I published Good Guys and Godbotherers in 2002, about the time of the 70th anniversary of Melbourne radio station 3AK.
The project does not seek to trace the radio station’s history after it became SEN 1116 (Sport Entertainment Network).
– Ash Long. November, 2017.
This is a 45,000-word E-book about the rich 70-year history of Melbourne radio station 3AK.
It was originally planned to be a 200-page conventionally-printed book, timed to coincide with the station’s 70th anniversary on November 29, 2001. However, there are several reasons why the decision has been made to make this available as an E-book, without charge, on the Internet.
First, 3AK has a wide family. Many hundreds of people have been involved with getting the station to air since its ‘overnight’ era from late-1931. This is a personal salute to them.
Secondly, developments at 3AK and in the Australian radio industry are moving fast. A printed history is finite; an Internet version does give us the opportunity to re-write history.
Thirdly, and frankly, orders for paid copies of a book about 3AK have been slim; the station appears to have suffered a marked loss of commercial goodwill from its recent financial collapse under the control of Fusion Media Pty Ltd. A printed history is a costly undertaking; without sufficient sales, this publisher cannot afford to repeat Fusion’s business mistakes! So, we’re refunding all the advance subscriptions … and making the book available free at our company websites.
Good Guys. And Godbotherers.
Did you have a ‘Beautiful Music’ experience with radio station 3AK in its 70 years?
Were you a ‘Wrinkly’? Did you phone the ‘Desperate Line’? Or perhaps one of the 3AK incarnations owes you
3AK has been so many different things to different people. It has been Melbourne’s overnight radio station; a comforter during World War II; a Gospel thumper; pop music broadcaster; a crazy bi-lingual radio experiment; and an ‘alternative’ talk-news station.
To me, 3AK is a mixture of memories involving childhood entertainment, teenage music, adult talk, business opportunity and someone else’s badly-handled commercial
I was born on October 19, 1956 – just 22 days after radio man Geoff Corke fronted Melbourne’s first experimental television transmission from the kitchen of GTV-9’s transmitter at Mount Dandenong. As a youngster I was enthralled with Melbourne’s media. At 45, I still am.
Our family’s bakelite valve-radio was mostly tuned into the Sunday morning 3DB news broadcast preceded by Dick Cranbourne’s program; 3UZ’s Newsbeat; and whichever station had the rights to broadcast the Saturday afternoon VFL match with my Dad’s beloved Richmond football team.
Summer holidays often had the family listening to the AK ‘Good Guys’ at popular Victorian beach venues.
As a five-year-old youngster, I was excited as a bus load of us were transported to Channel 9’s studios in Bendigo Street, Richmond, to see an edition of The Tarax Show go to air on television. We were marched past the new 3AK studios inside the GTV-9 building. We each returned home with our ‘show-bags’, all now official badge-wearing members of the Tarax Club, and all receiving a personalised ‘Gerry Gee’ birthday card by mail when it was our special day.
Top Of The Dial
And I remember being transfixed at the Royal Showgrounds, when live transmissions of 3AK programs were put to air from a small ‘outside broadcast’ booth. I watched endlessly as Gary Nicholls (or was it his brother Mike?) spin the next record on the AK turntable, sign the advertising paperwork, and read the weather reports. In those days, it was common place for suburbs to be listed at random in the station’s weather forecasts – ’16 in the City, 14 in Greensborough, 12 in Richmond’ – and I noted how ‘dee-jay’ Nicholls crossed those districts he had mentioned from a typed A-Z list.
Early each year, Channel 9 would hold a Telethon fund-raiser for the Yooralla School. In the 1960’s, I was a young volunteer collector, which involved a visit on Telethon day to the studios. Corporate security was nothing like it is in 2002, and I recall innocently wandering the GTV-AK corridors alone, and again watching open-mouthed into the 3AK studios as disc jockey Grantley Dee back-announced a record, also giving the exact time-call from his braille watch.
Every Thursday, Melburnians would await delivery of the Listener In-TV newspaper to read the latest of what was happening at Melbourne’s local TV and radio studios.
3AK’s sudden marketing campaign of the early 1970s – ‘Where No Wrinklys Fly’ – hit me with appeal as a teenager. Its full-page ads in rock-n-roll newspapers such as Go Set were plastered, briefly, on the bedroom walls of my peers. We would telephone 42-0209 – 3AK’s ‘Desperate Line’, or ‘The Friendly Line’ – to have ‘cheerios’ sent to ourselves or ridicule our school teachers. By then we were listening on the newly-introduced battery-powered transistor radio receivers.
Then, just as suddenly, 3AK told me not to listen any more. It dropped the rock music, and adopted a ‘Beautiful Music’ format that was instead targeted at my father and his age group. It lost me, but the station won a whole new group of commercially worthwhile listeners. It was a ratings and business winner for more than a decade led by Vern Stone.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was working in media, with senior media management positions of my own. Professionally, I viewed a whole range of episodes in 3AK’s life: its failed national CBC experiment; the even-worse Italian-English programming; a series of different owners; and a roller-coaster of business failures.
In mid-1999, I sought and won a senior management position at 3AK. I had experienced my own set of business successes-failures, so the job was extremely important to me in my own re-building, as well as that of 3AK.
Most people – me included – were unaware of the real severity of 3AK’s business and financial problems under the stewardship of Fusion Media. 3AK’s leaders Mal Garvin and Michael Cleary failed to keep the agreement over which we had shaken hands. So, for a number of reasons, my manager’s job did not go ahead … so now the subject of 3AK and me became personal!
Over recent years, as a media commentator with Media Flash, I have reported on the continuing 3AK story. The Fusion Media collapse is of great interest in itself; the station’s much-vaunted challenge to the reigning ABC and 3AW ‘talk’ champions also fascinates.
I would enthusiastically like 3AK to succeed in its current marketing endeavour. I respect the broadcast professionalism, in grandly different ways, of its past-and-present hosts such as Derryn Hinch, John Blackman and Doug Aiton. I am a true fan of the talent of its former great stars including Bert Newton, Graham Kennedy and others.
I also enjoy true competition amongst media, which can only make radio stations all better servants of their public. And, of course, we all love the underdog. With some more hard work and creativity, 3AK may be poised to offer such real competition to some entrenched interests. All that aside, its life is a story worth the telling.
3AK celebrated its 70th anniversary on November 29, 2001. With the great potential of it returning in some way as a force in Australian broadcasting, this book is a personal salute to a rich tradition involving many thousands of Melburnians.
“Next to football, there is probably no industry in Victoria which commands a more frequent focus of public and media attention than the machinations of the radio industry.”
Columnist Robert Parsons was hauntingly correct when he expressed these thoughts in 1989, in the radio column of Melbourne’s now-defunct Sunday Observer newspaper.
However, Parsons could not possibly have foretold that long-established Melbourne radio station 3AK would soon witness yet another five new owners over the next decade or so. 3AK would also see a messy multi-million dollar financial collapse, an almost-botched change of broadcasting frequency, disastrous listener ratings … and now, a 21st Century opportunity to rebuild.
3AK has always been different. In its first broadcasts 70 years ago, 3AK sent out its signal when all other Melbourne radio stations were off air.
The station became the city’s ‘Voice Of The Night’ for 22 years, later converting to 24-hour broadcasting, linking with Melbourne’s best-watched TV channel, topping the ratings, then floundering under an ill-conceived national programming idea.
“3AK has had beautiful music, rock n roll music, heavy metal music and no music,” noted Age reporter Melissa Fyfe. For a time, it was even headquartered in a caravan … then later at the rear of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market! Then it ignored its traditional English-speaking listeners with an extraordinary mixture of Italian and English programs… not to mention station owner Vernon Margetts’ Gospel Sessions in the middle of the breakfast program! Little wonder that it briefly earned the industry nickname of ‘Radio Titanic’.
Through all this, 3AK has endured 70 years on air continuously on air. AK has survived a Depression, a World War, political and world upheavals. And in recent times, 3AK had to survive the wholesale loss of audience and the collapse of its own business platform.
Now, 3AK is undergoing something of a re-birth with new owners, led by media strategists Kevin Campbell and Jeff Chatfield. 3AK has had an on-air line-up including Derryn Hinch and Doug Aiton, who have each in the past led their time-slots (elsewhere) in the Melbourne radio market.
Add TV-radio man Greg Evans, former Victorian Chief Magistrate Nick Papas, radio veteran Gavin Wood and personalities such as Yvonne Lawrence, 3AK may well have the team to challenge the dominant talk stations 3AW and ABC 774 (3LO).
Here is a fine Melbourne institution that has served its public well over 70 years. And here is the story of what Melbourne came to know as ‘The Friendly Station’.
Breaking News: The Voice Of The Night
Terrorists stopped the world on September 11, 2001, when they crashed jets into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. This bastardry murdered thousands of citizens, and paralysed millions more.
The ghastly deeds commenced at 8.45am New York Time when American Flight 11 from Boston crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre.
In Melbourne, Australia, commentator Doug Aiton was broadcasting his night-time program on local radio station 3AK. Local time was 10.45pm. Within minutes, Aiton was reporting details of the horrible breaking news.
Soon, at 11.03pm Melbourne time, a second Boeing 767 hits the South Tower in Manhattan. The death toll that followed, as the towers collapse exceeded some 3000 people.
At 3AK, Aiton undertook an enormous real-time news coverage. He called on his experience as a former reporter for The Age and The Times (London). He was soon joined on air by Derryn Hinch, the man dubbed locally as ‘The Human Headline’.
By 1am, Hinch was skilfully painting a picture of Manhattan to shell-shocked Melbourne listeners. He stayed on air for a marathon 11 hours, with an extraordinary coverage of the attack. His decade-long experience as a outstanding New York journalist offers the best word-pictures available of a world catastrophe.
A large audience stayed up all night to hear the 3AK coverage. A few older listeners recall that 70 years earlier, 3AK was then just embarking as Melbourne’s ‘Voice Of The Night’.
“Twelve months ago some amusement was expressed at the extraordinary schedules of station 3AK, Balwyn, Melbourne.
“As almost everyone knows now, these are from 11.30pm to 2am, and from 5am to 7am, with extra hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
“But the once musing innovation, with the effluxion of time has converted itself to something of a necessity to thousands of listeners.
“Unique in Australia, 3AK provides music suitable for supper parties and late dances, and speeds the early morning worker with a song in its heart. These are services for which many are grateful.”
So summed up the first year of radio station 3AK, by a Listener In magazine writer, reviewing the operations of the unique new identity in Melbourne’s night-time commercial radio world. There had been precious little media fanfare for the opening of Melbourne’s newest radio station.
The Sun News-Pictorial announced in a two-paragraph snippet that the official opening on Sunday, November 29, 1931, would be conducted by the Postmaster-General, Mr Green. As it turned out, the ‘Akron station’ was opened at 12.30pm by the Mayor of Camberwell, Cr McCamish, “in the unavoidable absence of the Postmaster-General”.
3AK launched itself to the 1500 kilocycle band, on 200 metres, on a quiet Sunday. The station’s first broadcast came from a bedroom at the home of founder George Frederick Thomas Palmer at 8 Yerrin St, Balwyn, E8 – then on the outskirts of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
1932 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm-12.30am, Late supper music. 12.30am to 2.00am: dance music interspersed with vocal and novelty numbers. 5.00am-7.00am Early breakfast session. Bright recorded music and re-broadcasts of foreign ‘short-wave’ stations provided atmospheric conditions are favourable. (Monday, September 19, 1932).
Saturday. 5.00am-7.00am Early breakfast session. Bright recorded music and re-broadcasts of foreign ‘short-wave’ stations provided atmospheric conditions are favourable. 1.00pm-2.00pm, Luncheon music and theatre news. 11.30pm-3.00am, Program of popular dance numbers. (Saturday, September 17, 1932).
Sunday. 5.00am-7.00am Early breakfast session. Bright recorded music. Free theatre ticket winning numbers announced at 5.30am and 6.30am. Weather information at 5.20am and 6.40am. 11.30 pm to 12.15am, Late Supper Music. 12.15am 3AK’s free threate tickets. 12.20am Weather Information. 12.21am-2.00am, Selected program of dance, vocal and instrumental numbers (Sunday, September 18, 1932).
The suburban address, near the corner of Whitehorse Road and Balwyn Road, housed George Palmer, and his wife Mabel Emily Florence Palmer, who described her occupation in the electoral roll as ‘home duties’. The address is now incorporated into a shoppers’ car park behind the Balwyn retail precinct.
George Palmer later described himself as AK’s first technician and announcer. The commercial side of the radio station owed much to Leo Figg and major financial sponsors, the Akron Tyre Company, named in honour of the home of automobile tyres: Akron, Ohio.
Just as the Internet is today described as ‘new media’, 3AK was part of the wireless revolution that had started to thrill Victorians throughout the 1920s. Victorian radio veteran, Norman ‘Eddie’ Balmer, now 96, reflects that many of 3AK’s early overnight listeners were Melbourne’s taxi drivers.
Radio was thrilling Melburnians. Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor, was given credit as the world’s father of ‘wireless’, after sending radio communication signals in 1895. By 1901, the Australian Postmaster-General’s electrical engineer, Mr H.W. Jenvey, had been successful in contacting the Duke of York’s escort ship, during the Royal Visit to Victoria in that year.
Experimental transmitting stations were granted licences by Australia’s Federal Government from around 1910, and Wireless Institute members formed to expand their interest. Locally, Ernest Fisk became known as one of the ‘fathers’ of Australian radio, and became the Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless (A/asia) Ltd in 1913.
The Great War of 1914-1918 saw great development in Australian radio, with ‘sealed set’ radio stations soon afterwards being established for domestic listeners. The stations included 3AR Melbourne (which started in January 1924), for which a government licence fee of 10/- was payable; and 3LO, named after 2LO London, started in Melbourne in September 1924.
In 1901, the Commonwealth Government had given each state a Military Zone ‘designator’ number which today finds itself at the head of radio station callsigns and postcodes: 2- New South Wales; 3 – Victoria; 4 – Queensland; 5 – South Australia; 6 – Western Australia; 7 – Tasmania; 8 – Northern Territory; 9 – Papua New Guinea, until independence in 1975. The Australian Capital Territory’s station callsigns have only just recently been assigned the ‘1’ prefix.
Radio receivers were locked to the station’s frequency, so people could only listen to the stations for which they had paid. By 1924, only 1,400 listeners were licensed under these regulations, so the Government decided to supplement these A-Class licences, with B-Class stations that could be received by listeners without charge. These stations were organised to fund themselves by selling advertising. The first radio commercial in the world was deemed to be on WEAF New York where a 15-minute talk on tenant-owned flats was charged at $US50, and brought in sales worth $27,000.
Melbourne’s First Stations
In Melbourne, 3UZ was the first B-Class station, opening for transmission on March 25, 1925. For some years, the station’s financial situation was parlous.
By 1931, its daily schedule was: 7am John Browning’s Better Outlook. 7.30am Wittner’s Cheerful Breakfast. 9am Nilsen’s Housewives’ Session. 10am Veall’s Radiola Hour. 11am R.H. Brook’s Session. 11.30am Huntsman’s Millinery Session. (Close) 6pm Gramophone Selections. 6.50pm 3UZ Listeners’ Club – Free Theatre Tickets. 7pm MacRobertson’s Hiking Chocolate Session. 10.15pm Argus News Session. 11.00pm Close Down.
3DB started transmission on February 21, 1927; 3KZ followed on December 12, 1930.
These times saw a different Melbourne to the international city that we know today. Shops did not open on the Christian Sabbath; there were no Sunday newspapers or theatre performances allowed; hotels were shut for all except bona fide travellers; and Sunday sport was virtually banned. There was a truly Victorian emphasis on Sunday worship service, amidst the hardship of the national Depression following the savage Stock Market crash.
There was no newspaper published in Melbourne on the day that 3AK opened. That is because it was a Sunday. One of Melbourne’s three morning newspapers next day – ‘The Sun News-Pictorial with which is incorporated The Morning Post – devoted a number of its 32 pages to ‘Sunshades And Canoes In Gay Henley Parade’. There were many photographs of the demure water regatta on the Yarra River. The word ‘gay’ certainly had a different connotation in 3AK’s early years!
Lister’s Dry Gin was advertised at 7/5 (75 cents); and front-page advertisements promoted ‘Golocryst for Rheumatic Pain’ in 4d, 8d and 1/3 packets. London Stores offered individually tailored-to-measure suits for 70/-. The Sun promoted Log Cabin – ‘The New Cigarette’ – ‘Ten-for-ninepence quality at ten-for-sixpence cost’: “Buy your packet to-day. Take your first critical puff.”
In news, Truth reported that “the defeat of the Scullin Government in the Federal Parliament this week was by no means the unexpected event that the newspapers and certain politicians are endeavouring to make out”.
In sport, cricketing legend Don Bradman was breaking another record, hitting 226: “the greatest made by an Australian in any Test against South Africa”. The sports pages also carried the headline of ‘Telford Tells Why Phar Lap Is Likely To Go Abroad’.
The tastes of Melbourne people were relatively simple. Radio had become far more than a experimental hobby, as it developed during the 1920’s. 3AK’s potential listeners in the early 1930’s would not find an inexpensive hobby in radio. Hannaford’s, of 219-221 Smith Street, Fitzroy, advertised a three-valve radio cabinet with screen grid, for £12/10/-. Attractive terms were available with just £1 deposit, and weekly instalments of 3/6. The big eight-valve radio console, with interstate capabilities, was on offer for 40 Guineas (£42).
1933 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm to 12.20am Late supper music. Weather information at 12.20am. 12.21am to 2am Selected program of dance, vocal and instrumental numbers. 5am to 7am Early Breakfast Session – Bright recorded music. 5.30am and 6.40am Weather information. (Friday, February 10, 1933).
Saturday. 1pm to 2pm, Luncheon Music. Theatre News. 11.30pm-3am Program of popular dance numbers. Free theatre ticket winning numbers announced at 12.15am and weather information at 12.20am. 5am to 7am Early Breakfast Session – Bright recorded music. 5.30am and 6.40am Weather information. (Saturday, January 28, 1933).
Sunday. 12.30pm Yeomen of the Guard Selection, Court Symphony Orchestra. Just An Ivy Coloured Shack, John Coleman. Birds And The Brook, Cec. Morrison and ABC Dance Orchestra. Kiss Waltz, Cavaliers. An Old Violin, Organ Solo, Reg Foort. Invitation To Waltz, Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. I’m Yours, Clevelander. Lead Kindly Light, Temple Quartette. English Orchestration, Medley, Gigantic Orchestrion. Under The Double Eagle, National Military Band. Stephen Foster Melodies, Nat. Shilkret and Salon Group. Rose of Tralee, Gavan O’Connor. Raymond, Classic Symphony Orchestra. Just Another Dream of You, Roy Fox And His Band. Waltz Potpurri, Mark Weber’s Orchestra. Gascony, Dennis King and Chorus. Bumstara, Stahl’s Band. Deep Night, Organ Solo, Lew White. Hungarian Dance (Moskowski), BBC Band. In Memory of You, Imperial Dance Orchestra. Blue Is The Night, Dennis King. Sir Harry Lauder Songs. 10.00pm Our Director, Band of Royal Air Force. Today I Feel So Happy, Jay Wilbur’s Band. Long Ago, Maurice Elwin. Just Once For All Time, Jay Wilbur’s Band. Musical Trip Around The B.I., Organ Solo, Reg Foort. Liebestraume, Victor Symphony Orchestra. Carry On, Jack Hylton’s Orchestra. O Dry Those Tears, Richard Crook. Look For the Silver Lining, Leslie Harvey. El Captain, Band of H.M. Coldstream Guards. Old Musical Comedy Gems, Jack Hylton’s Orchestra. I’ll Make A Happy Landing, Arthur Lally and Orchestra. Italian Nights, Gil Dech Ensemble. Light Cavalry Overture, Band of H.M. Coldstream Guards. Love Dance, Gil Dech Concert Orchestra. Waltz You Saved For Me, Jack Payne And Orchestra. Coon Band Contest, London Novelty Orchestra. By The Side of the Zuyder Zee, Gerald Adams and Chorus. Maid of the Mountains selection, London Palladium Orchestra. Weather Information at 11.15pm. (Sunday, January 29, 1933).
3AK’s first broadcasts from Balwyn appeared to have chiefly been orchestral recordings.
Radio station 3AK was paying £25 pounds for its B-grade broadcasting licence. The 3AK licensee was Akron Broadcasting Company, with the company’s first two letters forming the callsign. The Akron Tyre Company had been first registered on July 6, 1927, and traded from 690 Elizabeth Street, City, for more than 60 years until 1988.
After a short stint at 594-596 Elizabeth Street, Akron moved to a Brighton address in 1995. Today’s Directors of Akron (which trades as Brighton Tyre Service) are Rachel and Leonard Singer, and Alan and Pauline Walvisch.
3AK soon positioned itself as a very different station, with City offices from 1936 at Elizabeth Street. Palmer later told famed Melbourne journalist Jack Ayling that Australian Prime Minister Joe Lyons officially opened these newer studios.
Other 3AK studios were late established at 114 Queen Street, then 480 Bourke Street. The station licence allowed transmissions from 11.30pm until 6am, with extra hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
A 1932 program guide for 3AK listed a 5am-7am breakfast session with bright recorded music and re-broadcasts of foreign short-wave stations “provided atmospheric conditions are favourable”. Weekends saw luncheon music and theatre news in a 1pm-2pm session, with popular dance music from 11.30pm to 3am.
Within several years, 3AK’s programs were receiving a little publicity in the weekly press, alongside 3AR (Studio: Russell Street), 3LO (Russell Street), 3UZ (Studio: 45 Bourke Street), 3DB (36 Flinders Street), 3KZ (64 Elizabeth Street) and 3AW (205 Exhibition Street). By January 1934, 3AK was broadcasting from studios at 116 Queen Street (phone M5667 – ‘two lines’), and the schedule on the 200m wave length appeared thus:
1934 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Late supper Music. 12.15am 3AK’s free theatre tickets.12.20am Weather Information. 12,.20 Selected Program of Dance, Vocal and Instrumental Numbers. 5am to 7am Early breakfast session. Bright recorded music. 5.20am and 6.40am Weather information. (Wednesday, January 10, 1934).
Saturday. 1pm-2pm Luncheon Music. Theatre News. 11.30pm Light Music. 12 Midnight Melbourne Auto Wreckers’ Session. Free theatre ticket winning numbers announced at 12.15am and weather information at 12.20am. 12.45am Theller’s Ladies’ Hairdressers’ session. 1.00am Programof popular dance numbers until 3am. (Saturday, January 6, 1934).
Sunday. 12.30pm. ‘Invitation To The Waltz’, Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. ‘Song Is Done’, Richard Tauber. ‘Wiata Poi’, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. ‘It Happened In Monterey’, Organ, Lew white. ‘Missouri Waltz’, Eddie Thomas’ Orchestra. Vagabond King Selection, Perc. Makay’s Band. ‘Gladiator’s Farewell’, Massed Military Bands. ‘O Divine Redeemer’, Dame Clara Butt. ‘In A Persian Market’, Organ, Reginald Foort. ‘Vienese Memories’, Scott Wood Accordeon Quartet. ‘Valse Erica’, Saxaphone, Rudy Wiedoft. ‘Thousand and One Nights’, Salon Orchestra. ‘Smithy In The Woods’, Band of H.M. Grenadier Guards. ‘Singing of a Vagabond Song’, Revellers. ‘Sleepy Time Gal’, Organ, Jesse Crawford. ‘Sweethearts of Yesterday’ Vocal Quartet. 2.30pm Close Down. 10.00pm ‘March Lorraine’, Band of H.M. Coldstream Guards. ‘Sweet Rosie O’Grady’, Gerald Adams and Chorus. ‘You Forgot To Remember’, Organ, Jesse Crawford. ‘Squirrel Dance’, Marek Weber’s Orchestra. ‘Florrie Ford Old Time Medley’, Florrie Ford and Chorus. ‘Old Man of the Mountains’, Organ, Quentin Maclean. ‘Blue Is The Night’, Dennis King. ‘Liebestraum Fantasy’, Piano,Patricia Rossborough. ‘When I’m Looking AtYou’, Lawrence Tibbett. ‘Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2’, Philadelphia Symphony orchestra, ‘Passing of the Regiments’, BBC Military Band. ‘In A Monastrey Garden’, Organ, Reginald Foort. ‘Trooper Johnny Ludlow’, Peter Dawson. ‘Old Time Sing Song’, Charles Coburn and Co. 11.15pm Weather Information. 12 Midnight Close Down (Sunday, January 7, 1934).
George Palmer enjoyed the technical aspects of radio. Jack Ayling noted in a 1961 TV Week: “Mr Palmer is a pioneer in many ways – he launched radio station 3AK (now owned by GTV9) from a bedroom at his home in Balwyn in November 1931, and also founded 7UV Ulverstone, Tasmania (now 7AD Devonport) in 1933.
“Previously, in 1927, Mr Palmer had produced, directed and acted in a silent film, The North Bound Limited, which was filmed on a train between Melbourne and Albury.
“The film was screened throughout Australia and Mr Palmer later took it to America on tour. Its run was ended by the ‘talkies’, but after all expenses Mr Palmer wound up £1000 on the right side of the ledger.”
The Postmaster-General’s Department approved a substantial increase for 3AK in March 1935, with entirely new equipment being built. Listener In reported: “This increase of power will mean that 3AK will be in the position to serve Victorian listeners in the same efficient manner as other Melbourne B-class stations. This will be very satisfactory news to the many thousands of listeners, including those throughout the country districts who rely on this station for entertainment as well as information during early morning hours.
“The present wave length of 200 metres will remain unaltered, but many other important changes are taking place to meet the requirements of the special service which this station will be in a position to offer.”
1935 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Late Supper Music. 12.15am 3AK’s Free Theatre Tickets. 12.20am to 2am Selected Program of dance, Vocal and Instrumental Numbers. 5am to 7am early Breakfast Session – Bright Recorded Music. Free Theatre Ticket Winning Numbers Announced at 5.30am and 6.30am. (Monday, April 1, 1935).
Saturday. 1.00pm Luncheon Music. 1.15pm Alba Petroleum Co. Sponsored session. 1.30pm Vealls, Camberwell. 1.50pm Theatre news and music. 2.00pm Close down. 11.30pm Popular dance music. 12.15am Winning theatre ticket numbers announced. 12.20am Selected program of dance, vocal and instrumental numbers. (Saturday, March 30, 1935).
Sunday. 12.30pm Johnny Strikes Up, Dajos Bela Orchestra. Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Gladys Moncrieff. Happy Go Lucky You – Organ, Sydney Torch. Memories of Beethoven, Regal Salon Orchestra. 1.00pm British-Israel-World Federation Lecture. 1.15pm Once There Lived Lady Fair, Richard Tauber. Invercargill – March – Band of Royal Air Force, Gold Diggers of 1933, BBC Dance Orchestra. Hills of Home, James Melton. Danse Espagnol – Violin Solo – Yehudi Menuhin. Here’s The Circus, Bravour Dance Orchestra. Musical Switch, Band of H.M. Coldstream Guards. 2.15pm Judge Rutherford’s Lecture. 2.30pm Close Down. 10.00pm Gladiator March, Black Diamonds Band. I Kiss Your Hand Madame, Richard Tauber. Balero (Ravel), Jack Payne and BBC Orchestra. In A Monastery Garden – Organ – Reginald Foort. New Moon Selection, Victor Olaf Orchestra. 10.30pm Crawford Motors Session. King Chanticleer, International Orchestra. I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby -Cornet – Jack Mackintosh. Little Brown Jug, Stuart Robinson. Morning Noon and Night, Overture, Columbia Symphony Orchestra. Jolly Coppersmith, Arthur Pryor’s Band. Drury Lane Memories – Organ – Sydney Gustard. Voices of Spring, Boston Symphony Orchestra. Hansel and Gretel – Duet, Manchester Children’s Choir. Norma selection, Edith Lorand Orchestra. 12 Midnight, Close Down. (Sunday, March 31, 1935).
1936 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Bright Music. 12.00 Midnight, All-Night Service. 5.00am Breakfast Session. 5.30amTheatre Tickets. 5.45am Breakfast Session. 6.30am Theatre Tickets. 6.45am Breakfast Session. 7.00am Close. (Monday, June 8, 1936).
Saturday. 1.00pm Melbourne Boys’ Club. 1.30pm Luncheon Music. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm Dance Music. 1.45am Radio Times Session. 2.00am All-Night Service. 5.00am Brakfast Session. 5.30am Breakfast Session. 5.45am Breakfast Session. 6.30am Theatre Tickets. 6.45am Breakfast Session. 7.00am Close. (Saturday, June 6, 1936).
