was that all about.
    Of course there is the issue of how is “success” measured for a community radio station?
    One person’s idea of success can be another’s failure and for WMA, paradoxically, it seems some levels of success have led to a failure of some sort.
    Maybe that’s not normal, still, it is obvious a problem remains and I suggest it rests with the committee of management if this morning’s front page of the Mail is any indication.
    I believe the WMA committee of management need to say something publicly.

  14. Hans Lartz

    Cam ands Steve..i agree.the committee is older folk and it probably has been hard for them to move with the times.There will be presenters loyal to them who are terrific people.I would suggest calm until both sides of the story be told and i am waiting on hearing what the tresurer says before i take sides.I have seen how frigile community radio stations are as we have lost 2 -3CCC[now Fresh] and KLFM to Bendigo and we will probably loose WMA as well if we are not careful.Kyneton lost its community station to Woodend recently and i hear another close by community station is also in trouble right now.To get all parties happy is almost impossible in a community station because everyone has a different taste in music and how they think a station should be run.I appreeciate both of your comments and the fact you didnt attack me.Kind regards, Hans

  15. Jen2

    Sherri, I understand that the committee has closed off new memberships. I can’t imagine why.

  16. Ian Batty

    A correction for Hans Lartz.

    In the mid 2000s, Highlands FM was working out of an old rented butcher’s shop on the outskirts of Kyneton. The building was old and dingy, though we did the best we could, building a comfortable studio cubicle and front office.

    The move to Woodend put us in the Library/Community Centre, with new rooms and access to a large concert hall nearby. It gave us exposure you can’t buy.

    Some people lamented the move, but it’s not accurate to say it was a “loss”, or that it was due to any kind of mismanagement or internal strife.


  17. Doggie

    Hans Lartz, The “taste in music” of any group running community radio has nothing to do with the on-air content. If the committee all liked Siberian reed flute music, does that mean we should dominate the programs with that genre? It has to be an objective decision and not subjective. There are all kinds of music preferences in our district and the format of our station must reflect the diversity of listeners’ whims.

  18. Chris

    If the committee has decided to close memberships then it will be the end of WMA under the current regime I am afraid because I and some 25 others have memberships in the pipeline.
    And when WMA collapses under the strain of its own management (it will survive under a new management), it can be simply added to the list of stations lost with Ian Braybrook’s name associated.
    Go figure.

  19. Fan

    People want to be entertained, and alternative and weird music is just the worst!
    Cant blame the sponsors for walking away in that case.

  20. Kirrily

    ‘Fan’ Whilst I agree that people want to be entertained, I believe that this needs to be done in a more broad spectrum than muzak or top 40 can offer. There is also the history of music to be considered. Many non-weird and non-alternative music was influenced by the alternative/weird music of its time. This impact made by punk, prog rock etc needs to be acknowledged and shared to the next generation and all other interested parties.

  21. mori

    “fan” do you actually listen to the station? there is such a broad variety of shows now covering many genres of music and interests. Though I am not 100% sure what you regard to be “weird alternative”, I am sure this would only take up a very small amount of air time. I am not interested in all the programs but instead of complaining, I simply tune in to the shows I like and tune out to the ones I dont. I think the current variety is a great thing for our community radio station and your attitude seems a bit selfish to suggest that the station should play only the music “you” like…

  22. Hans Lartz

    Memberships are not closed.There is in fact over 150 [as of last Thursday] new members to consider next meeting of the board, so many i hear they are overwhelmed and might even thankyou Chris for prompting so many people to sign up.

  23. Chris

    Hans – you seem very close to the action and what is going on at WMA. There would not be many people aware of just how many membership applications are in the pipeline.
    I hope that one day everybody can have access to the information you have.

  24. Geraldine

    Strange comment Chris. Two days ago you were telling us how many applications you and your friends had pending. That suggests a conspiracy to stack the membership.

  25. Chris

    Geraldine – I was aware of 25 membership applications not “over 150″ like Hans seems to be.
    And what is wrong, given all the unprofessionalism that has emanated from the committee, with having a membership drive to get some balance and order for WMA fm?
    Nothing at all. Seems to me to be nothing more than a natural response and I suggest that the membership numbers are currently stacked in favour of the current committee.
    Geraldine – are you aware of statements issued by individual committee members regarding the dramatic cessation of the station manager’s tenure?
    I have only heard such communications exist and I would very much like to read them.

  26. Steve

    Let’s put stacking aside for the moment. Thank you Hans Lartz with your info about membership applications. I’ve learnt more from you in your few posts than I have from the committee in months. That’s sad in itself. Maybe we should all work together. It’s obvious we have the station’s welfare at heart. Let’s say in this current membership drive we make it to 800 members. Do you think it fair that 401 members can dictate the entire composition of the committee? Wouldn’t some kind of proportional voting system be fairer. If there had been a couple of the younger dynamic presenters on the committee this terrible standoff between management and volunteers would never have arisen!

  27. Glenn Braybrook

    Good idea Steve, what do you propose?.I have seen too much division in my hometown of late.where once everyone got on reasonably well for years-this is no longer the case.
    stacking isnt the way to go, it wont resolve anything and one side will be forever bitter against the one who gets the most know where to find me Steve..cheers Glenn

  28. Chris

    This is what the WMA fm committee of management had to say about Martin Myles –

    “After his success as a presenter for WMAfm 94.9, the Committee was delighted to invite Martin Myles to be station manager. In November 2012 the Committee and Martin agreed that Martin would serve an initial 6 month contract as station manager in order for both parties to determine whether the engagement should be ongoing. As the expiry date for the contract approached, the Committee formed the view that while Martin exercised good leadership skills with the presenters, in other important areas he lacked the key skills required to meet the future challenges of the station. As a result, the Committee has decided that Martin’s contract should not be renewed.
    Martin has made a valuable contribution to the Station over some two years and the Committee genuinely wishes him every success in whatever he chooses to do.”

    I think the lacking belongs with the committee.

  29. Glenn Braybrook

    Chris, the committee has had to wait on legal advice and could only make a small statement until they are given the go ahead by the stations legal people.I like Martin a lot-we got on very well.Lets see what the station has to say when it gets the go ahead.In the mean time we presenters need to try and make sure the station is safe as this issue has made its future a major worry to all of us who just want to do their shows and not be caught up in the politics.

  30. Former member

    I now read that the President has gone on six months “stress leave”.

    This is a community radio station that appears to be suffering internal meltdown. Running a friendly,companionable organisation of *any* kind can be hard work, but that is just the “usual stuff”: fundraising, membership drives, equipment upgrades, etc.

    WMA is burning people out faster than they can be replaced. Seems like Martin was appointed with no clear guidance on how to do the job, then sacked when management suddenly decided they didn’t like what he was doing. Classic management failure.

    I’m Ieft wondering what Ken White’s *sin* was, as he seemed to be a recognised member of the Old Guard.
    If WMA implodes, it will be, as noted earlier, the *third* such failure.

    Tragedy: a play where the audience can plainly see how the protagonist’s actions lead to disaster – a disaster he cannot see.

  31. Glenn Braybrook

    Hi Former member, yes its blood awful alround!.I am predicting WMA-the best small radio station in Austraila is doomed-i give it 2-3 months tops.Why?..lets leave that to the historians-because right now everyone thinks they are right.

  32. andrew

    Comments are now closed. We’re going in circles. And apparently legal action is on the cards.