|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Radio|
DOUBLE JAY: THE FIRST YEAR
"The studio had been left in an
extremely disreputable condition, with many cigarette butts stubbed
into the carpet, empty beer cans, bottles and wine flagons. The stench
of sour liquor was very obvious."
- extract from an ABC internal memo
"If the Minister were dinkum he'd pick up this piece of garbage between finger and thumb and get rid of it."
- Gordon Leed, Radio 6PR Perth
"... perhaps the least loveable offspring spawned by the ABC."
lowest form of radio this country has produced"
- Bob Baeck, general manager of 3XY Melbourne
"From day one, Double J was an incredible
signifier of hope. Counter-culture at that stage in Australia had
really been unfocused, and all of a sudden we had a crucial and central
- Dan Arthur, Double Jay listener
Sydney radio station 2JJ -- Double Jay, a it was universally known -- was one of the last legacies of the progressive media policies of the Whitlam Labor government (1972-75). Double Jay's establishment at the beginning of 1975 revolutionised Sydney radio, shook up the ABC and marked the start of a new era of Australian broadcasting. The pioneering and sometimes controversial station eventually became the foundation stone of today's Triple J national FM radio network.
Before the watershed of
the Labor reforms in 1974-75, Australian radio was a closed shop
-- rigidly controlled, conservative and for the most part, frankly
often rather dull. An all-powerful government authority, the
Control Board, administered policy, set broadcast standards
and supervised content for commercial radio and TV. Under the
BCB's conservative regime, Australian had to wait until 1975 to
gain access to stereo FM radio and colour television -- technologies
that had been established for years, even decades, in other countries.
Prior to 1974 in Australia, all professional radio programs were
broadcast in mono on the AM radio band, while the FM band was used
exclusively for television broadcasts, which were also in mono.
Fine and mild ...
Until 1975 Australian radio was locked into a two-tiered system established in the 1930s. One tier was the network of local and national stations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). The other was the clique of powerful and profitable commercial radio stations. From the inception of radio in Australia, tight governmental control was conterbalanced -- and often subverted -- by the lobbying power of the commercial stations, who were keen to keep Australia bound to this two-tiered system.
This does not mean that was no pressure for chance. For years, community and ethnic groups had pressured the government to provide a third tier. They argued that:
"...the radio frequency spectrum was a natural resource that didn't alter because of national boundaries. If countries like the USA had literally thousands of stations on the AM band, why couldn't Australia? And if they had over a thousand FM stations, why couldn't we? Of course, the answer was that the only thing stopping us was the control board's restrictive planning criteria." (Westerway, 1996)
Keen to protect their lucrative oligopoly, the commercial sector lobbied hard and long against diversification. They disingenuously claimed that the AM band could not carry any more stations (it could, easily), that the FM band should be reserved solely for television broadcasts, and that Australia (unlike all other countries) should use the UHF band for FM radio. The commercial broadcasters exerted considerable influence over government policy -- an influence which only grew as radio and TV became more and more central to political debate -- and over the Broadcasting Control Board which, according to Peter Westerway, had itself been set up specifically because of pressure from commercial licensees. Thes pressures ensured that commercial radio's cosy cartel remained unchallenged until the last year of the Whitlam government.
The Sydney radio scene in
1974 was the largest and most profitable market in Australia, but it
was broadly representative of the braodcasting structure that
been in place in the capital cities since the two-tiered structure was
established in 1932. There were two ABC stations
and six commercial stations, all broadcasting in mono on the AM band.
The radio dial from bottom to top in those days was:
The Labor Innovations
The ALP's left wing had long hoped to effect a major opening-up of the media. Although it notably avoided going up against commercial TV proprietors over the thorny issue of Austrsalian content levels on TV, in its last year in power the Whitlam government managed to ram through a raft of remakable reforms that shook up Australia's moribund radio industry.