Sunday. 12.30pm Feature Session. 1.00pm Grand Massed Bands, Invincible. Albert Sandler & Orch., Fairy Tale. Dennis King, Without A Song. Regal Virtuosi, Beautiful Spring. 1.15pm Music and News. Billy Cotton and His Band, Harmony Lane, 1 and 2. Gil Dech, Birthday Serenade. Turner Layton, Stars Over Devon. Sydney Gustard, Barcissus. Len Fillus And His Orchestra, The Winter Waltz. Billy Cotton and His Band, Bird On The Wing. Joseph Schmidt, Lisetta. 1.45pm Howard Jacobs, I Love The Moon. Bournemouth Municipal Band, Fairy Ballet. Richard Tauber, You Are My Heart’s Delight. J.H. Squire, Celeste Octeyt, Amina. 2.00pm Paul Robeson, Swing Along. Edith Lorand and Her Viennese Orchestra, A Radio Roundabout, 1 & 2. Albert Sander & Orch., Love Me Forever. Beryl Newell, The Sweetest Story Ever Told. Harold Williams and Male Chorus, Chorus Gentlemen. Regal Salon Orchestra, Rendezvous. 10.00pm Judge Rutherford. 10.05pm Cedric Sharpe Sextet, Valse Bluette. Pavilion Lescaut Orch., Tell Me Why You Smile. 10.15pm Fishermen’s Vocal Quartet. 10.30pm Further Selected Recordings. 11.00pm Val Rosing, My First Thrill. Len Hillis And His Orch., Rosetta. Billy Cotton and His Orch., The King’s Navee. Jim Davidson and his New Palais Orch., It’s Great To Be In Love Again. Freddie Martin and His Orch., A Melody From The Sky. Patricia Rossborough. Broadway Melody, 1936. Sam Costa, Follow The Sun. Lew Stone and His Band, Down By The River. Billy Cotton, Sailing Home On The Tide. Hal Kemp and His Orch., With All My Heart. Turner Layton, A Little Bit Independent. Lew Stone and His Band, East of the Sun. Joe Loss and His Orch., Heads or Tails. Tommy Dorsey and Orch., Alone. 12.00 Midnight, Programming Continues Until 7.00am. (Sunday, July 12, 1936).
3AK introduced a ‘Hospital Hour’, a popular hour-long program, with cheery messages to patients in wards around the suburbs, listening via crystal sets, often donated by community groups.
AK was billing itself as ‘Top of the Dial’, and 1937 program guides had one session boasting that “at this time some lucky person wins a bottle of gin and a bottle of whisky”.
Early AK personalities included ‘Betty Ann’, who presented a cooking session, who “gives 50 pounds of self-raising flour to some lucky person”. Basil O’Brien (also known as Bob), another AK personality, progressed on to the grand role of Chief Announcer at 7UV Ulverstone – another Palmer station. O’Brien later worked in the News department of GTV9.
‘Jadasa The Miracle Man’, who conducted an astrological program at 12.30pm on the brief Sunday afternoon segment, was promoted thus: “If you suspect any hidden vices or walled-up talents in yourself, write to Jadasa and he will tell your character by your writing.”
Claude Tilley became popular as a commentator from the tracks on the early morning gallops, as an ‘extra’ sporting service. Tilley also organised ‘competitions’ on air in connection with the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
Wilma ‘Billie’ Leishman, a former 3CS voice, joined the all-night station, in charge of continuity, the term of the day for writing and checking scripts.
Another ‘Voice of the Night’, Val Colbran, later joined the RAAF war-time operations, but was also able to keep up his interests as an actor and tenor. Eric Spence, after his 3AK stint, left with well-known Melbourne broadcaster Maurice Callard to join one of the Army stations ‘up North’. Noel Meyers, joined the Navy, but was able to spend a little time at 4BH.
A roll-call of Melbourne’s radio announcers was circulated in 1936. 3AK had made the list!
ABC: Gordon Scott, Paul O’Loughlin, Bennett Bremner, Alan R. Bush, Lewis Meyers, Ken Waterhouse, ‘The Watchman’, Wallace Sharland, Mel. Morris, Jim Carroll, Mrs Lynch (‘Judith’), Pressy Preston (‘Jane’), I.A. Shead (‘Isobel Ann’).
3AW: Fred Tupper (‘Tuppy’), Cliff Nicholls (‘Nicky’), Gordon Massey, Jack O’Hagan, George Bills-Thompson, Bob Molyneux, John Masters, Kathleen Lindgren (‘Nancy Lee’), Gwen Varley.
3DB: Renn Millar, Geoffrey Palmer, Eric Welch, John Stuart (‘Daybreak Dan’ and ‘Bob Breezy’), Charlie Vaude, Alan Cooper, Maurice Callard, Iris Turnbull, Millicent Ormond (‘Sally Ann’).
3KZ: Norman Banks, Norman Balmer (‘Eddie’), Kenrick Hudson (‘Dick’), Alec Dear (‘Terry’), Pat Corby (‘Peter’), Stephen McDonald (‘Uncle Mac’), Don Joyce, Iris Greenham (‘Pat’), Mrs Rex.
3UZ: Hal Percy, Frank Jenkin, Harper Wilson, Jack Gurry, Charles Bradley, Harcourt Long, Dorothy Foster, Ida Coffey (‘Penelope’), Louise Homfrey (‘Louise’), Margaret Manning.
3XY: Walter Pym, Les. Daley, Frank Blandford (‘Monty’), John Storr, Eric Snell (‘Tiny’), Brian Bridges, William Lloyd, Madge Thomas, Marjorie Morris, Catherine Neill (‘Mary Lou’), Esme Johnstone, Kathleen Daley
3AK: Roly Barlee, W. Borgeest, Tony Lelliott, Alan Marris.
1937 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Variety Program. 11.45am Listeners’ League. 12.00 Midnight, All Night Service. 5.00am Melodious moments. 5.30am Theatre invitations. 5.45am Bright Music. 6.10am Fruit Report. 6.30am Further Theatre Invitations. 6.45am Claude Tilley’s Selections. (Thursday, July 8, 1937).
Saturday. 1.00pm Claude Tilley’s Race Selections. 1.15pm Beauty Session. 1.30pm Drinking Session. 1.45pm Football Session. 11.30pm Dance Program. (Saturday, August 30, 1937)
Sunday. 12.30pm Jadasa’s Session. ‘Preclude In G Minor’, Jack Hylton’s Orchestra. ‘Once There Lived a Lady Fair’, Richard Tauber. ‘March of the Toys’, New Light Symphony Orchestra. 1.00pm ‘Merry Brothers’, Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra. ‘A Star Falls From Heaven’, Joseph Schmidt. ‘Suite of Serenades’, Henry Croudson (Organ). ‘Speak To Me Of Love’, Gladys Moncrieff. 1.15pm ‘Hail Vienna’ (Pot Pourri), Marek Weber’s Orch. ‘Monotonously Rings the Little Bell’, Don Cossack Choir. ‘Turkish March’, Mishel Piastro, Violin. 1.30pm ‘P.S., I Love You’, Rudy Vallee’s Yankees. ‘Poor Little Angeline’, Gracie Fields. ‘Love Me Tonight,’ Debroy Somers Band. ‘My Melancholy Baby,’ Al Bowly. ‘If You Were The Only Girl’, Rudy Vallee’s Yankees. ‘Danny Boy’, Gracie Fields. ‘Mele of Hawaii’, Honolulu Serenaders. 2.00pm Melbourne Boys’ Club. 2.20pm Birthdays. 10.00pm Judge Rutherford. 10.15pm Fishermen’s Quartet. 10.30pm Children’s Competition. 11.00pm Wally Bishop’s Studio Band. 12 Midnight, All Night Service (Sunday, July 4, 1937).
First Breakfast Session
Popular programming started to find its way into the 3AK schedule. A 1937 press article boasts that AK “is now fortunate enough to have the distinction of possessing the earliest morning tea session on the air” with Jim McColl at 5.15am.
“Carl Weiss, one of 3AK’s sporting broadcasters is nothing if not versatile. In addition to cycling, riding, yachting, speed boat racing and a few other odds and ends, he is kidnapping the fighters and trainers from the Fitzroy Stadium each Friday night and taking them up to the mike at 11.35pm, where, under Carl’s leading questions they give listeners the first-hand story of the night’s battle and their earlier careers.”
A ‘live’ broadcast came from the after-show supper party at Melbourne’s Apollo Theatre. A contemporary writer noted: “It seems that 3AK packed up their goods and chattels and hied them off to do a spot of broadcasting from backstage. It is said that the popping of champagne corks came over most effectively. Ed Mitchell and Peg Quinn, who did the broadcast, declare that they are going to try and do one every opening night.”
On Sunday nights, AK branched out into organ recitals with Arthur Lewis at the Majestic Theatre. It wasn’t the only branching out. A 1937 Listener In report recorded: “With their aerial and one mast blown down in a gale, 3AK has been broadcasting under difficulties this week. Power was depleted but except for a diminished radius of reception, business has gone on as usual. Queensland and New Zealand correspondents have already written asking why the station is not coming through, and will no doubt be glad to know that by the time this sees print, all will be well again.”
One of 3AK’s great discoveries on its Midnight Amateur Hour was Ron Blaskett, the talented ventriloquist, at the age of 18. In his book, You, Me and Gerry Gee, Ron Blaskett explains that he went into a studio in Melbourne and Jack Clemenger (founder of the Clemenger/BBDO advertising conglomerate) put down his effort on a large acetate disc. Jack was later Sales Manager at 3XY, a station opened by Frank Thring Senior in September 1935 on the top of the Princess Theatre in Spring Street, Melbourne.
The broadcast prompted a small ‘write-up’ in the Age Radio Supplement.
Ron later was a vital figure in the opening of GTV-9, with his specially made Gerry Gee doll.
Within just seven years of its first broadcast, 3AK had won an enviable reputation as Melbourne’s sole all-night broadcaster.
But was local competition just around the corner? Radio Times commented in January 1938: “The wireless bird chirps that two or three of our commercial stations have applied for permission to broadcast continuously day and night as 2UW Sydney.
“For some years past, 3AK, in the face of many difficulties, has striven enthusiastically to supply Victorians with a midnight to dawn service, and has succeeded in earning the appreciation of thousands of listeners. It would seem a great pity if the pioneering station was subjected to the devastating competition of some of our wealthier stations.”
The Sydney station had won publicity in 1935 when its all-night announcer, Marius Beilley, attempted to drum up support in Victoria for his program. Listener Gilbert Hayman voiced this opinion: “Station 2UW has already been the means of saving the lives of three stranded fishermen off the New South Wales coast, who expressed their thanks in a midnight broadcast from 2UW.
“2UW wants to be in a position instantly to broadcast to inaccessible outback stations, ships at sea, and people travelling by car (those cars fitted with car radio), urgent messages. A launch may be missing, a plane may crash, a washaway may occur on a State highway. Just one of the many things that are likely to occur. The idea is simply to make 2UW’s all-night service a service of real value to people in all parts of Australia or New Zealand.”
The all-night competition in Melbourne was to be put on hold for many more years. A World War was just around the corner.
1938 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Ted Anthony’s Regal Hawaiians.12.00 Midnight, Age Session. 12.15am Dance Music. 12.45am All-Night Service. 5.30am Theatre Tickets.6.00am Breakfast Session. 6.10am Fruit Report. 6.30am Theatre Tickets. 6.45am Race Selections. 7.00am Close. (Monday, February 21, 1938).
Saturday. 1.00pm Claude Tilley’s Race Broadcast. 1.45pm Carl Weiss Interviews Sportsmen. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm Selected Tunes. 12.30am Dance band. 1.30am Age Program. 1.45am Theatre Session. 2.00am Dance Session. 4.00am Close. (Saturday, February 26, 1938)
Sunday. 12.30pm Jadasa’s Session. Astrological Discussions. Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, ‘The Bronze Horse Overture’. Excerpt from Carmen, The Flower Song. 1.00pm Music To Your Pleasure. Turner Layton, If I Should Lose You. Sege Krisch Septet, Nola – A Silhouette. 1.15pm Live-Artist Feature. 2.00pm Melbourne Boys’ Club Session. 2.15pm Birthday Greetings. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Judge Rutherford’s Lecture. 10.15pm The Fishermen’s Quartet. 11.00pm All-Night Service. (Sunday, February 20, 1938).
3AK Goes To War
As the declaration of World War II approached in September 1939, 3AK provided much-need comfort to listeners through the night in Melbourne.It was the only radio station on air through the ‘wee, small hours’ in the Victorian capital. All other Melbourne radio stations would close their transmission at 11.30pm or Midnight with the ritual playing of the National Anthem, God Save The King. Radio historian, Clark Sinclair of St Kilda’s 3SA, remembered that announcers at other stations would always give the friendly referral: “Join our friends now at 3AK -‘Voice of the Night’.”
Nine Rules For Announcers
This list of rules for would-be broadcasters undergoing auditions, was circulated in 1935
1. Take it easy. Avoid all tenseness and over-anxiety preceding and during the audition by entering into the event lightheartedly. Preferred philosophy: If I’m a wow – hurray – if I’m a flop there was no harm trying.
2. Don’t chatter nervously with any of the other young women who are like yourself, waiting to be led to the microphone for the test. Wait quietly until your name is called. Pass the time reading over your script.
3. Listen carefully to what the man in charge advises. He will instruct you in “microphone technique”, and will also tell you what not to directly before your turn comes.
4. When you are led to the microphone, take an easy, comfortable balance on your feet. This is important. Many novices stand on tip-toe in their nervousness, or take some strained position which actually influences their voice and radio manner.
5. Don’t hold your music or script low, and don’t look down on it. Hold it directly opposite your eyes so both your head and voice will be up.
6. Try, at the moment before audition, to get a good grip on yourself. Relax. Make sure you are breathing easily. Forget the men in the audition room, and remember that the engineer and the production man are both “for” you.
7. Deliver your songs and dramatic reading without raising your voice. Enunciate clearly – try to project your personality with one person in mind as a listener.
8. Don’t imitate any well-known radio star. Be original without straining to styilize your material. Don’t ad lib or try any special arrangement stuff. The simpler the better.
9. In singing, stick to the melody.
A 3AK program log from 1939 showed a Friday night – Saturday morning running sheet with dance music for an hour, after the station started on air around midnight. Other segments would include popular local vocalists, piano pieces and a classic interlude before the Rise And Shine show at 5am, including weather and fruit reports.
3AK included Saturday afternoon broadcasts with Claude Tilley’s coverage of the Williamstown races, musical numbers, coverage of the Melbourne Boys’ club, plus the night-time broadcast of the Napier Park coursing results from the local greyhound races.
1939 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm All Night Service Commences. Dance Music. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Rhythm. 12.05am Dance Music. 12.15am Free Theatre Tickets. 12.30am Theatre News. 12.45am Classic Concert. 5.00am Monday Morning Melodies. 5.30 Free Theatre Tickets. 6.00am Weather Report. 6.30am Free Theatre Tickets. 6.45am Claude Tilley with selections for Williamstown Races. 7.00am Close. (Monday, April 10, 1939).
Saturday. 1.00pm Claude Tilley with selections for Williamstown Races. 1.15pm.’All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor’, Joe Daniels. ‘The Wind Mill’s Turning’, International Novelty Hour. ‘Jonah And The Whale’, Louis Armstrong and Decca Mixed Chorus. ‘Hot Lips’, Harry Roy’s Tiger Raggamuffins. 1.45pm. Melbourne Boys’ Club. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm. We Are On The Air Until 4am. 11.45am Napier Park Coursing Results. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Rhythm. 12.30am Dance Music. 1.00am Popular Light Vocalists. 1.45am Popular Piano Pieces. 3.00am Classic Interlude. 5.00am Rise and Shine. 5.30am Musical Comedy Excerpts. 6.00am Weather Report. 6.10am Fruit Report. 6.15am Morning Melodies. (Saturday, April 8, 1939).
Sunday. 12.15am Dance to Strict Dance Music.12.30am Don With Doings In Danceland. 12.45am Learn To Dance.2.00am Party Parade. 4.00am Close. 12.30pm ‘Jadasa The Astrologer’. 1.00pm Light Recordings. ‘Ti Pi Tin’, Casino Royal Orch. ‘Two Sleepy People’, Ella Logan and Hoagy Carmichael. ‘Sparkles’ – Sel. Louis Levy and G.B.S. Orch. ‘Senorita’, Nelson Eddy. ‘Bei Mir Bist du schoen’, Harry Roy and Orch. ‘Desert Song Sel.’, Savoy Orphans. 1.30pm The Radio Philosopher. 2.00pm Classic Interlude. 2.15pm Prince’s Popular Vocalists.10.00pm ‘Nicola’ – The Friend of The People. 10.30pm Light Orchestral Concert. ‘Jester at the Wedding’, March and Valse. Eric Coates and Symphony Orchestra. ‘Champagne Bubbles’, Grand Symphony Orch. ‘Night and Day’, Richard Tauber. ‘Second Serenade’, Fred Hartley’s Quintet. ‘Fairy Tale’, Albert Sandler and Orch. ‘Sympathy’, Richard Tauber. ‘Gypsy Baron, Pot Pourri’, Bernard Derksen and Orch. 11.00pm The Opera House of the Air. Musical Master Pieces. Easter Program. ‘Prelude to Act 1 Lohengrin’, Wagner. New York Philharmonic Symphony Orch. ‘Parsifal’, Wagner, The Grail Scene, Act 1. Bayneuth Festival Orch. ‘Good Friday Music Act 3’, Alexander Kipnis and Fritz Wolf. ‘It Is Enough’ (Eliza), Harold Williams. ‘London Philharmonic Orchestra Combination March and Hymns. 12 Midnight, Midnight Rhythm. (Sunday, April 9, 1939).
In 1939, Tilley had been Managing Director of 3AK Melbourne Broadcasters Pty Ltd for some time, having taken over from George Palmer in February 1938. Palmer went on to become a prominent radio-TV technician, considered by many as years ahead of his time.
Tilley resigned his management position almost coincidentally with the outbreak of war. “Claude has been ill for some weeks and will take a well-earned vacation,” reported the Radio Times. “He expects to return to radio early next year. Claude’s position will be filled by Alf. Andrew who, for the past year, has been acting as the station’s Studio Manager and Chief Announcer. He was one of the first announcers in Melbourne, and after some years with 3LO, accepted a position as Studio Manager and Chief Announcer at 3UZ.
“He played a prominent part in pioneering commercial radio in Melbourne and one of the highest-paid men in the broadcasting field. He is a character actor of exceptional merit.”
Both Tilley and Andrew were obviously good showmen for 3AK. The station advanced its on-air time into Sunday afternoons and nights with an extraordinary mix of Jadasa The Astrologer, a ‘Radio Philosopher’, between light recordings and devotional pieces.
With television not to be introduced until 1956, Melbourne’s night-time living pattern of the early War years was quite different with many people visiting the City theatres in the evening, returning home to the suburbs after 11pm by public transport or car.
After other radio stations had closed transmission with God Save The King, many tuned to 3AK for its bright dance music, an opportunity to win free theatre tickets in regular segments on the latest shows and films. Big attractions were Charlie Sherriff and the Hotcha Boys, the 1am Hospital Hour with ‘cheerios’ for patients and Louis Levy selections in the early morning.
1940 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 12.00 Midnight, It’s Dance Time. 12.05am Dance Music. 12.30am Hawaiian Memories. 1.00amPopular Vocalists. 1.45am Piano Pieces. 2.00am Classic Interlude. 5.00am Rise And Shine. 6.10am Fruit Report. 6.15am Morning Melodies. 6.45am Sun News Service. 7.00am Close. (Friday, February 23, 1940).
Saturday. 1.00pm 3AK Sporting Service. Selections for Caulfield Races by ‘Thorough’. 1.15pm Sporting Interviews. 1.30pm A Session For Cyclists. 1.45pm Yachting News. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm We Are On The Air Until 4am. 12.05am A Four-Hour Dance Program. 12.45am Learn To Dance. 2.00am Keep The Party Going. 4.00am Close. (Saturday, February 24, 1940).
Sunday. 12.30pm Recorded Music. 12.35pm Hawaiian Club of Australia. 1.00pm Jadasa – Astrological Discussions. 1.45pm Louis Levy and Orchestra. 2.00pm Radio Roundabout. 2.15pm Prince’s Popular Program, featuring Madame Sonja Winokurow. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Selected Program. 10.15pm ‘The Hollywood Half Hour’. Studio presentation with the Voice of Hollywood. 10.45pm Popular Melodies. 11.00pm The Allen Hewett Celebrity Concert. 12 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 12.05am Dance Music. 12.30am Free Theatre Tickets. 12.45am Theatre News. 1.00am Dance On. 2.30am Light Orchestral Concert. 3.30am Classic Concert. 5.00am Early Morning Breakfast Session. 6.00am Morning Melodies. 6.30 Free Theatre Tickets. 6.45am Sun News Service. 7.00am Close. (Sunday, February 25, 1940).
The Movie Roundsman was Denbeigh Salter, who served Melbourne for more than half-a-century with his insightful film critiques.
The declaration of war in September, 1939, had a range of messages from Melbourne radio people.
“Our duty is plain, our course clear,” said David Worrall, General Manager of 3DB-3LK. “While we must give out the big news as it occurs, and news summaries at proper intervals, we must not ‘load the air with horrid speech’, or the public will get the horrors.”
Tom Holt, General Manager at 3XY, agreed: “Business as usual should be radio’s motto, just as it was with respect to industry generally in 1914. Actually radio should extend and develop unless, as does not now seem likely, Australia is called upon to defend her own shores.”
Weekly program guides started to list short-wave schedules, so that Melbourne listeners could tune direct to the broadcasts from England, France, Germany, Holland and Italy and a range of other nations.
1941 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm All-Night Service Commences. 11.45pm Comedy Corner. 12 Midnight, A Dance Program, featuring Victor Sylvester. 12 .30am Theatre Tickets. 1.00am Hawaii Calling. 1.30am Dance Music. 2.00am BBC News Bulletin. 2.15am Variety. 2.45am Featuring Tino Rossi. 3.00am Classic Interlude. 4.00am BBC News Bulletin. 4.15am Selections from Shows. 4.45am George Swift (Trumpet). 5.00am Rise And Shine. 5.30 Daily At Dawn. 6.00am Today’s Text. 6.15am Fruit Report. 6.30am Free Theatre Tickets. 6.45am Sun News Service. 7.00am Close. (Monday, April 7, 1941).
Saturday. 1.00pm 3AK Sporting Selections. Mentone Selections. By Carl Weiss. 1.15pm Session For Cyclists. 1.30pm It Happened In Sport. 1.45pm Sporting Interviews. 2.00pm Close. 11.30am We’re On The Air Until 4am. 11.45pm Speed Coursing Results. 12 Midnight, Let’s Dance. 12.05am Music From The Movies. 12.30am Dance Program. 12.45am Round The Theatres. 1.00am Christian Science Monitor. 1.10am Dance Music. 2.00am BBC News Bulletin. 2.15am A Spot Of Comedy. 2.45am Charm of the Waltz. 3.00am Classic Hour. 4.00am BBC News Bulletin. 5.00am Breakfast Session. 5.30am Daily At Dawn. 6.00am Today’s Text. 6.15am Fruit Report. 6.45am Sun News Service. (Saturday, April 5, 1941).
Sunday. 12.30pm Variety. 12.45pm Melody Valley. 1.00pm Jadasa. 1.30pm Movie Roundsman. 2.00pm Name The Vocalist. 2.15pm Quiz Time. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Christian Science Monitor, 10.15pm Picture Parade, with the Voice of Hollywood. 11.00pm Hour of Pleasure. 12 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 12.05am Four Hour Dance Program. 1.15am New Releases. 2.00am BBC News Bulletin. 2.10am Keep The Party Going. 4.00am Close. (Sunday, April 6, 1941).
The big Melbourne retailer, Homecrafts, of 211 Swanston Street, City, advertised the model 904 Astor six-valve dual-wave A.C. console with ‘overseas reception guaranteed’ for 24 Guineas (£25/4/-, or $50.40 in today’s currency).
And, of course, listeners were legally obliged to pay for radio licences, with Postmaster-General department officials prosecuting those who “preferred to get entertainment at the expense of others”. Fines for offenders ranged from £2 up to £20.
By 1940, 3AK’s overnight broadcasts incorporated a 6.45am news service from The Sun morning newspaper – the first radio news broadcast for the day, for a town increasingly eager for the latest war news. Likewise, AK would have the last service for the day at 11.50pm with the Late Evening News.
Weekend sports coverage on 3AK increased to cover the Caulfield races, cycling and yachting as the station went to air, briefly, from 1pm to 2pm, before resuming at 11.30pm Saturday nights. AK’s Sunday afternoon programs started to include Hawaiian music, with Sunday night attractions including The Hollywood Half Hour and the Allen Hewett Celebrity Concert. These weekend broadcasts were allowed as a special condition on the 3AK broadcasting licence granted by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
1942 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30am All Night Services Commences. 12.00 Midnight, Dance Music. 12.30am Theatre Tickets. 12.45am Theatre News. 1.00am Crosby and Boswell. 1.15am Selections From Shows. 1.30am A Light Concert. 2.00am BBC News Bulletin. 2.15am Dance Music. 3.00am Variety. 4.00am BBC News Bulletin. 5.00am Breakfast Session. 5.15am Daily At Dawn. 6.00am Today’s Text. 6.30am Theatre Tickets. 6.45am Sun News Service.7.00am Close. (Monday, April 6, 1942).
Saturday. 1.00pm Vibrant Health. 1.45pm Session For Cyclists. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm On The Air Till 4am. 11.40pm Speed Coursing Results.11.45pm Comedy Corner. 12.00 Midnight, Dance Music. 12.45am Around The Theatres. 1.00am Dance Music. 2.00am BBC News Bulletin. 2.15am Light Concerts. 2.45am Popular Vocalists. 3.00am Variety. 4.00am BBC News Bulletin. 5.00am Early Morning Session. 5.30am Daily At Dawn. 6.00am Today’s Text. 6.20am Three Star Revue. 6.45am Sun News Service. 7.00am Close. (Saturday, April 4, 1942).
Sunday. 12.30pm Sunday Star. 12.45pm Swingtime. 1.00pm Jadasa. 1.30pm The Movie Roundsman. 2.00pm Mystery Melody. 2.15pm The Bridge Builders. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm A Band Concert. 10.15pm Voice Of Victory. 10.45pm Classic Interlude. 11.00pm Talent Quest. 12.00 Midnight, Dance Program Commences. 2.00am BBC News Bulletin. 2.15am More Dance Music. 3.30am Mystery Vocalists. (Sunday, April 5, 1942).
Some argue that war-time saw some society values loosen step-by-step. Across town, 3AW had employed the righteous Reverend Reginald Gordon Nichols, who appeared as ‘Brother Bill’ for some years. The cleric won a reputation for helping Melbourne’s battlers.
There was shock when Police arrested the Rev. Nichols on six charges of knowingly sending words of obscene character through the mail.
“We don’t know what ‘Nick’ has done, but we’re sure that it can’t be nearly as bad as the bare press notification made it seem,” said the churchman’s Melbourne-based joint treasurers. “It was a tremendous surprise to us, and we can’t account for it. No, we don’t think that the liquor interests have ‘framed’ him for his anti-liquor campaign. Nor is there anything in the theory of a spiteful former woman friend.
“We can conceive the possibility that he wrote the letter and, in a moment of righteous indignation at something done to him, called a spade a spade. We’ve all done it at some time and probably with less excuse than ‘Nick’.”
Meanwhile, in Townsville, Nichols faced Magistrate Mr D. McLean, with a guilty plea. The Magistrate said that the letters were the most disgusting exhibition of mental deparavity he had ever read.
Sub-Inspector Gannon stated that information was received in February 1943 that Nichols was writing letters and sending through the post to certain women in Victoria. “All letters contained filthy and obscene expressions beyond comprehension,” reported The Radio Times. His Counsel said Nichols claimed he had been suffering from a nervous breakdown, “from which his mind had now recovered”. He was fined £6 on each charge, in default three months’ imprisonment.
1943 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm All-Night Variety. 11.45pm Hits, Past and Present. 2.00am BBC News. 6.45am Sun News Service.7.00am Close. (Monday, April 5, 1943).
Saturday. 1.00pm Comedy Interlude. 1.15pm Classical Gems. 1.30pm Orchestra & Song. 1.45pm Cycling Session. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm Party Night. 11.45pm Vocalists. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 12.15am Musical Moments. 12.30am Your Program. 1.00am Dance Program. 3.00am BBC News. 4.00am Close. (Saturday, April 3, 1943).
Sunday. 12.30pm Melodies. 12.45pm Swing Show. 1.00pm Versatile Hour – Jadasa, Classics, Laugh and Song, Movie Roundsman. 2.00pm Variety. 2.15pm Moments of Inspiration. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Sunday Star. 10.15pm New World Victory Session. 11.00pm Realistic Talent Quest. 11.30pm Classical Gems. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Variety. 2.00am BBC News. 6.45am Sun News Service. 7.00am Close. (Sunday, April 4, 1943).
Melbourne’s legendary quiet Sundays were broken with the quiet introduction of some sport. Debate over changes was fierce. Melbourne’s radio stations were granted permission by the PMG for an additional hour of broadcasting, opening earlier at 9am instead of 10am.
“The additional service to listeners is a natural outcome of the growth and development of entertainment presented by commercial stations,” reported The Listener In. “At one time commercial programs were broadcast only at odd times during the day, instead of the full day programs now aired.”
“3DB was the first Melbourne station to extend their program time to a breakfast session. Sunday morning programs were extended some years ago in Sydney, where times are the same as on weekdays. Melbourne stations have planned special programs for this extra hour on Sunday morning.”
