Free FM: A voice for all

Nate Taiapa has recently aired his 600th show. Photo: Sophie Holt

Those tuning into Free FM, Waikato’s community radio station, could find themselves listening to anything from the blues to game reviews, from Spanish to Russian.

Free FM – which has been running for 25 years – gives women, children, the disabled, and diverse ethnic groups a voice on the airways, and is the only community-based station in the Waikato.

Formerly known as Community Radio Hamilton, Free FM aims to give people the skills and confidence to create their own shows so that they can share what matters to them.

“We don’t have a certain genre and we don’t play a certain style of music – we embrace all of those things. Community access radio is the purest form that it can be – it’s a voice for the people,” said programme director Mike Williams.

Nate Taiapa is living proof that having a passion and making connections as you go is the key to progression. He has a radio show on Free FM called ‘The Blues Room’ and has recently aired his 600th show.

“It’s quite cool, it’s a real milestone. I’ve stuck at it because I’m passionate about music and blues. The Blues Room is more than just a radio show – I like that I can draw in from the New Zealand music scene – that was the main reason why I started.”

Nate, who was a finalist in the New Zealand Radio Awards in 2008, feels a deep connection to the genre, as it befriended him when he was suffering from the blues.

Station manager Phil Grey and the Free FM team have supported Nate throughout his radio journey, which has seen him accrue his very own fan base, to his surprise and amazement.

“Someone will come up to me and go “Yo, Nate! Are you from The Blues Room?”

“Regular listeners that I am friends with give me feedback when we catch up. Everybody is very supportive.”

Other shows currently broadcasting on Free FM included Addicted to Rock and The Idiots Lantern.

Free FM, which is not-for-profit and doesn’t advertise, is funded through New Zealand on Air and other sponsors who support various shows.

No students are involved with Free FM at present, but according to Mike “there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be.”