The legislative and licencing innovations introduced by the Whitlam's ministers, Doug McLelland and Dr Moss Cass, enabled Australia to finally catch up with overseas innovations like FM stereo radio and colour TV, and eventually put Australia ahead of the rest of the world in some areas. McClelland and Cass acted to open up both the FM frequency band (then only being used for TV broadcasts) and the AM band, in line with Labor's policy to promote minority and public access to the media.
The McClelland and Cass realised that the Broadcasting Control Board's complex and expensive licensing processes could have held up change for years, and with the government's hold on power rapidly slipping during 1975, Moss Cass acted to cut the Gordian knot by exploiting a loophole in the ancient (1905) Wireless Telegraphy Act and issuing temporary experimental community broadcasting licences on the FM band in each state.
"In fact, the minister's manoeuvre may well have been illegal. But it was never challenged in court and it was effective. Community radio stations were licensed in both the AM and FM bands, ranging through fine music stations (like 2MBS and 3MBS) to stations based on educational institutions (such as 5UV Adelaide and 2MCE FM Bathurst) to student stations like 4ZZZ Brisbane and an even more radical innovations like the ethnic stations, 2EA Sydney and 3EA Melbourne." (Westerway, 1996)
Labor's other vital innovation was the licensing of two new AM band stations for the ABC -- one in Sydney (2JJ) and one in Melbourne (the shortlived 3ZZ). McClelland also set up the McLean Committee to inquire into Australian broadcasting. The committee's report, tabled in early 1974, completely rejected the claims of the the commercial lobby. The government accepted its recommendations, including the finding that Australia should use the 88-108 MHz band for FM broadcasting.
After the McLean Report was handed down, Whitlam assigned members of his Priorities Review Staff to look at all aspects of the allocation of radio frequencies. They reported in August that year, endorsing McLean's main recommendation to create a new pluralistic model for the local industry, one which would create "a structure of stations varying from place to place around Australia, providing for general and sectional needs." They rejected McLean's proposal that new stations be run by the Department of the Media but enthusiastically seconded his recommendation for the establishment of a series of new publicly-funded community stations.
In September, Senator McClelland announced that Cabinet had agreed to offer the ABC two new stations, one each in Sydney and Melbourne, and this offer was quickly accepted. At the suggestion of David White of the PM's office, and Peter Martin from McClelland's office, the ABC chose to dedicate the Sydney station decided to contemporary rock and pop music, aimed it at the 18-25 age group and providing "a wide range of popular music in the rock, jazz, pop and folk fields"; the Melbourne station would be a community access station. Both stations were considered experimental and their performance was to be reviewed after 12 months.
"Same as it ever was ..."
To understand the almost revolutionary impact of Double Jay, it's important to realise just how conservative Australian radio was in the post-war years. Until 1975, there were only two ABC stations and six commercial radio stations each in Sydney and Melbourne - all on the AM band. There were even fewer in other capitals, regional centres and country towns. Incredibly, there had been no new licences issued in any Australian capital city since 1932!
After the brief heyday of the mid-60s 'beat boom', commercial pop radio had become repetitive, conservative and derivative, locked into strict programming regimes and largely dependant on trite, formulaic presentation and promotional concepts imported from the USA -- a 'tradition' which continues to this day with second-hand, second-rate ideas like "The Morning Crew".
The ABC of the late '50s and '60s was, musically speaking, quite conservative, and slow to pick up on the massive success and popularity of rock and pop music, although its broad charter and national audience made a "middle of the road" music policy more or less inevitable. But by the late 60s and early 70s things began to change as new, younger staff began to move into presentation and production. Even so, only a tiny amount of the ABC's total airtime was devoted to modern music, and the few selections aired were carefully selected so as not to offend older or more conservative listeners.
Because of the structural peculiarities, Australia also missed out on some of the important developments that affected radio and popular music in Europe and America. The Australian system was structurally somewhat freer than in the UK where the BBC completely dominated radio until the late Sixties. But Australia experienced nothing like the heady experimentalism of pirate stations like Radio Caroline, Radio Essex and Radio London or even New Zealand's Radio Hauraki . We also lacked other important influences -- the powerful European stations like Radio Luxembourg, which broadcast all over the Continent and into the UK, and the equally far-reaching broadcasts of the Armed Forces Network and Voice Of America, which introduced jazz, R&B and blues to so many European listeners.
