© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Community radio provides essential connections during lockdown

Nikki Carroll
RDU40 logo large

In the Canterbury area our diverse community has been well supported by local student radio RDU and Access radio Plains FM while COVID-19 has been impacting daily life.

Simon Claridge, station manager of RDU98.5FM, says the student radio station has managed to keep catering to its audience through the power of technology. 

With five full-time staff having access to home studios, plus the majority of the 135 volunteer hosts already knowing how to create programmes remotely, it has mostly been ‘business as usual’ for RDU.

In fact, with the use of an audio and recording app that enables hosts to log directly into the broadcasting booth, at least 60 of the programme makers are still broadcasting live.

Andy Wilson The Friday Fix Up Show
Andy Wilson - The Friday Fix Up Show RDU FM


Claridge says there has also been a significant increase in digital streams during lockdown.  RDU has a free smartphone loyalty app – RDU United – which currently has about 18,000 members, as well as a website and Facebook page.

Although the online method of engagement is not the student radio’s preferred option, Claridge says that it has been the perfect way to "keep eyes on us, to show we’re still here” during the uncertainty of the past month.

Plains FB logo
Plains FM 96.9 Plains FM


Laura Gartner, content co-ordinator for Plains FM, says as an essential service they are still very busy with two staff in the station and two working from home.

“[We are] dealing with multiple COVID19 messaging campaigns, guiding content makers on how to create content remotely and regularly keeping in touch with the large international student community who broadcast on our Steudaemonia programme.”

Some content makers have stopped, particularly those with live shows, however a number are still recording progammes remotely.

Plains FM also has a few new programmes that started in response to the pandemic:
Therapeutic Green Room –  a psychologist offering advice on wellbeing;
Be Kind, Be Safe – interviews with local officials on COVID19 issues such as healthcare, public transport, international student support;
Ethiopian Outreach – the community approached the station to make Covid19 content for them.

Empty office - lone worker - social distancing! Plains FM

Gartner says there has been a significant increase in production of podcasts during this time especially with the joint COVID-19 campaign Plains FM has with MSD and Interpreting NZ to produce essential messages in 15 different languages.

Although neither radio station sees a lot of financial support earmarked for their particular platforms in the $50m media package announced by the Government last week, these voices for the community are well-versed in dealing with out of the ordinary situations in which to produce their content. 

No matter what, RDU will “…continue providing a platform and a voice for…alternative…music, arts, culture and opinions," says Claridge.