3AK’s ‘All Night Service’ efforts through the war years included carrying two BBC news bulletins. For some time, local announcers Ray Alexander and Norma Ferris made up the happy overnight radio duo. (Norma Ferris was reported in 2001 as assembling a history on 3AK.)
1944 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Variety. 11.45pm Melodies. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 1.00am BBC News. 1.15am Hospital Session. 2.00am Vocalists. 2.15am Guest Artist. 2.30am Popular Classics. 3.00am BBC News. 3.15am Light Variety. 3.45am At The Organ. 4.45am Popular Variety. 6.40am News. (Monday, October 23, 1944).
Saturday. 11.45am Melodies. 1.00pm Diana Deimel. 1.15pm Classical Gems – The Russian Nightingale (Alabeiv) Lily Pons. Faust Ballet Music (Gounod) Boston Prom. Arthur Fiedler. 1.30pm New Releases. 1.45pm Cycling by G. Snell. 11.30pmVariety. 11.45pm Popular Parade. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 12.30am Dance Session. 1.00am BBC News. 1.15am Latest Releases. 1.30am Swing It. 2.00am Dance Session. 3.00am BBC News. 3.30am Variety. (Saturday, October 21, 1944).
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Broadcast” Pageant of Sovereignty. 10.00pmTravellers Courageous. 10.15pm Classical Gems – Hungarian Rhapsody No 1 (Lizat) Boston Prom. Arthur Fielder Des Dichters Abendgang (R. Strauss). Marjorie Lawrence. Belshazzar’s Feast Oriental Procession (Sibelius) Lon. Symph. Orch. Vitava (Smetana) Czech. Phil. Orch. Vaclay Talich. 10.45pm Light Orchestral. 11.15pm Red Cross. 11.30pm The Waltz. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 1.00am BBC News. 1.15am Dance Session. 2.00am Vocalists. 2.15am Guest Artist. 2.30pm Popular Classics. 3.00am BBC News. 3.15am Light Variety. 3.45am At The Organ. 4.15am Comedy. 4.45am Popular Variety. 6.00am News. (Sunday, October 22, 1944).
Public appetite need for immediate radio news quickly grew through the war years. Towards the conclusion of hostilities, Melbourne metropolitan commercial radio stations introduced independent news services. 3DB-3LK compiled bulletins at 7.45am, 12.30pm and 7pm, with the assistance of staff from the Herald-Sun organisation. 3UZ, 3KZ and 3AW took news from the Argus and Age, and 3XY provided an independent news service.
Whilst there was a real War of awful proportion across the seas, a small press war – involving radio – was underway in Melbourne. H. Drysdale Bett, son of Gippsland and ‘first in the Alberton Shire to enlist in the last war’, was using his Radio Times – Radioprogram publication against the Listener In, owned by The Herald & Weekly Times Ltd.
Radio Times was generous in giving publicity to all stations including 3AK. A less liberal policy was happening at the HWT paper, which also happened to own the burgeoning 3DB. Drysdale Bett heckled his opposition, and reduced the price of Radio Times to 1 ½d (1.5 cents) in a bid to boost circulation.
There were Writs between the papers, and Murdoch encouraged Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies to refuse a newsprint import licence when the Radio Times suggested it would launch an opposition afternoon newspaper in Melbourne.
At one stage, Drysdale Bett’s Radio Times teased about Melbourne’s newspapers:
“There’s The Sun for childish people;
There’s The Age for readers still living in the mid-19th Century;
There’s The Argus for good Christian gentlemen;
And there’s The Herald for people who have to tie up big parcels.”
1945 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Variety. 11.45pm Melodies. 12 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 1.00am BBC News. 1.30am Dance Session. 2.00am Vocalists. 2.15am Guest Artist. 2.30am Popular Classics. 3.00am BBC News. 3.15am Light Variety. 4.15am Comedy Interlude. 4.45am Popular Variety. 6.15am Comedy Spot. 6.40am News. (Wednesday, March 14, 1945).
Saturday. 11.45am Melodies. 1.00pm Musical Memories.1.15pm Classic Gems: Indianapolis Sym. Orch. Dubinushka Rimsky-Korsakov. National Sym. Orchestra. Romanian Rhapsody No 2 Bizet. 1.30pm New Releases. 1.45pm Cycling: G. Snell. 11.30pm Variety. 11.45pm Popular Parade. 12 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 12.30pm Dance Session. 1.00am BBC News. 1.15am Latest Releases. 1.30 Swing It. 2.00am Dance Session. 3.00am BBC News. (Saturday, March 10, 1945).
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Broadcast: Pageants of Distress.1.00pm Travellers Courageous.10.15pm Classical Gems – Boston Prom. Orch. L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2, Bizet. London Phil. Orch. Lyric Suite, Greig. 10.45am Light Orchestral. 11.15pm Red Cross. 11.30 The Waltz. 11.45pm Melodies. 12 Midnight, Midnight Melodies. 1.00am BBC News. 1.15am Hospital Session. 2.00am Vocalists. 2.15am Guest Artist. 2.30am Popular Classics. 3.00am BBC News. 3.15am Light Variety. 3.45am At the Organ. 4.45am Popular Variety. 4.40am News. (Sunday, March 11, 1945).
It was all good for radio in Melbourne … with generous publicity being offered to a relatively new media, that needed newsprint to boost its personalities.
The Herald press, headed by Sir Keith Murdoch, noted an opinion of a 1942 agreement for a central ABC news session to be aired on commercial stations: “It became quite obvious that the Canberra news service was heavily loaded in favour of the Government and that any dreary ministerial pronouncement was sure of space on the air.”
Censorship was evident in Melbourne radio. Norman Swain – ‘Billy Bouncer’ of 3KZ, and formerly ‘Sam’ of 3UZ in 1937 – was taken off air for a week by Federal authorities when he inadvertently broadcast details of a war ship.
At 3AK, listeners met often – as the ‘3AK Listeners’ League’ – with social evenings, similar to those made popular in 2001 by midnight-dawn announcer (or ‘yawn-nouncer’ as they called them in the Thirties and Forties) Leigh Drew. The war-time evenings included dancing, items, cards and supper, with an admission of 1/7½.
“The League is most anxious to assist deserving charity and to promote the one-big-family atmosphere amongst all members,” said a Radio Times report. “guided by the popular Claude Tilley as President, with Mr Bert Haigh as Treasurer, and Mr Len Butterley as Secretary, and a Ladies’ Committee of 20 members, everything points to success.”
1946 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm On The Air. 11.45pm Melodies. 12.15am Dance Session. 12.45am Band Highlights. 1.00am Hospital Session. 2.00am BBC News. 2.15am Swingtime.2.30am Classical Gems. 3.15am Variety. 4.15am Morning Star. 4.30am Instrumentalists. (Monday, May 6, 1946).
Saturday. 1.00pm Cycling Notes. 1.15pm Favourites. 1.30pm Popular Vocalists. 1.45pm Saturday Star: Essie Ackland. 11.45pmMelodies. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight Dance. 12.30am Comedy Spot. 12.45am Strict Tempo. 1.00am Today’s hits. 1.15am Jam Session. 1.30am Crooner’s Corner. 1.45am Swingtime. 2.00am Telephone Requests and Cheerios. 3.00am Variety For All. 3.30am Last Dance. 4.00am Close. (Saturday, May 4, 1946).
Sunday. 1.00pmTravellers Courageous.2.30pm Pageant. Fish. Blessing and Obedience. 10.15pm Classics: Benno Moiseiwitsch and Liverpool Phil. Orchestra, Concerto No. 2 in G. Op. 44 Tschaikowsky. 10.45pm Opera excerpts. 11.45pm Red Cross. 12 Midnight, Variety. 12.45am Brass Bands. 1.15am Polka Time. 2.00am BBC Session. 3.45am Jam Session. 4.45am Brass Bands. (Sunday, May 5, 1946).
The end of War in 1945 saw huge celebrations in the streets of Melbourne. Norman Banks hosted 3KZ’s non-stop coverage from the top of Manchester Building in Swanston Street, opposite the Town Hall. Eric Welch (much later, briefly, at 3AK) headed the 3DB celebrations.
One of the most popular radio shows of the post-War years was D24, assembled by Hector Crawford’s production firm for 3DB. Usually written by Dorothy Crawford and Roland Strong, the dramatisations used files of the Victoria Police with names changed ‘to protect the innocent’.
The program was to become the basis of early TV series successes, such as Crawford’s Consider Your Verdict, Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, Solo One and The Sullivans.
3AK, in its all-night era, played an unusual role with Crawford Productions. There was a peculiar sharing arrangement with 3DB who would air the top-rating D24 half-hour episodes at 8.30pm Tuesdays. Just hours later, 3AK would re-broadcast the program at 1am, to catch a different audience, or those seeking an encore.
A 1950 industry advertisement boasts of the Crawford School of Broadcasting, with a message from its directors Roland Strong, Hector Crawford and Dorothy Crawford. The Crawford School of Broadcasting offered ‘comprehensive and thorough training in every aspect of radio acting, radio announcing, and the art of speech’ under Principal Moira Carleton, radio coach John Curtis, speech teacher Allan Maheson and actor Douglas Kelly.
1947 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45pm Melodies. 12.05am Jazz Band Ball. 12.30am Theatre Club. 12.45am Merry Macs. 1.00am Sentence In Song. 1.15am Hospital Requests. 2.00am Australian Artists. 2.15am Concerto Concert. Double Concerto in A Minor (Brahms). 2.50am Flanagan and Allen. 3.00am Famous Tenors. 3.15am Colour Scheme. 3.30am Telephone Requests. 4.00am Variety Show. 5.00am Breakfast Time. 5.15am The Bandstand. 5.30am Up and Away. 5.45am Bing Crosby. 6.05 Argus News. 6.30am Theatre Club. 7.00am Close Down (Monday, June 30, 1947). Saturday. 1.00pm Cycling Notes. 1.15pm Latest Releases. 1.30pm Midday Variety. 2.00pmClose Down. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45pm Waltz Memories. 12 Midnight, Party Programs. 1.00am Hits Of The Week. 1.30pm Supper Time with Spike Jones and Frank Sinatra. 2.00pm Sound Track from MGM Film. 2.15am In Strict Dance Tempo. 2.30am Rhythm In The Alphabet: Guy Lombardo, Joe Loss, Harry Leader. 3.00am Jungle Doctor. 4.00am Close Down. (Saturday, June 28, 1947).
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Pageant. 2.00pm Close Down. 10.00pm Gospel Hour. 11.00pm Guest Composer: Arthur Bliss. 12 Midnight, Variety. 12.30am Theatre Club. 12.45am Musical Comedy Gems. 1.00am Telephone Requests. 1.30pm Sinatra and Como. 2.00am Australian Artists. 2.15am Music of the World. 2.45am Kentucky Minstrels. 3.00am Telephone Requests. 3.30am Popular Pianists. 3.45am Jive Time. 4.00am Variety Show. 5.00am Breakfast Time. 5.15am Dance Tempo. 5.30am Up and Away. 5.45am Bing Crosby: Blue Skies, Give Me The Simple Life, Sue City Sioux, Bells of St Mary’s. 6.05am Argus News. 6.15am Topical Tunes. 6.30am Theatre Club. 7.00am Close Down. (Sunday, June 29, 1947).
Another serial on AK around 1952 was the popular Doctor Kildare series, presented as part of Rea Benn’s Saturday Party program, which also included cheerios, requests and popular dance music.
Throughout the 1940’s, 3AK was led by talented Station Manager Harry Earl. Today, his son, David, continues the link with the station as a film critic on Leigh Drew’s overnight 3AK program.
The late Joyce Newland, won a great following as the ‘Lonesome Lady of 3AK’, chatting about theatre, and bringing a bright profile to the ‘Voice of the Night’ Joyce later went on to become everything from Ticket Secretary to audience warm-up lady for The Don Lane Show on Channel 9, as well as writing and recording commercials for 3AK in 1970.
1948 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45pm Melodies. 12.10am Jazz Ball. 12.30pm Theatre Club. 1.00am Tropical Tunes. 1.15am Requests. 2.00am Australian Artists. 2.15am Theatreland. 2.45am Comedy Corner. 3.00am Famous Tenors. 3.15am Instrumental. 3.30am Requests. 4.00am Variety Show. 5.00am Breakfast Tunes. 6.07am Argus News. 6.16am Moonee Ponds Traders. 6.30am Theatre Club. (Monday, May 24, 1948).
Saturday. 1.00pm Cycling Notes. 1.15pm Saturday At Home. 11.30pm On The Air. 11.35am Latest Releases. 11.45am waltz Melodies. 12.00 Midnight, Party Time. 1.00am Week’s Hits. 1.30am Swing. 2.00pm MGM Soundtrack. 2.15am Corn Cabaret. 2.30am Silvester and Crosby. 3.00am Dance Band. 3.30am Jungle Doctor. 3.45am Serenade. 4.00am Close. (Saturday, May 22, 1948).
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Pageant.10.00pm Gospel Hour. 11.00pm Concert Classique. 12.00 Midnight, Night’s Star. 12.30am Theatre Club. 12.45am Featured Artist. 1.00am Requests. 1.30am Harmony Ensembles. 2.00am Australian Artists. 2.15am Monday Musicale. 3.00am Requests. 3.30am Musical Medicine. 4.00am Memories. 5.00am Breakfast Tunes. 6.07 Argus News. 6.16am Brunswick Traders. 6.30am Theatre Club. 6.35am Smith St Traders. (Sunday, May 23, 1948).
Other big names had made their start at 3AK too. John Eden – later known as 3DB’s ‘Silver Fox’ breakfast man – started as a ‘Voice of the Night’. A 1945 report confirms that Eden was the first radio man in Melbourne to announce the end of World War II.
“AK chief announcer John Eden was the first to ‘end the war’ with Japan. At 11.30 on that memorable Friday night when the Tokio (sic) broadcast, virtually accepting the Potsdam surrender terms, was picked up here, John announced to his listeners that “the war in the Pacific was officially over”.
“John was a little premature,” said the Radio Times. “He had heard a garbled account of the news on his way to the studio and, ringing the censor, asked “if the war was over”. He was told yes, and lost no time in airing the information. The AK phones were immediately jammed and John repeated the “official” announcement before it could be amended and the correct message given.”
1949 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45pm Melodies. 12 Midnight, Night’s Star. 12.30am Theatre News. 12.45am Pops. 1.00am Ballet – Nutcracker Suite. 1.30am Vocalists. 2.00am Australiana. 2.45am MGM Soundtrack. 3.00am Tauber. 3.15am Dance Tempo. 3.30am Hymns. 3.45am Vocalists. 6.07am News. 7.00am AK Close. (Tuesday, April 12, 1949). Saturday. 1.00pm Cycling Notes. 1.15pm At Home. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 12.00 Midnight, Party Program. 1.00am Week’s Hits. 2.00am MGM Soundtrack. 2.15am Supper Snack – Goodman Sextet. 2.30am Vocalists – Crosby, Al Jolson. 3.00am Dance Bands – Harry Roy. 3.30am Jungle Doctor – Serial. 3.45am Australiana. 4.00am AK Close. (Saturday, April 9, 1949).
Sunday. 12.30pm A Religious Pageant. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Gospel Hour. 11.00pm Classical. 12.00 Midnight, Night’s Star. 12.30am Theatre Club. 12.45am Pops Of Past. 1.00am Requests. 1.30am Vocalists. 2.00am Australiana. 2.15am Musicale. 2.45am Comedy. 4.00am Memories. 5.45am Bing Crosby. 6.07am News. 7.00am AK Close. (Sunday, April 10, 1949).
3AK’s profile had started to change. Just prior to the end of the War, the station announced on the front-page of Radio Times that it would devote all of its Sunday programming to religious broadcasts.
“Revolutionary is the only word to explain this week’s dramatic change in the programs from the Melbourne all-night station 3AK. All day Sunday, from 12 midnight Saturday until 12 midnight Sunday will be devoted to religious broadcasts.
“AK broadcasts from 11.30 on Saturday night right through until 4am Sunday morning, re-opens from 12.30pm till 2.30pm, and then comes on the air on Sunday night at 10 and continues all night.
“When pressed for a reason for the change the station manager Mr Harry Earl explained: “It was just a change in station policy.” He denied that there has been any change in the ownership of the station, but local radio-men insist that Mr Vernon Margetts, managing director of a well-known city furnishing store, is now very interested in the welfare of the station.
“Mr Margetts refused to make any comment, but as the policy change is in line with his recent professions of religious farvour, there is more than a likelihood that he is in some way responsible for the new policy.
‘No Lesser Authority’
“Mr Margetts may, of course, have bought up all the Sunday time available on AK, and if this is the case he would be quite justified – with the permission of management – in using the hours however he thought fit.
“The effectiveness of the experiment will be closely watched in radio circles, as recent commercial radio tendencies have been away from religious broadcasts to ‘light’ Sunday entertainment. Sunday has become recognised as the most valuable time in commercial radio. There is also the possibility – not so remote as many be generally thought – that 3AK will get special permission to go on the air all day Sunday.
“No lesser authority than the Minister for Information, Mr A.A. Calwell, announced when chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting that he would like to see more religious broadcasts on Sunday. If AK is willing to sacrifice sponsored programs, there seems little reason why it should not get this special permission.
“AK will no doubt lose some listeners because of the policy change, but it will certainly gain others, and the exchanges might give AK the largest Sunday listening audience it has ever had. Particularly if the program arranger shows a little imagination.”
1950 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45pm Melodies. 12.00 Midnight, Night’s Star. 12.05am Continental Cabaret. 12.30am Theatre Club. 12.45am Melodies. 1.00am Requests. 1.20am Guest Vocalists – Ilene Woods, Frankie Laine, Mills Brothers. 2.00 Australiana – ABC National Military Band; George Trevare. 2.15am Concerto Concert- Concerto No 2 in F minor. 2.45am Comedy Corner. 3.00am Opera Gems. 3.30am Modern Music. 4.00am Requests. 4.20am Alphabet Rhythm. 5.00am Bright and Breezy. 5.30am News. 5.45am Tunes Of Today. 6.00am Hot Spot. 6.30am Theatre Club. 6.52am Train News. 7.00am AK Close. (Thursday, November 16, 1950).
Saturday. 1.00pm Cycling. 1.15pm Athletic Preview – Ken McPhail. 1.30pm Rhythm. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45pm Old-Time Dances. 12 Midnight, Party Program. 1.00am New Releases. 1.15am Pop Parade. 1.45am Modern Music. 2.00am Lion’s Roar. 2.15am These Were Hits. 2.30am Just jazz. 2.45am Sunday Serenade. 3.00am Dance Bands. 3.30am Jungle Doctor. 3.45am Australiana. 4.00am AK Close. (Saturday, November 11, 1950).
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Pageant. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Gospel Hour. 11.00pm Classical. 12.00 Midnight, Night’s Star. 12.30am Theatre Club. 12.45am Donald Peers. 1.00am Requests. 1.20am Vocalists. 2.00am Australiana. 2.15am Waltz Time. 2.30 Bing Crosby. 3.00am Memories. 4.00 Requests. 4.20am Alphabet Rhythm. 5.00am Bright and Breezy. 5.30am News. 5.45am Tunes Of Today. 6.00am Hot Spot. 6.52am Train News. 7.00am AK Close. (Sunday, November 12, 1950).
One of the great characters of 3AK in the 1940’s and 1950’s was its proprietor Vernon De Witt Margetts.
Vernon was born on May 1, 1897, in Stanley Street, Arncliffe (NSW). A devoutly Christian man, Margetts offered a heavy sprinkling of religion in the 3AK programming, including a Gospel Session, smack-bang in the middle of presenter Lou Carr’s breakfast session.
Margetts’ father, Stephen, had been President of the Baptist Union in 1921-22, as well as earning a living as an auctioneer and general dealer in property and goods.
Stephen Margetts and wife Charlotte lived in 66 houses during their married life; Vernon’s son recalls that the 3AK proprietor’s ‘growing up years and schooldays were thus very disturbed and he carried a distrust and disrespect for academics in general, and school teachers in particular, all his life’.
The young Margetts was going to join up for War service in the 1914-198 Great War, but broke his arm cranking a car the day before his enlistment.
Vernon Margetts opened a hardware store when he was 18 or 19. It was a difficult time for him and he sold out after a year or so, having found that running a business was quite demanding.
“He worked selling advertising and studied via correspondence with the Hemingway Robinson Correspondence School a course in advertising.
“Once he visited Melbourne on behalf of a Tasmanian newspaper and wished an interview with the Editor of the Melbourne Sun which was refused. He re-attended the great man’s office the next day only to be rebuffed by the secretary again. He asked ‘Is he in the office?’ and was told ‘Yes’. Whereupon he climbed onto the secretary’s desk with the request ‘You won’t mind if I just look over the partition at him? I can’t go back home and say that I haven’t even seen him.’ Vernon Margetts secured his interview.
Margetts moved from Northern Tasmania to the Ford agency in Geelong in the early 1920’s. Vernon and his wife, the former Mary-Marjorie Dorothea Bastow, would take delivery of a Ford chassis in Melbourne, and drive to Geelong, perched on kerosene tins. The body-building and sale of the Fords would take place locally. Margetts Motors continued in Geelong under the ownership of Athelstane Margetts until the 1940’s.
Vernon Margetts became involved with the Malvern Furniture Company, with his father and brother in the 1920’s. He also took an interest in the Mack Furnishing Co. Pty Ltd that had several city and suburban outlets in Melbourne. Margetts was quick to see the power of radio, and Mack’s was one of the prominent advertisers in the weekly Radio Times newspaper, heavily promoting its stores, particularly on the corner of Centreway and Flinders Lane.
Vernon Margetts also became proprietor of 3AK, operating it from the old ANZ Bank premises in Grey Street, St Kilda.
Margetts died on April 26, 1970, at ‘Staverton’, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria, five days short of his 73rd birthday.
1951 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45am Melodies. 12 Midnight, Night’s Star. 12.05am Singing Strings. 12.30pm Theatre Club. 12.45am Melodies. 1.00pm Requests. 1.20pm Variety. 2.00am Australiana. 2.15am Victor Sylvester. 2.30am Choirs, Choruses. 3.00am Instrumentalists. 3.30am Orchestra & Vocal. 4.00am Requests. 4.20am Comedy Corner. 5.30am News. 5.45am Tunes of Today. 6.52am Train News. (Monday, March 12, 1951)
Saturday. 1.00pm Cycling – George Snell. 1.15 Athletic Preview – Ken McPhail. 1.30 Rhythm. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45am Samba Time. 12.00 Midnight, Party Program. 1.00am New Releases. 1.10am Pop Parade. 2.00am Lion’s Roar. 2.15am These Were Hits. 2.30am Capitol Artists. 3.00am Dance Band Memories. 3.30am Jungle Doctor. 3.45am Australiana. 4.00 Close. (Saturday, March 10, 1951)
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Pageant. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Gospel Hour. 11.00pm Classical. 12 Midnight, Night’s Star. 12.30am Theatre Club. 12.45am Bing Crosby. 1.00pm Requests. 1.20am Guest Vocalists. 2.00am Australiana. 2.30am Memories. 3.00am Alphabet Rhythm. 4.00am Requests. 4.20 Pianists. 5.00am Bright and Breezy. 5.30am News. 5.45am Tunes of Today. 6.00am Hot Spot. 6.30am Theatre Club. 6.52am Train News. (Sunday, March 11, 1951).
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Eric Pearce was building a reputation in Melbourne radio, which he was to bring to 3AK much later.
Sir Eric Pearce was to become a living legend at the Bendigo Street headquarters of GTV-9 in Richmond that housed both 3AK and the television station from the early 1960’s to the early 1990’s.
“To three generations of Victorian viewers, Eric Pearce was the voice of television news,” wrote Mark Lawrence in The Green Guide, in March 1990. “Most would still argue that none who have followed have brought such distinction to the role. His presentation was unique in this country.
“The thick eyebrows – one raised was more articulate than many words -impeccable grooming and the meticulously enunciated speech were his trademarks. Anyone who doubted his ability to impart a sense of integrity, and with it a following was silenced when, in 1976, he emerged from retirement at the age of 71 to again front Channel 9’s news – a move which many commentators were quick to say would not work.”
Pearce was born in Hampshire, England, and appeared as a baritone over the BBC. He had a varied career before radio, including working in a branch of Barclay’s Bank, and in an advertising agency before moving briefly to Canada.
He emigrated to Australia in 1937, joining 2CH as an announcer. He was made Studio Manager and feature compere at 3XY in 1940, and transferred to 3DB in 1943. He served for two years in the RAAF, and was discharged on medical grounds.
Eric Pearce appeared on HSV-7’s opening telecast from Melbourne Tivoli Theatre in November 1956, but was soon thereafter recruited by GTV-9 and 3AK. He appeared on the radio station daily with his meditations and homilies, as well as conducting a morning program with AK listener requests.
He was a favourite regular on Graham Kennedy’s In Melbourne Tonight, and 3AK relied on this popularity to boost its audience.
He became the network’s Director of Community Relations. Eric Pearce was one of the original on-air personalities to participate in and originate some of the early prestige projects including the setting up of the telethon in aid of the crippled children of Yooralla. Sir Eric was knighted in 1979 for services to TV and the community.
3AK continued this community spirit in the late 1990’s by its fund-raising involvement for the Variety Club, described as “one of the world’s greatest charities”. It was founded in Pittsburgh in 1927, helping children under 18. It has raised more than $30 million in Australia since 1974, and 3AK helps to hold an annual Christmas Children’s Day.
Eric Pearce was involved in many community and charity endeavours in Melbourne. He made a rare commercial appearance, putting the Liberal State Government’s case for establishing a new power station at Newport.
1952 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 11.45pm Nick Carter. 12 Midnight News. 12.15am Singing Strings. 12.45am Johnny Lone. 1.00am Give It A Go. 1.30am Requests. 2.00am News. 2.05am Lonesome Lady. 2.35am Choirs. 3.00am Hillbillies. 3.30am Popular Composers. 4.00am News.4.05am Requests. 4.25am Australiana. 4.40am Vocal Time. 5.00am Bright Music. 5.30am Sun News. 5.45am Today’s Tunes. 6.52am Train News. (Monday, July 7, 1952).
Saturday. 1.00pm Top Score. 1.30pm Rhythm Matinee. 11.30pm Pop Tune. 11.45pm Opera Arias. 11.45pm Tropical Tempo. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight News. 12.10am Hit Tune. 12.15am Saturday Serenade. 12.30am Hit Parade. 1.00am New Releases. 1.15am Dr Kildare. 1.45am Requests. 4.00am Close. (Saturday, July 5, 1952).
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Pageant. 10.00pm Gospel Hour. 11.00pm Coronets of England. 11.30pm Music. 12 Midnight. News. 12.15am Petite Concert. 12.45am Waltz Time. 1.00am Fred and Maggie. 1.30am Requests.2.00am News. 2.05am Musical Horizons. 2.35am Memories. 3.00am Musical Medicine. 3.30am Microgroove. 4.00am News. 4.05am. Requests. 4.25am Australiana. 4.40am Vocal Time. 5.00am Bright Music. 5.30am Sun News. 5.45am Today’s Tunes. 6.52am Train News. (Sunday, July 6, 1952)
3AK Sees Daylight
3AK – ‘The Mack Station’ – moved from its studios at 480 Bourke Street, Melbourne, where it had small premises overlooking a small city laneway. The studio had four record turntables, and a green curtain separated the on-air studio from the office and kitchen. The transmitter of Melbourne Broadcasters Pty Ltd was at Altona.
“It was quite a place in those days,” recalls Michael Williamson, who started his 3AK career on St Patrick’s Day, 1951. “It was pretty ramshackle. We used to get the midnight news bulletin; we used to have to get it from The Herald. But the 5am bulletin: you’d hear ‘beep, beep, beep’ and it would be a Herald car out the front of this bank building in Bourke Street.
“And you’d open the window of the second storey and there would be a Herald van down below, and you’d lower a piece of rope, and the guy would tie a copy of The Sun to it and there would be your news bulletin.
1953 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 11.30pm Pop Tunes. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight News. 12.10am Hit Tune.12.15am Something Sentimental. 1.00am Caltex Theatre – Re-broadcast. 2.00am News. 2.35am Hits Of The Thirties. 3.00am Classical Gems. 3.30am Platter Chatter. 4.00am News. 4.25am Australiana. 5.00am Bright and Breezy. 5.30am News. 6.52am Train News. 7.00am Close. (Friday, March 27, 1953).
Saturday. 1.00pm Top Score. 1.30pm Rhythm Matinee. 2.00pm Close. 11.30pm Pop Tune. 11.34pm Opera Arias. 11.45pm Tropical Tempo. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight News. 12.10am Hit Tune. 12.15am Latest Releases. 12.20am Hit Parade. 1.00am New Releases. 1.15am Bunkhouse Show. 1.45am Square Dancing. 2.00am News. 2.05am Dance Music. 4.00am Close. (Saturday, March 28, 1953).