Although Australia had a fully government-funded national public broadcasting system -- which America did not -- our relatively small population meant that we had nothing to rival the remarkable diversity of US commercial radio, where there were dozens of commercial stations in every major city, many of which were entirely devoted to specific genres like jazz, gospel and country. In addition there was a national public radio network (supported by a mix of government, corporate and listener funding) and scores of community access and college radio stations.
Another crucial influence in the development of rock & roll music in the US and Canada was the southern and mid-western stations which pumped out blues, R&B and country music, often in live broadcasts. Their enormously powerful transmitters could reach across thousands of square miles of the central USA and far into Canada, and like Voice of America did in Europe, the Midwestern stations introduced many future music stars to the music of the original country, blues, R&B and rock'n'roll artists.
Room To Move
2JJ was specifically created in response to the perceived need to provide an alternative to commercial pop/rock radio for the 18-25 age group, buy its establishment was the culmination of a gradual process in the ABC over the previous decade. Although the general trend was conservative -- especially in commercial radio -- the ABC's wide-ranging charter to "inform, educate and entertain" nevertheless enabled it to pioneer some notable programming innovations.
For conservative critics of the ABC, then and now, the eminence grise behind this broad push for reform was ABC producer Allan Ashbolt, whose 'radical' views and strident opposition to the war in Vietnam made him the 1960s equivalent of Philip Adams -- a dangerous and persuasive "lefty" whose insiduous views had supposedly won him a loyal clique among younger ABC staff members.
In 1971 the ABC launched Room To Move on Radio 1 (now Radio National). It was hosted by Chris Winter, and produced by Ron Moss, both of whom would figure prominently in the early history of Double Jay. Winter had dropped out of university and moved in to music, mixing the sound for the stage production of HAIR before joining the ABC as a presenter in 1969. Behind the scenes, musician Keith Glass (then starring in Hair) and his friend, collector and writer David "Dr Pepper" Pepperell (founders of pioneering Melbourne import shop Archie & Jughead's) played an important role in the show's early stages, advising Moss and Winter on material.
Named after a John Mayall track, the show drew on programming ideas from UK pirate radio, American AOR ("album oriented rock") FM stations, college radio, and John Peel's famous BBC radio show The Perfumed Garden. Room To Move played the latest alternative and progressive music from Australia and overseas -- tracks which almost never got an airing on the commercials. It favoured album tracks rather than singles and played entire sides from new LPs like as Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, and Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick, which were specifically designed to be heard as a single piece, and which were usually only heard on commercial radio in drastically edited form, if at all.
The rationale behind the show was obvious: developments in music overseas were simply not being reflected in the playlists of the commercial stations. By the time Room To Move was on the air, Australian pop (commercial) radio had undergone some significant changes. For half of 1970, From May to November, the commercial sector was locked in a bitter dispute with record companies -- the co-called 1970 Radio Ban. The Ban -- whose legality wouldthese days be questionable at best -- was in fact an industry-level 'trade embargo' imposed on commercial radio by a group of major record companies.
Following the enactment of the Copyright Act 1968 and the subsequent formation of a new peak body for the record industry, the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA), a group of five major labels -- Warner, EMI, CBS, RCA and Festival -- scrapped longstanding agreements with commercial radio over the supply of promotional recordings. They then demanded that a new royalty should paid on any of their recordings played on air, arguing that this was only fair because they were providing radio stations with all their music programming for free.
Commercial radio not surprisingly balked at this outrageous demand, arguing that they were providing the record companies with massive amounts of free promotion and publicity and that a new royalty was therefore grossly unfair. The arguments dragged on over months, but in May 1970 talks broke down, so the record companies imposed a ban on the supply of promo records.
