Pensioners quit Dublin community radio station after being asked to pay membership fees to volunteer

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Two Dublin pensioners have walked away from their beloved community radio shows after being asked to pay a membership fee to volunteer at the station.

John Healy worked with Near FM, which serves the North East Dublin area, for around 10 years, first coming to the station as part of a CE program before working there on a voluntary basis over the course of of the last four years.

The 69-year-old told Dublin Live that the station recently introduced a rule asking volunteers to join a media co-op at a cost of €5 a month.

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John and his colleague Noel McGuinness said they both quit in March this year after being asked for the money.

Mr Healy said: ‘I got an email from an administrator saying this and I said I was already working for free, I give my time for free and I don’t see why I should pay to do it .

“I said if I have to go, I have to go. I don’t pay to volunteer.

“He started comparing it to a GAA club saying if I was in one or a men’s shed I would have to pay a fee. But that’s a completely different thing.

“It’s a community radio and I’m doing a service. He should pay me.

“There was no point in me hanging around to give these people time to replace me, so I returned my key and left.”

John was disappointed to leave his listeners because he really enjoyed being on the radio, but as a pensioner he decided he needed to use his money for more essentials like food and heat.

“When you do a show, you make contacts, you don’t like to leave them so I continued. Parents, local people were calling so I wanted to keep in touch with them,” he added.

Noel McGuinness resigned a week after John because of the new rule introduced.

The man, who turns 79 this year, told Dublin Live: “It’s a matter of principle. I worked there for 27 years and am now retired. I heard about PAYE but not about PAYW, Pay as you Work.

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“This all happened a few weeks ago. I did all the outside shows. I did a festival in St. Anne’s Park, I took the van, we went out and we did it I’ve also done Blooms every year in Phoenix Park.

“I did two shows a week after my retirement, Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It was mostly interviews. I never missed a day. The more I think about it, the more irritated and disappointed I get to have been treated like this.

“I miss work, I miss interviews, it kept my mind active during Covid. I was looking for stories, something different all the time, politics, general news, diversity was great.

A Near FM spokesperson told Dublin Live the station was willing to offer a cheaper membership fee of 50c a week if people couldn’t afford the €5 a month and would still be happy to find the two men.

They said: “Near FM is a non-profit co-operative and charity organization.

“A monthly membership fee has been introduced with the vast majority of members in favor of this.

“The small monthly sum helps us pay the bills and be a little less dependent on grants and other funds. Fees are usually €5 per month, but can be lower if a person cannot afford €5.

“This is common practice in community media in Ireland and around the world.”

He added: “There was a meeting in 2020 that everyone was invited to with membership fees on the agenda, and that was discussed and there was broad agreement.

“With issues like radio advertising dropping drastically, the co-op was looking for other ways to create a sustainable funding model.

“In the end they chose to leave, and as far as I know it was a matter of principle. But even now they could always come back and talk to us about a way forward.

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