Let's take a trip back in time to 1974. Colour TV is still at least 6 months away, cable TV is well... 20 years away at least. So then, let's tune into the radio shall we.
These are the available options:
2FC 575kHz - FC stands for Farmer & Co. 5 Dec 1923
The ABC's Radio 1, the national radio station. Although some popular music found it's way onto Radio 1, the ABC was still quite stuffy. In 1972, Radio and TV licences meant that the ABC no longer had its own budget but had to live in the pockets of the Federal Government. The ABC has suffered ever since.
2BL 700kHz - Broadcasters Limited. 13 Nov 1923
The local ABC station. It mainly played sport and talk, some broadcasts were relayed from Melbourne. In 1974 it was a definate backwater and only when the power of talkback was realised, did the station ever assume credibility.
2GB 870kHz - Giordino Bruno. 23 Aug 1926
GB refers to Giordino Bruno, an Italian philosopher highly regarded by the Theosophical Society not Grace Brothers as could be assumed. In 1974 it was mainly the same as now, occasionally running night-time music programs.
2UE 950kHz - Electric Utilities Supply. (Was changed from EU to UE) 26 Jan 1925
Featured some pop music and some talkback, Mr Laws was already on the air here. In the early Sixties it was Sydney's leading pop station, and long-serving breakfast DJ Garry O'Callaghan was for many years the most popular announcer in the city.
2KY 1010kHz - No idea what it stood for, possibly Sky?. 31 Oct 1925
Was owned by the NSW Labor Council and featured light music, racing broadcasts and talkback. The format has not changed to date.
2UW 1110kHz - 13 Feb 1925
Became all-pop format in 1964, and dubbed its on-air team "The 11-10 Men". Its all-pop format lasted until 1984 when it found that a little regional station called 2WS had found a new niche, for a while it even had the nerve to call itself Magic 11. These two stations fought out the last fight for pop on AM before they both jumped the band.
Became 1107kHZ. Now FM see below.
2CH 1170kHz - CH seems to refer to Council of Churches. 15 Feb 1932
Was then and still is owned by the Australian Council of Churches. For some years it carried a number of foreign-language programs serving various ethnic communities, but in 1972 it cancelled all its "ethnic" programs and switched to a bland mix of so-called "easy listening" music, with some religious content.
2SM 1270kHz - St Mary's or St Mark's. Is owned by the Catholic Broadcasting Co. 24 Dec 1931
Took the led from 2UW in the early '70s and ruled supreme as the leading pop station in the city from then until the advent of commercial FM radio in the early 80s. Changed it's name to Gold 1269, and now back to 2SM.
Quite boring isn't it? Especially when you have a look at the commencement dates; the last being 1932. In 1972 a Federal enquiry was launched into the broadcast industry. For 40 years, not a single broadcast licence had been issued in any of the state capitals of Australia. In all capitals there were 2 ABC stations and 6 commercial stations. Elsewhere around the world, FM was starting to break into stride, and in the US, more than 400 independant stations had started around the country on both AM and FM. Australia looked like a radio black hole.
So then, let's add to the confusion.
2JJ 1540kHZ - Double-J. 19 Jan 1975
The first new radio licence issued in 43 years. As stated in Horse 279, it caused a tizzie in the Industry.
Now FM see below.
2EA 1305kHz - Ethnic Australia. 17 Jun 1975
When SBS started it was natural that the quango be given a radio licence. Although the radio station's philosohhy has not Changed, the frequency did. Bought 2UW's transmitter sets which were better quality.
2WS 1224kHz - Western Sydney. 23 Nov 1978
Originally a community station, it found itself unexpectedly a market leader when in 1984 it switched its programming to include "Juke Box Saturday Night" which was basically what 2SM would have played in 1968.
Now FM see below.
That list covers up until 1980 when the rules more or less changed forever. When the Federal Government opened up FM licences, the traditional radio stations more or less saw the medium as a joke (not even the great BBC had FM). Two licences in most cities were taken at the head by the Austereo Group, and JJJ slowly took up national FM broadcasting rights as did the ABC proper with its classical network.
102.5 - ABC Classic FM. 1980 - ABC
The ABC's station aligned closely to Radio 3. Plays as the name suggests, classical music and nowt much else.
103.2 - CBA Christian Broadcast Association. 1980 - Independant
An experimental licence was awarded in 1974. Mainly plays christian traditional & "pop" music, with elements of the old BBC 247 Light Programme.
104.1 - 2Day FM. 1980 - Austereo
Top 40 Music and pretty well not much else. The station in format is an exact copy of Radio 1, Z100 in NYC and 50 zillion other pop stations on the planet.
104.9 - Triple-M. 1980 - Austereo
Owned by the same group as 2Day FM. Supposedly put up as some sort of competition I suppose. It plays mainly Top 40 with a definate rock feel to it.
105.7 - JJJ. 1980 - ABC
Triple J was originally sent up the same weak tower as 2BL. On FM it meant that they were then on a purely line of sight basis until 1989 when it went up the main FM spike with TV. It survived the realignment of the ABC and retained its character entirely.
Things got a bit weird in the 1990's when the regional stations went metro then jumped to FM.
101.7 - WSFM - Australian Radio Network - 1990
Formerly 2WS 1224AM it became 2WS 101.7FM then changed its name. 2WS did have a stereo AM transmitter but that idea failed in Australia as far too few people bought the radio sets. The format also changed slightly as a lot of the records that it was playing were mono but that very fact caused it lose its base and it has had to carve out a new market.
106.5 - MIX - Australian Radio Network - 1991
Another tragic story of the FM jump. 2UW was in direct competition before it found itself stranded as the only real music station left on AM. It switched and was effectively swamped by the three biggest stations in the country. Has now changed mentality and is trying to brush itself off as female friendly.
96.1 - The Edge - Australian Radio Network - 1991
I don't even know where to being this story. In 1932 it won a regional licence for Katoomba and called itself 2KA transmitting on 780kHz. It moved to Penrith c.1984 but retained the purposes of the station. In 1991 it jumped the FM divide as all its stablemates were doing and then underwent the stupidity of name change. It became One-FM then 9inety-6ix. When the Australian Radio Network moved all it offices to Ryde, this like the other two followed suit.
New Licences were awarded in 2001, more community licences were sold and the Federal Government held out a tender for yet another licence, but as yet I only know of two stations that have occupied the air on this latest wave.
96.9 - Nova - DMG - 2001
Worldwide media giant DMG entered the radio world amid great fanfare and the policy of playing no more than two ads in a row. Not surprisingly this annoyed the Austereo and Australian Radio Networks who argued that the radio market had reached saturation point. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen.
94.5 - FBI - 2003
The station still has an underground cult status in Australian radio. Similar to Double-J in its early days, the station prides itself on trying to be different but ends up sounding like everyone else.
So then, that's the soundscape of the city as I see it. All of this will be swept aside as far as I can tell, when the great divide of AM/FM will be washed away by the raging torrent that will be the Digital Audio Band (DAB).