The day the music died

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Another one biting the dust. The day the music died. Today is a sad day at Sydney Radio. Tonight at 6 p.m. the transmitter of one of Sydney’s old radio stations will be switched off.

This is a photo of me in the Radio 2CH studio taken about ten years ago, during a season when I fairly regularly hosted the three-hour Christian program on Sunday evenings.

2CH began as an enterprise of the Protestant Churches of Sydney under the auspices of the NSW Council of Churches. Roman Catholics had 2SM. Protestants had 2CH. CH stood for Church.

Years later, the churches realized they weren’t good at running radio stations and sold ownership of 2CH to AWA, but kept a caveat on the license, which included a number of hours of Christian broadcast every week.

For me, listening to 2CH growing up, while 2SM had the young rock and roll audience, 2CH had the beautiful musical audience. When competition intensified for rock audiences (and it was split between 2SM, 2WS, 2JJ and 2UW), 2CH overtook them all and, for a golden age, was the number one radio station. from Sydney, broadcasting the “easy-listening favourites”.

It’s hard to describe, but there’s something about the feel of a station when it’s really working.

AWA sold to Wesley Mission. Wesley Mission sold to John Singleton. John Singleton sold the 2GB/2CH combo to Nine. Somewhere along the line someone acquired 2UE, and there is (rightly) a limit on the number of radio stations an owner can own in each radio market, so 2CH was dumped.

There was a great time when Glen Wheatley owned the station, and 2CH really felt like it was going somewhere. It’s hard to describe, but there’s something about the feel of a station when it’s really working. The advertisers looked fantastic. It was outclassed 2DAY-FM and several other old stations (notable enough for what was really now an AM drummer). If they could just hang in there and successfully transition to DAB and streaming, then there was a potential future in the much more diverse and challenging market.

Then SEN took over. Their interest was sports. They didn’t care about the 2CH story. They moved the music station from its traditional 1170 frequency, ran 2CH with minimal DAB and alienated all the old audience. This was one of the most disastrous change management exercises I have seen. It was almost as if they had intentionally decided to fail.

SEN put a network sports program on frequency 1170. 2CH went from an acceptable 5-6% on AM to just 0.5% on DAB. If SEN had thrived it might have been acceptable, but SEN on 1170 scored almost as poorly.

My memory is hazy, but Reverend Bernard Judd was a key figure in the history of 2CH. He was really the radio station’s father figure for several decades (maybe four decades).

Somehow 2CH had the heart of owner John Singleton. It was his jukebox.

I remember reading the Macquarie 2CH/2GB news around 1997 when Reverend Judd passed away. I remember the warm tributes paid to the Reverend Judd this afternoon by then radio station owner John Singleton and former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney (and President of the NSW Council of Churches) Harry Goodhew.

Years later (10-12 years ago) when I started as a Sunday night announcer at 2CH, when it was clear that 2GB was the real driving force behind the Macquarie stable, d Either way, 2CH had the heart of owner John Singleton. It was his jukebox. People knew “the boss loved it”.

I absolutely loved hosting the three-hour Sunday evening discussion program. There’s a wonderful dynamic in talk radio of being able to speak and listen to a large audience, answering the phone live, not being sure what someone is going to say. I always think of it as “walking a tightrope, requiring tremendous concentration and the possibility of falling and making a mess”. What a privilege it was to host a radio show with an explicit mandate to talk about Jesus.

I have reflected many times and given thanks for the sacrifice and initiative of people like Bernard Judd who provided this radio platform for ambassadors of Jesus like me to stand up and broadcast decades later.

I guess the platform continues through the NSW Council of Churches on SEN-1170. But since hardly anyone is listening, it’s not as strategic. Anyway, sad day. Especially for my friends like Matt Pardy, Tim Webster, Gareth McRae and Trevor Sinclair.

Dominic Steele is Senior Minister of Village Church, Annandale, NSW, and works at Christians in the Media. He was previously a radio journalist and presenter on 2UE and 2WS radios as well as 2CH.

2CH – a special place in the heart of this radio fan

I fell in love with radio as a teenager. And while I was listening to 2SM, the only station allowed in the kitchen or the car was my mother’s favorite, 2CH. Mom loved to listen to Howard Craven and young John Poole and God forbid if someone changed the channel! How can I remember these names? Well I actually pursued a career in radio, and when I finished school I put together a very comprehensive CV (😊) and scoured the various radio stations in Sydney looking for a vacation job.

Very early in my door-to-door I walked into 2CH and managed to chat with the then Community Services Manager, Roger Pettit. He was a lovely, kind man, and he took pity on this 17-year-old mustard-enthusiast. He gave me a vacation job. I started at the library archives. I mean, I had just finished a two-week typing course straight out of 12th grade, and I was tasked with typing little cards with recording details. Boring as… And my striking was not very good at the time.

But I was on the radio. In York Street. Fun factoid: 2CH’s antenna made it the tallest building in town in the 1940s, I think.

And I got paid! I remember my first payslip. $79 for a week’s work. Unbelievable.

I sometimes entered the studio to give the announcer information. While in college I worked in promotions, got a brief glimpse of the press room, handed out carnations with gold leaf (and lucky numbers) at the various ferry stops around the port, sitting on the phone and any other work that needs doing. It was fabulous.

If someone believed in you when you started…let them know, they’ll be thrilled.

I also managed a two week work experience in the 2WS newsroom before starting my first radio job in the 2CA newsroom in Canberra. He disappeared many years ago. Perhaps it was the advent of FM that triggered the decline of AM radio such as 2CH (my next job was at EON FM, the first FM station in Australia), and now we are overwhelmed with options for content – radio, podcast, TV, YouTube, streaming, web, etc, etc, etc.

There is something remarkable about radio. And until the arrival of podcasting, it was unique. Why? His intimacy. Each member of a family could have their own favorite station playing in their bedroom or while they are walking in the park, driving, etc. And why is it intimate? Well, you, the listener, invite your favorite station into the most private places in your life – your bedroom, your bathroom, your living room, your kitchen, your car. And no radio presenter/host should ever take that for granted. It is a privileged place to sit in front of a microphone and talk in these private places!

I am still voluntarily involved in radio – Christian radio. But I never forgot the kindness of a man who gave a passionate young man a chance. My regret is that I never went back to him to thank him and tell him what I had done. Roger Pettit passed away a few years ago. Can I encourage you, if someone believed in you when you started, don’t do what I did and forget it. Let them know, they will be delighted.

It’s a sad day for broadcasting, but the Christian churches that started 2CH all those years ago would be praising God, given what’s going on in Australia right now with Christian media. Big cities and small towns have Christian radio stations that speak words of hope and play inspiring music every day. Australian Christian musicians can earn a living. People’s lives are being changed as the word of God is broadcast into the atmosphere across our country.

Penny Mulvey (Acting Editor of Eternity) is President of Christian Media and Arts Australia and former President of The Light, Melbourne.

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