Shows like Room To Move highlighted the increasingly parlous state of Australian commercial rock programming in the early '70s. There was a variety of factors involved, but the net result was that in the late '60s and early '70s Australian radio was one of the dullest listens in the western media.
From 1970 there was a radical reworking of commerical programming and presentations styles, with the trend moving rapidly towards a narrow focus on ratings, highly structured and aggressively marketed programming styles, and playlists aimed squarely at affluent young Australians, especially teenage girls. Commercial playlists were controlled with almost mechanical precision, compiled according to American-devised market research methods which tended to reinforce repetition and familiarity at the expense of novelty and diversity. Commercial radio music playlists rarely exceeded 4-50 songs -- during its heyday in the early Seventies, the prime-time playlist on Sydney's 2SM reputedly had twenty songs or less, and at peak times there were as few as 10-15 songs on high rotation.
Programmers began to rely more and more on targeted audience polls and 'focus groups', although the inherent biases in these methods of audience 'research' made the surveys more or less a self-fulfilling prophecy. Material which fell outside the arbitrary rules devised by programmers rarely made the cut, and such recordings were typically relegated to late-night 'graveyard' shifts or at weekends, if they were played at all.
Singles were almost universally the format of choice, and the trend persisted here long after album-oriented programming had become a major feature of radio in the UK and the USA -- a trend reinforced by the long delay in the arrival of FM radio, which had already had a major imapct on American radio industry. Consequently, many tracks which became hits overseas were almost never heard here, and anything exceeeding the standard 3-minute duration was generally binned -- although admittedly there were occasional exceptions like The Beatles'"HeyJude", Russell Morris' "The Real Thing", T-Rex's "Hot Love" and Led Zeppeplin's "Kashmir".
There was some leeway for presenters' personal choices, but nothing like the freedom formerly enjoyed by presenters like Rofe and Austin. In general any music deemed "non-commercial" was simply not played, and this meant that over the years many important musical genres were ignored. It also must be said that there was a degree of racism involved and often this was quite overt -- radio historian Wayne Mac has recounted the anecdote of the unfortunate Melbourne DJ who premiered "River Deep, Mountain High" on the air, only to have the program manager rip the single off the turntable at the end of the song, accompanied by a stern admonition to to "never play that nigger shit on my station again".
Prominent casualties of this covert racial band included many leaders of the emerging black music styles of the 60s and 70s, like urban blues, soul, R&B, funk and reggae. Artists like Hendrix, James Brown, Stax, Atlantic, etc, were rarely played. Reggae was another classic example -- although it had become a major force in the UK by 1975, thanks to the huge success of Bob Marley, and exerted a crucial infuence on punk and New Wave, it had no impact whatsoever in Australia until the establishment of Double Jay. Other non-commercial styles like the progressive rock of the early '70s were just as much ignored -- and this regrettably applied to many top-line Australian acts like Company Caine and Spectrum.
Another restricting factor was the cosy relationship between commercial stations and the large overseas-owned record labels. The payola scandals of the '50s did not end the corruption; it merely became subtler. It was all too easy for record companies to influence programmers, and as a result, Australian radio tended to slavishly followed overseas trends, often ignoring the wealth of local talent at their disposal. This problem was tacitly encouraged by the toothless local content regulations, a fault not properly addressed until the advent of the Whitlam government.
Censorship was another area of serious concern. In all areas of the media, the so-called "censorship wars" had been raging through the 1960s and into the early '70s. Notable skirmishes included the now-legendary court cases to suppress Oz magazine, both here and in the UK, the battles over banned books like Philip Roth's novel Portnoy's Complaint, the Swedish film I Am Curious Yellow, the musical The Boys In The Band, and Alex Buzo's stage play Norm and Ahmed.
Needless to say, pop music did not escape the censors' notice. Any lyrical content construed as advocating drug use would be instantly banned; this fate befell The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" in the US following a review in an industry programming guide which alleged that song contained drug references -- an assertion the band themselvs still hotly refute.
