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RDU sounds a very sour note

28 November 2006


RDU sounds a very sour note

Students at the University of Canterbury are upset at the secret sale of 98 RDU for $1. The secret deal was done at a secret meeting and by secret ballot. It only became to the attention of UCSA members when it was leaked to the media. Moreover, an Official Information request has revealed that the deal has not been given government approval.

A group has been formed to protest the sale. Kyle Millar, a former Vice President, is one of the many students who have seen the confidential papers detailing the sale. “By now these papers have been read by more people than an average issue of [student magazine] Canta.”

I cannot understand why our student representatives have kept this matter a secret. “Commercial sensitivity is no defence for keeping the sale secret: RDU is a non-profit station that was built by students and it has now been sold without them knowing.

Three past UCSA presidents took the unusual step of warning the UCSA against such a secret deal when information was leaked to them.

Dan Bason, a member of the UCSA Executive, resigned in protest at the secret deal. “I'm gagged from saying anything, but selling the members assets in secret was not something I could do. I resigned in disgust.”

Bason expects a groundswell of support against the sale, as everybody who hears about it is annoyed. “Secret deals have no place in a member organisation. RDU was built up and funded by students of Canterbury for 30 years. Now it belongs to somebody else.”

Mr Millar says, “What is concerning isn't just the sale, but the flawed process undertaken. The papers show the UCSA senior management gave selective and poor advice to the Executive over the process to undertake and has seemingly lied to them and the potential buyers about the sale”.

The frequencies RDU broadcast over are granted under licence. The terms of the three licences are quite clear (and available online). The UCSA cannot sublease them, as they say they have done, without the approval of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Ministry of Economic Development. Information released under an Official Information request shows that neither have approved this proposed scheme

“It is pretty evident that the UCSA senior management have an agenda that does not include the organisations members, but moreover appears inept and dishonest.

An Overview

- UCSA members’ assets being sold without any member consultation or due process – with a secret deal, secret meeting and secret ballot. Members don’t know it has been sold and will never know who voted for or against the selling of the station.

- Brand of RDU sold for $1

- Equipment of RDU sold for $1

- Lease fee to be paid – 2007 $0; 2008 $5,000; 2009- $10,000 – these amounts are much, much less than what the rent for the building space RDU occupies. Included in this amount is exclusivity of campus (it must be played in cafes) and also a full page in CANTA each week, worth thousands per annum. Is this the best deal UCSA could get? We will never know because it was done in a secret process and not taken to the market.

- RDU staff (some of whom will profit from this deal) threatened to resign if it did not go through.

- The executive first voted against the deal, then under management pressure had another vote in which the chef executive of ucsa counted the ballots – an unprecedented action.

- Documents from the president and chef executive show the failure to consult requires “the UCSA needs to be control our spin campaign” (from leaked documents

- The reason management wanted to sell was because RDU was losing money, but student members (via the University) pay fees to proved services like RDU. Also, CANTA one year lost $120k about three time how much RDU lost in a bad year. Moreover, under previous management RDU made a profit (for most the 1990s, for example). Members should decide what happens to their radio station. It has now been lost for 21 years – the length of the current licence.

- November 30 is the deadline for UCSA to gain Ministry approval for this deal. Failure to obtain this opens UCSA up to legal liability

- A campaign by concerned members will be launched at the beginning of next year to ensure that members are aware of this deal and to ensure those who are involved are held accountable. Including UCSA management which clearly has no interest in consulting members – and only serves to bully weak executives into bad decisions.


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