Sunday. 12.30pm Religious Pageant. 2.30pm Close. 10.00pm Gospel Hour. 11.00pm Coronets of England. 11.30pm Petit Concert. 12.00 Midnight, Midnight News. 12.10am Window On Tomorrow. 12.45am Waltz Time. 2.00am News. 2.05am Truck Driver’s Jamboree. 3.00am Popular Classics. 4.00am News. 4.30am Australiana. 5.00am Bright and Breezy. 5.30am News. 6.52am Train News. 7.00am AK Close. (Sunday, September 6, 1953).
Williamson, who soon went on to become to become a household name with his football broadcasts, remembers moving with Dick Gaze to 3AK’s new premises, above the ANZ Bank at 17 Grey Street, St Kilda (phone LA 1554). Special trams, operated by the Victorian Railways, by outside on their way to Elwood and Brighton Beach.
Williamson remembers his 15 months at 3AK, where the St Kilda address sometimes wasn’t the best for conducting family radio.
“On Christmas Eve 1952, I was just about to read the news at the stroke of midnight. It was a very hot night and I had the window wide open. I was just about to say ‘Here is the news …’ when a brawl brought out in the lane below.
“The language that drifted in was loud and extremely rude. I didn’t know what to do. Shut the window or shut the microphone off.”
Williamson says he started at AK alongside the legendary Hal Todd, who was ‘Chief Announcer’.
“There were only two announcers, so I was Deputy Chief Announcer!”
He believes famed Melbourne radio news-reader John Worthy, later best known at 3AW, may have also performed a stint at 3AK.
Michael Williamson remembers that the radio station’s Grey Street address saw folk ‘drop in’ during the 11.30pm-7am shift. These included Police, ‘ladies of the night’, and other strangers.
“We had some very peculiar people who used to drop in. But this particular guy used to call in quite a lot and he was an expert on jazz. For some reason, I was on my own this night, and I started to read the midnight bulletin, and this fellow was sitting opposite me. And all of a sudden, right in the middle of the news bulletin, he pulled a gun out of his pocket and went ‘bang’, and blew a bloody big hole in the ceiling.
“I damn-near died. I switched the microphone off and said ‘Get out of here, you imbecile’, which was pretty stupid because he was standing there with a gun in his hand. Anyhow, he just calmly walked out of the door and the next minute – all the Police used to drop in, mates of ours – they came rushing in , and grabbed this fellow. I put on some transcription – like Jack Davey or something, that went on for half-an-hour, and explained what happened to them.”
Williamson also has vivid memories of station owner Vernon Margetts: “The owner of the place used to ring up at all odd hours of the night, and said God had been to visit him. He was a very religious man – and I’m not taking the mickey out of him at all, but this is just fact.
“He’d say ‘God has been to see me. Take off all that modern music and play hymn so-and-so.’ And he’d give you a list of hymns. And right in the middle of a pop music half-hour or hour, you’d have to go and drag these hymns out of the library and play them.”
February 1, 1954 witnessed a re-launch for 3AK, with the station dispensing with the overnight broadcast timetable of 23 years’ standing, and now adopting a day-time program schedule from 6am to 5pm or 6pm (7pm in summer).
1954 was in the midst of post-War recovery. Making news in Victoria was the arrival of the new Master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne, Mr Brinley Newton-John. His arrival aboard the Strathaird made headlines. He was accompanied by his wife, and children, Hugh, 14, Rona, 13 and Olivia, 5. Olivia Newton-John later made her own headlines in the world of entertainment!
Some 39 residential allotments were sold on Melbourne’s outer fringe at Edith Vale (sic), with a top price of 425 pounds making news. The domestic airline, ANA, advertised its Douglas Skychief, flying the skies at 315 miles per hour. Coca-Cola bottles were sold at 5d (contents only), with a 2d refund for empty bottles returned to the retailer.
1954 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Shim and Lennie. 6.15am Trains and Weather. 7.15am News, Music. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News. 8.30am Dark Destiny – Serial. 8.45am The Ghost and Mrs Muir. 9.00am Rivertown – Serial. 9.15am The Deceiver – Serial. 9.30am Ralph Rashleigh. 9.45am Singing Strings. 10.30am Hospital Requests. 11.00am First Anniversary. 11.30am Popular Classics. 12.00 Noon Remember These. 12.30pm News. 12.45pm Alan Carlisle – Serial. 1.00pm Eight-Hour Alibi. 1.15pm Singapore – Serial. 1.30pm Stage and Screen. 2.00pm Microgroove. 3.00pm Music Everlasting. 4.00pm Australiana. 4.15pm Adventure Library. 4.30pm Golden Lamp – Serial. 4.45pm News, Music. 6.00pm Dinner Music. 7.00pm Close. (Monday, February 1, 1954).
Saturday. 7.00am Breakfast Session. 7.15am News, Music. 8.00amGospel Session. 8.15amNews. 8.25amSaturday Swing. 8.45am Motor cyclists. 9.00am Sport Preview. 9.30am VFA Football Preview. 10.15am Hillbillies. 11.00am Modern Vein. 11.30am New Releases. 12.00 Noon, Midday Musicale. 12.30pm News. 1.00pm Top Tunes. 1.30pm Variety. 1.45pm Al Bowlly. 2.0pm Football – Dscriptionby Allan Forster and Wally Sharlandof VFA match, Williamstown v Northcote. 5.00pm Juke Box Saturday Night – Graeme Madison. 6.00 AK Close. (Saturday, September 4, 1954).
Sunday. 7.04am Morning Melodies. 7.30am Jungle doctor – serial. 7.45am Waltzes. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.00am Memories. 10.15am News, Music. 10.45amOverture – Force of Destiny (Verdi); Bartered Bride (Smetana). 11.00am Divine Service – Methodist Church, Moonee Ponds. 12.15pm Australian Songs. 12.30pm News. 12.45pm Waltz Time. 1.00am Carnival of the Animals – Narr. Noel Coward. 2.00am Classical Concert – Concerto No. 2 in C Minor (Rachmaninoff); Kel Nicrel (Bruch); Masques et Bergamasques ov. Requiem Pelleas et Melisanda Incidental Music; Pavane (Faure). 4.00pm Band Music. 4.30pm Tenor Time. 5.00pm Famous Pianists – Rubinstein. 5.30pm Hymns. 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, September 5, 1954).
The 1954 Royal Visit to Victoria of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh saw 3AK play a widened broadcasting role, in conjunction with the other Melbourne radio stations.
From 3AK’s initial broadcast in 1931, the ‘Voice of the Night’ had dominated the all-night airwaves in Melbourne. However, the Royal Visit – and the Olympic Games in 1956 – saw the other stations view 24-hour broadcasting as a major marketing opportunity. The forthcoming introduction (and competition) of television in 1956 might also have had a little to do with this more energetic programming!
Problems with the radio directional signals on the 1500 kilocycle band saw 3AK still restricted: this time with limited daytime hours on air. A station on the same frequency in Bathurst (New South Wales) chose to take to the air in the remaining hours – at nights. Melbourne radio historian Clark Sinclair says this unique sharing arrangement with 2BS would continue until Sir Frank Packer’s Consolidated Press acquired both stations in the early 1960’s. Packer installed directional transmitters in both Melbourne and Bathurst.
(Sinclair went on to coach a number of AK presenters from his 3SA land-line station. These included Colin McEwan and Grantley Dee.)
1955 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Breakfast Session. 7.15am News, Music. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.15am Bentleigh Shoppers. 10.00am Dandenong Shoppers. 11.00am Camberwell Shoppers. 12.0 Noon, Midday Musicale. 12.30pmNews, Music. 2.00pm Hospital Requests. 2.30pm Hawaii Calls. 2.40pm Light Orchestral. 3.15pm Music Everlasting – Violin Concerto in G K216 (Mozart), Le Chasseur Maudit (France). 4.00pm Remember These. 4.30pm Golden Lamp. 4.45pm News. 5.00pm Dinner Music – New World Symphony, No 5 in E Minor (Dvorak). 6.00pm AK Close. (Wednesday, March 9, 1955).
Saturday. 6.00am Breakfast Session. 7.15am News, Music. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.00am Sport Preview. 10.00am Morning Melody. 10.15am Hillbillies. 11.00am Instrumental. 11.30am Morning Maestro. 12.00 Noon, News. 12.10pm Rhythm Matinee – Fred Antman. 1.00pm Italian Rendezvous. 1.30pm Variety. 2.00pm Fats Waller Show. 3.15pm Music Everlasting – Listeners’ Requests. 4.30pm Juke Box Saturday Night – John Fowler. 6.00pm AK Close.
(Saturday, April 9, 1955).
Sunday. 6.00am Morning Melodies. 7.45am Waltzes. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.45am Jungle Doctor – Serial. 10.00am Kids Corner. 10.15am News, Music. 11.00am Divine service. 12.00 Noon, Ballet Music, Aurora’s Wedding (Tchaikovsky). 12.30pm News. 12.40pm Songs We Love. 1.00pm Band Music. 1.30pm Tenor Time. 2.00pm Classical Concert. 5.00pm Famous Pianists. 5.30pm Hymns. 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, March 6, 1955).
Melbourne’s radio stations pooled their resources in 1954 to cover the regal visit. The stations followed every step including a ceremony at the Shrine of Remembrance,a Royal Gala performance, Prince Phillip’s visit to the Flinders Naval Depot, and the Review of the Queen’s Colour Parade at Point Cook.
3AK’s involvement in late-February, 1954, saw the station cover the Royal couple’s Saturday afternoon arrival at Flemington Racecourse, and a trophy presentation at the Kooyong tennis courts. Sunday morning programming on the station included Sacred Music, a Gospel Session, Hymns plus the Royal Service ‘live’ from St Paul’s Cathedral. “Commentators will broadcast from church steeples, factory roofs, hospitals, control towers, cars and aircraft,” wrote one journalist.
February 1, 1954 saw the Sun News-Pictorial, Herald and Listener In publications offer huge publicity to 3DB’s new 24-hour-a-day schedule: “Night-owl listeners will be introduced to new radio people and find former day-time favourites on the air at all hours.” DB’s Program Manager, Norman Spencer, boasted of his line-up including Danny Webb, Maurice Callard, Dick Cranbourne, John Eden, Peter Surrey, John Stuart and Eric Welch.
The fact was The Herald & Weekly Times Limited owned all three newspapers, as well as DB. Minor coverage was also given to 3XY and 3UZ also going around-the-clock, as well as the conversion of 3AK to an ‘all-day’ station.
“Shim Berinson and Lennie Holmes , are to be 3AK’s breakfast announcers, are a good team,” reported a small Listener In paragraph. “They have decided to divide their two and a half-hour program into various parts. People don’t like to wake up to noisy jazz, they believe, so the first section of their session, ‘Early Morning Melodies‘, will be easy-to-listen-to light music.
“Then things begin to warm up with ‘Get Happy‘ and ‘This Will Make You Whistle‘ music. At 7.30 comes a request spot – ‘Music As You Like It‘ , followed by ‘Mercury Melodies‘, a program of latest releases. The last 10 minutes of the session is for the housewife.”
Holmes recalls he and Berinson were each paid 6 guineas a week. Another 3AK announcer, Alan Freeman, who went on to enormous fame in Britain, was paid the princely sum of £8/5. Freeman, who sounded identical to 3KZ’s Norman Banks, later became one of the BBC’s best-paid announcers, as one of the first rock music ‘DJs’.
Stan The Man
Another person to start his radio career in Tasmania, also became part of the new 3AK line-up. He was a young fellow named Stan Rofe, hosting an afternoon program. He also presented his Saturday afternoon with ‘facts of records about modern music’. Rofe later won an enviable reputation as ‘Stan The Man’, on 3KZ, with the Platter Parade. He launched the careers of many Australian pop music stars. Juke Box For Saturday Night was hosted by Lennie Holmes, taken up many years later by Don Lunn.
Rofe began work in the sales department of a radio manufacturing business, but he had been keen to get a taste of working on-air. He took a course of radio instruction with Lee Murray, joined Tasmanian station 7AD as an announcer, then joining 3AK. Rofe also later found great popularity at 3XY, 3KZ and 3UZ.
3XY hit the press with large advertisements, promoting itself as ‘First On The Dial With 24 Hour Service: Round The Clock Listening with Round The Clock Personalities’. Their line-up boasted Alwyn Kurts, Maurie Kirby, Jack Perry, Hal Todd, Annabelle, John Hart, John Sloan, Jim Seacombe, John Storr, Leon Peers, Clive Waters and ‘Gentleman John Ross’.
At 3UZ, a staff show introduced the night 24-hour format. The special broadcast included John McMahon, Nicky (Cliff Whitta) and Graham (Kennedy), Fred Tupper, Bob Horsfall, Norman Ellis, Bert Bryant, John Russell, Howard Scrivenor, Shirley Radford and John Pacini.
A 3AK station playlist of the time includes ‘Song Spinners’ such as George Guetray with I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise, Doris Day performing Every Little Moment, Jane Froman’s rendition of I Believe, band leader Mitch Miller’s interpretation of Autumn Leaves, and Nat King Cole with Pretend.
In that year, 3AK would come on air at 6am with ‘Shim’ and ‘Lennie’ (Jim Berinson and Lennie Holmes). Berinson was described as ‘The Singing Taxi Driver’, discovered the previous year by 3KZ Production Manager, Leslie Ross. Holmes would appear as a drummer and vocalist in KZ’s Oxford Show.
News broadcasts would be read at 7.15am, 8.15am, 12.30pm and 4.45pm. segments would include train and weather information, an 8am daily Gospel Session, serials during the ‘Morning Women’s’ program, hospital requests, plus stage and screen favourites. After ‘Microgroove High Jinks of the Hammond’, the station would close transmission at 6pm. First day-time announcers were Brian Clendin, Graeme Madison and Stan Rofe.
Little Money For Promotion
At 3AK there was little money, if any, for promotion. The station offered the first prize of 10/10/- in an ‘Ideal Program’ competition, where listeners were asked to plan a model program. “The station will take the entries into account in forming the new day line up,” said a newspaper article. Program Manager and Chief Announcer, Rea Benn, was quoted to say that a new program had been designed to attract housewives.
The only major publicity coming 3AK’s way was in Truth newspaper, which had a reputation for covering the more lurid stories in town. Breakfast man ‘Livewire Lennie Holmes’ was written up, appearing in St Kilda Court on a matrimonial matter, denying the accusation that his association with a 3KZ Publicity Officer was any more than a friendly business relationship.
Today such personal matters would probably scarcely raise a single line in the press. But Melbourne of 1954 was an entirely different society to that of the 21st Century. The morning Argus newspaper thundered ‘Shame On This Black Monday’, as Tattersall’s sold the first tickets in its 10,000-pound lottery consultation at 54 ‘teller’ windows at its Flinders Street headquarters. Police were on duty to cope with the rush, and Dr Irving Benson, in the Wesley Church, termed the time as ‘Victoria’s Black Monday’.
Different days indeed! Relaxa-Tabs were advertised at 30 tablets for 5/6 over-the-counter at chemists to counter ‘worry, anxiety, grief, overwork, excitement, sleeplessness … they do not upset digestion, affect the heart, or have any after effects’.
The radio payola scandal of the 1950’s was certainly more prominent in Sydney than Melbourne. In short, record companies would make under-the-table cash payments to certain ‘disc jockeys’ to play their artists’ records. Cash for comment?
The Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations brought down an order in 1954 that the record companies should send their first-release discs to radio station libraries, rather than directly to the station personalities.
“Some disc jockeys have been gaining an enormous advantage over their rivals with these early release records,” a breathless radio reporter wrote. “Disc jockeys in Sydney, at least, are protesting. They will hold a meeting soon to discuss this latest barrier to their efforts to out-do each other.
The closest that 3AK may have come to any scandal was a mention in journalist Rod Lever’s Whispering Gallery column: “Executive at one all-night station has put a ban on unauthorised persons dropping in after hours. Al l sorts of odd characters have been haunting the studios and distracting the announcer.”
3AK has often had a disadvantage in obtaining media publicity for its programming.
From almost the start of its operations, competitor 3DB enjoyed free and prominent publicity in The Sun News-Pictorial, The Herald and Listener In newspapers owned by its holding company, The Herald & Weekly Times Ltd. Likewise, one of the original three partners with theatrical producers Allan’s and Williamson’s in 3AW was The Age newspaper, which often promoted its investment as ‘Station of The Stars’. Later, 3XY became an Age investment, and for a time was based atop the newspaper’s city headquarters at 250 Spencer Street.
Truth newspaper reported in 1956: “War clouds gathered when 3AW recently found difficulty in getting program details published in the Herald group papers. The Herald prefers 3DB details … Crisis came when Lever Bros., sponsors of Australia’s Amateur Hour, decided to transfer it to 3AW from 3DB. The Herald would not publish an advertisement announcing this.”
Welcome To Television
3AK – along with Melbourne’s other commercial radio stations – changed its programming in anticipation of the introduction of television in 1956-57. A schedule from The Age Radio/TV Supplement (later called Green Guide) gives an idea of the programming from Monday, March 11, 1957:
GTV Channel 9
5.30pm Happy Show – Pres. Happy Hammond, with Ron Blaskett and his doll, Gerry Gee; Margot Sheridan, piano; Bernard the magician and Terry Toon cartoon. 6.30pm The Buccaneers – Drama series starring Robert Shaw, as Dan Temest, ex-pirate, and skipper of the Sultana. 7.00pm News Headlines – Tom Miller. 7.02pm Roy Rogers – Drama series, starring Roy Rogers and his friend Gabby (George Hayes): Heidorado. 7.50pm Road Safety – Pres. Pat Ryan. 8.00pm Give It A Go – Novelty quiz pres. Jack Davey. 8.30pm Cross Current – Drama series, starring Gerald Mohr: The Boy in the Park. 9.00pm Dragnet – Crime detection drama series starring Jack Webb: The Big Whiff. 9.30pm News – Pres. Tom Miller, with Professor Browne’s Study, weather information, sport. 10.00pm Epilogue – John Casson. 10.05pm GTV Close.
HSV Channel 7
5.15pm Judy Jack Show – Children’s program, pres. Judy Jack; Magic Forest. 5.45pm Mickey Mouse Club- U.S. children’s feature (film). 6.30 Annie Oakley – U.S. Cowgirl drama series, starring Gail Davies (film): Tunder Hill. 6.55pm The Chef Presents – Willi Koeppen. 7.00 News, Weather – Eric Pearce. 7.15pm Patti Page Show – Featuring Patti Page, vocal. 7.30pm Disneyland – Walt Disney film feature: The Goofy Sports Story. 8.30pm I Love Lucy – Husband – wife comedy series, with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez: The S_ance. 9.00pm Whitehall Theatre – Drama: Decision at Sea, an admiral is faced with the choice of saving his fleet air arm pilots or risking his entire fleet. 9.30pm Victory At Sea. Documentary: Mediterranean Mosaic, depicting the struggle for naval domination of the Mediterranean Sea. 10.00pm News, Weather – Eric Pearce. 10.15pm HSV Close.
ABV Channel 2
2.00pm Australian Amateur Athletics Championships – From Olympic Park. Commentators: Jack Metcalfe, Dick Healey, Graham White. 5.30pm Children’s Film Club – Film program. 6.00pm Close. 7.00pm News, Weather. 7.15pm Frankie Laine Show – Featuring Frankie Laine, Connie Haines, vocal. Items inc. Blue Skies, John Henry, Georgia on My Mind and Heart of My Heart, 7.40pm Sherlock Holmes – Detective series (film): The Case of Harry Crocker. 8.05pm The Sea Shall Test Her – Demonstrating the building of a ship from stell construction to learning (film). 8.25pm Meet Dr Floyd – Introducing the well-known musical personality (“live”). 8.45pm Favourite Story – Pres. Adolph Menjou: Conflict. 9.15pm ABV Close.
Television’s arrival in Melbourne proved a real challenge for local Victorian radio stations in 1956.
Radio receivers in homes – and newly being introduced into passenger cars – had the traditional settings of Melbourne’s ABC stations 3AR and 3LO, then 3UZ, 3DB, 3KZ, 3AW, 3XY and 3AK. But there were soon to be new competitors for an audience in the form of television stations GTV-9, HSV-7 and ABV-2.
‘People’s Day’ 1956 at the Royal Melbourne Show on Thursday, September 27, 1956, saw 98,000 people attended the Ascot Vale showgrounds, but many people were watching television sets at clubs, hotels and in front windows of electrical appliance retailers.
The Argus newspaper devoted some of its front-page on this day to announce the test transmission being undertaken by General Television’s GTV-9, from its transmitter at 23,000 feet atop Mount Dandenong. Station General Manager Colin Bednall said that the test programming, which was introduced by former 3DB announcer Geoff Corke, would include a full-length western film starring John Wayne and a Terry Toon cartoon.
HSV-7, owned by The Herald & Weekly Times Ltd, formally opened in November 1956, prior to the Olympic Games held predominantly at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Radio personalities Danny Webb and Eric Pearce, then of 3DB, hosted the opening telecast from the Tivoli Theatre in Bourke Street.
1956 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Hillbilly Harmony. 7.15am News, Music. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.00am Bright Tunes. 9.30am Featured Artist. 11.30am Factory Favourites. 12 Noon, Midday Musicale. 12.30pm News. 12.40pm Microgroove Music – Richard Creave Orch. 1.00pm Women’s Session. 2.00pm Hospital Requests. 3.15am Everyman’s Music. 4.30pm Dr Michaelson. 4.45pm News. 5.00pm Dinner Music. 6.00pm AK Close. (Monday, October 1, 1956).
Saturday. 7.00am Hillbilly Harmony. 7.15am News, Music. 7.45am Morning Melody. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.00am Sports Page. 9.30am Football Preview. 10.00am Morning Melody. 10.30am Hillbillies. 11.00am Italian Hour. 12.00 Noon, News. 12.15pm Dr Michaelson. 1.00pm Italian Rendezvous. 2.10pm VFA Football – desc. VFA Grand Final, Port Melbourne v Williamstown. 5.00pm Dinner Music. 6.00 AK Close. (Saturday, September 29, 1956).
Sunday. 7.00am Pop Parade. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.45am Jungle Doctor, Serial. 10.00am Hawaii Calls. 10.30am Orchestral. 11.00am Church of the Air. 11.30am Dance Time. 12.00 Noon, Ballet Music. 12.30pm Music. 12.40pm Songs We Love. 1.00pm Band Music. 1.30pm Yesterday’s Memories. 2.00pm Classical Concert. 4.00pm Song Time. 4.30pm Dr Michaelson. 4.45pm At The Console. 5.00pm Dinner Music. 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, September 30, 1956)
Radio personalities were soon to become TV celebrities, watched by the families who had been their devout fans on the ‘wireless’. Television receivers were on sale at relatively expensive prices, with the Admiral Belvedere 21-inch ‘Table TV’ advertised at 219 guineas (£229/10/- or $459). Viewers were also obliged to purchase an annual TV viewer’s licence at the princely fee of £5. Miss Portia Geach, President of the Progressive Housewives Association, implored that television should be regarded not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Press reports fail to record her opinion on radio.
“Television could easily produce a community of parrots and know-alls,” warned Mr Charles Bull, Director of Youth Education for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
3AK was still running on its limited hours from its studios in Grey Street, St Kilda. The station was managed by Vernon Margetts who was a devoutly religious person, who broke into Lou Carr’s regular breakfast program format at 8am to present a Gospel Session.
Former radio journalist Paul Nicholson notes: “Vernon Margetts was also involved in the Mack furnishing company in Flinders Lane, North Melbourne and South Melbourne. The story was that he was very slack running his radio business because he was too concerned with spreading the Gospel. I think he went to New Guinea.”
1957 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Hillbilly Harmony. 7.15am News, Music. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 10.15am Voice of Suburbs. 12 Noon, Midday Musicale. 12.30pm News. 12.40pm Microgroove Music. 1.00pm Women’s Session. 2.00pm Hospital Requests. 3.15am Everyman” Music. 4.30pm Dr Michaelson. 4.45pm News. 5.00pm Dinner Music. (Monday, March 11, 1957).
Saturday. 6.00am Bright and Breezy. 7.00am Breakfast Star. 7.15am News. 7.25am Bright and Breezy. 7.45am Melody Time. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.00am Sports Page. 10.15am Hillbillies. 11.30am Variety. 12.00 Noon, News. 12.15pm Dr Michaelson. 12.30pm Italian Music. 1.00pm Italian Rendezvous. 2.00pm Musical Matinee. 5.00pm Saturday Serenade. 6.00pm Italian Hour. 7.00pm AK Close. (Saturday, November 9, 1957).
Sunday. 6.00am Pop Parade. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.45am Jungle Doctor. 10.00am Hawaii Calls. 10.30am Kids’ Corner. 11.00am Church of the Air. 11.30am Ballet Music. 12.00 Noon, Dance Time. 12.30pm News. 12.40pm Songs We Love. 1.00pm Band Music. 1.30 Yesterday’s Memories. 2.00pm Classical Concert. Concerto No. 3 in G minor, op. 37 for piano and orch. (Beethoven); Concerto in E minor, op. 64 for violin and orch. (Mendelssohn); Concerto No. 2 in D minor, op. 22 for violin and orch. (Wieniawski); Sym No. 3 in E flat major, op. 55 ‘Eroica’ (Beethoven). 4.00pm Song Time. 4.30pm Dr Michaelson. 4.45pm At The Console. 5.00pm Divine Music. 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, March 10, 1957)
The focus of dining and leisure patterns of Melbourne’s families were also soon to change forever. Melbourne communities were in the habit of meeting weekly at their local suburban theatres, and 3AK was prominent in promoting the latest releases at local cinemas. A programming feature was awarding free theatre tickets in listener competitions. For instance, the Hoyts chain alone in 1953 had the following suburban network: ‘Park’, Albert Park; ‘Waratah’, Ascot Vale; ‘Time’, Balwyn; Bentleigh, ‘Centre’, Brighton; ‘Alhambra’, ‘Padua’, ‘Lygon’, Brunswick; ‘Broadway’, Camberwell; ‘Maling’, Canterbury; Carnegie; ‘Grand’, Coburg; ‘Renown’, Elsternwick; ‘Circle’, Essendon; ‘Regent’, ‘Merri’, Fitzroy; ‘Barkly’, ‘Trocadero’, Footscray; ‘Regent’, Gardiner; ‘Palace’, Glenferrie; Glen Huntly; ‘Southern’, Hampton; Ivanhoe; ‘Rialto’, Kew; ‘New Malvern’, ‘Victory’, Malvern; ‘Eclipse’, Port Melbourne; ‘Empress’, Prahran; ‘Circle’, Preston; ‘Cinema’, Richmond; ‘Memorial’, ‘Victory’, St Kilda; ‘Regent’, South Yarra; ‘Regent’, Thornbury; ‘Shore’, Williamstown; ‘New Windsor’, Windsor.
Radio stations determined they would have to think differently to attract listeners. TV was seen as an ominous competitor: one Melbourne newspaper of 111 years standing decided to close. On this day, 3AK changed its news theme from Champion March Medley to the Thin Red Line military march.
Paul Nicholson remembers those days: “I listened to the station a lot when I was a kid in the 1950’s. My parents used to flip between 3KZ and 3AK. It was more like a community radio station. Rather ‘hick’ in the ‘golden days’; I think 3DB had a stranglehold on the ratings.”
“There was also Doctor Michaelson at 4.30pm – I think he had a Jewish accent. “Remember the box number …”.”
The very last edition of The Argus on Saturday, January 19, 1957, carried a full-page advertisement for GTV-9’s gala opening night, including a 7.30pm presentation including Bob Dyer, Terry Dear, Eric Welch, Geoff Corke and Happy Hammond. All of these men had built their reputations as entertainers through the medium of radio.
Afternoon presenter was Ron Alderton, described by one writer to the famed Axes and Orchids column of Listener In: “Orchids to Rod Alderton, the only announcer on the air who never fails to tell us, before and after a record has been played, the name or the number of the artist or orchestra … an orchid to Lou Carr, another sincere bloke, and to his enjoyable Morning Melodies.”
Lou Carr was said to later conduct a City news-stand, after his 3AK days concluded. He was also a Producer for Happy Hammond at HSV-7.
1958 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 7.00am Lou Carr. 7.15am News. 7.30am Bright and Breezy. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.00am Dandenong Traders. 9.30am Factory Favourites. 10.15am Voice of the Suburbs. 10.30am Factory Favourites. 12.00 Noon, Midday Musicale. 12.30pm News. 12.45pm Microgroove. 1.00pm Women’s Session. 2.00pm Hospital Requests. 3.15pm Everyman’s Music. 4.30pm Dr Michaeleson. 4.45pm News. 5.00pm Spotlight on World Music. 5.30pm Italian Spotlight. 6.00pm AK Close. (Friday, October 10, 1958)
Saturday. 7.00am Lou Carr. 7.15am Bright and Breezy. 7.20am Hillbillies. 7.45am Melody Time. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 8.30am Italian Music. 9.00am Sports Page. 10.15am Italian Spotlight. 10.30am Hillbillies. 11.00am Italian Hour. 12.00 Noon, News. 12.15pm Dr Michaelson. 1.00pm Italian Rendezvous. 2.00pm Saturday Serenade. 5.00pm Dinner Music. 6.00am AK Close. (Saturday, October 11, 1958).
