The Null Device

30 years of RRR

Last Friday was the 30th anniversary of Melbourne community radio station RRR's first broadcast. In those 30 years, it has escaped death several times, locked horns with critics and censors, and (along with other community station PBS) nurtured Melbourne's unique music scene. (If you're wondering what Melbourne would have been like without community radio, look at Sydney in the decade or so after 2JJ was ripped out of its community and made into a deracinated national "yoof" broadcaster, cutting off the city's live music scene from its fan base.) The Age has an article about the history of RRR:
The station's evolution into an example beloved of politicians boasting about Melbourne as Australia's cultural capital is ironic, given that for many years it had to fight for survival in an environment unsympathetic to its more outre tendencies.
In an attempt to reduce "accidental" broadcast of unsound material, white nail polish was used to paint over questionable tracks in the station record library, but use of the word "f--k" proved difficult to eradicate when popular culture had embraced it.
Some details are lost to history - such as whether the station went off air for a few hours each afternoon in its early days to let the ancient transmitter cool down or to let the RMIT electrical engineering students have a go. One thing that won't be forgotten is the massive public support that enabled Triple R to narrowly escape one of several death sentences when in 1981 the board voted to close it down, before agreeing to give staff and volunteers five weeks to raise $50,000.
Nowadays, RRR's desperate struggles for survival are largely in the past; the station now owns its new premises, and, the article says, has attained "the veneer of middle-aged stability". The programmes still have the same feel of passionate amateurism they have had for as long as I've been listening (since the 1990s). As for political controversy, I suspect that, as Australia's commercial media become increasingly concentrated and dumbed-down and government-funded media become more timid and/or propagandistic, more attention (both sympathetic and hostile) will focus on stations like RRR, and there may be more battles ahead.

There is now a book on the history of RRR, titled Radio City, by Mark Phillips. It is available from the station.

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