Lines which would pass totally unnoticed today were often classified as obscene. Expressions as coy as "making love" could result in the song being bleeped, or having the sound briefly "dropped out" if it was lucky enough to get to air. Blatant sex or drug references, "bad" language or blasphemy would result in an instant ban -- The Bentbeaks' 1967 single Caught Red Handed was banned by Melbourne radio for alleged obscenity, presumably because programmer thought (rightly or wrngly) that it was about masturbation. The Easybeats' "Heaven and Hell" fell foul of US censors in 1968 because of the line "discovering someone else in your bed" and in 1969 even Flying Circus' seemingly harmless debut single "Hayride" was threatened with a similar ban when it was released in New Zealand because of the line "making love in the hay".
One of the worst culprits in radio was Sydney's 2SM, whose majority shareholder was the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. Throughout the '60s and well into '70s the church's rigid censorship of the the playlist resulted in many famous songs being heavily censored or banned outright. Famous vicitms included The Beatles' Ballad of John & Yoko (at first banned, later bleeped because of its use of the word "Christ" in the chorus), Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side" (banned for the reference to "giving head") and even The Hollies' "Too Young To Be Married" (banned for its theme of premarital sex).
Probably the most important difference between commercial radio and Double Jay was who paid for it. When the Whitlam government came to power in December 1972 one of its first actions was to abolish TV and radio licence fees, which had previously formed a significant portion of the ABC's budget, and the national broadcaster switched to a system of direct budget allocation. This was obviously a popular move at the time, although it became apparent in the post-Whitlam era that with the removal of this independent funding source, the ABC became reliant on the good graces of the incumbent government.
As a special unit of the ABC, 2JJ was commercial free, and therefore no requirement to answer to or appease sponsors and advertisers. For commercial stations, ratings were the "prime directive", and the sole indicator of success. Ratings gave advertisers a gauge (however accurate, or not) of how many people were listening to the station at any given time, providing benchmark by which they could set their advertising rates. This advertising income was of course what kept the stations on air, and for a successful station it could be (to borrow the old newspaper phrase) a "river of gold". The reliance on finding the winning formula to attract listeners led to a situation that stifled choice, and where significant trends in local and overseas music were never heard on Australian radio.
"The Head Of The Dial"
Against this background in late 1974 the ABC launched its bold radio experiment : to establish Australia's first non-commercial 24-hour radio station devoted to entirely to rock music. It was set up as an autonomous experimental project, under the control of the ABC's Contemporary Radio Unit, which had overseen earlier programs like Room To Move. It was to be largely independent, and run by two staff-elected coordinators, an organisational model that influenced the development of The Coming Out Show.
The first station coordinators were Marius Webb and Ron Moss. They were given the job after a meeting with ABC management in September 1974, during which it was explained that the ABC had been given two licences, one of which was for a "youth-style station", and that the Sydney station was to be up and running within three months. Webb recalls an ABC executive saying: "You'll be on the air by January. Thank you very much, I've got another meeting."
Towards the end of the year, the first recruitment notices
appeared in papers, stressing that a sense of the ridiculous was
required. Producer Ted Robinson says: "There was a bit of concern about
breaking down what was considered to be 'an announcer' in terms of
finding ways other than the traditional approach." Staff were chosen
from across the country, with Webb and Moss ensuring a good mix of ABC
and commercial people.
The budget for Double Jay's first year was just under $800,000,-- $500,000 on salaries for the thirty-strong staff and the rest on running expenses. Double Jay has traditionally been portrayed as starved of resources and funding, which was true to an extent -- staff certainly had to scrounge equiment and the station had to make do for many years with what had been built as emergency studios and 2BL's emergency (AM band) transmitter, which had a limited range and specific transmission "blind spots in many areas of Sydney, especially the North Shore ans the Eastern Suburbs. However ABC historian Kenneth Inglis asserts that Double Jay represented a considerable investment in terms of the ABC's finances, especially when compared to the budget for the TV pop show Countdown, which was only a fraction of Double Jay's funding -- remarkably, Countdown subsisted on a mere $5000 per week, about 1/3 of Double Jay's weekly budget.