Sunday. 7.00am Pop Parade. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News, Music. 9.45am Jungle Doctor. 10.30am Kids Corner. 11.00am Church of Air. 11.30am Ballet Music. 12.00 Noon, Yesterday’s Memories. 12.30pm News. 1.00pm Band Music. 1.30pm Revivalists’ Program. 2.00am Classical Concert – Journey to Rhelma Or. (Rossini); Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major (Schubert); Lohengrin sel. (Wagner); Piano Concerto No 3 in E Flat Major (Beethoven); Les Preludes (Liszt). 4.00pm Song Time. 4.30pm Dr Michaelson. 4.45pm News. 5.00pm Dinner Music. 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, October 12, 1958).
Many careers were built by a connection with 3AK. Music industry legend Ron Tudor remembers that he had been asked to prepare a jazz program for AK in the early 1950’s, and the station’s Doug Entwistle had recommended him for a position with W&G Records in 1956. “That certainly changed my life,” Tudor says.
Brian Naylor says he had his media career start at 3AK.
Naylor was representative for a manufacturing agency, after a brief career at the Australian Paper Mills. He and a friend recalled: “Our idea was to have a half-hour program of music and a bit of chat about our product. When we asked who would do the show, 3AK asked ‘Why not you?’ and the next thing I know I was doing this radio thing on AK.’
Soon after, Naylor gained a TV career when ‘Uncle Doug’ Elliott had to resign as host of HSV-7’s Mickey Mouse Club, as he stood for election for State Parliament. Naylor was already simulcasting Swallow’s Juniors on HSV-7 and 3DB. News reading followed.
In the 70s, the newsreader made news himself. Brian Naylor was to leave HSV-7, to accept the news anchor job offered by News Director John Sorell at GTV-9. Channel 7 put Naylor ‘on ice’ for five months after the August 1978 announcement, in a bid to negate the Nine initiative.
Seven’s manoeuvre to freeze Naylor out of the Melbourne TV market failed to work. Sorell and Naylor went on to grab the Victorian TV news momentum, and secure the ratings supremacy that is still enjoyed by Nine more than 20 years later.
1959 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 7.00am Lou Carr. 7.15am News. 7.30am Bright And Breezy. 7.45am Morning Melody. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15amNews. 8.30am Bright And Breezy. 9.00am Bright Tunes. 9.30am Factory Favourites. 10.00am Melody Time. 10.15am Voice of the Suburbs. 11.30am Factory Favourites. 12.00 Noon, Doug Elliot Show. 12.30pm News. 12.45pm Doug Elliot Show – cont’d. 1.00pm Women’s Hour. 2.00pm Hospital Session. 3.00pm Melody Time. 3.15pm Everyman’s Music. 4.00pm Italian Spotlight. 4.30pm Dr Michaelson. 4.45pm News. 5.00pm AK Close. (Friday, August 7, 1959).
Saturday. 7.00am Lou Carr. 7.15am News. 7.30am Bright and Breezy. 7.45am Morning Melody. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News. 8.30am Benincasa Program. 9.00am Sports Page. 10.00am Italian Spotlight. 10.30am Swing Club. 11.00am Italian Hour. 12.00 Midnight, News. 12.15pm Dr Michaelson. 12.30pm Italian Musical Walk.1.00pm Italian Rendezvous. 2.00pm Saturday Matinee – Featuring Ray Conniff Orch.; Norman Luboff Choir; Louis Armstrong Orch. 5.00pm AK Close. (Saturday, August 8, 1959).
Sunday. 7.00am Popular Parade. 8.00am Gospel Session. 8.15am News. 8.30am Music On Microgroove. 9.45am Jungle Doctor. 10.00am Hawaii Calls. 10.30am Kids’ Corner. 11.00am Church of Air. 11.30am Ballet Music. 12.00 Noon, Yesterday’s Memories. 12.30pm News. 1.00pm Band Music. 1.30pm Revivalists’ Session. 2.00pm Classical Concert – Force of Destiny Ov. (Yerdi); Piano Concerto No 4 in G Major (Beethoven); String Quartet No. 17 (Haydn); Flute Concerto in G Major (Mozart); Symphonic Fantasque (Berlotz). 4.00pm Song Time. 4.30pm Dr Michaelson. 4.45pm News. 5.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, August 9, 1959).
3AK was closing daily at 5pm, 6pm or 7pm, depending on it being winter or summer. However, television was quick to claim its audience from 5.30pm. Happy Hammond of 3UZ was recruited to host The Happy Show incorporating The Adventures of Noddy. At 6.30pm, programs were changed daily to vary between Superman with George Reeves; The Adventures Of The Buccaneers; Rocky Jones – Space Ranger starring Richard Crane; The Adventures of Sir Lancelot; and Ramar Of The Jungle.
Later in the evening, GTV-9 had radio personalities such as Jack Davey and Bob Dyer. Davey would present The Dulux Show at 8pm Wednesdays, and The Pressure Pak Show at the same time on Fridays. Dyer would shout ‘Howdy Customers’ on the Saturday night telecasts of Pick-A-Box. Wednesdays would see Terry Dear present Leave It To The Girls, and in what was probably an early forerunner to The Footy Show, one of Melbourne’s favourite radio broadcasters faced the cameras with Eric Welch’s Sports Album.
Radio-TV veteran Bert Newton, in 2001, in the Foreword to Ron Blaskett’s book You, Me and Gerry Gee, writes: “Today in some ways TV is taken for granted but back then it was the red-hot topic of conversation. It changed our lives. It became the temporary enemy of its forerunners radio, theatre and movies. They recovered but there was a price to pay. Radio lost its major big budget production shows and made way for the era of the disc jockey.”
The Packer Connection
3AK received a real fillip when Sir Frank Packer’s Consolidated Press group purchased the business at the beginning of 1961, to run from its GTV-9 headquarters in Bendigo Street, Richmond.
TV-radio performer Philip Brady, in his Tales From The Scrapbook publication, says that the Packer family were not slow in using the television station’s talent on their new investment.
“At the beginning of 1961, Channel Nine bought 3AK which had previously been a midnight till dawn station, operating from Grey Street, St Kilda.
“The following April, precisely three years to the day that I started at GTV, we commenced broadcasting from a shaky old caravan by the Channel Nine swimming pool. My first taste of radio was doing an afternoon show called Your Favourites And Mine. The conditions were relatively primitive. Any time someone climbed into the caravan with a cup of coffee or something, it set off a vibration causing the stylus to jump across the record.
“Despite the early days of 3AK being very amateurish GTV wisely employed all their on air personalities to do a radio shift every day. So our roster was a who’s who of television with names such as Bert Newton, Graham Kennedy and Eric Pearce. Anyone who was on the announcing staff or in front of camera would also be expected to do a shift each day as well, and this is how I eventually got into radio.”
Brady explains, like many Australian TV-radio personalities, he came and went at 3AK. In fact, he has worked at the station five different times – with five different formats – during his enduring career.
1961 Program Guide
First Week of Line-Up Under GTV-9 Control
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Rise and Shine. With Hal Todd, inc. news and music. 7.30am Breakfast Session – With Geoff Corke, featuring news and music. 9.15am A Call From Eric – Pres. Eric Pearce, with request numbers. 10.00am Graham’s hideout – With Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton, pres. Recorded music for women. 11.30am Midday Melodies – With Geoff Hiscock. 12.30pm Lunching and Listening – With Philip Brady. 1.30pm Musical Matinee – With Geoff Hiscock. 3.30pm Lightest and Brightest – Pres. Brian Taylor, featuring popular tunes and hits.6.00pm AK Close. (Friday, April 7, 1961).
Saturday. 6.00am Rise and Shine – With Hal Todd, inc. news and music. 7.30am Breakfast Session- with Geoff Corke, featuring news and music. 9.00am Variety – Pres. Tommy Hanlon Jun. And Myke Dyer. 11.00am Continental Time – Favourite songs from Europe, pres. Bert Newton and Frank Zepter. 11.30am non-Stop Variety – With Bert Newton. 6.00pm AK Close. (Saturday, April 8, 1961).
Sunday. 6.00am Top Tunes – Pres. Ron Alderton. 10.00am Continental Time – European music, pres. Frank Zepter. 10.45am The Jungle Doctor. 11.00am Divine Service – St Paul’s Anglican Church, Melbourne. 12.00 Noon, Stars of the Song – pres. Jack Little. 1.00pm Classical Concert – Pres. Ron Alderton. 2.00pm Music From GTV-9. 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, April 9, 1961).
Television and radio were having quite a cross-pollination of talent in 1961. A press article notes that 3AK’s strategy of using GTV-9’s personalities was common with the 3DB – HSV-7 policy employing Danny Webb, Bill Collins and Geoff McComas on both radio and television.
3DB’s John Eden was hosting Hit Parade on HSV-7; 3XY’s Doug McKenzie and Jack Perry were appearing as Zig and Zag on Peter’s Fun Fair; ABV-2’s Tanya Halesworth co-hosted Six O’Clock Rock. Swallow’s Juniors, hosted by Brian Naylor, featured a young artist Judy Cock performing a vocal item. Today she is known as Judith Durham of The Seekers.
Entertainment journalist Jim Murphy scooped Melbourne when he announced the brand new station format: “When 3AK begins transmission on Monday, April 3, under the GTV-9 banner, the station will transmit from two studios – one at Graham Kennedy’s Frankston ‘hideaway’ and the other at GTV-9, in the former sounding recording studio four.
“The accent will be on music throughout the day. Transmitting times have not been altered – the station will open each morning at 6 o’clock, and close at 6 o’clock at night. GTV9 personalities with radio backgrounds will present the programs, but only one 3AK announcer, Ron Alderton, is listed.
“Hal Todd will open the programs each week day with a breakfast session at 6 o’clock. Geoff Corke will take over at 7.30, and will continue the breakfast atmosphere until 9.15, when three 15-minute serials will be broadcast.
1962 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 6.05am Rise and Shine – Breakfast session, pres. Hal Todd inc. News (7.00); Traffic Reports (7.25); and at intervals; Corky’s kingdom (7.45am); News (8.00am). 9.00am News. 9.05am A Call From Eric – Request numbers, with Eric Pearce. 10.00am News. 10.05am a call To Hospitals – Pres. Eric Pearce. 10.30am Variety Showcase – pres. Miffy Marsh and Kevin Colson, inc. News (11.00am). 12.00 Noon, News. 12.05pm Sentimental Mood – Pres. Geoff Corke, inc. News (1.00). 1.05pm Your Favourites AND Mine – Pres. Philip Brady, inc. News (2.00, 3.00). 3.05pm Nice ‘N’ Easy- With Bob Moors, inc. News (4.00, 5.00). 5.05pm Sunset Sound- Pres. Geoff Hiscock inc. News (55). 6.00pm AK Close. (Thursday, March 15, 1962).
Saturday. 6.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. Today’s 12-hour broadcast features the music of Rodgers and Hart, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. 6.05am Rise And Shine – with Geoff Corke, inc. News 97.00, 8.00). 9.00am News. 9.05am Brian Taylor Show – Featuringmusic of Rodgers and Hart, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, inc. News (10.00, 11.00). 12.00 Noon, News. 12.05pm Rodgers, Hart and Hammerstein’s Sound Study – Pres. Myke Dyer. 12.30pm Continental Showcase. With Frank Zepter. 1.00pm News. 1.05pm Curtain Raiser. Pres. Bob Moors, with selections from musicals by Rodgers and Hart, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. 2.05pm Spin with Rodgers, Hart and Hammerstein – Pres. Bob Moors, inc. News (3.00, 4.00, 5.00). 5.05pm Rodgers, Hart and Hammerstein’s Sunset Sound – Pres. Bob Moors, inc. News (5.55). 6.00pm AK Close. (Saturday, March 10, 1962).
Sunday. 6.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 6.05am Sunrise Serenade – Pres. John Gittus, inc. News (7.00, 8.00). 8.05am Continental Showcase. 9.00am News. 9.05am Inside Television City -Music and interviews, pres. Eric Welch. 9.30am Sunday Morning Music – Pres. John Gittus. 10.55am News. 11.00am Divine Service – St Paul’s Cathedral (Dean Thomas). 12.00 Noon, News. 12.05am Motor Racing – Desc. Of events from Sandown Park, commentators inc. Tony Charlton, Bill Patterson, Graham Hoinville, John Price, Ron Joyce and Cam McLaren. 5.30pm Taylor Made Prections – Pres. Brian Taylor inc. News (5.55pm). 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, March 11, 1962).
“At 10 o’clock, Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton will present a program for the ‘Mums’ from Graham’s home at Frankston. This will be followed at 11.30 by ‘A Call From Eric’ in which Eric Pearce will answer listeners’ problems and play request records. Philip Brady will handle the program between noon and 2 o’clock with Lunchtime Melodies, followed by a two-hour Musical Matinee with Geoff Hiscock.
“The final two hours transmission will be compered by former 3UZ disc jockey Brian Taylor.
“Tommy Hanlon Jnr, Myke Dyer and Bert Newton will handle the Saturday program from 9 o’clock in the morning until close. Ron Alderton will be in charge of the Sunday programs until 2 o’clock, which will include Divine Service at 11 o’clock.
“At 2 o’clock Geoff Hiscock will present The Golden Treasury of Music.”
Trade magazine B&T (Broadcasting & Television) carried an ad that 3AK was ‘Melbourne’s Sellingest Station’. The full-page advertisement boasted ’10 GTV-9 Stars Broadcast 84 Hours Every Week On 3AK’. The ad attributed Hal Todd with the talent of ‘Hard Sell’; Graham Kennedy, ‘Inimitable Sell’; Eric Pearce, ‘Dignified Sell’; Bert Newton, ‘Friendly Sell’; Philip Brady, ‘Straight Sell’.
1963 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 7.00am News – Also weather and temperature every half hour. 7.02am Early Morning Show – Pres. Geoff Hiscock, inc. traffic reports at intervals. 9.02am Eric Pearce Presents – With Eric Pearce and Judy Ann Ford. 11.02am House Party – Pres. Frank Wilson and joy Fountain, with surprise guests. 12.00 Noo, News – Also weather and temperature every half hour. 2.02pm House Party – cont’d. 12.45pm Kevin Sanders Radio Report – Comments on current events of interest to women.1.02pm Bishop’s Mantle. 1.15pm Adopted Son – Serial. 1.32pm The Dangerous Age. 1.45pm Laura Chilton – Serial. 2.02pm Swing-Along Show – With Peter C., featuring popular record albums. 5.00pm AK Close. (Monday, August 12, 1963).
Saturday. 7.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am Breakfast Session – Pres. Des. Ford, featuring top 100 hits. 9.00am Grantley Dee Show – Featuring top 100 hits. 12.00 Noon, News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 1.00pm Saturday Show – With Geoff Hiscock, inc. race results every half-hour. 2.30pm Football and Race Results. 5.00pm AK Close. (Saturday, August 10, 1963).
Sunday. 7.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am Sound study – Selected jazz recordings, with comments on artists and performances,pres. Myke Dyer. 8.30am Sunday Best – religious program. 9.00am Peter C. Presents – Featuring Top 100 Chart Selection. 12 Noon, News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 1.00pm Big Sunday Show. Presented by Grantley Dee, featuring big tunes and new releases. 5.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, August 11, 1963).
Colin Bednall, GTV-9 General Manager, said the TV personalities “would have a say in the format in the radio shows with which they were to be associated.”
The Age Televsion and Radio Supplement recorded: “From April 3 all AK programs will emanate from GTV-9. It is not proposed for the present to seek an extension of transmission hours.”
One of the advantages of its TV link, was that 3AK was able to commence descriptions of VFL football matches from the start of the 1961 season. Tony Charlton, and Brian Hyde (“a former sports announcer at Deniliquin”), were engaged for the Saturday afternoon programs. Race results were provided by Brian Wood.
Peter Landy started his radio career at 3UL Warragul, then after a short stint at 3UZ, worked at 3AK. He joined Channel 7 in 1971 where he built a reputation as a football commentator.
A Truth article lists AK staff as being very sports-minded: Peter Cavanagh (Australian ice hockey champ); Brian Taylor (fisherman); Miffy Marsh (squash); Joy Fountain (skiing); Jack Little (bowling); and ‘Eric Pearce, chess’.
“AK, under its new management, already has quadrupled its power from 500 watts to 2000 watts,” boasted the 1961 copy of The Age.
1964 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 6.02am The Early Show. Bill Howie inc. Traffic Reports at intervals. 7.30am News. 7.32 Kwit Joking. 7.35am Early Show. 9.00am The A.M. Show – Pres. Malcolm Searle inc. Jack Little’s Magazine, Fun With Food (Geraldine Dillon), Thought For the Day (Eric Pearce), News Spot (Patrick Tennison). 12.00 Noon, News – Also weather and temperature every half-hour. 1.02pm Lionel Yorke Show. 2.00pm Swing-Along – Pres. Peter C. 4.00pm Grantley Dee Show – Inc. Traffic Reports at intervals. 7.00pm AK Close. (Wednesday, October 21, 1964).
Saturday. 7.00am Open. 7.02am Bill Howie Show. Top 100 Chart and Chart Challengers. 10.00am Grantley Dee Show. Top 100 Chart and Chart Challengers. Sports Scoreboard. 10.30am Chart Check. 12.00 Noon, Grantley Dee. 1.00pm Pete Smith Show – Top 100 Chart and Chart Challengers. 1.30pm Chart Check. 2.30pm Mystery Voice. 4.00pm Grantley Dee Show – Top 100 Chart and Chart Challengers, Sports Scoreboard. 6.00pm Close. (Saturday, October 10, 1964)
Sunday. 7.00am Open. 7.02am Lionel Yorke Show- Top 100 Chart and Chart Challengers. 9.00am Grantley Dee Show – Top 100 Chart and Chart Challengers. 10.30am Chart Check. 11.00am Grantley Dee. 12.30pm Grantley Dee. 12.30pm That Was The Week That Was by Malcolm searle with events of the week around Australia. 1.30pm Malcolm Searle Show. 2.30pm Chart Check. 4.00pm Lionel Yorke Show – Top 100 Chart and Chart Challengers. 6.00pm Close. (Sunday, October 11, 1964).
B&T summed up 3AK’s journey: “Generally considered one of the ‘lesser-lights’ in commercial broadcasting a few months ago, 3AK – under the control and guidance of GTV- has emerged one of Melbourne’s most virile and successful stations, with a large day-time audience and solid advertising support.
“After its purchase by GTV, 3AK instituted a spots-only advertising plan. Programming formula, which has since proved an outstanding listener drawcard, comprises music, news and sport, presented by top GTV personalities.
“Although it has been on the air for over 25 years, 3AK had made little progress until its acquisition by GTV,” Bednall was quoted to day. “Shortly after the transfer of the licence, an independent survey (for April 1961) showed that on Monday to Friday 8.30am-Noon, 3AK was the second leading Melbourne station.
“After the take-over, GTV retained all existing 3AK staff and immediately instituted an aggressive sales campaign. During the past six weeks the campaign has paid off well, with substantially increased demand for time.” Much was being made of the station’s use of GTV personalities.
Later in the year, Bednall attempted to justify the 3AK-GTV partnership in the trade press: “3AK has been especially designed as a service to cater primarily for television viewers during the moments when they must leave a television receiver. These may be dictated by the needs of housework, car travel, excursions in the open air, etc.
“We take the view that the market for most products advertised on radio is confined to homes with television receivers and statistics show that more than 99 per cent of all such homes tune to GTV some of the time.
“The people who never see television – and therefore, have no sense of intimacy with GTV and its personalities – are today of little significance to any merchandiser.
“This constant touch has been encouraged by building 3AK’s programming around GTV personalities. In their mind’s eye, the listeners can see every personality they hear over 3AK.”
1965 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 7.00am News – weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am Grantley Dee Show- Inc. Traffic Reports at intervals. 9.00am The A.M. Show – Pres. Graeme Boyd inc. Open Line Comments (R.R. Walker); Jack Little’s Magazine; Thought For The Day (Eric Pearce); Fun With Food (Geraldine Dillon). 12.00 Noon, news – Weather and temperature every half hour. 12.02pm Lionel Yorke Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart selection. 2.00pm Bill Howie Show- Featuring Top 100 Chart. 4.00pm GrantleyDee Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart; Traffic Reports at Intervals. 5.00pm AK Close. (Monday, June 7, 1965).
Saturday. 7.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am Graham Lever Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart. 9.00am Grantley Dee Show – – Featuring Top 100 Chart selections. 12.00 Noon, News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 1.00pm Pete Smith Show – – Featuring Top 100 Chart selections, Mystery Voice Competition, News and Weather every half hour. 5.00pm AK Close. (Saturday, June 5, 1965).
Sunday. 7.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am Graham Lever Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart. 9.00am Grantley Dee Show -Featuring Top 100 Chart. 12.00 Noon, News – Weather and temperature every half hour. 12.02pm Grantley Dee Show – cont’d. 1.00pm Time Machine – Pres. Graeme Boyd. 2.00pm Britain’s Greatest. 2.30pm Celebrity Chart Check. 3.00pm Fast Flyers In Top 100 Chart. 3.30pm Sound Scene Stateside. 4.00pm Hot Line. 5.00 AK Close. (Sunday, June 6, 1965).
Kennedy shot to TV fame in 1957 as compere of Channel Nine’s new variety program, In Melbourne Tonight. Kennedy earned the laurel as ‘King’ of Australian television, being awarded a number of TV Week Gold Logies.
Graham Kennedy started his career in radio … in the record library of radio station 3UZ, and became sidekick to one of the legends of Melbourne radio -‘Nicky’.
‘Nicky’ – Clifford Nicholls (real name Clifford Whitta) – started at 3AW in 1932, on the breakfast shift alongside Fred Tupper. He and his wife Kathleen Lindgren (stage name Nancy Lee) led the popular ‘Chum’s Club’ of radio listeners.
‘Nicky’ left 3AW in 1946, returning briefly to his old job of making jewellery, having a brief stint at 3KZ from 1949; then 3UZ from 1950.
“His typically Australian voice and manner of panning advertisements made him the idol of housewives,” reported The Argus. “In a recent survey, 3UZ found 73 per cent of morning radio listeners tuned in to Nicky.”
The radiocraft that Graham Kennedy brought to 3AK was honed with his four years with ‘Nicky’ at UZ. Upon the elder man’s sudden and unexpected death in September 1956, aged just 51, Kennedy said: “Nick told me all I know about radio and we were just as good mates off the air as on. We clicked right from the start, mainly because we both had the same sense of the ridiculous, and the same dislike of orthodox radio presentation methods.”
1966 Program Guide
Saturday. 6.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 6.02am Pete Smith Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart, surf and bay patrol reports. 9.00am Bill Howie Show – featuring Top 100 Chart; Surf and Bay patrol reports. 12.00 Noon, News – Weather and temperature; and Sports scoreboard every half-hour. 12.02pm Bill Howie Show – Cont’d.1.00pmPete Smith Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart selections, Sports Scoreboard every half hour; World Hit Survey; Good Guy Flashbacks; Happy Birthday Hits; Pete’s Competition. 5.00pm Paul Jennings Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart Selections. 6.00pmAK Close. (Saturday, October 8, 1966).
Sunday. 6.00am News, Weather and temperature every half-hour. 6.02am Paul Jennings show – Featuring Top 100 Chart and Good Guy flashbacks; Surf and Bay Patrol reports. 8.00am Seven Days A Week – Pres. Paul Jennings inc. CAMS report. 9.00am Grantley Dee Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart and Good Guy selections; Bay Patrol and Surf reports. 12.00 Noon, News – Weather and temperature every half hour. 12.02pm Grantley Dee Show – cont’d. 1.00pm Graeme Boyd Show – Featuring Top 100 and Good Guy Flashbacks. 4.00pm Lionel Yorke Show – Featuring hits, past and present requests. 6.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, October 9, 1966).
Michael Courtney of The Argus reported that a procession of 400 cars made its way from the funeral service at Ivanhoe Methodist Church to ‘Spring Vale Crematorium’, Pall bearers were O.J. Nilsen, Governing Director of 3UZ; Lewis Bennett, General Manager; Fred Tupper, Sporting Editor; Graham Kennedy; John McMahon, Program Director; plus close friends Harry Boyce and William Jupp.
“A lot of your radio mates were in those cars – Bob Horsfall, Tony Snell, Bill Dodd and Clive Waters, of 3UZ, Jim Tregonning (he flew from Sydney), Happy Hammond, of 3AW, and most of the other boys too.”
Graham Kennedy went on to host In Melbourne Tonight on GTV-9 from May 1957, and upon the TV station’s purchase of 3AK, also graced the 1500 frequency. He, and Bert Newton, often broadcast in the mornings from a specially constructed studio at Graham’s home in Frankston. Throughout the day the pair had TV rehearsals, at night was the TV show, then next morning came another 3AK program.
Demand for the TV-radio personalities was high. Horrie Dargie, of Talent Promotions of Australia, published the personal appearance fees for the top celebrities: Graham Kennedy, £250; Panda Lisner, £100; Joff Ellen, £75; Bert Newton, £40.
“Our fees for public appearances – all kinds, not just charity ones – are of necessity prohibitive to discourage extensive and burdensome personal appearances, which, if too frequent, detract from the value of our appearances,” Kennedy said.
For how long could they keep up such a wild pace?
A Very Public Breakdown
Bert Newton had suffered a very public breakdown in 1964, which saw him admitted to the then-named Sacred Heart Hospital in Moreland. Kennedy told reporter John Larkins: “A reporter asked me last week if I had noticed any change in Bert over the years. Did he seem more relaxed in the early days of our association?
“Bert had not seemed to change, but the pressure of the medium has. Things were far more relaxed five years ago. It is more complex and physically tiring now. I suspected last year that Bert might be heading towards a nervous breakdown. He has always managed to ‘live it up’ quite a lot as well as working too hard. But it has always been felt that he works far better when he has been active and has had not time to think about himself. I imagine several things may have contributed to his breakdown, or rather, a breakdown of his professional ego.
“These may have been the disappointment at his rather unsuccessful radio comeback with Joy Fountain, Joy being dropped from IMT this year, and considerable offers being made to Brian Taylor and Bob Moors. Bert is not the type of man to resent the success of others, but, no doubt, he felt out of the picture – even if was still well ahead of Brian and Bob in both salary and status.”
Kennedy said he had seen his friend Bert arrive to do a morning radio session after 48 sleepless hours: “Bert used to find great enjoyment in our all-night sessions at Frankston, when we’d talk, play records and watch old films of The Best of Kennedy.
“I believe Bert’s future career must be linked with mine. Although this may sound like the ramblings of a Cassius Clay, I do not believe he can be a success in radio without me,” Kennedy told 1964 Listener In-TV readers.
“No one else in Australia can do what Bert and I can. From a performer’s point of view, the instant comedy we performed was fascinating in that we often walked on totally unprepared and without a tag. Often we left after five minutes of hysterically funny comedy.
“But Bert’s resignation will not have a great effect on my work. I have been annoyed lately by critics and other people who have suggested that I am not a success without Bert. It must be remembered that IMT was a successful program two years before Bert joined us.
Bert Newton is respected as one of Australia’s most talented and versatile artists. This respect comes from industry peers, radio listeners and TV viewers alike.
Bert Newton started working at 3XY as a junior announcer around age 16, after earlier having been given a start on Peter’s Pals, produced by entertainment veteran Doug McKenzie. It is recorded that Bert decided on a show business career at the age of 12.
Bert Newton was hired in 1957 for a spare-time job presenting commercials on Noel Ferrier’s Late Show on HSV-7. After several moths, Ferrier was sacked, and Bert was hired as Late Show host. He managed to stay with Channel 7 for two years, despite continued fights with the station’s management.
In the middle of one Late Show, Newton shocked viewers – and his bosses – by announcing that this was the last HSV program he’d appear in.
He wasn’t jobless for long. Famed TV producer Norm Spencer gave Bert the job as Graham Kennedy’s off-sider on GTV-9’s In Melbourne Tonight. It was a great marriage of talents.
Truth newspaper’s TV columnist, Veritas, commented in 1964: “On several occasions he failed to appear in shows, and there were reports that he’d been sacked. But with greater maturity, Bert settled down. His broken romances, rather than clashes with the boss, became TV’s talking points.”
An interesting reunion came in late 1961 when station founder George Palmer re-visited 3AK at its new Richmond home. He had kept up his interest in broadcasting and predicted that ‘satellites circling the earth 18,000 miles in space ‘would enable a telecast of the forthcoming 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Palmer told TV Week that colour TV was just around the corner, and he had a theatrette at his Williamstown home where several Melbourne film distributors previewed overseas releases on TV screens 12 times normal viewing.
“It would be untrue to describe Mr Palmer as a TV crank – he is a specialist in the field and is busy developing colour TV.”
TV Week recorded that Palmer achieved worldwide TV fame by picking up BBC London television signals in Melbourne in 1957, Honolulu, Manila and Vladivostock: “Mr Palmer has 18 sets in his home. His wife and daughter Jean each has her own set ‘so there can be no squabbling over programs’.”
