Info radio station switched off

Grant Taylor
Sound of silence: Phil Green. Picture: Bil Hatto/The West Australian

WA's only dedicated information radio station has mysteriously gone off air, leaving thousands of listeners who are unable to read without access to print news and current affairs.

For more than two decades, 990AM has broadcast the contents of magazines and newspapers, including _The West Australian, _ keeping those with vision, literacy or mobility problems up to date with local and world events.

But the station closed abruptly on January 18, providing no warning or explanation why to loyal listeners such as 66-year-old Phil Green.

"I just got up one morning and the normal programming was not there, just the BBC World Service being broadcast non-stop," Mr Green said. "We were not given any warning at all that it was going to close."

Mr Green lost his eyesight from glaucoma about 20 years ago and said he had relied on the station for his daily news, as well as horoscopes, lotto results and even TV guides, which were read aloud by teams of volunteers.

"I just miss turning 990 on and hearing the voice of my favourite presenters reading to me," he said.

"You can get the headlines on other radio stations but not the real in-depth reporting of issues like you do from the papers."

The Welshpool-based station is run by the Foundation for Information Radio WA.

Chairman and general manager Peter Luckett did not return phone calls yesterday.

Mr Luckett is also chairman of the national Reading for the Print Handicapped network, but a network spokesman said no other stations had been affected.

The spokesman said it appeared that the WA-based station had run into financial difficulty because of falling revenue and could no longer afford to stay on air.

The station received some Federal funding but relied mostly on donations and sponsorship.

Two full-time staff members were told about a week ago that they no longer had jobs and volunteers were also informed that their services were no longer required.

It is estimated about 30,000 West Australians suffer from vision impairment.