The new station was given premises in the basement of the ABC building at 171 William St, a former WWII bomb shelter that had been converted into emergency studios. It was close to the ABC's Studio 221, a former church hall often used for live drama, which was located just up the stairs in neighbouring Clapton Place. Double Jay quickly took the space over for its innovative weekly live concert broadcasts, and it also rescued the ABC Radio outside broadcast van (which was about to be scrapped) and was soon using it to make live recordings at venues and outdoor concerts all over Sydney.
The first station coordinators were Marius Webb and Ron Moss. Webb, a former member of ABC Special Projects under Allan Ashbolt, had worked mainly on talk programs. Moss had been the producer of Room To Move and Rock On Sunday. The new team took on the task of providing a desperately-needed alternative to the Top 40 programming which dominated the commercial pop stations.
Itn setting up the station, Winter, Moss and the Double Jay team took their lead from Room To Move, and from overseas radio innovations like the new American album-oriented rock format, pirate radio and the BBC's John Peel. Although they were expected to get ratings in their target 18-25 age group, Double Jay deliberately pursued a very eclectic programming policy. In an interview with Margaret McIntyre of the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, published on Double Jay's first day day of broadcasting, Webb and Moss were outspoken in their views on the restrictive nature of commercial pop radio, and displayed a certain amount of glee in proclaiming Double Jay's freedom from this perceived 'tyranny':
Marius Webb: "... one of the troubles with commercial radio is that the most creative thing about it is the advertising. There are so many really creative people, writers, producers, musicians, tied up with the advertising side that they work for the advertisers, not the audience. Commercial radio is selling and packaging a product. They are delivering unfortunately, with a minimal amount of entertainment, an audience to an advertiser who wants to sell something."
"One of the most exciting aspects of 2JJ is the respect it has for its audience. It sees them as people whose musical tastes have been ignored by commercial radio - people who will choose to listen to good and varied music rather than 40 or so recycled throughout the day."
"Commercial radio at the moment is like a spectator sport. It is totally non-involving. It really doesn't even need to be listened to. We want to provide creative radio that involves the listeners as much as people. People should feel that 2JJ is their station."
Ron Moss: "We really want to style the station on the values of its audience. As a result of this attitude, 2JJ's musical policy is far bolder than that of its commercial counterparts.. Under the category of rock they include folk, blues, Jamaican blues (Reggae), soul and jazz. We aim to reflect the tastes of our audience and to do that we have to remain flexible."
"For instance last year when Stephane Grapelli was in Australia I was amazed by the number of young people who attended his concerts. In such a case we have to change our programming accordingly. Obviously there is a market for it so we will program it. In this we are luckier than our competitors."
"They are continually going for the greatest audience potential which in practice usually means they aim at the lowest common demoninator. We don't mind if at certain times we have low audiences What we are after is an overall large audience but at times we can afford to cater to minority musical tastes as well."
- Sydney Sunday Telegraph, 19 January 1975, p.73
"And we're away!"
With its new call sign, 2JJ, and its frequency set at 1540 kHz on the AM band, Double Jay began broadcasting from the William St basement studios began at 11am on Sunday 19 January 1975. Media and public interest was high, and it was fanned by clever strategic marketing, such as the "Head of the Dial" posters, badges and stickers. In the days leading up to the opening, Double Jay teased listeners -- and simultaneously tested transmission -- by playing continuous actuality field recordings of the sounds of Sydney's streets.Another strategic move was the scheduling of the first broadcast -- it took place on a Sunday morning, right in the middle of the December-January school/university holidays, ensuring high exposure in their target 18-25 audience bracket
With its first song, Double Jay boldly proclaimed its rebellious stance. After a pre-recorded introduction, which climaxed with the audio recording of the launch of Apollo 11, the station began its first shift, with Holger Brockmann proclaiming "Wow! And we're off!", as he cross-faded into the first music track. It was an inspired choice, and one which immediately passed into legend. The song selected as the first to be played on-air was Skyhooks' "(You Just Like Me 'Cos I'm) Good in Bed", the opening track from their landmark LP Living In The Seventies. Programming this song as the first track on the first day of broadcast - and on the Sabbath, no less -- caused an uproar, a fact which no doubt delighted the mischievous wowser-baiters at Double Jay.