Television’s influence in radio was continuing. At 3AK, the radio station’s line-up had seen the GTV-9 stars come to present ‘Melbourne’s Personality Station’. Then they went, to be replaced by the ‘3AK Top 100 Chart’, positioned as ‘Modern Melbourne with the Good Guys’.
Doug Elliot was a unique identity in Melbourne radio, at one time fronting shifts on all or at least most commercial stations including 3AK. Elliot – nicknamed ‘Leatherlungs’, for his capacity to deliver a powerful commercial on behalf of a client – also found fame as City of Essendon Mayor, a Labor Party State MLC, publican of the Doutta Galla Hotel, and ad salesman extraordinaire for Vealls World of Sport on HSV-7. Another nickname of ‘Kanga’ might have something to do with cash payments that he insisted upon.
Melbourne music historian Peter Greenaway, whose family dominated the Victorian juke box industry for more than 50 years, says Arthur Veall was a vital cog in financial supporting the early days of phonographs, radio and television. Doug Elliot would have agreed!
Doug Elliot was a trouper, hosting programs such as Swallows Parade on 3KZ, and other variety programs. His talent of selling, producing and presenting commercials was unrivalled. In later years, his TV work was prominent alongside sports greats such as Ron Casey, Bill Collins, Lou Richards, Jack Dyer and Bob Davis. In 1956, Elliot transferred his Late Show and Later Show from 3XY to 3UZ. He became publicly known as ‘Uncle Doug’, fronting the top-and-tail of the Mickey Mouse Club TV program on HSV-7 in 1957. He sold the advertising package for same to the State Savings Bank.
‘Uncle Doug’ came to the AK microphone at 12 Noon weekdays. His playlist for Friday, March 31, 1961 reads: Buddy Holly, vocal, Raining In My Heart; Bing Crosby, vocal, Sail Along Silv’ry Moon; Eydie Gorme, vocal, When The Sun Comes Out; Les Elgart and his Orchestra, Paradise; Booka Hyland, vocal, The Right Time; Brenda Lee, vocal, Some Of These Days; The Drifters, vocal, Save The Last Dance For Me; Billy May, vocal, Day In Day Out. His sessions were followed by Ron Alderton and John Print (both later at ATV-0, known in latter years as ATV-10).
R.R. Walker’s history of 3KZ, Dial 1179, ranked the best-ever three Melbourne radio presenters. They were Norman Banks, Bert Newton and Doug Elliot. The latter two were both well known for their 3AK involvements.
Hal Todd, who hosted the 3AK breakfast session, then the Overnight shift just prior to his death, was also renowned for his practice of selling and presenting the time. Who can forget Night Owl Theatre from the studios of Channel 9?
One of Melbourne’s most versatile radio women was ‘Binny Lum’, who often sold, produced and presented her own commercials. Berenice Lum made her name first as ‘Lindy Lawton’ of 3XY’s One Man’s Family. Later as ‘Cousin Binny’, she partnered Norman Swain on 3KZ, who later moved to 3AK. The ‘Talking Shop’ radio column in 1937, made these notes of Binny:
‘Apart from being a brilliant pianist, she had a book of verse published when she was 16, and had collaborated with John Barnes in writing over 150 popular songs. John, by the way, is the only hockey-playing announcer in Melbourne.’
Rosemary Margan, who today presents commercials on her brother-in-law Neil Mitchell’s 3AW morning program, started a career in radio after coming to prominence as Australia’s water ski champion, ranked fourth at the 1962 Longbeach Olympic Games. Rosemary joined 3AK, hosting the Beach Girl contests, with Lionel Yorke.
In the late 1990’s, and early 2000’s, 3AK’s advertising sales was led by Murray Franklin and Vern Stone. At its lowest ratings ebb, the station’s rate card offered pre-recorded 30-second spots in the main 3AK shifts for $100 each, with prices dropping as low as $25 in the midnight-dawn program. Of course, run-of-station packages came much lower, and few took up the offer of live-reads for $200 each.
Good Guys (Where No Wrinklys Fly)
“The Good Guys was more of a promotional tool,” former 3AK boss Bill Howie told Michael Carrick of The Age. “There was no radical change with the on-air programming. It already was a friendly, happy-go-lucky approach. It always has been a lot of fun on radio. That approach dovetailed nicely into the Good Guys thing.”
Carrick said that the ‘Good Guys’ symbolised the nice, friendly radio style of the early to middle 60s and concentrated on giving pop radio a human face.” The format was first trialed in Australia at Sydney’s 2SM, with Mike Walsh prominent.
Says Howie: “The idea was taken from America. They have thousands of radio stations over there and they are looking for new ideas all the time. In the later stages we broke some stories and broadcast some hard news interviews. But 3AK dropped the Good Guy thing in 1967 and became the friendly station.”
The Good Guy era saw the Rolling Stones interviewed in the middle of Port Phillip Bay. DJ Malcolm Searle was sent overseas to cover the progress of The Beatles.
‘Peter C.’ (Cavanagh) fronted with his Early Show; followed by Bill Howie in the morning, Malcolm Searle in the afternoon, and summer reports being performed by the likes of Lionel Yorke and Grantley Dee before station close at 7pm.
1967 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 7.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am Graeme Boyd Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart selections; Car Courtesy Drivers’ Awards (7.25); Breakfast Opinions with Tom Jones; Snow Reports; Angling with Ayling; Mediattion (8.59). 9.00am Bill Howie Show – Inc. Thought for the Day (Eric Pearce); Top 100 Chart and Albums;Two-way radio. 12.00 Noon, News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 12.02pm Lionel Yorke Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart and Good Guy Smashbacks; Sig Alert, requests, Snow Reports. 3.00pm Grantley Dee Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart; Sig Alert (4.25), Our Courtesy Drivers’ Awards; Snow Reports. 5.00pm AK Close. (Friday, July 14, 1967).
Saturday. 7.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am John Humphries Show – Featuring Top 100Chart and Good Guy Chart Challengers; Surf and Bay Patrol reports; Sig Alert (7.25); Snow Reports. 8.00am Bill Howie Show -Featuring Top 100 Chart, Captains’ and Coaches’ Comments, with Ian Cleland and guests (10.30). 12.00 News – Weather, temperature and Sports scoreboard every half-hour. 12.02pm Bill Howie Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart inc. Sig Alert (12.25). 1.00pm Pete Smith Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart and Good Guy Chart Challengers; Sports Scoreboard every half-hour; Sig Alert (4.25); Mystery Voice Competition; World Hit Survey. 5.00 AK Close. (Saturday, July 15, 1967).
Sunday. 7.00am News – Weather and temperature every half-hour. 7.02am Paul Jennings Show – featuring Top 100 Chart and Good Guy Smashbacks; Surf, Bay and Boat Launching Reports; Sig Alert (7.25); Motor report by John Hart (8.45); Wrestling Results. 9.00am Graeme Boyd Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart and Good Guy Selections; Surf, Bay and Boat Launching Reports. Top Ten competition. 12.00 Noon News – weather and temperature every half-hour. 1.202pm Graeme Boyd Show – Cont’d inc. Sig Alert (12.25). 1.00pm LionelYorke Show-Featuring Top 100 chart. 4.00pm Grantley Dee Show -Featuring Top 100 Chart; Sig Alert (4.25). 5.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, July 16, 1967).
Malcolm Searle had won TV prominence with his hosting of HSV-7’s £3000 Question, a show later hosted by Roland Strong. For a short time, Searle also hosted a national That Was The Week That Was program on stations across Australia, including 3AK.
Searle had started his career at the age of 18 at 2TM in his New South Wales home town of Tamworth. He worked at Lismore, then shifted to Toowoomba, and 4BK Brisbane. He told one newspaper that the most exciting part of his career was the Beatles tour.
Today, Searle runs pizza restaurants in Brisbane and Toowoomba. He lamented in the 70th anniversary programs, that he did not easily handle the fame of radio and television.
Grantley Dee was a personality who achieved much publicity for his ability as an AK announcer, despite his blindness. He and guide dog Penny won much publicity. Grantley confides that AK manager-of-the-day, Nigel Dick, originally recruited him as a 16-year-old in an effort to score publicity for the station. Other managers of the station of the time include David Joseph, Gary Day and Harry Earl.
‘Yorkie’, who later proved an even bigger success on Perth radio, was one of the bright young stars of Melbourne radio. He is back in Perth today, and is best known as a popular marriage celebrant.
Pete Smith had started at the ABC in the late 1950’s as a messenger boy, later graduating to his own Saturday Scoreboard Hit Parade on TV. He joined the GTV-3AK organisation around 1962, and hosted his own popular Saturday radio program. Today, Pete Smith is still super-active at Bendigo Street, and was the voice behind the Sale Of The Century quiz show that has been variously hosted by Tony Barber and Glenn Ridge. Sale was rested by the Nine Network at the end of 2001, with the TV management carrying out auditions for a new host.Featuring Top 100 Chart. 4.00pm Grantley Dee Show – Featuring Top 100 Chart. 4.55pm Weather Report. 5.00pm AK Close. (Sunday, May 5, 1968).
Throughout the 1960’s, other 3AK presenters included Paul Jennings, who has since won an enviable reputation as an impressionist. His profile was lifted as the co-host of TV’s World Championship Wrestling, with Jack Little. “How about that! There ain’t no more, that’s all there is.” The ‘sport’ of wrestling hit a popularity high in the late 1960’s with identities such as Killer Kowalski, Tex McKenzie, Spiros Arion and Mario Milano. Jennings included wrestling results in his Sunday morning AK show.
Graeme Boyd presented the ‘Good Guy’ selections, a slogan prominent by about 1966. John Humphrey was seen on the weekend rosters. John Hart, appearing on Nine’s weekend news with Brian Walters, also appeared on AK. Hart went on to ATV-10, and became its Director of Community Relations.
Well after his 3KZ successes, Norman Swain appeared at 7.50am each weekday on ‘Friendly 3AK’ for the school children to hear The Western Star Ranch. Swain ended his days selling lighting at a city outlet.
Eric Pearce contributed his Moment of Meditation at 9.59am in the Women’s Session, and callers were invited to telephone into ‘The Friendly Line’, although talkback was yet to be popularised by Gerald Lyons and Barry Jones at 3DB. 3UZ was dominating the ratings with its line-up of Allan Lappan, Don Rainsford, Jim ‘Woody’ Wood, Don Lunn and Geoff Haynes.
Eric also partnered Judy Ann Ford, now Judy Ann Stewart, who compered Judy Ann’s Beauty Book and appeared on In Melbourne Tonight. Today, Judy Ann runs the Healthier Living Show.
1969 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Graeme Boyd Show – News on the half-hour; Breakfast Opinion with Tom Jones; Ranchtime with Uncle Norman (7.50); Funnybirds; Snow Reports (7.45, 8.45), Music from the Good Guy Chart; Courtesy Awards to Drivers; Mt Buller Snow Report (8.20). 9.00am Philip Brady Show – Inc. Music from the Good Guy Chart; News on the half-hour; Meditation with Eric Pearce (9.29); Funnybirds; Show Business Report. 4.00pm Lionel Yorke Show- Inc. News on the half-hour; Funnybirds; Music from the Good Guy Chart; Snow Report (4.55, 6.45). 7.00pm Alan Aitken Show – Inc. news on the half-hour, Funnybirds; Calls on the friendly line. 10.00pm Gary Nicholls Show – Inc. Funnybirds; News on the half-hour; Calls on the friendly line. 1.00am All-Night Service – With Mike Nicholls inc. News on the half-hour; Funnybirds; Calls on the friendly line. (Friday, October 17, 1969).
Saturday. 5.30am Graeme Boyd Show inc. News on the half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart; Surf and Bay Patrol reports, Snow reports (7.45, 8.45); Mt Buller Snow report (8.20). 10.00am Bill Howie Show. Featuring music from the Good Guy Chart and Bay Patrol reports. News on the half hour. 1.00pm Pete Smith Show. Music from the Good Guy Chart. Personalised introductions of the stars. 6.00pm Lionel Yorke Show. 10.00pm Mike Nicholls Show. 1.00am Rex Mitchell Show. News on the half-hour. Music from Good Guy Chart. (Saturday, October 18, 1969).
Sunday. 5.30am Gary Nicholls Show – Inc. News on the half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart; Surf and Bay Patrol Reports; Capital City Weather Check. 9.00am This Was The Week That Was – Kevin Sanders reports on current affairs. 9.30am Graeme Boyd Show – Featuring Music from the Good Guy Chart; Surf and Bay Patrol reports; News on the half-hour. 1.00pm Alan Aitken Show – Inc. News on the half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart. 6.00pm Mike Nicholls Show – Inc. Music from the Good Guy Chart; News on the half-hour. 12 Midnight, Rex Mitchell Show – Inc. News on the half-hour. Music from the Good Guy Chart. (Sunday, October 19, 1969)
Outside broadcasts were ‘all the go’ and a 1964 listing shows 3UZ’s ‘OB’ from Lorne, Mount Martha, Torquay, Barwon Heads, Quenscliff, Portarlington as well as races at Pakenham and Yarra Glen. AK countered with ‘Cruiser’ reports from right around Port Phillip Bay using presenters from locations including Mordialloc, Chelsea, Carrum and Sorrento.
Other AK presenters to win prominence in these years was Canadian-born Myke Dyer, Producer of TV’s It Could Be You, and later to double as GTV’s Publicity Director. Tommy Hanlon Junior – until recently with Silver’s Circus – featured with Graham Kennedy in pre-recorded ‘ad lib’ comedy spots written by Mike McColl Jones, where they were known as ‘The Farquhar Brothers’.
“While the first segments are expected to be broadcast ‘live’, future Hanlon-Kennedy exchanges will be taped, and will last five minutes and up to 55 minutes, depending on their inclination at the time of taping,” reported The Age TV & Radio Guide of April 3-9, 1964.
Another TV identity was Susan-Gaye Anderson, now Susie Boisjoux. She remembers: “In the days when the 3AK caravan was parked out the back, they’d ask you to do radio on Thursday, and you’d say ‘Oh yes, Thursday would suit’. And I’d go off to the library and find all my favourite blues records.”
Prominent newsmen were Tim Hewat, who had edited the short-lived Newsday afternoon tabloid newspaper launched by The Age; and Melbourne radio journeyman Tom Jones. Tom began his career freelancing for ABC stations, working at 2MW (Murwillumbah), 2LT (Lithgow), and 2WL (Wollongong).
News Director of GTV-9 and 3AK was Michael Schildberger, after he served his cadetship on The Sun News-Pictorial and Listener In-TV in 1955. Schildberger joined GTV in 1958 and remained with the network for 20 years. During that time he became News Director, and later Chief of the News Bureau in Canberra, producer and host of Federal File with the late Alan Reid. He is probably best known as former Executive Producer and host of A Current Affair nationally on the Nine Network.
1970 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Graeme Boyd Show. Good Guy Chart. 9.00am Myke Dyer Show. Commentary on current local and overseas affairs. 12.00 Noon, Bill Howie Show. Good Guy Chart. Showbusiness Report, Theatre, Film and Book Reviews. 4.00pm Lionel Yorke Good Guy Chart and Tim Hewat for Tonight. 7.00pm Alan Aitken Good Guy Chart. Calls on the Friendly Line. 10.00pm Gary Mac Show. Good Guy Chart. 1.00am Gary Nicholls. Good Guy Chart. Calls on the Friendly Line. ((Monday, February 10, 1970).
Saturday. 5.30am Gary Mac Show. Music from the Good Guy Chart. Bay, Boat & Surf Reports. 9.00am Bill Howie Show. Music from the Good Guy Chart. Bay, Boat & Surf Reports. 1.00pm Pete’s Penthouse Party. Personal Appearances by the stars of the Good Guy Survey, Pete’s Competition, World Hit Survey, Star Artist Competition. 6.00 Lionel Yorke. Music From The Good Guy Chart. 10.00pm Gary Nicholls. Music from the Good Guy Chart. 1.00am Mike Nicholls. Music from the Good Guy Chart. Calls on the Friendly Line. (Saturday, February 8, 1970)
Sunday. 5.30am Gary Mac Show. Music from the Good Guy Chart.Bay, Boat and Surf Reports.9.00am This Half Hour Has Seven Days. With Tim Hewat. 9.30am Graeme Boyd Show. Music from the Good Guy Chart. Bay, Boat and Surf Reports. 1.00pm Alan Aitken Show. Music from the Good Guy Chart. 6.00pm Gary Nicholls Show. Music from the Good Guy Chart. Calls on the Friendly Line. 12.00 Midnight, Mike Nicholls Show.Music from the Good Guy Chart. ((Sunday, February 8, 1970).
‘Friendly 3AK’ was about to cast ‘the monkey from its back’, when November 1968 headlines declared ‘3AK To Be On Air 24 Hours’. The restricted hours were finally over.
Rosemary Rule, of Listener In-TV, reported: “Melbourne’s original all-night radio station, 3AK, will begin 24 hours broadcasting from Friday night, after 10 years of restricted transmitting hours.
“Two new announcers have joined the staff to cater for the extended hours on air. They are former West Australian, Alan (‘Al Pal’) Aitken, 22, who will host weeknight programs from 10 o’clock to 1am, and Gary Mac, 23, former Bathurst breakfast announcer who will be heard from Monday to Friday at 7 o’clock each night.
Aitken went on to be Music Director of 3DB. He explained the work ethic of wireless: “Radio is a jealous mistress. You have to put a great deal of time into it.”
Mac, with wife (former TV hostess Joan Murray), founded the Melbourne Radio School. Mac had come from Hastings, New Zealand.
“In keeping with the new theme of ‘twice as much’ of everything, 3AK will play twice as much music – which means that up to four records could be played non-stop – and give twice as many bulletins. News will be heard every half hour. Regular features such as Eric Pearce’s Moment of Meditation and Tom Jones’ Breakfast Opinions will be retained in their time-slots,” reported Rule.
1971 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Baby John Burgess inc. News every half-hour. Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. 9.00am Gary Nicholls – inc. News every half-hour. Music calls on the Desperate Line. 12.00 Noon, Bill Howie inc. on the half-hour. Books, film, restaurant and theatre reviews. 3.00pm Lionel Yorke – inc. News on the half-hour, Music, Calls on the Desperate Line. 5.30pm News Extra with Tim Hewat. 6.00pm Mike Nicholls – inc. News every half-hour. Music. Calls on the Desperate Line. 9.00pm Gary Mac inc. News every half-hour. Music. Calls on the Desperate Line. 12.00 Midnight, Barry Mann inc. news every half-hour, Music, Calls on the Desperate Line. (Thursday, October 14, 1971).
Saturday. 6.00am Baby John Burgess – Inc. News every half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart; Weather; Surf Reports (7.20, 7.47, 8.07); Bay Patrol Reports (7.28, 7.56). 12.00 Noon, Bill Howie – Inc. News every half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart. 6.00pm Bruce Mansfield – Inc. Music from the Good Guy Chart, News every half-hour. 12.00 Midnight, Graeme Boyd – Inc. News every half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart. 1.00am AK All-Night Service – with Graeme Boyd. (Saturday, June 5, 1971).
Sunday. 6.00am Gary Nicholls – Inc. News every half-hour. Music from the Good Guy Chart (7.20, 7.47, 8.07); Bay Patrol Report (7.25, 7.56). 9.00am Extra News Extra – With Tim Hewat. 9.30am Lionel Yorke – Music from the Good Guy Chart; Patrol Reports; News every half-hour. 2.00pm Al Pal Aitken – Inc. Music from the Good Guy Chart; News every half-hour. 6.00pm Bruce Mansfield – Inc. News every half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart. 12.00 Midnight, Gary Mac – Inc. News every half-hour; Music from the Good Guy Chart. 1.00am All-Night Service. (Sunday, June 6, 1971).
Ms Rule explained that GTV-9 purchased 3AK in 1961, then operating on restricted daytime hours.
“A beam aerial system was installed in the metropolitan area to enable 3AK to go to air without interfering with the Bathurst radio station which shares the same frequency.
“Graeme Boyd will continue to host the breakfast program from Monday to Friday at the earlier starting time of 5.30. He will be followed at 9 o’clock by Philip Brady, who has been extended one hour to 1 o’clock.
“Bill Howie goes on air from 1 to 4 o’clock, followed by Lionel Yorke from 4 to 7 o’clock. Newcomers Gary Mac, 7 to 10 o’clock, and Alan Aitken, from 10 o’clock to 1am finish the day. The all-night announcer will be Grantley Dee. The Saturday night program will be hosted by Lionel Yorke. It will be a party format program from 6 to 10 o’clock.
“To celebrate the 24 hours transmission, 500 transistor radios will be given away. From Sunday morning, a listener’s name will be readout before every news bulletin and each will be awarded a transistor.
“The official opening on Friday night, November 9, will be hosted by Bert Newton and televised by GTV-9. Mike Preston will sing during the opening and introduce interstate radio guests including Roger Dowsett from Adelaide, and Bert Robertson from 4BC Brisbane.”
Australian society was changing as it entered the 1970’s. After being in power since 1949, the Liberal Party’s Sir Robert Menzies had retired as Prime Minister, and Labor’s Gough Whitlam was set to take over control in Canberra in 1972.
A 1971 Green Guide advertisement promotes the new youth magazine, Daily Planet, being assembled by a young Melbourne music entrepreneur, Michael Gudinski. He later formed Mushroom Records, many years later merging it into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation group.
Likewise, The Age were putting considerable resources into promoting their own radio station as ‘More Music 3XY’. Teenage music fans were buying their favourite recordings, and the Top 10 charts were big business.
3AK, somewhat languishing with a pure ‘Good Guys’ image, designed to chase the teen-dollar, and made the move to re-position itself.
Programmer Rhett Walker introduced the theme of ‘3AK – Where No Wrinklys Fly’, with jingles performed by artists including Brian Cadd and Doug Parkinson. The campaign, accompanied by full-page advertisements in pop papers such as Go Set and Rolling Stone were regarded as ‘in the face of establishment’.
Well-known radio industry identity, Gary Mac, notes that the ‘Wrinklys’ campaign was originally pitched for the competitor: ‘3XY – Where No Wrinklys Fly’.
Go-Set was a popular teen paper of the time. It started in February 1966 under the editorship of Tony Schauble, but soon became known as the mouthpiece for burgeoning music identity Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum. The paper was soon led by Phillip Frazer as Editor, Ian McCausland as Art Director, with Geoff Watson and Terry Cleary handling the advertising. Go-Set included full-page ads for 3AK, as well as guest weekly columns by the AK ‘jocks’ on a rotating basis.
The full-page press ads continued on a theme, considered radical for its day:
* ‘A Wrinkly Is A Guy Who Pretends He’s your Uncle When He’s Really Looking Down Your Dress’
* ‘A Wrinkly Would Tell A Mother of Four Children She Doesn’t Know The Meaning Of Love’
* ‘You Can Have Wrinklies on Your Face Without Having Them On Your Mind’
* ‘A Wrinkly Is A Waiter Who Won’t Let You In Without A Tie’
1972 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Baby John Burgess – News every half-hour; Calls on the Desperate Line; Music. 9.00am Gary Nicholls – News every half-hour; Calls on the Desperate Line; Music. 12.00 Noon, Bill Howie – News every half-hour; Calls on the Desperate Line; Music. 3.00pm Bob Stewart – News every half-hour; Calls on the Desperate Line; Music. 5.30 News extra- Comprehensive coverage of news; Tim Hewat for Tonight, inc. What’s On In Melbourne, with Gary Nicholls. 6.00 Mike Nicholls – News every half-hour; Calls on the Desperate Line; Music. 9.00pm Gary Mac – News every half-hour; Calls on the Desperate Line; Music. 12.00 Midnight, Barry Mann – News every half-hour; Calls on the Desperate Line; Music. (Friday, June 16, 1972).
Saturday. 6.00am Baby John Burgess – Inc. News every hour; Music from the Top 40; Weather, Surf Reports (7.47, 8.07); Bay Patrol Reports (7.25, 7.56); Calls on the Desperate Line. The music of Chicago featured throughout the day. 10.00am Graeme Boyd – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. 2.00pm Bill Howie – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. 6.00pm Bruce Mansfield – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. 12 Midnight, Barry Mann – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. (Saturday, June 17, 1972).
Sunday. 6.00am Gary Nicholls – Inc. News every half-hour; Music, Weather, Surf Reports (7.47, 8.07); Bay Patrol Reports (7.25, 7.56); Calls on the Desperate Line; the music of Chicago will be featured throughout the day. 8.30am Extra News Extra – With Tim Hewat. Motoring News with John Steiner. 9.00am Bob Stewart – Inc. Music; News; Calls on the Desperate Line. 12 Noon, Mike Nicholls – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. 4.00pm Gary Mac – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. 8.00pm Graeme Boyd – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line.. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Richards – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Calls on the Desperate Line. (Sunday, June 18, 1972)
The 3AK station roster now also had names such as ‘Baby’ John Burgess, Bob Stewart, Ken Sparkes, Barry Mann and Ian Richards. Radio historian Wayne Mac notes that Graeme Boyd was known elsewhere as Graeme Edwin. He joined the AK Good Guys in the 60’s via 5AD Adelaide. John Stone was in fact George Danes, ex Tasmania and later of 3UZ. Ian Stewart became Ian Richards at 3AK to prevent confusion with Bob Stuart. Bob headed north in 1973 to appear on 2SM.
When Brian Lehmann turned up at Bendigo Street, he was renamed Barry Mann by Rhett Walker. Brian worked under his real name elsewhere in Melbourne with stints at XY, AW, DB, KZ and MP.
John Burgess was one of 3AK’s leading identities, used for the Wrinklys launch aimed at the young market. He has been best known as the popular TV host for Burgo’s Catch Phrase on the Nine Network .
Burgess started his career at 2UW in 1965, and after the four year stint at 3AK (1970-1974), returned to the harbour city for a time at 2UW. John Burgess’s Melbourne return at 3MP, a new station launched in 1976 on the Mornington Peninsula. This was the first new commercial radio licence to be issued in 40 years in Melbourne. Burgess claims to have been the first voice on the station, and successfully ran the first breakfast program until 1978.
He has since had a breakfast program on Perth’s 6PM, from 1978 to 1993, also fronting the Seven Network’s Wheel of Fortune from 1984 to 1996. These days, John Burgess also fronts a 2CH shift, on the Sydney station controlled by John Singleton.
3AK vs 3XY
Around Melbourne, it was becoming very competitive. 3XY’s format was being presented by names such as John Scott, Joe Miller, John O’Donnell, Laurie ‘Lobo’ Bennett, Dick Starr and Peter Harrison. The 3KZ schedule of the time sees Peter Van presenting morning country music, preceding John Jones’ Brighter Brekky Beat with Ian Major’s footy report, as well as John Bright’s Request Show, Peter Leslie, Paul Konik, Bill Rule and Steve Curtis.
DB’s line-up of the early 1970’s sees John ‘The Silver Fox’ Eden presenting breakfast, as a lead-in to talkback and Action Line with Gerald Lyons, backed up with Denis Scanlan, Paddy O’Donnell, Jim Slade and Art Ryan. The Greater 3UZ had dominated ratings with their team of Peter Byrne, Jimmy Hannan, John Vertigan, Don Lunn, Rod Spargo and Sam Angelsey. Peter Evans was starting to rule the early morning airwaves from the ABC’s 3LO city studios, with other local presenters including Kevin Arnett, Geoff Hiscock and Mary Adams.
Whilst 3AK was airing young music, the 3AW log began with Geoff Manion’s early morning show, in advance of Ormsby Wilkins going on air with Powerline. Norman Banks was still kings of the mornings, with contributors including football commentator Harry Beitzel, morning announcer ‘Barbara’ and homehints specialist ‘Martha Gardener’ (Zoe Worrall). She later presented her own program, co-hosted by John Worthy. Other La Trobe Street personalities of the time included Billie Karen and Mary Hardy, each doing shifts with Peter James; the John Blackman show, followed by Nightline with the Rev. Alex Kenworthy.
Colour television was just around the corner, and Channel 9 promoted with the slogan of ‘This Is The Place To Be’. On ABV-2, country town serial Bellbird was most popular, along with Bill Peach hosting This Day Tonight. At HSV-7, mornings started with the Today show compered by David Johnston in Melbourne, with Bruce Webster and Patricia Lovell in Sydney. Former AK man John D’Arcy presented the Housekeeping Club, before another AK man Brian Naylor read Seven News.
ATV-0 – later ATV-10 – had started transmission in 1964, and a short-time AK weekend staffer Bruce Mansfield had joined them to present Eyewitness News. Mansfield worked the weekend AK shifts in the 1971 era of ‘Wrinklys’. He recalls that the on-air wording was tightly formatted by Rhett Walker. After Bruce sent a Saturday night cheerio to wife Jill, who had just given birth to their first child, he said Walker was quick to phone to congratulate, but also to remind him to stick to the format and cut out the on-air personal greetings.
3AK’s stablemate, GTV-9, was on air with the Humphrey B. Bear children’s program, Cartoon Corner with the new ‘talent’ of Daryl Somers. The Nine News team was being fronted by Tanya Halesworth, John Bailey, sports reader Brian Smith, and ‘weather girl’ Rosemary Margan. Graham Kennedy was making a short-lived TV comeback alongside Bert Newton, Peter Smith, Sue Donovan and Joy Westmore.
