Triple J - Station History - Foundation and Early Years: Double Jay

Foundation and Early Years: Double Jay

In 1971 (McMahon Coalition Government) the ABC launched Room To Move on the then Radio 1 now Radio National. It was hosted by Chris Winter, and produced by Ron Moss, who both contributed to the early days of Double Jay. The first incarnation of what became Triple J was established in September 1974 as the AM-band radio station 2JJ or Double Jay. The first broadcast commenced at 11.00 am on Sunday 19 January 1975.

Double Jay was a product of the progressive media policies of the Gough Whitlam Labor government of 1972-75 and built on the earlier program Room to Move. The station was one of a series of innovations that stemmed from the recommendations in the Independent Inquiry into Broadcasting (1974) report. These included the expansion of radio broadcasting onto the FM band, the issuing of a new class of broadcasting licenses—which finally permitted the establishment of community radio stations, the long-awaited third tier of the Australian radio industry—and the creation of two new stations for the ABC: 2JJ in Sydney and the short lived 3ZZ in Melbourne.

By the time Double Jay went to air the Whitlam government was in its final months in office. On 11 November 1975 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's commission was controversially revoked by Governor-General Sir John Kerr, sparking a double dissolution of parliament. In the subsequent federal election, Labor was defeated by the Liberal-National Party coalition led by Malcolm Fraser. In the more conservative media climate that emerged in the Fraser years, Double Jay and some of its presenters and commentators were frequently accused of left-wing bias.

2JJ was initially intended as the first link in a new national "youth network", although this expansion was long delayed by the electoral defeat of the Whitlam government at the end of 1975 and subsequent budget cuts imposed on the ABC by the incoming Fraser government. Its establishment marked an historic change in Australian radio — it was one of the first rock stations in the world to hire female disc jockeys and, excluding the first experimental FM licences, was granted the first new radio licence issued in any Australian capital city since 1932.

2JJ commenced broadcasting on 19 January 1975, at 1540 kHz - (call sign 1539kHz in 1978) on the AM band. The station was largely restricted to the greater Sydney region, and its local reception was hampered by inadequate transmitter facilities. However its frequency was nationally a clear channel so it was easily heard at night throughout south eastern Australia. It was later relayed to other stations in the ABC network after midnight, when their regular programming ceased.

In its early years Double Jay's on-air staff were mainly recruited from either commercial radio or other ABC stations but in another first the roster also featured presenters who did not come from a radio industry background, including singer-songwriters Bob Hudson and John J. Francis and actor Lex Marinos.

The foundation staff of January 1975 were Marius Webb and Ron Moss (coordinators), Ros Cheney, David Ives, Sam Collins, Holger Brockman (aka Bill Drake), Caroline Pringle, Bob Hudson, Mike Parker, Iven Walker, Arnold Frolows, Di Auburn, Margot Edwards, George "Groover" Wayne, Graeme Berry, John Arden, Colin Vercoe, Alan McGirvan, Pam Swain, Graham Bartlett, Mark Colvin, Keith Walker, Michael Byrne and Jim Middleton. Other popular presenters of the Double Jay period included Russell Guy, Mac Cocker (father of musician Jarvis Cocker), Gayle Austin (a former producer for talkback radio king John Laws and the first female rock DJ in Australia), Tom Zelinka, Lawrie Zion, and Keri Phillips. Several of the original team went on to successful careers in the ABC: Pam Swain is now a producer with ABC TV; Mark Colvin hosts ABC Radio National's nightly current affairs show PM; Jim Middleton was for many years the ABC's senior political correspondent in Canberra; Ros Cheney rose to become Arts Editor of ABC radio until her dismissal in 2001 (during the controversial regime of Jonathon Shier).

Double Jay's programming policies were in many ways a radical departure from the narrow formats and restrictive playlists then in place in commercial rock stations. Its programming style drew on a variety of models, including British pirate radio rock programs such as John Peel's The Perfumed Garden, early BBC Radio 1 programming and the American Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. Although there was a playlist, presenters originally were given a wide latitude in choosing the music they played, and few restrictions were placed on music, lyrics or topics discussed on programs. In the early days of Double Jay, the station was run co-operatively and all staff (including office staff) were given a say in programming decisions.

The station played an unprecedented level of Australian content, favoured long album cuts, played tracks banned by other stations because of drug or sexual references, championed many styles of local and overseas music that were being excluded from commercial pop playlists (including reggae, punk rock, electronic and New Wave) and, following the trend set by the BBC, mixed its recorded music programming with a schedule of regular weekly live-to-air studio concert broadcasts.

Double Jay also broadcast many original comedy sketches and comedy serials, and in the early years of the station it regularly ran "anti-ads" which parodied its commercial competitors. It also featured regular news broadcasts, current affairs programs, political commentary by noted journalist Mungo MacCallum, and audio documentaries like the controversial "The Ins and Outs of Love" (produced by Carl Tyson Hall) which included frank interviews with young people about their first experiences of sex. Other features included innovative radiophonic works such as 'What's Rangoon To You Is Grafton To Me' and 'Hot Bananas', created by presenter Russell Guy and co-narrated former ABC-TV newsreader James Dibble, and works by cult writer-musician Pip Proud. Other innovative features included a regular surf report—a practice soon adopted by many other radio and TV stations—daily community billboard segments, and a daily music "What's On" segment.

The station rapidly gained popularity, especially in its target youth demographic; an (unidentified) press report published ca. March 1975 noted that in its first two months on air, Double Jay had gained a respectable 5.4% share of the total radio audience, and 17% of the 18-24 age group, whilst its rival 2SM's audience share dropped by 2.3% This was despite the fact that the station was poorly received in many parts of Sydney due to problems with its original transmitter.

2JJ was often embroiled in controversy, which began with the choice of the first song played on air on the first broadcast day — "You Just Like Me Cos I'm Good In Bed" by Skyhooks, -- one of six tracks from their ten-track debut LP Living in the Seventies that had been banned by Australian commercial radio stations for sexual or drug references. There were regular complaints about announcers, guests and talkback callers swearing on air and a number of other widely reported controversies within the first few months of the station's life, including the media frenzy over The Ins and Outs of Love; an open air concert at Liverpool in Sydney's south-west in June 1975 (featuring Skyhooks and Dragon) prompted a lurid Page 1 headline "Rock Concert Filth Uproar" in the Sydney Sun, which claimed that hundreds were "shocked" by "depictions of sexual depravity and shouted obscenities", which allegedly caused women in the audience to clap their hands over their ears and reportedly prompted Coalition frontbencher Peter Nixon to call for the station to be closed down.

Although the ABC reportedly received few direct complaints about The Ins and Outs of Love (originally broadcast on Sunday 23 February 1975) it sparked a furore in the media and the Broadcasting Control Board reportedly asked for talks with the ABC about the program's sexual content. Two days after the show, the Fairfax tabloid The Sun published an editorial calling for the station to be closed, and a week later, on 10 March 1975, the influential marketing/advertising industry journal B&T followed suit, variously demanding that the station (A) should be closed down or that (B) it should have its programming completely revamped or that (C) those staff responsible for "the present series of lapses" be removed.

Another infamous event in the late 1970s was an on-air launch party hosted by George Wayne to celebrate the release of the new AC/DC album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, which got so out of hand that police were eventually called to the studio.

The station also regularly sponsored live concerts and organised a number of major outdoor concert events in the late 1970s, culminating in a huge outdoor all-day event in Parramatta Park on 18 January 1981, to celebrate the end of Double Jay and the start of Triple J featuring Midnight Oil and Matt Finish.

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