Over the past several months the changing format of International Community Radio (ICRT) has had many in the expat community, for whom the station was initially created to serve, up in arms.
It all began late last year when the station altered its popular, predominantly English-language format (which offered up-to-the-minute English-language news, community information and interviews with expats) into that of a mainstream radio station geared towards music rather than chat.
A wide range of opinions in regards the format have been expressed in letters published in the Taipei Times, on the popular expat community website forumosa.com as well as on ICRT's own internet message board. The changing face of ICRT, it appears, has touched a nerve with many in the expat community.
While the debate over ICRT rages on in print, in smoky bars and in Internet chat-rooms, one Taichung-based member of the expat community has decided that enough is enough. And at the beginning of the year US national and long-term Taiwan resident Eric Lier decided to establish his own Web-based expat community oriented radio station.
Naming it simply Expat Radio Taiwan, Lier began broadcasting three-hour-long segments of music on a rotational basis in late January via Live365 -- a Web-based radio network that for a minimal monthly fee allows private users to broadcast at 64kps using MP3 format.
"The reason I decided to set it up was because of the state of ICRT. I want to give [expats] the chance to express themselves," said Lier. "There's never been a solely community-based radio station in Taiwan, and I believe that there is a niche market and such a venture can fill this void."
The station is "still a work in progress," but on Feb. 14 Lier lengthened the time slots to 12-hour rotations, and in the coming weeks hopes to incorporate chat shows, community news and interviews into the programming schedule.
Technical difficulties curtailed his plans to begin broadcasting chat earlier this week; but by the weekend these problems will, according to the novice radio station mogul, be ironed out, and talk and news radio will be on air early next week.
"There were a few software problems. Live365's software didn't recognize non-musical content and some filters had to be removed," he said. "By this time next week we will have fully functional community radio that mixes music with chat."
Lier may have rectified his technical difficulties, but he's far from home free. The biggest problem he now faces is that of finding people willing to go on air. To date he has received MP3 recordings from six people scattered throughout Taiwan, but is hoping to build up a large enough library of material to enable him to broadcast fresh programs 24 hours a day.
"Support for what I'm doing has been overwhelming, but I still need a lot more warm bodies and people to send me music or talk radio-like recordings to air," said Lier. "Most of the material I've gotten so far has come from friends. Obviously our final goal is to air the opinions, views and music which has been compiled by [a diverse] segment of the expat community."
Although fully supportive of Lier and his project, long-serving ICRT DJ Rick Monday can foresee Expat Radio running into difficulties in regards to its ability to reach out to large segments of the expat community it has been designed for.