John Bailey’s appointment as GTV-9 newsreader, also saw him become Deputy Director of News for the combined TV-radio station, with Tom O’Connor ‘controlling the operations of 40 people in the GTV-9/3AK newsroom’, recorded The Age.
3AK’s TV Program
3AK’s ‘Wrinklys’ era produced a short-lived spin-off TV show, hosted by various pop stars including Brian Cadd. The show, Fly Wrinklies Fly, produced by Peter Faiman, was generally considered to be a precursor to the legendary Australian pop music TV show, Countdown.
Jim McCabe Jnr, of GTV-9, was one of the program’s big supporters. But perhaps the focus became a little blurred. ‘Molly’ Meldrum told Go-Set readers: “The background of the show will be very much like a typical market in Istanbul. There will be bazaar like stalls with real freaks who can only ever be seen at bazaar like stalls, selling anything from leather goods, beads and clothing to surfboards or the occasional dog. Heaven help Channel 9 if Sid The Farmer decided to flog off 158 of his sheep.
“Wandering around all these stalls will be the audience of about 450 strong. Unlike any other studio audience they will not be required to sit in their seats.”
Rhett Walker had his say: “I’ve always wanted to do a radio show like this, but had never got around to really getting it on the road but after talking to different musos like Brian Cadd and Billy Green and Duncan MacGuire, along the Channel 9 T.C’s record producer John French, who are all highly enthusiastic about it, I decided to give it a go.
“We had a few problems with the test that was heard last Sunday. One, it wasn’t long enough because the La De Da’s forgot to turn up. And two, we couldn’t get it live enough. It perhaps needed an audience like we’re having for the telly show.”
By June 1973, the accountants had completed a thorough review of what was to make money in a competitive radio environment. 3XY was hot on the station’s heels in the battle for the youth rock market. Presenters such as ‘Baby’ John Burgess, Colin McEwen and John Stone were soon to disappear in the program guides, to be replaced by the simple notation: “Continuous Beautiful Music. News on the Hour.” Mike Nicholls was given the job of playing the last record before the Beautiful Music launch: Spectrum’s I’ll Be Gone.
Little fanfare introduced the ‘Beautiful Music’ concept at 3AK. A small Green Guide paragraph on June 7, 1973, was headlined ‘Good Response To AK Change’: “The introduction of uninterrupted pleasant music at AK has been well received, to judge from listener response. The station is playing selected tracks in clusters free of commercials. The format is based on a U.S. programming technique, successfully pre-tested by a Sydney station.”
The last week of 3AK’s ‘Wrinkly’ era saw these hits included in Melbourne’s Top 40:
1. Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree. Daws
2. Morning After. Maureen McGovern
3. Killing Me Softly With His Song. Roberta Flack
4. Funny Face. Donna Fargo
5. Space Oddity. David Bowie
6. Do You Wanna Touch Me. Gary Glitter
7. Twelfth Of Never. Donny Osmond
8. Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend. Lobo
9. Last Song. Edward Bear
10. Also Sprach Zarathustra. Deodato
11. Part Of The Union. Strawbs
12. Daniel. Elton John
13. Daisy-A-Day. Jud Strunk
14. I Don’t Want To Play House. Barbara Ray
15. Neither One Of Us. Linda George
16. Get Down. Gilbert O’Sullivan
17. Cum On Feel The Noize. Slade
18. You’re So Vain. Carly Simon
19. Dream Lover. Greyhound
20. Dead Skunk. Loudon Wainwright III
21. Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me. New Seekers
22. Everything Is Out Of Season. Johnny Farnham
23. Cover Of The Rolling Stone. Dr Hook & The Medicine Show
24. I Am Woman. Helen Reddy
25. Crocodile Rock. Elton John
26. Heaven Is My Woman’s Love. Col Joye
27. Top Of The World. Carpenters
28. Marrow Song. Fantasy
29. Wedding Song. Petula Clarke
30. Goondiwindi Grey. Tex Morton
31. Laughing Song. B.J. Berg
32. Sing. Carpenters
33. I’d Love You To Want Me. Lobo
34. Susie Darlin’. Barry Crocker
35. Jambalaya. Blue Ridge Rangers
36. But I Do. Bobby Vinton
37. Hocus Pocus. Focus
38. I Can’t Get Sunday Out Of My Mind. Rod Kirkham
39. Duelling Banjos. Eric Weiss & His Banjos
40. Venus. Jamie Redfern
Top 10 Albums
1. Hot August Night. Neil Diamond
2. Liza With A Z. Liza Minelli
3. Jesus Christ Superstar. Australian Cast
4. House Of The Holy. Led Zeppelin
5. Glitter. Gary Glitter
6. Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player. Elton John
7. Made In Japan. Deep Purple
8. Six Wives Of Henry VIII. Rick Wakeman
9. Cabaret. Original Soundtrack
10. No Secrets. Carly Simon
The ‘Beautiful Music’ era of 3AK starting in June 1973 was a ratings and financial success for the station – for more than a decade. Radio veteran Vern Stone was brought in to usher the change for ‘1500 Friendly 3AK’.
Journalist Ross Warneke, writing in The Age a decade later, said that 1973 was a significant year for Melbourne radio: “It was then that 3AK, following the example of 2CH in Sydney, introduced its ‘beautiful music’ format, a clear alternative to the loud, chatty, pop-oriented formats of most of the others.”
Quoting Peter Read, Chisholm Institute marketing communications lecturer, Warneke continued: “Along with 3AW, 3AK set about snaring the growing middle-aged and aged audiences. It hasn’t been until fairly recently that radio stations have begin to take notice of the fact that our population is ageing, and the formerly prosperous youth market had been badly knocked around by unemployment.”
The late Harold Baigent, with his distinctive, gravely sound, was used to voice the 3AK ‘Beautiful Music’ station promotions and TV advertisements.
1973 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Continuous Beautiful Music. News on the hour. (July 6-8, 1973).
1974 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Continuous Beautiful Music. News on the hour. (April 11, 13-14, 1974).
1975 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Continuous Beautiful Music; News on the hour. (June 6-8, 1975).
1976 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Continuous Beautiful Music; News on the hour. (June 5-8, 1976).
1977 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Ward Everard -Inc. News every half hour, inc. Overseas Flights, Stock Exchange Report. 8.00am Ray Lawrence. 9.00am Colin McEwan – Inc. Stock Echange Report. 12 Noon, John Bright. 4.00pm David Low – Inc. News every hour. (Friday, April 8, 1977).
Saturday. 6.00am Alan Pearsall – News every hour. 10.00am John Bright. 2.00pm Ward Everard. 6.00pm John D’Arcy. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart. (Saturday, April 9, 1977).
Sunday. 6.00am Ray Lawrence – Inc. News every hour.10.00am David Low. 2.00pm Colin McEwan. 6.00pm John D’Arcy. 12 Midnight, Ian Stewart. (Sunday, April 10, 1977).
FM Enters The Radio Arena
3AK was long able to withstand the onslaught of new stations on the FM radio band. 3EON-FM was first to the FM airwaves in July 1980, followed by 3FOX-FM.
Warnecke, who is now a stand-in host at 3AW for Neil Mitchell, observed the radio ratings process, and noted the anticipation with which they were received by the station managements: “At 3AK in Richmond, Dick Casey cannot bear being alone. He invites colleagues for coffee and a nerve-quelling port or three and together they await the call. “It’s a tradition,” he says.”
At this time, there were just two FM stations in the market-place, and the 1983 ratings survey shows 3AK as trading well: 3KZ (12.4 per cent of available audience), 3XY (11.3), 3AK (11), 3FOX-FM (9), 3EON-FM (8.8), 3LO (8.4), 3UZ (7.9), 3MP (7.7), 3DB (5.5) and 3AR (2.3).
The Age said that a drop of two percentage points in a station’s ratings could mean a decline of up to $1 million in advertising revenue for the ensuing six months.
This was the start of big money in radio. Ian Livingstone, chief reporter at Listener In-TV, speculated that Don Lane had signed a contract with 3UZ, to earn the record amount of $1,000 a week for the 1977 season. And at 3XY in 1979, a young Sydney Sun Editor was being signed to present the morning session amidst the ‘fine and mild’ weather forecasts. His name was Derryn Hinch.
1978 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Colin McEwan Beautiful Music – Inc. News every half-hour; Traffic; Overseas Flights; Stock Exchange reports; Peter Harvey (7.30); Merv Lincoln (8.00); Michael Schildberger (8.30). 9.00am Ward Everard Beautiful Music – Inc. News every hour; Peter Harvey (9.00); Michael Schildberger (9.15, 10.15, 11.15). 12.00 Noon, John Bright Beautiful Music – Merv Lincoln (12.00). 3.00pm David Paterson Beautiful Music – Inc. Stock Exchange Reports; Peter Harvey (4.30, 6.00); Michael Schildberger (5.30). 5.00 Ray Lawrence Beautiful Music – Inc. News every hour. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart Beautiful Music, inc. News every hour. (Thursday, March 9, 1978). Saturday. 6.00am David Lowe Beautiful Music – Inc. News every hour; Bill Howie’s Book and Film Reviews; Bay Reports. 10.00am David Patterson Beautiful Music – Inc. News every hour. 2.00pm John Bright Beautiful Music – Inc. news every hour; Bill Howie’s Travel Diary (2.15); Book and Film Reports;Bay Reports. 6.00pm Ray Lawrence Beautiful Music – Inc. News every hour; Bill Howie’s Travel Diary (8.15). 12.00 Midnight – Carryl Brown Beautiful Music – inc. News every hour; Travel Diary (2.15). (Saturday, March 4, 1978). Sunday. 6.00am David Lowe Beautiful Music – Inc. News every hour; Bill Howie’s Book and Film Reviews; Bay Reports. 12 Noon, Ward Everard Beautiful Music -Inc. news every hour; Bill Howie’s Book and Film Reports; Bay Reports. 6.00pm Ray Lawrence Beautiful Music – Inc. News every hour; Bill Howie’s Travel Diary (8.15). 12.00 Midnight -Ian Stewart Beautiful Music – inc. News every hour; Travel Diary (2.15). (Sunday, March 5, 1978).
1979 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am John Blackman Beautiful Music – Inc. News every half-hour; Traffic (7.10, 7.40, 8.10, 8.40); London Stock Exchange (7.00, 9.00); Flight Arrivals (7.20, 8.20); Finance (8.00); Sport (7.10, 8.10); Peter Harvey (7.30, 9.00); Astrology (5.50, 6.50, 7.50, 8.50); Weather (7.04, 8.40). 9.00am Ward Everard – Inc. News; Travel (10.22); Finance (12 Noon); Food (9.22); Flight Arrivals (9.15); Parking (9.45); Entertainment (11.45); Market (9.45). 12.00 Noon, John Bright – Inc. News every hour, Travel (2.25), NY Report (1.00, 4.00), Fr Elligate (2.45); Food (1.22); Entertainment (3.45); Market (1.45). 4.00pm Alan Pearsall – Inc. News every hour, Peter Harvey (4.30, 6.00), NY report (5.30), Traffic (4.40, 5.20, 5.40, 6.20); Travel (5.50); Flight Arrivals (5.10, 6.10). Parking (7.20); Melb. Stock Exchange (5.00, 5.30). 8.00pm John D’Arcy – Inc. News every hour, Travel (10.15), Peter Harvey (9.30), Fr Elligate (11.15), Food (8.30). 12.00 Midnight, Ray Lawrence. (Thursday, March 15, 1979). Saturday. 6.00am Alan Pearsall Beautiful Music – with news every hour, Beach Reports (7.15, 8.15, 9.15), Food (9.30), Sport (7.15, 8.15), Film and Book Reviews (6.45, 8.45). 10.00am John Bright – inc. News Hourly; Film and Book Reviews (12.15); Travel (10.15); Beach Reports (10.15, 11.15); Food (1.30). 2.00pm Kevin Arnett – Inc. News, Book Reviews, Travel Diary. 6.00pm Ray Lawrence – Jazz at 8.00pm. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart – News, Music. (Saturday, March 10, 1979). Sunday. 6.00am Peter Hitchener Beautiful Music – with news every hour, Beach Reports (7.15, 8.15, 9.15), Food (9.30), Film and Book Reviews (6.15, 8.15). 10.00am John Blackman – inc. News Hourly; Film and Book Reviews (10.15); Beach Reports (10.15, 11.15); Food (1.30); Film and Book Reviews (12.15). 2.00pm Ward Everard – Inc. News every hour, Travel (2.15); Film and Book Reviews (4.15). 6.00pm John D’Arcy – Inc. News on the hour; Music; Travel (8.15); Food (8.30); Film and Book Reviews (6.15). 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart – Inc. News every hour,Travel Diary (2.15); Food (1.30).. (Sunday, March 11, 1979).
1980 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Peter Hitchener – Beautiful Music; news hourly, astrology (5.50, 6.50, 7.50, 8.50); Peter Harvey (6.00, 7.30); London Stock Exchange (7.00, 9.30); Merv Lincoln (8.30). 9.00am John Bright, Movie Memories with Peter Smith (9.21); news hourly, food (11.45); Parking (9.45); Travel Diary (10.22). 12.00 Noon,Ward Everard – News hourly; Merv Lincoln, Herb Norman (1.00); Parking (1.45); Travel (2.22). 4.00pm John Mason, news hourly; Peter Harvey (4.30); Melbourne Stock Exchange (5.00, 6.30); Snow Report (6.50). 6.00pm Peter Van – News hourly, Peter Harvey (9.00); Fr Elligate (11.15). 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart, all night. Travel diary (2.15); Earl Nightingale (2.30). Saturday. 5.00am Peter Hitchener – Beautiful music, news hourly. Astrology (5.50, 6.50, 7.50, 8.50). 10.00am Peter Van – Music, news hourly, travel diary (10.15). Astrology (10.45); Film,book review (12.15). 1.00pm John Bright – News hourly, Bill Howie’s Travel Diary (2.15); Restaurant review (3.45). 6.00pm Ray Lawrence – News hourly. Film, book reviews (6.15); Beautiful Jazz (8.00). 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart, Music all night; Travel diary (2.15). (Saturday, August 23, 1980). Sunday. 6.00am John Mason – Beautiful Music, News hourly; Film and book review (6.15, 8.15). 10.00am Ward Everard, news hourly, music. Travel diary (10.15), restaurant review (11.15), film and book review (12.15). 2.00pm Ray Larence -News hourly, travel diary (2.15); film and book reviews (4.15). 6.00pmJohn D’Arcy – News hourly, film and book reviews (6.15), Travel Diary (8.15). 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart, all night. (Sunday, August 24, 1980).
1981 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Peter Hitchener – Music; news hourly, astrology (5.50, 6.50, 7.50, 8.50); Peter Harvey (6.00, 7.00); London Stock Exchange (7.00, 9.30); Merv Lincoln (8.30). 9.00am Ray Lawrence, Movie Memories with Peter Smith (9.21); Food (11.45); Parking (9.45); Travel Diary (10.22). 12.00 Noon, Alan Pearsall – News hourly; Merv Lincoln, Herb Norman (1.00); Parking (1.45); Travel (2.22). 4.00pm John Mason, news hourly; Peter Harvey (4.30); Melbourne Stock Exchange (5.00, 6.30). 6.00pm Peter Van – News hourly, Peter Harvey (9.00); Ray Lawrence (11.15). 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart, all night. Travel diary (2.15); Earl Nightingale (2.30). Saturday. 5.00am Peter Hitchener – Beautiful music, news hourly. Astrology (5.50, 6.50, 7.50, 8.50). 9.00am John Mason – Music, news hourly, travel diary (10.15). Astorlogy (10.45); Film,book review (12.15). 1.00pm John Bright – News hourly, Bill Howie’s TravelDiary (2.15); Restaurant review (3.45). 6.00pm Peter Van -News hourly. Film, book reviews (6.15); Beautiful Jazz (7.00). 12.00 Midnight, Nola Day, Music all night; Travel diary (2.15). (Saturday, March 21, 1981). Sunday. 6.00am John Mason – Beautiful Music, News hourly; Film and book review (5.15, 8.15, 10.15). Restaurant Review (12.15). 10.00am Peter Van, news hourly. 2.00pm Ward Everard, News hourly, music. Travel diary (2.15), film and book review (4.15). 6.00pm Ian Stewart -News hourly, film and book reviews (6.15), Travel Diary (8.45). 12.00 Midnight, Nola day, all night. (Sunday, March 22, 1981).
1982 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Peter Hitchener – Beautiful music, news hourly.9.00amGraham Braddy, music, news half-hourly.12 Noon, Ward Everard – Music, news hourly. 4.00pm John Mason, music, news half-hourly. 8.00pm Ray Lawrence – News hourly, music. 12 Midnight, Ian Stewart – all night. (Monday, April 5, 1982). Saturday. 5.00am Peter Hitchener – Beautiful music, news hourly. 9.00am Graham Braddy, music, news hourly. 1.00pm Ray Lawrence – News hourly, music. 6.00pm John D’Arcy – Election Reports throughout the evening; News hourly,music. 1.00am Ian Stewart, allnight. (Saturday, April 3, 1982). Sunday. 6.00am Rob Maynard – Beautiful music, news hourly. 9.00am Ward Everard, music, news hourly. 1.00pm John Mason – Music, news hourly. 6.00pm Margaret Moore – Music, news hourly. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart, all night. (Sunday, April 4, 1982)
For close to a decade, 3AK was always near or at the top of the market with its ‘Beautiful Music’ format, earning an enviable record amongst advertising clients. Journalist Carol George said: “Once 3AK were so keen on underplaying their personalities that they wouldn’t provide their names for radio guides.”
Morning man Colin McEwen explained his opinion: “3AK communicates in a different way to some of the others in that it communicates with music. 3AK sometimes tends to be cold.” Not long after this press report, McEwan was off the schedule!
By 1977, others in the 3AK line-up included Ward Everaadt, John Blackman, Alan Pearsall and Ray Lawrence. Also behind the AK microphone was David Low, a former Movietone News commentator, and favourite announcer for radio legend Jack Davey. Writing in Scene, Carol George noted: “3AK has it all on its own, providing the beautiful alternative to pop music.”
Also joining the team were former HSV-7 star John D’Arcy, and former 3KZ legend John Bright.
‘Beautiful Music’ was later known as the ‘Beautiful Alternative’, returning after the talk format as ‘Lite Hits’ and ‘Lite and Lively’.
1983 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. Monday-Friday. 5.00am Peter Hitchener – Beautiful music, news hourly. 9.00am Graham Braddy, music, news hourly. 12 Noon, Ward Everard – News hourly, music. 4.00pm John Mason, news hourly, music. 8.00pm Ray Lawrence – News, music. 12.00 Midnight , Geoff Harrison. Music all night. (Friday, September 23, 1983). Saturday. 5.00am Ward Everard – Beautiful music, news hourly. 9.00am Graham Braddy, news hourly, music. 1.00pm Ray Lawrence – News hourly, music. 6.00pm Peter James – News hourly, music. 12.00 Midnight, Geoff Harrison, all night. (Saturday, September 24, 1983). Sunday. 6.00am John Mason – Beautiful music, news hourly. 10.00am Peter Hitchener, music, news hourly.2.00pm Rod McNeil – music, news hourly. 6.00pm Peter James – Music, news hourly. 12.00 Midnight, Geoff Harrison, all night. (Sunday, September 25, 1983).
1984 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Peter James – Nice and easy music, news hourly. 9.00am Graham Braddy, music, news hourly. 12 Noon, Peter Hitchener – News hourly, music. 4.00pm Ward Everard, music, news hourly. 8.00pm Ray Lawrence, News, music. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart, Music all night. (Friday, November 29, 1984). Saturday. 5.00am Ward Everard. Nice and easy music, news hourly. 9.00am Graham Braddy, news, hourly music.1.00pm Ray Lawrence – news hourly, music. 6.00pm Andrew McLaren – News hourly, music. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart, Music all night. (Saturday, November 24, 1984). Sunday. 6.00am Peter James. Nice and Easy music, news hourly. 10.00am Peter Hitchener. News hourly, music. 2.00pm Rod McNeil – News hourly, music 6.00pm Andrew McLaren – News hourly, music. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Stewart. Music, all night.
1985 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Andrew McLaren, music, news hourly inc. Merv Lincoln (6.30am, 8am, 8pm); Sam Lipski (7.30am, 6pm, 3am); Travel (7.25am, 10.25am, 2.25pm, 5.55pm, 10.25pm, 2.25am); Gardening (6.15am, 8.15am, 12.15pm, 6.15pm, 1.13am, 3.13am); Radio Doctor (8.50am, 3.20pm); Lost Pets (7.45am, 10.15am, 1.15pm, 3.15pm, 7.15pm). 9.00pm Graham Braddy, music, news hourly. Serial: Deadly Nightshade (9.30am, 10.30pm, 3.30am). 12 Noon, Philip Brady, news hourly, music. Binny Lum (3.40pm, 6.20pm, 4.40am). 4.00pm Ward Everaard, news hourly, music. 7.00pm Peter James, news, music. 12 Midnight, Richard Combe, music, all night. (Friday, August 23, 1985). Saturday. 5.00am Ward Everaard, music, news hourly, Garage Sale (8.45am, 9.45am, 10.45am); Garden Hint (6.13am, 8.13am, 12.15pm, 6.15pm, 1.13am, 3.13am); Lost Pets (7.45am, 9.15am, 11.15am, 1.15pm, 3.15pm, 5.15pm, 8.13pm, 1.13am, 3.13am); Travel Diary (7.25am, 10.25am, 2.25pm, 2.25am). 9.00am Philip Brady, news hourly, music, Garage Sale (9.45am, 10.45am). 1.00pm Andrew McLaren, news hourly, music; History of the Big Bands (3.00pm); Restaurant Review (4.35pm). 6.00pm Richard Combe, news hourly, music, Tattslotto (10.00pm, 11.00pm). 12.00 Midnight, Moya O’Shea, all night. (Saturday, August 24, 1985). Sunday. 6.00am Moya O’Shea, music, news hourly, Garden (7.13am, 9.13am, 12.13pm, 6.13pm, 1.13am, 3.13am); Lost Pets (9.15am, 11.13am, 3.13pm, 5.15pm, 8.13pm); Religious Hour (6.00pm); Tattslotto, hourly; Soccerpool (9.28am). 10.00am Graham Braddy, music, news hourly; Restaurant Review (11.25am, 3.25am); Travel (10.25am, 2.25pm, 10.25pm, 2.25am). 2.00pm Andrew McLaren, music, news hourly. 6.00pm Peter James, music, news hourly; History of The Big Bands (8.00pm). 12.00 Midnight, Ron Cadee, music, all night. (Sunday, August 25, 1985).
In 1985, the format was being presented as ‘Nice and Easy’ with presenters including Graham Braddy, Peter James, Andrew McLaren, Moya O’Shea, Philip Brady and Ray Lawrence.
Peter James had started his radio career at Ballarat, and then made his name at 3AW as an on-air partner of both Ray Chapman and Mary Hardy. He later went on to partner Ugly Dave Gray in the afternoon shift at 3UZ.
Peter’s son, Darren James, worked as Bruce Mansfield’s partner for a short time at 3AK. Darren – who worked for a time at TT-FM – is now firmly back on the 3AW weekend schedule. His wife, Kathy, appeared anonymously as ‘Voice of the Suburbs’ on Derryn Hinch’s 3AK morning program.
The Great CBC Experiment
‘Building The Biggest Sound in Australian Radio’
Radio’s bombshell for the late 1980s was media baron Kerry Packer’s bold foray into major capital city radio networking, with a bold experiment involving 3AK and the Sydney radio station 2UE. Packer had just purchased UE for a reported $20 million.
Inspired by the successes of the American CBS and NBC radio networks, Packer enticed 3AW supremo Brian White to put together the Commercial Broadcasting Corporation in a dramatic bid to snare a large slice of the multi-million dollar national advertising segment revenue.
Brian White had started his career in the rough-and-tumble Sydney media market as the Macquarie Network’s first cadet journalist in 1953. He made his real mark in Melbourne as General Manager of 3AW, part of the Macquarie Network.
White earned some valuable experience as a consultant to the Whitlam Government’s Media department in 1975, and was also appointed National Director of ethnic radio. His time at 3AW from 1981 was when the station was owned largely by the John Fairfax Group, until its break-up caused by a failed investment strategy of ‘Young Warwick’ Fairfax.
White’s reputation had been enhanced by his success in joining 3AW breakfast radio personality John Blackman with Mansfield’s ‘Uncle Roy’ character; fostering the morning program revitalised by Derryn Hinch; and instituting a clever drive-time format developed with old newspaper mate Mark Day (then co-owner with Owen Thomson of the larrikin Truth newspaper).
Ray Taylor presented early evenings, and the yet-to-be-publicly-disgraced Reverend Alex Kenworthy conducted his Nightline program. AW ruled the weekend airwaves with the Escape program of Evan Green and Yolanta Novak; football with Harry Beitzel and Bill Jacobs; and Australia Overnight with Owen Delaney.
Brian White had also tapped into Melbourne’s psyche when 3AW went into emergency mode to cover the Ash Wednesday fires that surrounded Melbourne and its suburbs in February 1983. More than $2.8 million was raised, and hampers for those affected by the fires were put together with a project also headed by husband-and-wife Don and Joy Brown of the Leader Newspapers group across Melbourne.
1986 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Peter Harrison, music, news hourly, current affairs with Barry Everingham (7.45am). 8.00am George Negus, music. 10.00am Alan Jones. 11.00am, Mike Gibson. 12 Noon, Steve Liebmann, news hourly, music. 1.00pm Don Lane. .400pm Mark Day. 6.00pm Sport. 7.00pm Suzy Jarrett, news, music. 10.00pm Philip Adams. 12.00 Midnight, Adam Joseph. 4.00am Noel Miller. (Friday, June 27, 1986).
Saturday. 7.00am Don Burke, Bobby Ryan. 10.00am Bob Rogers. 1.00pm Graham Braddy. 6.00pm Wendy Harmer. Music, sport, news. 9.00pm Mike Ryan. 10.00pm David Lentin. 12.00 Midnight, Adam Joseph. 4.00am Noel Miller, music, all night. (Saturday, June 28, 1986).
Sunday. 7.00am Don Burke, Bob Ryan. 10.00am Bob Rogers. 1.00pm Graham Braddy. 6.00pm Jane Clifton, music, sport, news. 9.00pm Music feature. 10.00pm Alan Pearsall, Jill Crawford, Debbie Finn. 12 Midnight, Ernie Sigley, music, news. (Sunday, June 23, 1986).
Journalist Martin Flanagan pondered in The Age that White was the architect of ‘personality radio’ in Melbourne. White responded: “In personality radio, the personality is the tabloid vehicle. Derryn Hinch makes the editorial decisions, but he has a team of people working for him”
3AK’s involvement in the CBC network idea came as White was given an open cheque book by proprietor Packer. Soon, top talents such as Don Lane, Phillip Adams, Ernie Sigley, Steve Liebmann, Mike Gibson, George Negus and Mark Day were signed.
Presenters also included popular Peter Harrison, journalists Wendy Harmer and Suzy Jarrett, weekender Bob Rogers, and even a gardener called Don Burke getting his start in media.
In 1986, 3AW’s top identity John Blackman met with White at Melbourne’s Regent Hotel, and the controversial deal was struck for ‘Blackers’ to join 3AK (he had also conducted the AK breakfast show in 1975 and 1979). Blackman has been variously described as “gentlemanly, sardonic, resonant, glib”; his humour as “droll, spontaneous, mischievous and laconic”.
1987 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Bob Tarlau – World Watch. 6.00am John Blackman, news, traffic, weather. 8.30am Mike Edmonds, Romana Koval, current affairs, interviews. 12 Noon, News 12.30pm Ranald Macdonald. 1.00pm Bernadette Skuse. 4.00pm Mark Day, news, current affairs. 6.00pm News. 6.15pm Steve Murphy, sport. 7.30pm Real Estate and Property. 8.30pm Radio Plays. 9.30pm News. 9.45pm Mike Jeffreys, magazine, interviews. 12 Midnight, Ian Maurice. (Friday, April 3, 1987).
Saturday. 6.00am Music.7.00am Don Burke, gardening, home handyman advice. 10.00am Witch Doctor, medicine. 11.00am Music. 12 Noon, Sport. 6.00pm David Lentin, crime and social issues. 8.30pm Drama. 9.30pm John Hindle, theatre reviews. 12.00 Midnight, Ian Maurice, music. (Saturday, April 4, 1987).
Sunday. 6.00am Music 7.00am Don Burke, gardening, home handyman advice. 10.00am Ranald Macdonald and Julie Flynn. 12.30pm Naturally Healthy with Blackmores, Ron Shaw. 1.00pm Sport. 6.00pm Music.8.30pm Drama.9.30pm Peter J. Shields inc. World’s Unexplained Mysteries. 12 Midnight, Ernie Sigley. (Sunday, April 5, 1987).
Simultaneously, another battle in Melbourne’s radio ratings war was occurring at the Flinders Street headquarters of The Herald & Weekly Times Ltd, where show business stalwart Bert Newton had taken over as General Manager of ‘Melbourne’s Own 3DB’. He was locked in a suite at the Windsor Hotel, as the architect to bring the Herald-Sun station back its glory days. In one week, Newton faced the departure of on-air people including breakfast man Bill Tuckey and morning show presenter Doug Aiton.