The choice of band and track also carried clear political messages about Double Jay's attitude and intentions. Skyhooks was a new Australian band from Melbourne who had recently signed to an Australian independent label, Mushroom. Skyhooks had become a major pop phenomenon, but their songs were also being praised by critics for their acerbic lyric style and their novel use of Australian names and locales ("Carlton", "Balwyn Calling"). Their controversial debut LP (produced by former Daddy Cool leader Ross Wilson) had been released a few months earlier and it had already produced a national #1 hit ("Horror Movie") and was well on the way to becoming the most successful Australian album ever released up to that time.
Most significantly, six of the ten tracks on Living In The Seventies -- including "Good in Bed" -- had been banned by commercial radio because of sexual and drug references. Double Jay's blatant flouting of commercial radio's "gentleman's agreement" on censorship was seen as a deliberate act of provocation, made all the more rankling because Double Jay was not subject to the Broadcasting Control Board's regulations and was directly answerable only to the ABC Board.
(The choice of the often-forgotten second track was also significant. It was The Rolling Stones "Sympathy For The Devil", the opening track from their 1968 LP Beggar's Banquet -- an album track that ran for over six minutes. According to Chris Winter, it was chosen because it had never been played on Australian commerical radio, despite the fact that the LP was by then over five years old.)
Another clear signal of Double Jay's alternative direction was its choice of on-air personnel. Although it might seem a minor issue today, Double Jay's on-air roster signalled a major step forward in breaking down some of the long-standing hypocrisies and prejudices in Australian radio. This attitude was signalled from the outset -- the first DJ on air on 19 January was Holger Brockman, a former 2SM presenter, who had previously been obliged to use the pseudonym Bill Drake -- a requirement presumably based on the assumption by 2SM management that non-Anglo-Saxon names would somehow frighten, offend or confuse "Australian" audiences. The choice of the name "Bill Drake" had another significance for commercial radio professionals -- the 'real' Bill Drake was the American co-founder of the famous programming consultancy Drake-Chenault, originators of the "More Music" format, which was the basis for Rod Muir's Digamae operation.
Double Jay's original on-air team was chosen from across the country, with Webb and Moss ensuring a mix of staff from the ABC and commercial radio. Graeme Berry had previously worked with 5KA Adelaide and 3XY Melbourne, and was a pioneer of the "album show" format on commercial radio; Holger Brockmann and South African-born George "Groover" Wayne were former 2SM "Good Guys"; Mike Parker was from a commercial stations in Perth, Alan McGirvan from Newcastle's 2HD. Gayle Austin was the co-ordinator of the talkback callers for John Laws at 2UW. The ABC contingent included Ron Moss, Marius Webb and Room To Move's Chris Winter.
