April 18, 2010

Melbourne: 3MP

This blog has been lying dormant for a while… so let’s give it a kick-start on what is a significant day for one Melbourne radio station.

At 12.00pm today, 18 April 2010, radio station 3MP ceased to exist as we have known it.  The station, presenting an Easy Listening format since 1986, has struggled in the ratings competition for the last several years.  3MP’s owners, Pacific Star Network, have now set up a joint venture with Sydney radio broadcaster Macquarie Radio Network (owner of 2CH and top-rating 2GB) to operate a talk-back station on 3MP’s frequency, 1377 kHz, mixing a local talkback format with networked programming from 2GB.

1377 MTR – Melbourne Talk Radio – launches at 6.00am tomorrow morning with Steve Price (ex-3AW and ex-2UE), followed by Steve Vizard, Chris Smith (via 2GB), Martin King (A Current Affair), Ross Greenwood (via 2GB) and Luke Grant (ex-2HD).

The original 3MP was launched in July 1976.  It was the first new commercial radio station in Melbourne since 3XY first appeared in 1935.  The station’s original broadcast frequency was 1380 kHz, shifting slightly to 1377 kHz with the re-alignment of the AM radio band in 1978.


Based in Frankston on the Mornington Peninsula (hence the call-sign “MP”), 3MP traditionally had an emphasis on the southern suburbs and bayside communities and presented a rock music format that was a little softer than 3XY which was not far up the dial on 1420 kHz.

By about 1984, 3MP had mellowed somewhat, settling into a hits-and-memories playlist and the slogan ‘The Way You Are Today’.


When rival station 3AK shocked its listeners by abandoning its long-running, and popular, Beautiful Music format on 1 January 1986, 3MP quickly responded.  The station was to relaunch itself as Easy Listening and spent the next two weeks re-working its music library, recording promos, hiring announcers and updating its logo and publicity material.  Easy Listening 3MP launched by mid-January 1986.

The effect of the radical change in formats between 3AK and 3MP saw both stations literally swap positions in the ratings ladder.  When the first radio ratings survey of 1986 was released, 3MP leapt up from a low 4.5 per cent to a very competitive 10.0 per cent of the Melbourne audience.  3AK in the same period fell from 10.4 to 3.4 per cent.

3MP continued to rate at the top end of the ladder for several years, but it started to come undone in the mid-1990s.  The station had bought rival radio station 3EE – 693 kHz – as the laws had now allowed one owner to have two stations in a single market.  3MP initially turned over 693 kHz to a straight relay of 1377 kHz to strengthen its audience reach across Melbourne, as 1377 was clearer only in the southern, eastern and bayside suburbs.  The broadcasting authority ruled that 3MP was not allowed to broadcast the same program on both frequencies and would have to set up a new format on 693.  3MP then responded with a new station – Magic 693 – broadcasting a big-band and old-time classics playlist from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.  Magic became a hit with listeners and gradually starting taking numbers away from 3MP. 

Then 3MP and Magic 693 were sold to Southern Cross Broadcasting which also owned radio stations 3AW and 3AK.  Southern Cross decided to keep 3AW and Magic and sell off the lower-rating stations, 3MP and 3AK.  3MP’s decline continued when Magic then broadened its playlist to a wider playlist, and so 1377 became less of a match for 693.

3MP was sold to Goulburn Valley Broadcasters and then to Data and Commerce Limited (now Pacific Star Network).

The first song played on 3MP back in July 1976 was Howzat! by Sherbet – it was also the last song played on 3MP before handing over to MTR 1377.

Website: Melbourne Talk Radio