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March 15, 2010 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Happy birthday, dear VBC

Salient feature writer Elle Hunt celebrates the third birthday of some other special people—The VBC.

Your third birthday is quite the milestone. By now, you have a complete set of baby teeth; you can talk in short but complete sentences; and you’re well on the way to developing your own unique personality. This year, the Victoria Broadcasting Club celebrates its third anniversary, and although the occasion might be overshadowed by Grandma Salient’s turning 72, it’s no less an achievement. Since its formation in 2007, the university’s student radio station has increased in audience, members, and appeal to advertisers—and in keeping with a further twelve months under its belt, the VBC is changing: not only its office, but its personnel.

The VBC was founded in 2007, thanks to the efforts of its programming directors Kristen Paterson and Matthew Davis, and its business director Doug Tereu, all of whom have continued to work on the station until 2010. For about a decade prior, Victoria had been the country’s only university without a student-run radio presence, and it took the perseverance of Paterson, Davis and Tereu—and a summer pilot run—to get the project off the ground, and onto the airwaves, on 88.3FM.

That was the VBC’s first challenge, but not its last: as then-Salient feature writer Nicola Kean reported in a feature on the station at the time of its launch, securing an audience was “equally tough”. Many of Wellington’s radio stations vie for listeners from the same demographic: indeed, Kean’s article speculated whether the newly founded VBC would struggle to compete with Radio Active (Victoria University’s radio station in 1977, before it moved off-campus in the mid ‘90s due to financial difficulties), or provide healthy competition. However, it seems that the VBC found its niche.

Student media moguls

Some of the station’s success can be credited to its team’s refusal to limit themselves: Paterson, Davis and Tereu have been tireless in their efforts to promote the VBC, and this has contributed to its aim to promote local music and events.

“We’re not just a radio station,” Tereu says, and reels off a list of the VBC’s work outside of the studio, including organising Orientation Week concerts; the Bandwagon, its weekly street gig guide; and its show at the San Francisco Bathhouse on Wednesday nights.

He says that these have done a great deal to raise awareness of the station. “When you’re new, with a limited frequency, you really have to expand your horizons.”
Now, Tereu says, VBC is “a huge beast”.

“We have approximately 80 volunteer DJs, as well as 12 people who contribute a large amount of time each week to make sure everything happens: from producing, recording and sales, through to distributing a thousand copies of Bandwagon in town.”

Indeed, Bandwagon just released its one hundredth issue, “meaning it’s been around for 100 weeks”, says Tereu, who describes it as one of the VBC’s biggest achievements to date. “When it’s not around, people miss it.”

It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, the VBC was struggling to source funding and support. Indeed, the trio has succeeded, in Tereu’s words, in “building a company out of nothing, [while] working for nothing for three of the four years” it took them to establish the station.

Matthew Davis concurs. “Like Doug says, we had to build everything from scratch.

“Plus, we didn’t really have a clue of the extent of what was involved in establishing and running a radio station. It was all trial and error—and still is, which I think is part of the appeal.”

For all the appeal of student radio, Tereu et al are moving on from the VBC, marking the end of an era for the station. “Doug, Kristen and I have been here since it started, but if you love something, let it free,” says Davis wryly.

Paterson has returned to university this year, but Davis and Tereu are less forthcoming on their plans for the future. Tereu jokes that they’re planning to set up a student television station.

“We are!” insists Davis. “Bring on the VTC!”

“Yeah, VBCTV,” says Tereu. “We’re hoping to become the Rupert Murdochs of student media.”

Davis adds: “Or else praying that Media Works buys us out. Everyone has their price.”

New blood

Tereu, Davis and Paterson are handing over the helm to Teresa Samuels and Jonathan King, who intend to keep up their good work.

“I don’t really see it as taking over the station,” says Samuels. “The appeal of the VBC for me has always been in my love of music, both international and local, and that the VBC isn’t a commercial radio station.”

She adds, “And it’s still so young—there’s so much that could be done with it.”

Her partner, King, agrees: “We want to continue to build on the hard work of everyone who started the station, and to keep supporting local and independent music.”

One of the first changes to VBC, under Samuels and King’s leadership, will be to move into a new office in the coming months, which it will share with Salient. This will unify Victoria University’s student media like never before.

Editor Sarah Robson thinks that the VBC and Salient “have been unnecessarily separated by four flights of stairs”.

“Being in the same office will open up more opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing,” she says.
Samuels is positive about the move.

“2010 is going to be very exciting for the station, because we get our new studio and recording booth,” she says. “For example, with the separate recording studio, we’ll be able to do live-to-airs with bands more effectively.”

In terms of musical content, anything goes. The VBC targets itself towards Victoria University students, which is a varied demographic.

Davis agrees, “It’s a wide and diverse lot.

“Since each show we have is different, the audiences often are, too. It all depends on who and what is playing. We also have a bunch of people who are former students, or friends of students, tuning in around the world.”

At this stage, according to Samuels, the programming schedule is almost complete. Those interested in hosting a show, however, can register their interest by emailing her or King.

