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Free Fijian on Free FM

Listeners from around the world

CHRIS GARDNER

Peni Seru

ON THE AIR: Peni Seru, presenter of Fijian language programme Bogi ni Taukei on Hamilton’s Free FM 89 radio station which relaunched today, thinks he would not be allowed home.
Photo: KELLY HODEL/FAIRFAX NZ

Peni Seru takes a few minutes to compose himself. I've just asked the presenter of Bogi ni Taukei, a Fijian language programme broadcast on Hamilton community access radio station Free FM 89, how his discussion of the Fijian Government on his show has affected his family.

"Mum passed away in Fiji in May and I could not go the funeral," Mr Seru said after a few minutes silence as he wiped tears from his eyes. "I got to watch some of it on Skype but funerals in Fiji last 100 nights."

Mr Seru started his show, listened to by ex-pats around the Waikato via their radios and the world via the internet, after Commodore Frank Bainimarama led a military coup of Fiji in 2006. Mr Seru was an education student at Waikato University at the time, working part time as a cleaner at the station's Collingwood Rd studios on the ground floor of the ASB building. He thinks he would not be allowed to enter the country if he tried to return home.

Convincing the station to give him air time wasn't difficult.

"The reason we set up the programme was so that the people could have access to what was happening in Fiji. It has news, from home, and weather, for here," he said.

Since then Bainimarama's administration has seized control of the media in Fiji, censoring what is published, but the Fijian Government's reach does not extend to Mr Seru in New Zealand and his show. He said he was neutral when it came to discussing the Fijian Government, but he did not censor his callers who rang in to discuss the state of their home country.

"I have a few listeners from Fiji, two or three who call, but their phones are monitored. Some email. I have got listeners from around the world including Dubai, China and Japan."

Mr Seru, now a project co-ordinator at Kaute Pasifika Services, a Pacific Island health initiative, also presents a show on behalf of his employer.

VIDEO DID NOT KILL THE RADIO STAR

Community access radio is alive and well in Hamilton, having relaunched today with a new name on a new frequency. Free FM 89 is the new name of Community Radio Hamilton, which has relaunched on full power 89 FM today after raising $103,000 for the upgrade. The not-for-profit station has broadcast locally produced programmes on 1206AM and low power 106.7 FM for 25 years, with about 100 volunteer broadcasters presenting more than 80 programmes a week. The station's core purpose is to broadcast local content by, for and about the community, with much of the programming targeting specific interest and ethnic groups. Genres include disability and health, minority language, community information, music, hobbies and interests and religion and belief. Today the WaikatoTimes begins a series of chats with Free FM 89. We talk to some of the 100 volunteers presenting 80 shows from its Collingwood Rd studio.

- © Fairfax NZ News

© Waikato Times August 1st, 2012.

This material remains © Fairfax New Zealand Limited and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

For a current list of all Low Power FM stations broadcasting in New Zealand, visit our NZ LPFM Radio Guide.

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