An event in Christchurch has kick-started the celebration of nation-wide access radio celebration campaign, The Big Listen.

The month-long Big Listen initiative is aiming to grow the reach of access radio listeners and get the community involved by creating their own programmes.

Plains FM 96.9 is Christchurch's local station broadcasting programmes including an alcoholics anonymous segment, a Russian radio show and jazz music sessions.

The Big Listen national co-ordinator Lucy Cooper said Plains FM is a hidden jewel and residents should get involved with the community station.


"I would encourage everyone to walk past or walk in and see what they do and take part. There's lots of on-air oppourtunities," Ms Cooper said.

Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams launched the event yesterday and talked about the importance of access radio locally.

"An important role of access radio was vividly demonstrated in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes. Our host, Plains FM, was the first local radio station up and running after the September earthquake," Ms Adams said.

The 12 community access radio stations from Invercargill to Auckland, supported by NZ On Air, currently provide about 480 individual programmes in around 40 different languages.

Topics on access radio range from refugee and migrant stories, ethnic language programmes, mental health support, niche music, life with disabilities, current affairs and gender issues.

"The strength of access radio is that ideas have no limits. Without the same constraints as commercial broadcasting, access radio programme makers can make content that meets community needs and serve small but important niches. It is an especially powerful way of connecting ethnic communities and preserving languages," NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said.

Plains FM is having an open day on Tuesday August 16, 3pm-7pm.