“There are lots of ways people can get involved, besides doing shows,” adds King. “We’re looking for people who want to help out on the news team, including news readers and news writers; producers for shows; contributors for Bandwagon; website developers; even accountants and lawyers for when Tuesday Drive gets a bit defamatory…”

Tereu lists the areas where students can help out the VBC: “Web design, poster art, print reviewers, advertising and sales, marketing, t-shirt design, radio journalism, on-air broadcast experience, host and production, content editors, sound engineering and recording, event management and bookings, music programming and art liaisons, administration and accounts…”

If that weren’t enough, he adds: “I’m probably missing heaps.”

So much radio personality

Along with Salient Co-Arts Editor Kim Wheatley, post-graduate student Maggie S currently co-hosts How’s Your Mental Health?, which airs on Tuesday for two hours from 7pm. While Maggie readily admits that it’s “really self-indulgent” to host your own show (“It’s presuming that other people care about your opinion”), it’s also “a lot of fun”.

“You hang out with your friend for two hours, and gossip,” she says. “We gossip a lot.”

A group of Maggie’s friends tune into How’s Your Mental Health? every week, and give her and Wheatley feedback on their programme via its Facebook fan page (at the time of writing, “You guys are gross” was one such comment). One week, it featured “‘a manifesto of peace’ from a young man to his ex-girlfriend, set to music”, and another—“a lovely young lady has kindly volunteered to sing ‘Both Sides Now’ a cappella for us”.

Regardless of the content, Maggie recommends the experience, especially for those who want to DJ, or show off their esoteric taste. “It’s a great way to meet Wellington people with musical connections, as everyone knows everyone. For example, Seth Frightening has a show [Goodnight Sleepy Sealion, from 11pm on Thursdays until 1am].”

Ryan Eyers reviewed music for Salient in 2009, and now co-hosts a show on the VBC, Word Salad, from 4pm until 7pm on the Wednesday Drive slot. He agrees with Maggie that it’s a great experience for students. “Hosting a show is pretty awesome, basically,” he says.

“The VBC is totally free-form radio, meaning that the producers and station managers let you do and play pretty much whatever you want, which is really cool.”

Eyers remarks that the VBC’s lack of financial support limits its potential. “It’s massively underfunded, which constrains it—such as, it has a small satellite that doesn’t really broadcast a strong enough signal for it to be heard around the city,” he says. “It’s testament to the people that run it that it manages to stay operational on the peanuts it’s given.”

Run by students, for students

Which raises a valid point: why have Tereu, Davis and Paterson spent so much time on the VBC?

“Campus radio is a very important part of any university,” says Tereu. “Over the years, I’ve noticed the lack of campus culture, and no real central point for creative and media types to meet up, share ideas, and hang out. It can give many people the practical experience they won’t get from their studies.

“This station has been built by students—our booth was built by over 30 students over the course of 11 days. And it’s run by students, with a strong emphasis on supporting our local music and community.”

Eyers agrees: “The VBC is probably best known for the shows it puts on, as well as organising things like Orientation, and it’s cool that they’re organised for students by students, rather than some promotional company—and it also means the tickets are pretty reasonable.”

Davis says that the VBC has “very few restraints” for students wanting to contribute practically to the station. “It comes with the freedom to really do what you want to. While we have a playlist, many shows are free-form, and students are welcome to take the initiative.”

King continues, “VBC is one of the few places at Victoria University which is controlled by students—DJs have freedom to run their shows the way they want to, and we support local and independent music. So, as well as being a radio station you can tune in to and hear great music that you can’t find elsewhere, the VBC is a great community of people, producing their own culture, rather than having it produced for them.”

When asked what the VBC has over any other radio station, Davis says that “the difference comes from the people who are involved”.

“They’re the backbone of it all, and without them, we wouldn’t really be anything—plus we have a healthy tradition of cask wine and cheap whiskey.”

Tereu adds: “Our creative department is the most talented in the country—you should see how many times the koosh ball is passed around in our creative meetings. It’s all about the flow of ideas.”

It’s obvious that Tereu and Davis are passionate about the VBC, and believe in its relevance to Victoria University students. What have been their highlights over the course of three years?

Davis jokes: “The fact that it’s still going, and we’re still somewhat sane.”

He goes on: “But also, that we’re now able to pass it on to a bunch of people to keep it going, who share a similar attitude and enthusiasm—something that’s a strong indication that the station is going in the right direction.”

Certainly, King and Samuels seem ideally equipped to take over the station—for, as much as Samuels disagrees with the term, ‘taking over’ the VBC is essentially what they’ll be doing.

King says, “When I was in first year, three years ago, VBC was just starting up. Since getting involved, I’ve met lots of awesome people, and been exposed to a lot of great music—now we just want to make sure that the same opportunity is available for others.”

Samuels adds, “I think it’s important to state that the station is only three years old, and we look forward to seeing it grow.”

Tereu says that it’s always been his intention to hand over the station “when it got to the point where it was running successfully”.

“We can’t wait to see what the new crew will do. Viva la VBC!”


About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

Comments (1)

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  1. your name says:

    Well done V.B.C!!
    Three years! The amount of whiskey I’ve spilled in that office by now, must be a whole bottle. That can be my payment to you for letting me hang out with you cool dudes and for not telling me off for playing My Bloody Valentine too often. xx

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