It culminated in an on-air bust-up, the sacking of its high-profile breakfast presenter and the resignation of 16 volunteers.
The community radio station had been designed to give residents of Bute some home-grown entertainment and a sounding board for the issues that affected them the most.
However, a year after it hit the airwaves from a studio in Rothesay, it is Bute FM itself that has become the talk of the town.
Matters came to a head when co-director and popular morning show presenter Michael Blair, 66, was abruptly sacked from his show by station manager and co-director Iain Donald, 30. His departure last month prompted a torrent of complaints from listeners and triggered a wave of resignations among the volunteers who manned the station seven days a week.
Concerns were raised by them that it was too autocratic, with no genuine community involvement in its running and management. The result has been a bitter feud among some on the island, with those at war living just doors away from each other in Rothesay.
“People thought the station was a very good thing for Bute. But it has gone from good, to bad, to very, very ugly,” said Billy Adey, 51, who resigned from his rock music show Big Man Billy last week.
A key flashpoint in the Bute FM controversy was the broadcast of a studio row between Angela Haggerty, 24, who ran the station’s Have Your Say show, and two other volunteers, who are still with the station.
Ms Haggerty claims she was told not to discuss the listener comments that were rolling in about the abrupt departure of Mr Blair, a former reporter on the local newspaper whose family have lived on the island for four generations.
The dispute resulted in Ms Haggerty leaving the studio after the text phone was grabbed out of her hand and music was played over her broadcast, she claims.
Ms Haggerty said: “You can’t ignore the dozens of people who are phoning in wanting to talk about one issue – and that was the sacking of Mike.
“One of the volunteers was trying to grab the text phone off me and I had to ask this person to leave me alone. All of this could be heard on air. For a community radio station to tell listeners that they can’t have their say on a show called Have Your Say is just incredible.
“The objective of the show was to give the best voice I could to the community, but at the end of the day the community is being ignored. I think we are all a little bit lost.”
Ms Haggerty was asked to sign a voluntary agreement to guarantee she would apologise on-air for the broadcast and not discuss changes in personnel. She chose to resign from her show.
Mr Blair said he was left humiliated by his exit from the station he helped to establish.
He said: “A lot of people were becoming concerned that the commitments given to Ofcom about the community station were not being met. There were concerns that the station was not quite getting it right and people were wondering what was going to be done about it.
“I think the station manager started to believe people were plotting against him, and that really was not the case.
“For myself, for my fellow volunteers who have resigned and for the listeners, it is extremely sad.
“The one thing that has kept me going is that I have had hundreds of people, who don’t know me personally, who have been stopping me in the street and sending me cards in support. The sad thing is that about 75% of them said they no longer listen to Bute FM.
Bute FM is financed by a mixture of donations and advertising revenue and was given a community broadcast licence from Ofcom following an application by Mr Donald, who receives a salary as station manager.
Concerns had been reported last month to Mr Donald that no steering group had been put in place and no public annual general meeting held. No members of the company had been appointed.
Mr Donald said last night he was disappointed that the volunteers had left the station, but declined to comment on why Mr Blair was told to leave.
He added: “I am disappointed that the volunteers have left – that is never a good thing in a voluntary organisation.
“As with any new organisation there is room for improvement, and we will have to learn from what has happened in the past year.”
Radio station in tune with Bute residents
- Bute FM broadcasts a diet of news, travel information and music to the island’s 7000 residents with a number of popular phone-in shows.
- While the small station is unable to track its listening figures, it has been estimated that an average of 1000 people tune in every day.
- The station was set up by Iain Donald, 30, a former music student and lifelong Bute resident, to explore his interest in broadcasting. Michael Blair, a retired reporter, is the other director of the company.
- After being given a community broadcaster licence and a £14,500 grant from Ofcom, the station went live on July 15, 2009. The first song to be played was I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, by Richard and Linda Thompson.