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THE HISTORY OF COMMUNITY RADIO IN ALBURY-WODONGA

In 1977 a feasibility study on the establishment of a Public Broadcasting Radio Station in Albury-Wodonga was carried out. At this time there were about eighteen (18) low powered aspirant community broadcasting stations transmitting programs in adjacent areas throughout Australia.

Many early licences were issued to colleges and universities, but our venture was different in as much it involved a group of ordinary citizens elected as individuals and not representatives of their employment organisations. The concept behind community radio was a desire from ordinary people to express themselves to other members of the community at large, including ethnic groups. It was necessary for us to make a case stressing the inadequacies of communication between individuals & groups. The existing media at the time included a local newspaper, two (2) radio stations (one commercial & one government funded), and 2 television stations (again one commercial station & one government funded) and some fringe area reception from Wagga, Wangaratta & Shepparton. It was necessary for us to offer alternative programming with a strong emphasis on community & ethnic groups.

It was almost impossible to estimate the ‘set-up’ costs for the venture, but it was estimated not to be less than $27,000. This money was eventually raised through various sources such as government grants, donations & fundraisers.

The steering committee of the day eventually purchased & installed the necessary technical equipment to carry out a series of broadcasts in an old house at Ettamogah owned by the Albury Wodonga Development Corporation. This was to be our headquarters for the next few years.

By this time a Co-operative was formed, ie, Community Radio Albury Wodonga. The Co-operative was eventually granted a “C” class broadcasting licence enabling our first full time transmission to go to air in April 1980. All staff were volunteers, including technicians.

The call sign ‘2REM’, representing Radio Ettamogah, was officially designated 107.9 MHz was allocated.

Information to hand suggests that Community Radio Albury Wodonga was one of the first stations in Australia to be issued with this new type of broadcast licence and made its first broadcast on April 4th, 1980 with David Orames, one of the technicians, presenting the first program as far as anyone can remember from those dim, dark days..

The farmhouse, with all all its inconveniences, served its purpose until 1984 when the station moved to Borella Rd, Albury, one of its three moves to the present day.

In June, 1988, 319 Wagga Rd, Lavington, became headquarters for the station and the National Racing Service was introduced for five days a week by salesman-cum-presenter, John Duncombe, to help finances. This proved so successful that the program is still running.

In 1989-90 the FM frequency was changed to accomodate UHF television and other FM radio stations so 107.9 MHz became 107.3 MHz, causing the inconvenience of changing promotional material such as stickers, banners, etc to incorporate the new frequency.

On August 18th, 1990, an incident occurred at the station which we would rather forget, but it publicised the station nationally. One of the presenters, Neville (Ned) Crowther, was shot and killed in the grounds of the station when he arrived to present his late night show. The police investigation was intensive and approximately twelve months later charges were laid and a conviction resulted.

Christmas 1992 saw the station in new premises in Garland Ave, North Albury, just opposite the Albury Racecourse. Here in March 1993 satelite broadcasts were introduced via the BBC World Service. Later ComRadSat broadcasts were also introduced.

Various fundraisers have occurred over the years not least Radiothons, which have raised enough money to help with the running costs and equipment to keep the station on air. These radiothons run all weekend with on-air auctions and a lot of fun.

The on-air call sign was changed in 1998 to 107.3fm as most FM stations are identified by numbers instead of names these days.

With volunteers presenting programs as varied as Country, Rock`n’Roll, Jazz and Blues, 2REM-FM still presents to the public the alternative sound they wish to hear.

Some of the volunteers have been here from the start – Keith Melbourne to name one. A few others have left and returned later.

Twenty-nine years have lapsed since that time when 2REM-FM muddled its way through programs & up until the present I am proud to say the station during that time has performed a community broadcast service covering a multitude of alternative programming not available from commercial or ABC stations.

The station is now on air twenty four hours a day and we are proud to say that we have never lost sight of our obligations to the community and our objectives in “Our Promise of Performance”.

With the year 2009 almost over serious consideration must be given to the avenues open to us for the future and to act upon any ideas as to assure our future and the best possible ways to implement these ideas.

One particular aspect under considerable examination and discussion has been the renting of premises, which we have been doing since 1980, during which time we have found it necessary to change location three (3) times.

Also the year 2010 brings with it our 30th anniversary of broadcasting and with that some celebrations yet to be arranged.