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The day the music died

by ervte

Another bites the dust. The day the music died. Today is a sad day at Sydney Radio. Tonight at 6 pm, the transmitter of one of Sydney’s previously great 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 where I was a fairly regular host of the three-hour Sunday night Christian talk show.

2CH started as a Sydney Protestant Churches venture under the auspices of the NSW Council of Churches. The Roman Catholics had 2SM. The Protestants had 2CH. CH stood for Church.The day the music died

Years later, the churches found that they were not very good at running radio stations and sold the ownership of 2CH to AWA. However, they had reservations about the license, which provided a certain number of hours of Christian broadcasts per week.

For me, listening to 2CH growing up, while 2SM had a young rock and roll audience, 2CH had a wonderful music audience. When the competition for the rock crowd became popular (and it was split between 2SM, 2WS, 2JJ, and 2UW), 2CH sailed past them all and, for a golden age, was Sydney’s number one radio station, with ‘easy listening favorites’.

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

AWA sold to Wesley Mission. Wesley Mission was sold to John Singleton. John Singleton sold the 2GB/2CH combo to Nine. Somewhere down the line, someone bought 2UE, and there is (rightly) a limit on how many radio stations an owner can own in any radio market, so 2CH was relieved.

There was a good time when Glen Wheatley owned the station, and 2CH felt like it was going somewhere. It’s hard to describe, but there’s something about the feel of a station when it works. The announcers sounded fantastic. It was higher than 2DAY-FM and several other former stations (quite remarkable for what was now truly an AM fighter). If only they could keep it up and successfully transition to DAB and streaming, 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 history of 2CH. They moved the music station from the traditional 1170 frequency, performed 2CH on DAB a little bit, and alienated the old crowd. It was one of the most disastrous change management exercises I’ve seen. It was almost as if they wanted to fail on purpose.

SEN set a network sports program on the 1170 frequency. 2CH went from an acceptable rating of 5-6 percent on AM to just 0.5 percent on DAB. If SEN were thriving, this might be acceptable, but SEN at 1170 ranks almost as bad.

My memory is fuzzy, but Rev Bernard Judd was a key figure in the history of 2CH. He was 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 Rev Judd died. I remember a warm tribute to Rev. Judd delivered that afternoon by the then-owner of the radio station John Singleton and the former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney (and Chairman of the NSW Council of Churches), Harry Goodhew.

Years later (ten-12 years ago), when I started as a Sunday night show host at 2CH, while it was clear that 2GB was the real money guzzler in the Macquarie stable, 2CH somehow had owner John’s heart singleton. It was his jukebox. People knew that ‘the boss loved it.

I loved hosting the three-hour talk show on Sunday evenings. There’s a wonderful dynamic in talk radio of being able to talk and listen to a wide audience, pick up the phone on the air, and not quite sure what someone will say. I think it is ‘walking a tightrope, requiring tremendous concentration and the ability to fall off and make a mess’. Hosting a talk radio program with an explicit mandate to talk about Jesus was a privilege.

I have often considered and thanked people like Bernard Judd for their sacrifice and initiative. He provided that radio platform for Jesus’ ambassadors like me rise and broadcast decades later.

I assume the platform goes through the NSW Council of Churches at SEN-1170. But since hardly anyone listens, it’s not that strategic. Anyway, a sad day. Especially for my friends like Matt Pardy, Tim Webster, Gareth McRae, and Trevor Sinclair.

Dominic Steele is a senior minister at Village Church, Annandale, NSW, and works at Christians in the Media. Previously, he was a radio journalist and presenter on 2UE and 2WS, as well as 2CH.

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

As a teenager, I fell in love with the radio. And while I was listening to 2SM, the only station allowed in the kitchen or the car was my mom’s favorite, 2CH. Mom loved listening to Howard Craven and young John Poole; heaven forbid anyone changes channels! How do I remember those names? Well, I pursued a radio career. When I finished school, I put together a comprehensive CV (😊) and walked around the various radio stations in Sydney looking for a summer job.

Very early at my door knocker, I walked into 2CH and managed to talk with the Community Services manager at the time, Roger Pettit. He was a nice, kind man who felt sorry for this sharp-as-mustard 17-year-old. He gave me a summer job. I started in the archive library. I had just completed a two-week typing course straight from Year 12 and was tasked with typing little cards with recorded details. Boring if…. And my typing wasn’t very good then.

But I was on the radio. On York Street. Fun fact: 2CH’s antenna made it the tallest building in the city in the 1940s.

And I got paid! I remember my first pay stub. $79 for a week of work. Unbelievable.

During my college education, I worked in promotions, had a brief sneak peek of the newsroom, handed out gold leaf carnations (and lucky numbers) at the various ferry stops around the harbor, sat on the phone, and every other job had to be done. Sometimes I would walk into the studio to give the announcer some information. It was fantastic.

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

I also gained two weeks of working experience in the newsroom at 2WS before starting my first radio job at 2CA’s newsroom in Canberra. It disappeared many years ago. Perhaps it was the advent of FM that started the decline of AM radio like 2CH (my next job was at EON FM, the first FM station in Australia), and now we are bombarded with content options – radio, podcast, TV, YouTube, streaming, internet, etc., etc.

There is something remarkable about radio. And until Podcasting came along, it was unique. Why? His intimacy. Each family member could have their favorite station in their room or while walking in the park, driving, etc. And why is it intimate? Well, you, the listener, invite your favorite station to the most private places of your life – your bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, and car. It’s a privileged place to sit in front of a microphone and speak in those private spaces! And no presenter/radio host should take that for granted.

I am still voluntarily involved in radio – Christian radio. But I’ve never forgotten the kindness of a man who gave an eager young thing a chance. I’m sorry I never went back to thank him and tell him what I would do. Roger Pettit died a few years ago. May I encourage you, if anyone believed in you when you started, don’t do what I did and forget them? Let them know – they’ll be thrilled.

It’s a sad day for broadcasts, but the Christian churches that established 2CH all those years ago would praise God, given what is happening to Christian media in Australia. Big cities and small towns have Christian radio stations that speak words of hope and play inspiring music all day long. Australian Christian musicians can earn a living. People’s lives are changed as God’s word is broadcast into the atmosphere in our country.

Penny Mulvey (Interim Eternity editor) is chairman of Christian Media and Arts Australia and former chairman of The Light, Melbourne.

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