June 26, 2010

Darwin: 8DN

Darwin, Australia’s smallest capital city, received its first radio station, ABC’s 5DR (later 8DR and now 8DDD), in 1947. 

The first commercial station was 8DN, launched in 1960.  8DN  was Darwin’s only commercial radio station for over 30 years and the launch of the city’s second commercial station, FM station 8HOT in 1991, essentially led to 8DN becoming one of the few radio stations in Australia to simply cease operation.


Above: 8DN in 1989

The licensee of 8HOT, Northern Territory FM (NTFM), had taken a financial interest in 8DN prior to 8HOT commencing transmission.  This was deemed a breach of broadcasting laws that stated that no one operator shall own two radio stations in the same license area.  NTFM pledged to sell its interest in 8DN prior to 8HOT commencing broadcast, however the sale was refused by the broadcasting authority as the potential buyer of 8DN, Territory Broadcasters, was buying 8DN with an interest-free loan from NTFM, essentially continuing to give NTFM undue influence over two stations.

8DN therefore had its licence cancelled and the station ceased to broadcast from 1992. 

Ironically, it was not long after 8DN’s closure that the broadcasting rules were changed to allow a licensee to operate two radio stations in one market.

8DN’s broadcast frequency, 1242 kHz, is now used as a relay station for Queensland-based racing station Radio TAB.

June 19, 2010

Melbourne: 3TT, 3TTT

3TT made its debut at 5.00am on Easter Saturday, 2 April 1988 as the new call-sign for the station previously known as 3DB.  The name and format change followed the sale of the 3DB licence to the Albert family, whose radio network was the predecessor to the present-day Australian Radio Network.  The origin of the call-sign is not known, though it may possibly have reflected the station’s broadcast frequency – ‘Ten 26’ – 1026 kHz. 


3TT was programmed as a ‘Classic Hits’ format, featuring hits of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, as a rival to the popular 3KZ which had broadcast a ‘Hits and Memories’ format successfully for several years.  The first song played on 3TT was Listen To The Music by the Doobie Brothers – their initials, DB, providing a link to the station’s predecessor.

In 1989 the Federal Government invited bids from commercial AM radio stations for the right to convert to the FM band – with two conversion licences available in Melbourne.  3KZ gained the first licence after a record $32 million bid while, in a surprising move, low-rated station 3AK presented the second highest bid of $22 million.  3TT missed out on a conversion licence with its third-placed bid of $11 million but the station got a lucky break when 3AK defaulted on its payment – leaving 3TT the right to convert to the FM band at a third of the price of its main rival, 3KZ.

3TT made the move to the FM band at 12.00am on Sunday, 24 June 1990 (almost twenty years ago to the day).  The last song played on 3TT before midnight was the same as the first song played in April 1988 – Listen To The Music by the Doobie Brothers.

3TT’s conversion to FM led to the station adopting a new three-letter call-sign, 3TTT, with the on-air branding as ‘Classic Hits TTFM’, maintaining a similar format to its AM predecessor.  The first song played on TTFM was In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins.


The Classic Hits format still struggled to gain a decent audience on FM, so by the early ‘90s the station adopted a more contemporary format, accompanied by a colourful logo – 101.1 TTFM.  The move led to a ratings boost, with the station eventually claiming #1 spot in two surveys in 1995.


In 2001, TTFM had a change of image.  The station adopted a new branding, Mix 101.1, with a similar logo to its Sydney counterpart Mix 106.5.

Mix 101.1 now plays a contemporary music format, aimed at tackling rival station Fox.

Website: Mix 101.1

June 13, 2010

Sydney: 2UE

2UE was the first “B”-class (the predecessor to commercial) radio station in Australia when it launched on 26 January 1925.  The station’s original call-sign was 2EU, after the station’s owner Electrical Utilities, but it was later directed to change to 2UE.  Apparently, over the air the callsign “2EU” came across as sounding like “who are you?”  The original broadcast frequency was 1025 kHz, changing to 950 kHz in 1935 and then 954 kHz in 1978.

In 1958, with the advent of television threatening radio, 2UE  was the first station in Australia to adopt the “Top 40” music format which had been successful in the United States.  The format led to 2UE publishing Australia’s first Top 40 chart each week. 

The Top 40 concept was later adopted by other stations around Australia, including 3UZ Melbourne, 5AD Adelaide, 4BC Brisbane and 6KY Perth.

In later decades 2UE adopted more a talk-based format but it was in 1986 that 2UE, and its Melbourne counterpart 3AK, launched another bold initiative in radio – network talk-back.


In June 1986, 2UE and 3AK adopted a single on-air branding – CBC – with much of their schedule in simulcast with each other, with some exceptions for prime shifts such as breakfast where each station had its own program.  It was a bold experiment given that radio audiences are particularly parochial and many talk-back topics do not travel well outside of their home cities.  Melbourne listeners also took umbrage to their 3AK being run by Sydney interests and being dominated by Sydney-based talent, and the ratings reflected that.  The ratings were not as dire in Sydney, but still lagged well behind the top-rating stations at the time.

As a result CBC, in its initial format, was short-lived.  2UE and 3AK later went their separate ways while still maintaining elements of the talk-back format.  Both stations adopted the branding ‘Newsradio’, but 3AK soon ditched the talk format entirely.


2UE continued to present a talk-back format and, with top-rating names like Alan Jones and John Laws starting each weekday, the station built up its ratings to become a dominant force in Sydney radio for many years.



The eventual move of Alan Jones to rival station 2GB, and the retirement of Laws, has seen 2UE lose a lot of its ratings shine and is now sitting well down the ratings ladder.

2UE is now owned by Fairfax Media, the company that also owns talk-back stations 3AW Melbourne, 4BC Brisbane and 6PR Perth and music stations 4BH Brisbane, 96FM Perth and Magic 1278 (3EE) Melbourne.

Website: 2UE