Other notable DJs came on board over the succeeding months -- folk singer and songwriter Bob Hudson (whose 1975 hit "The Newcastle Song" was one of the few recordings not played on Double Jay), Hudson's fellow Novocastrian and singer-songwriter John J. Francis, who held down the dogwatch shift for most of the next ten years. Other presenters included Tom Zelinka, Lawrie Zion, and the station's second female DJ, Keri Phillips (now a producer with Radio National, married to former Double Jay news reporter Mark Colvin),
Gender equity was another major breakthrough. Although somewhat more common now, Double Jay was, amazingly enough, the first Australian pop station (and one of the first in the world) to employ a female announcer. In this case the line honours went to Gayle Austin, a former producer for rising talkback king John Laws and Catholic radio priest Father Jim McLaren. She had "hit the glass ceiling" at 2UW and applied for the Double Jay job after hearing about it from a colleague. Although there were still barriers to be broken (Austin was initially relegated to late-night timeslots) it was an important step forward. Even so, Austin' appointment rankled with some listeners, as she recalled in her SMH article in 2005:
"I was given one midnight-to-dawn shift a week, a move so radical that I was the cause of much negative comment after our first survey of listeners. 'Why do you have a woman on air? What do women know about music?' "
The station's programming policy strongly favoured local artists; from the outset Double Jay had the highest Australian content of any station in the county, and live music broadcasts of performances by local bands quickly became an staple of their programming. Original comedy was another a major component, including contributions from the Aunty Jack team ("Nude Radio"); the team of Gary Reilly and Tony Sattler wrote the sketch comedy " (later transferred to Radio 1) and the parody sci-fi serial Chuck Chunder Of The Space Patrol, as well as numerous fake ads. There was also a string of soap opera parodies, penned under the pseudonym 'Fiona Wintergreen' -- "Jealous Throbs The Heart", "Throb Forward Cruel Heart", "Damned Is My Desire", "Rapture Be My Witness", and (a few years later ) the Brideshead spoof Brunswick Heads Revisited.
If the opening day raised eyebrows, conservative fears of moral decay were soon realised in spectacular fashion. On 23 February, Double Jay broadcast the ground-breaking audio-verité series The Ins and Outs Of Love, made by former 2SM producers Carl Tyson-Hall and Tony Poulsen, which presented frank first-hand accounts of young people's first sexual experiences. The program was prefaced by an uneqivocal warning, stating clearly that the show's content might offend and that anyone likely to be offended should tune out, but needless to say, it provoked a torrent of complaints and was even mentioned in federal Parliament. Media commentator Clement Semmler was one who was appalled by the show's "disgustingly explicit accounts of the sexual behaviour of young teenagers". The controversy led to the series being reviewed by the ABC Board in April and they issued a mild reprimand. According to Kenneth Inglis, the series was also
"...the subject of a delicate exchange between the Chairman of the Control Board and [ABC Chair] Downing over the Board's difficulty in enforcing on commercial stations standards not accepted by the ABC, and the Commission's right to ignore the Board's views if it chose."
Throughout its AM years, Double Jay was dogged by reception problems, although its transmitter location also had some unexpected benefits. Double Jay used the relatively low-powered 2BL emergency transmitter, mounted on the ABC tower at Gore Hill. Reception around town was patchy at best; it was best in the western and southern suburbs, and worst in the eastern and inner northern suburbs. But under the right conditions the carrying power of the AM signal was considerable, since AM signals could bounce off the ionosphere at night and travel much further than FM. This meant that Double Jay could be picked up from a significant distance away and it soon had regular nightly listeners west to the Blue Mountains, up and down the coast to Newcastle and Wollongong.
Despite the reception problems, the station made an immediate impact. As early as July, ratings surveys indicated that it had already gained almost 6 percent of the total audience. Best of all -- for Double Jay -- the ratings showed that 22 percent of its target audience in the 18-25 age group were regular listeners, making it the second highest rating rock station in Sydney -- much to the chagrin of 2SM.
References / Links
Thanks to Ian Blackley for additional information.
"Off The Dial"
Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Jan. 2005
'JJJ: radical radio?'
from Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture; Vol. 6 No 1, 1992
Elder and David
Radio With Pictures!: The History of Double Jay AM and JJJ-FM (Hale & Ironmonger, 1984)
This Is The ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission 1932-83 ( Melbourne University Press, 1983)
"Radio On: Music In The Air"
from The Australian Music Directory 1981-82; Peter Beilby & Michael Roberts (eds) (Australian Music Directory, 1981)
At the Cutting Edge - 24 Years of Community Broadcasting
Paper delivered at the CBAA Virtual Conference , 1996