It's a bit of a David and Goliath story really.
Two months ago a small, one man radio station in Kapiti gained the use of the last remaining available FM frequency in this area to transmit from a hill above Paraparaumu. It was hard work, because the Government Department that regulates the airwaves had decided that the only frequency to be allocated to Paraparaumu in recent times was to go to Beach FM who use the 106.3 frequency. According to the department there was no other frequency usable in the area.
Triple X FM had been 'mini' broadcasting on a free low powered frequency that allowed a coverage area of a couple of blocks. But the help of a radio transmission engineer, who loved the music he was hearing on that frequency, meant that another frequency was identified for use – 105.5. The paper work was filed, and eventually after several attempts, the Govt Dept gave in and issued a license. Albeit a heavily restricted license in order to fit into an already crowded FM band.
Since then Rob Walker's station Triple X FM has been transmitting on 105.5FM playing a Classic Rock / 70s & 80s programme. He gets up every morning to host the breakfast show and runs the station from a spare bedroom in his home, perched above Paraparaumu.
The equipment is not what you'd expect. A small mixing desk, a microphone bought off Trademe, and a desktop computer to play the music. Its a mere 30 watt transmitter and the antenna is perched on the roof pointing towards Paraparaumu.
He spends his time on air in the morning talking about the coast and reliving the days that reflects the music he plays. Then he gets changed and heads off to his day job as a retail sales person. He programs the music at night, updates the weather forecast and records the adverts in his dining room. As a broadcaster of 24 years experience though he has personal pride in achieving a professional sound. And that is evident if you listen to Triple X FM.
It's a station run by experience, not a lot of free time and a passion for radio.
So how has this one man radio station run out of a bedroom managed to achieve a sizable audience that any network-run station would be proud to boast? And in a market where there's every network station transmitting in the area? There are 11 network stations in Kapiti. In total there are 15 commercial stations transmitting in the area – all with a full compliment of staff and resources.
“I don't know exactly, but I suspect the local audience is growing tired of the Hollywood gossip, the inane DJ chatter, and the obvious lack of local interest” says Rob Walker.
“Triple X FM is real local and live radio, as real and live as it can get. I get up and go on air dressed in my dressing gown. I guess the audience relate to it because they're in their dressing gown too!”
The format of less commercials and more music seems to be hitting a chord in Paraparaumu. The station promotes itself as a 70s, 80's Big Hair band, Classic Rock music station.
There is no radio survey in Kapiti and for that reason no radio station can prove just how many people are (or are not) listening to them, but a walk through the Paraparaumu CBD revealed a disproportionately large number of businesses tuned to TripleXFM 105.5 recently.
“It's quite encouraging to get phone calls, emails, Facebook comments etc, all hours of the day or night.” Says Walker.
“It would be fantastic to be able to reach more of the Coast but that means the purchase of a bigger transmitter, and that won't happen overnight.”
Until then Triple X FM continues to rattle the cages of the 'big' stations in the area. And while some comments from the networks have been complimentary, there have been a few incidents of late that obviously show the station is making an impact – despite it's one man operation - including staff from another station making comments on TripleXFM's Facebook page.
“They called our listeners traitors and demanded they tune out! At first I was annoyed, but then I saw it as a compliment! If they have to resort to that sort of behaviour to get listeners, if they are worried about a one-man station gaining an audience, then that MUST be a compliment!”
TripleXFM broadcasts to Paraparaumu and beyond on 105.5 FM.