MAIN fm is a “community” fm radio station in Castlemaine, Vic.. It was known originally as WMA fm and run successfully for many years by a very competent committee of management. Around eighteen months ago an organised takeover of the committee took place – some called it a putsch – and the station was quickly transformed into a “new” format, one that displeased many.
The station was housed for years within the Old Castlemaine Gaol, formerly owned by the Mount Alexander Shire Council, which provided substantial rent and utilities subsidies.
Prior to “the putsch” the Old Castlemaine Gaol (OCG) was sold to a private consortium. The former “old guard” committee spoke with the consortium and established that whilst the consortium had a desire to see the station remain within the OCG premises on favorable terms, no written guarantees could or would be provided as the consortium was simply in no position to be able to do so. A verbal, “We think you should be OK for some time” was all that was, or could be, provided.
On this basis the then-committee decided that no unnecessary expenditure should be made on station studios and facilities, as there was no guarantee the station could remain in its present location for an extended period. Sound thinking and a wise decision!
Following “the putsch” the new committee seemed to decide money was plentiful and spent a substantial amount on new studios and facilities.
Like the old committee, the best the new committee could obtain from the new owners of the OCG was a verbal “.. assurance that nothing was to change for the next three to five years..”. According to our information, a few weeks later the OCG owners advised the station there would be a three-fold rent increase with annual adjustments, plus the station would have to be responsible for their power usage.
One may have thought this was a good time to stop all non-essential expenditure, however the studio upgrades etc. seem to have eventuated regardless.
Our information suggests the committee have at last come to accept the reality of the commercial world, i.e. that the owners of the OCG are there to make a profit, not provide endless subsidies to “community” groups.
We are led to believe the station will shortly move to rooms in the Workspace Australia facility in Halford St., Castlemaine at a rent which, “..is half what the Gaol are asking..”. If the OCG was asking for rent three times the original and the Workspace rent is “half what the Gaol are asking”, one must assume the station will suffer an approximate 50% rent increase anyway.
The selection of the Workspace Australia facility as a studio is interesting, although they probably didn’t have a lot of choice. The “old guard” committee had the foresight to look ahead and realise the station’s tenure within the OCG was likely limited, so began investigating alternate locations for the station long before “the putsch”. We are aware that committee examined the Workspace Australia facility in detail, but rejected it on technical grounds.
Seems to us there may be some valuable lessons to be learned from this little exercise, such as, “Verbal assurances are not binding”, “Always get it in writing”, “Don’t spend income before knowing your outgoings”.
We believe the station hopes to be on the air from the new location by Christmas. They have lots of presenters who should all be ready and willing to assist with the move, so there shouldn’t be any problem with that.
The distance from the OCG to the transmitter tower (the Optus Tower near The Baco) is almost the same as from Workspace to the Optus Tower, about 1.8km, so there should not be any difficulties in that respect.
We just wonder what the “technical grounds” were on which the “old guard” committee rejected the Workspace location.
Time may tell.