3AK’s involvement in the CBC experiment failed to attract the all-important advertising agency business. Terence Maher, of The Australian Financial Review, quoted SA-FM’s Paul Thompson with his view of networking: “I don’t do it and I have no intention of doing it.”
“The future lies in locally-produced programs and a strong local news. These ingredients will never be beaten by satellite.”
That was July 1986. Today, Thompson heads the high-spending DMG Radio group, which has a network of some 60 stations.
Disappointed With Response
Speaking at an Advertising Club lunch, Brian White said he was disappointed with the response from advertising agencies not prepared to support what he believed would be the biggest success story in radio for years.
Reporter Elizabeth Knight of The Australian Financial Review summed it up this way in June 1986: “Advertising agencies have decided to ‘sit on the fence’ over the 100 per cent rate increase by the Packer-owned radio network Commercial Broadcasting Corporation until the new 2UE and 3AK format has proved itself in the ratings.
“In sharp contrast, Mr White said retail advertisers, which did not buy through agencies, had jumped at the opportunity to use the new CBC format. “Anyone with any knowledge of the radio industry would realise that CBC’s new network plans and personality line-up will be a sure success,” he said.
“But in the last ratings survey, 3AK was second last in Melbourne and 2UE was sixth out of 12 stations in Sydney,” Knight wrote.
White said that when he put the CBC network idea involving 3AK and 2UE to Kerry Packer, the media baron asked two questions: How much will it cost and how long will it take to be successful.
“I told him, give me two years. It will take at least that long. The agencies will wait for 12, 18 or 24 months before they move. I am not surprised that the agencies are conservative but those that come early will be the beneficiaries.”
1988 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Ken Lane. 9.00am Alan Pearsall. 12 Noon, Bernie Brittain. 3.00pm Chris Elliott. 7.00pm John Tamb. 10.00pm Lights Out, Melbourne Jazz. 12.00 Midnight, Steve Goode. (Friday, August 26, 1988).
Saturday. 6.00am Chris Elliott. 10.00am Ken Lane. 2.00pm John Tamb. 6.00pm Alan Dale. Love Songs, requests for lovers. 10.00pm Jazz. 12 Midnight, Steve Goode. (Saturday, August 27, 1988).
Sunday. 6.00am Alan Pearsall. 10.00am Bernie Britten. 2.00pm BrianFord. 6.00pm Adam Joseph. 10.00pm Lights Out, Melbourne jazz. 12.00 Midnight, Steve Goode. (Sunday, August 28, 1988).
Robert Parsons, radio writer for the Sunday Observer, sums up: ‘What ensued was a bitter struggle for supremacy between the then-Packer owned CBC and the Fairfax-owned Macquarie stations. It is history that the battle was won convincingly by 3AW.’
Mike Peterson, General Manager of 3AW in 1989, reviews his station’s strategy: “Hinch stayed, which of course, was of critical but not paramount importance. Murray Nicoll replaced and out-performed Mark Day. Darren James went on air and quickly established himself as a breakfast personality.”
3AW Marketing Manager, Peter Davy, devised a slogan against 3AK: “If you want to listen to Sydney radio, you’d live in Sydney.” 3AK had to endure a campaign of full-page newspaper advertisements and outdoor posters.
3AK’s failed change of format also meant good fortune for 3MP. One-time General Manager, Paul Ramsden, explains: “Come Christmas 1985, AK pulled Beautiful Music and went feral: a news-talk format networked between Melbourne and Sydney. I got the call from Bruce Rogerson Boxing Day ’85: ‘You will change format and get it on air within two weeks’.”
“This was the most incredible two weeks you have ever seen. We had to keep the existing on the air, re-cart the whole music library, change all the internal marketing and livery, and importantly change staff.
“We managed to get a whole new team in place on air within that time from 3AK. It wasn’t as hard, as they the ‘new’ 3AK was a dud and were glad to move. Although you can imagine Easy music jox at one station for nearly 10 years and within a couple of days making a decision to move to a station that was once a beach and bayside station.”
The 3MP ‘Easy Listening’ schedule looked similar to that just dumped by AK: Andrew McLaren, breakfast; Margaret Peacock, mornings; Graham Braddy, afternoons; Ward Everaardt, drive; Ray Lawrence, evenings; Brad Story, mid-dawn and weekends. Steve Robinson was appointed as the new 3MP General Manager.
The MP format worked; AK’s experiment did not.
1989 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Pete O’Callaghan, Trish Mitchell. 10.00am Margaret Peacock, Alan Pearsall, news hourly. 12 Noon, Ken Lane, listener’s requests. 4.00pm Dean Banks. 7.00pm John Tamb. 12 Midnight Keith McGowan. (Monday, March 6, 1989).
Saturday. 7.00am Burke’s Backyard; gardening, talkback. 10.00am Lawyers, Guns and Money. 12 Noon, football commentary, panel. 2.00pm Essendon v St Kilda (Graham Dawson, Harry Beitzel, Bobby Skilton, Robbie Flower). 6.00pm Peter O’Callaghan. 12 Midnight, Adam Joseph. (Saturday, April 29, 1989).
Sunday. 6.00am Alan Pearsall inc. Burke’s Backyard, gardening, talkback. 9.00am Sport: Harry Beitzel, Graham Dawson. 12.00 Noon, John Tamb. 6.00pm Harry Wilde. 12 Midnight, Adam Joseph. (Sunday, March 5, 1989).
3AK soon came under the ownership of controversial Australian business identity, Alan Bond, when Bond Media made an audacious $1055 million bid in early 1987 for Kerry Packer’s media interests including the Nine Network. Packer commented that ‘You only get one Alan Bond in your life’; later buying back the media interests at a much reduced price.
Legend has it that Alan Bond was inspecting his newly-acquired GTV-9 premises in Bendigo Street, Richmond. He saw a small radio station operating in a crowded area, near the TV station’s executive office. “Who owns that?” Bond asked. “You do!” came the reply.
3AK’s ownership under the Bond Media banner was quickly put in doubt when the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal threatened to declare Alan Bond as to be not a fit and proper person to hold a broadcasting licence. The ABT was concerned about a number of issues including a $400,000 payout to Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Bond said, in comments later cut from A Current Affair interview: “Certainly the Premier made it under no doubt that if were going to continue to do business successfully in Queensland, then he expected the matter to be resolved. Commercially it was the best answer.”
1990 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Uncle Roy (Bruce Mansfield), Darren James. 8.30am Newsmakers: Robert Hicks, John Laws (9am-10am). 10.00am Janine Haines. 1.00pm Margaret Peacock. 4.00 Patrick Wanis. 6.00 Steve Murphy: Sport Today. 7.00pm Peter O’Callaghan. 10.00pm Phillip Adams. 12 Midnight Keith McGowan (Monday, April 23, 1990)
Saturday. 6.00am Music. 7.00am Gardening, Jane Edmanson. 10.00am Grape Expectations, Robert Hicks. 12 Noon Football description of the Hawthorn v Melbourne match. Commentators: Graham Dawson, Bobby Skilton, Robbie Flower and Tommy Lahiff. 9.00pm Jacki Warren. 12 Midnight Sean Flannery. (Saturday, May 26, 1990)
Sunday. 7.00am Don Burke Gardening. 10.00am Sportstalk with Doug Ackerly. 12 Noon Highlights of the Week. 1.30pm Football description of the West Coast v Geelong match. Commentators: Graham Dawson, Harvey Deegan and Eric Sorich. 6.00pm Peter O’Callaghan. 7.00pm Father Bob McGuire Streetalk. 9.00pm Jacki Warren. 12.00 Midnight Keith McGowan. (Sunday, May 27, 1990).
A quaint mixture of good and bad presenters were recruited for 3AK at this time. University raconteur, the late Dinny O’Hearn, fronted for shifts on 1503. One-time partner Dennis Donoghue (Connell) commented: “Dinny flatly refused to attend the studio at Bendigo Street unless there was an uncorked bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey placed between him and the microphone.”
For a time, AK adopted a ‘Light Music’ format, supplemented by presenters such as Australian Democrats founder Don Chipp, and Frank Hardy – famous for his authorship of Power Without Glory, the book about Melbourne power broker John Wren. In 1988, the line-up included Ken Lane, Alan Pearsall, Bernie Brittain, Chris Elliott, Paul James and Adam Joseph.
Sydney radio kings John Laws and Alan Jones were relayed to 3AK for a short while. Jones said: “My radio program was networked down there; there are many people who used to listen to the old 3AK, and we had very good ratings.”
The seeds of a most enduring Melbourne radio success story was when Keith McGowan was recruited in 1989 to present his Overnighters midnight-dawn radio program on 3AK. McGowan had been top of the ratings tree with a morning program on 3MP, as well as varying successes in other states. He had started his career in radio as a 14-year-old messenger boy at 3UZ. He rejuvenated 3AK’s reputation as Melbourne’s ‘Voice Of The Night’.
By 1990, ‘Keefie’ had been wooed by 3AW, and continues today as a broadcasting success story. For a brief time, Hal Todd returned to the 3AK microphone at Bendigo Street for the night owls. ‘Toddy’ had worked for nearly every station in Melbourne. His death in 1992, at age 64, was remembered by one newspaper:
“Two weeks ago, a very weak Todd told his last radio audience on 3AK that his time had come. Whatever it is on one’s heart that makes us understand when the time for change has come, is unalterable. But, my very dear and good friends, that time has come for me.”
Hal Todd died at his Hawthorn home, with wife Eileen, and their six children at his bedside. Bert Newton delivered the eulogy.
Wild economic times were coming to a close at the end of the 1980’s, particularly in regard to Australia’s media properties. Media commentator Paul Chadwick made the point that 1987-1989 had witnessed the closure of newspapers including Business Daily, The Western Mail (Perth), The Telegraph (Brisbane), Times On Sunday, The Sun (Sydney) and Melbourne’s Sunday Observer.
One Melbourne radio station almost brought about its own collapse when it bid $31.5 million to convert from the AM-band to FM. Next highest bid was Alan Bond with a $20 million offer for 3AK to convert. Bond’s corporate collapse was just around the bend, and the second licence was awarded to third bidder, 3DB, which was to re-launch as TT-FM.
Mark Collier, 3AK General Manager, told the Sunday Observer in 1989: “Our situation at 3AK has meant unavoidable uncertainty in a number of areas. In fact, many decisions have of necessity taken some time to be reached. Consequently, rumour mongers have had a field day.”
The daily line-up included Pete O’Callaghan, Margaret Peacock, Alan Pearsall and Dean Banks.
When he recruited the Lawyers, Guns and Money show of Ross Stevenson (Campbell) and Dennis Donoghue (Connell) from 3RRR-FM to 3AK in 1989, Collier commented: “In light of recent events, we need all three commodities.”
It would not be long before Stevenson and Donoghue would have a bitter falling out. The Lawyers, Guns and Money program would transfer to 3AW; there would a dispute over ownership of the show’s name; and Stevenson would go onto host AW’s breakfast program with Dean Banks (also of 3AK). Stevenson’s early time at 3AW would also include a Saturday morning sports program – Heroes And Villains – with Dr Turf (John Rothfield) and ‘Sly of The Underwood’ (John Silvester).
“Melbourne’s Best-Kept Secret”
Warren Koglin worked at 3AK from 1989 to 1991 in varying roles from panel operator/anchor, to producer, to weekend breakfast announcer: “It paid to be versatile in those days.”
“The mood under the Bond ownership was surprisingly happy even though we worked in very uncertain times,” says Koglin. “The staff was a close knit group and everyone banded/bonded together to make the lingering uncertainty of which potential owner would snap up 3AK less daunting.
“The entire staff was professional right to the very end, and continued to produce fabulous talk format radio station, although it was Melbourne’s best kept secret.”
There was also turmoil over at 3AW when breakfast team Bruce Mansfield (‘Uncle Roy’) and Darren James were unceremoniously sacked by Station Manager Mike Peterson who preferred what was termed ‘thinking man’s radio’.
Robert Parsons of the Sunday Observer wrote in May 1989: “3AK say they have been inundated with support for Uncle Roy and Darren James since they started on air last Monday. Mark Collier claims support has taken every imaginable form not the least of which has been advertisers speaking with their wallets.”
Warren Koglin remembers: “Most staff members were close in a work sense although Bruce Mansfield didn’t seem to want to mix with anyone and was at times quite stand-offish and arrogant. I experienced this first hand while filling in as a panel operator for him and Darren James (who was great).”
Mansfield was soon to get his own comeuppance, when the unthinkable happened. 3AK was sold in May 1990 … and every member of 3AK’s staff was sacked!
Melbourne excavator Peter Corso purchased 3AK in mid-1990, quickly converting the radio station to a ‘bi-lingual’ format, much of it in the Italian language. Speculation was wide that Corso, who also operated the Il Corso reception centre at Somerton on the northern outskirts of Melbourne, was just as much interested in the purchase of the station for the value of the land near Rosanna that housed the AK transmitter.
Corso purchased 3AK from Bond Media, whilst most of the group’s other media interests including the Nine Network were returned to Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings.
Upon Corso’s takeover, all the station’s staff were instantly sacked. Mark Lawrence, Editor of the Green Guide, commented on the drama in his Out of View column: “He is not the greatest fan of this publication, but we pay tribute to Uncle Roy (Bruce Mansfield) of 3AK’s scuttled breakfast show. Yesterday, the day after AK’s entire staff had been given notice, he bounced on to the airwaves, disappointed by his dismissal but ever the entertainer. Along with sidekick Darren James, ‘Unca’ cracked a few jokes about the station’s new (Italian) owners, but there was no venom, no grizzling. Unca – you’re a real pro.”
1991 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Breakfast with Paul Marinelli inc.police report, Tullamarine report, Vic Roads report, news (6.00am, 7.00am, 7.30am, 8.00am in English and Italian). 9.00am Caffe Espresso, Melbourne mattino; Finestra Su Sydney, news (9.00am, 9.55am, 10.00am, 10.55am, 11.00am, 11.55am in English and Italian). 12 Noon Sapore D’Estate; news (12.00 Noon and 12.50pm). 1.00pm Musical Matinee, news (1.00pm, 1.50pm). 2.00pm Current Affairs with Mike Woods, BBC News (every hour till 4am); News (2.05pm, 2.55pm, 3.05pm, 3.55pm). 4.00pm 1503 Summer Music Blend, News (4.05pm, 4.55pm). 5.00pm International Report; BBC World News; News (5.30pm, 5.55pm). 6.00pm Panorama Sportivo; News (6.05pm). 6.30 Sports Roundup; News (6.55pm). 7.00pm Senza Drontiere, News (7.05pm, 7.55pm). 8.00pm Legally Speaking. 9.00pm MusicalNotes: Graham Braddy. 12.00 Midnight, Music, Andrew Laurence. (Tuesday, March 12, 1991)
Saturday. 5.00am Music, News. 8.00am Italia Canta. 8.30am Music. 9.00am Tell Us About You with Charles D’Aprano. 10.00am Music. 11.00am Destination Italy. 12.00 Noon Music Mix: News (12.00, 12.50, 1.00, 1.55, 2.05, 2.55, 3.05, 3.55, 4.05, 4.55, 5.05, 5.55, 6.05, 6.55); BBC News (from 2pm, every hour till 4am). 7.00pm Saturday Night Live (7.05, 7.55, 8.05, 8.50). 10.00pm Cha Cha Cha, dance music program. 12 Midnight Hal Todd. (Saturday, March 9, 1991). Sunday. 5.00am Music. 8.00am Mass (in Italian). 8.30am Italia Canta. 9.00am News: Current Affairs: Mike Woods. 10.00am L’Angolo Dell’Erboristeria: herb program. 11.00am Gardening Show. 12 Noon Da Un Disco All Atro. 2.00pm Music: BBC News (hourly till 4am). 3.00pm Il Complesso Della Settimana. 4.00pm Un Pomeriggio Con. 5.00pm Music 5.30pm Super Soccer Sunday NSL soccer; live broadcast. 8.00pm Street Talk, Father Bob McGuire. 10.00pm Music with Mark Skurnick. 11.30pm Soccer Review. 12.30am Soccer: direct broadcast from Italy of first and second division matches. (Sunday, March 10, 1991).
Ex-staffer Warren Koglin recalls: “The mood was of shock and disbelief when we were given three days notice that we would all be out of work. That really hurt a lot of people who had invested so much time and effort into making 3AK an entertaining alternative to the ego-driven 3AW. We were the last people to know of our demise.
“Ian Johnson of Channel 9, who handled the sale, and Peter Corso informed many media outlets including rival TV networks, and allowed them into the Channel 9 building where 3AK was located, to film us walking out of the retrenchment meeting. It hurt and felt humiliating that we were treated like mushrooms and our livelihoods were jeopardised.
“The mood re the retrenchments would have been less bitter had a format been introduced that had the potential to be a winner. The 3AK bi-lingual fiasco was doomed to fail and cost the jobs of around 45-50 everyday people who had mortgages to pay, kids to feed, etc. The talent of 3AK staff was highlighted by 3AW. People such as Margaret Peacock, Alan Pearsall, Keith McGowan (on air); Sue Chapman (sales manager), to mention just a few, were snapped up.”
1992 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Breakfast (in English); news hourly throughout the day.8.00am Breakfast 9in Italian) inc. music. 9.00am Caffe Espresso (in Italian). 11.30am Il Colapasta D’Oro. 12.00 Noon, Siesta (in Italian). 1.00pm Siesta (in English). 2.00pm The Flexi Time Show (in English). 5.00pm Due Ore Insieme Plu’ Una (in Italian). 8.00pm Jazz PerVoi (in Italian). 9.00pm jazz Per Voi (in English). 10.00pm Musical Notes. 12.00 Midnight, Morning Melbourne. (Friday, August 21, 1992). Saturday. 5.00am Morning Melbourne (in English). 7.00amJuke Box Request Music (in Italian). 100.00am Cappuccino (in Italian). 11.00am Cappuccino (in English). 12.00 Noon, Major News Bulletin (in English and Italian); Taking It Easy; light current affairs (in English). 2.00pm Music Mix. 4.00pm International Music. 6.00pm Current Affairs (in Italian). 7.00pm Music Mix. 11.00pm The Money Program; inc. Talkback. 12 Midnight, Morning Melbourne. (Saturday, August 22, 1992). Sunday. 5.00am Morning Melbourne. 8.00am Juke Box Request Music (in Italian). 10.00am International Music Mix; major news bulletin (12.00) (in Italian and English). 2.30pm Super Soccer Sunday. Comprehensive coverage of the week in soccer including crosses throughout the afternooon to all the Victorian Premier League grounds. 5.30pm International Music Mix. 7.00pm Scan: religious program (in English). 8.00pm Music Mix. 9.00pm Feature Artist (in English). 10.00pm Super Soccer Sunday Review (in English). 12.00 Midnight, Music. (Sunday, August 23, 1992).
The bi-lingual format was a disaster: it alienated the Melbourne community goodwill that 3AK had built over 60 years. Poni Poselli was Program Director. Some advertisers were disenfranchised when the station’s publicity was limited to photographs in the tabloids, such as Walter Gjergja, 19, turning up to host his Café Expresso program. The microphones were turned over to enthusiastic tertiary students. Even some Italian listeners were upset; broadcasters were required to use a ‘cosmopolitan’ language, rather than a regional dialect.
The AK studios, for a short while, were based behind the Queen Victoria Market in West Melbourne. The station was said to have moved from Channel 9 in dump trucks!
Wayne Koglin says he was one of the two people to be re-employed at 3AK when the remainder of the staff was sacked. Corso’s team first offered Koglin a new job, by phoning at 6.30am. Then 7.15am. Then 9am. Then 10.30am. “I kept telling the new owners to call back at a decent hour!”
“I was one of two people re-employed on June 1, 1990, along with Ralph Knight who came on board as our technician. It was a very strange feeling to be working for the same radio station 18 hours after being made redundant from a professional outfit and walking into what could only be described as a huge mess. Although my re-employment was tinged with sadness, and a longing to have my old colleagues working beside me, there was some excitement about being part of an experiment even though I knew it was doomed to fail.
“My main role wasn’t clearly defined but involved showing inexperienced bilingual staff how to use the on-air desks, use seven-second delay, etc. Some staff members secured work within the radio station because they were the son/daughter of someone, and had no commercial or community radio experience. I also panel operated, produced commercials and saved the entire history of 3AK jingles from being erased when the owner decided he needed to save money and did not want to buy new 1/4-inch tape.”
Mark Skurnik, a 3AK newsroom journalist who since joined the ABC, says there were three English-language journalists: Brian Mazoletti, later at Sport 927; David McKay; and himself. “I think there was also meant to be a News Director, but he left before the first transmission.”
1993 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 7.00am Continental Breakfast withRiccardo Schirru (in Italian). 8.00am Caffe Espresso with Litza Adorno (in Italian) inc. What’s Happening in Melbourne. 12.00 Noon, De Ja Vu with Armando Cesari (in Italian). 2.00pm The Afternoon Show with Nadia Marzella (in English) inc. interviews. 5.00pm Questa Sera C’e with Alessandro Bertini (in Italian). 8.00pm Legallly Speaking (in English). 9.00pm International Music. 12 Midnight, Overnight Music. (Tuesday, August 24, 1993).
Saturday. 6am News Hour. 7.00am Music. 8.00am Juke Box Request Music with Poni Poselli (in Italian). 10.00am till midnight inc. major news bulletin (in English and Italian) (12 noon). 12.00 Midnight, The Night Show. (Saturday, August 21, 1993).
Sunday. 6.00 News Hour. 7.00am News Hour. 8.00am Juke Box Request Music. 10.00amMusic Mix. 11.00am Music Mix; major news bulletin (in Italian and English, 12 Noon). 2.00pm Super SoccerSunday. Coverage of all Victorian Premier League soccer action from around the grounds. 6.00pm Music Mix. 8.00pm Music. 8.30pm Scan: religious program (in English). 10.00pm Super Soccer Sunday Review (in English). 12.00 Midnight, Music; Andrew Laurence. (Sunday, August 22, 1993).
“It really was sad to see these people ‘playing’ radio. The feeling in the beginning was of great enthusiasm – we were all doing something new in Melbourne. Minor problems and other teething difficulties were glossed over and generally forgotten (by the management). The idea was ‘we’ll work it all out when we’re up and going,” Skurnik recalls.
“It was my impression that Corso lost the goodwill of his staff when he featured in an article in the then-Melbourne Herald newspaper. In the article, mention was made of his acquiring the station (3AK) not for the goodwill it might create in the greater Italian-Australian community, but for the land value of the transmitter site!”
3AK, sadly, became somewhat the laughing stock of Melbourne’s media buyers. Andrew Bock, of The Age, commented in June 1990: “Ethnic radio is cursed to live in interesting times. Mr Peter Corso’s takeover of 3AK, and the growth of commercial radio stations on the ‘narrow band’, are moving ethnic radio away from the provinces of public broadcasting.
“Mr Corso is unique to ethnic broadcasting because his background is in commercial ethnic radio. Mr Corso’s other Melbourne radio station, Radio Italia, operates on a band that very few people outside the Italian and Greek communities known anything about. The station has been broadcasting for 8 months high upon the narrowband of FM (150to 155MHz). Radio Italia has more than 10,000 members who join at a cost of $200 a year which includes the supply of a special radio scanner necessary to receive the station.”
Some folk, with a long-held passion for the 3AK’s tradition, developed rescue plans.
The Herald Sun noted: “Bert Newton surprised the broadcasting industry in January 1991, with a bid to buy all the airtime on radio 3AK. His business partner was Tony Aloi, who was then still in jail, for his involvement in the Tasmanian political bribery scandal.”
Newton’s bid was to buy the broadcast time of 3AK, and package its programming. The plan faltered as authorities looked dimly on the frontman Tony Aloi. It was alleged that Aloi failed to disclose a number of personal convictions to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Aloi had been found by Royal Commissioner William Carter to have been go-between for Tasmanian media magnate Edmund Rouse who had been found to have tried to bribe Labor MP Jim Cox with $110,000 to cross the floor of Parliament in June 1989.
1994 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. “Beautiful Music”. 6am Denis Walter inc. News half hourly. 10.00am, Brian Lehmann inc. news hourly. 2.00pm Peter Meehan inc. news hourly. 6.00pm Peter James inc. news hourly. 12 Midnight, Continuous beautiful music, news hourly. (Friday, December 2, 1994).
Saturday. “Beautiful Music”. 6am Paul Higgins inc. News hourly. 12.00 Noon, Pete Tarnawski inc. news hourly. 6.00pm Cecily Waters inc. news hourly. 12 Midnight, Continuous beautiful music. (Saturday, December 3, 1994).
Sunday. “Beautiful Music”. 6am Paul Higgins inc. News hourly. 12.00 Noon, Pete Tarnawski inc. news hourly. 6.00pm Cecily Waters inc. news hourly. 12 Midnight, Continuous beautiful music. (Sunday, December 4, 1994).
1995 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. Saturday. Sunday. “Beautiful Music” (Sat.-Mon. November 18-20, 1995).
1996 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. Saturday. Sunday. “Beautiful Music” (Fri.-Sun. February 23-25, 1996).
Well-known football commentator Harry Beitzel, who had built a career at 3AW, miscued after putting his faith in 3AK by signing a three-year contract. By 1992, Beitzel had sued his South Yarra legal firm, when the radio deal had not worked out as planned. The Supreme Court ruled out the claim: “The Judge said any financial loss suffered by Mr Beitzel, was not the law firm’s fault.”
Rex Hunt, now 3AW’s consistently top-rating football caller, said: “In 1988, Beitzel moved over to 3AK and I was approached to take over his job at 3AW. I’ve been a full-time caller since 1989.”
Corso later transferred his radio interests to newer AM narrowcast licences in 1994, bidding $170,000 for two of the channels – 1116 and 1422 – on offer by the Australian Broadcasting Authority for specified periods only. ABA spokesman Donald Robertson said the channels could be used for services such as ethnic, horse racing or tourist information. The Victorian Supreme Court found later that, in November 1997, Corso signed heads of agreement agreeing to conditionally transfer the licences of Radio Italia Melbourne Pty Ltd to soft drink king Harry Stamoulis for $600,000.
Corso no longer had any need for 3AK. He put it on the market in 1994, selling to Southern Cross Broadcasting, operators of 3AW. Sale price was said to be $3 million. SCB’s Chief Executive, Tony Bell, summed it up: “3AK just dropped off the dial when it went to Italian music; it didn’t suffer an image problem or problems associated with a constantly changing format, it simply went away.”
Back to Beautiful Music
Within a week, the Herald Sun reported that 3AK was reverting to the ‘Beautiful Music’ format, aimed at winning listeners aged over 40. Mr Bell reflected that research had shown the station was best known as the premier ‘Beautiful Music’ station in the 1980s, and would go head-to-head with 3MP and Magic, at that stage owned by the O’Reilly family’s APN group.
Southern Cross launched its 3AK music ‘brand’ from the observation desk of the Rialto Tower building in busy Collins Street. Bell and Promotions Manager David Mann introduced the on-air line-up of Denis Walter, Peter Meehan, Brian Lehman and Peter James. Ad agency Hambleton Ruff promptly aired TV commercials and filled the back of many ad panels on the back of Melbourne taxi cabs.
Paul Higgins, now the ABV-2 weatherman, was a weekend presenter, as was Cecily Waters.
With its own rapid expansion of media properties, Southern Cross Broadcasting was soon obliged, under Australian Broadcasting Authority regulations, to dispose of two of its four Melbourne stations. SCB kept 3AW and Magic 693 (3EE). It chose to sell 3AK to Fusion Media in 1996.
Fusion Media was a subsidiary of Fusion Australia, a Christian community service organisation. Its National Director, Mal Garvin, offered an apparently no-nonsense reminder: “It will be expected to make a profit.”
To understand the next vital chapter of 3AK’s history, it is important to have a clear picture of both seller and buyer of the radio station in 1996.
Seller of 3AK was the Southern Cross Broadcasting Group, owners of the consistently top-rating 3AW talk station, as well as proprietors of Magic 693 and 3MP. Southern Cross was – and remains – a fast-growing media company, chaired by the very able Peter Nixon, a former National Party Federal heavy-weight politician. Southern Cross now also owns Sydney’s 2UE, Brisbane’s 4BC, Telecasters, as well as TV stations in the Adelaide, Canberra, Tasmanian and regional markets.
Under Nixon’s chairmanship – since taken by Geoffrey Crawford-Fish – SCB has witnessed extraordinary growth in a few short years. At Nixon’s right-hand was tough-minded radio executive, Tony Bell, who started his radio management career at 3TR, Gippsland.
Southern Cross, based in purpose-built studios in Bank Street, South Melbourne, had rocketed to the top of the AC Nielsen listener ratings under the strategies of canny Program Director Steve Price. The 3AW line-up included breakfast team Ross Stevenson and Dean Banks, morning presenter Neil Mitchell, afternoon personality Ernie Sigley, sports duo Shane Healy and David Hookes, and Nightline pair Bruce Mansfield and Philip Brady.
Bell lectured in later years that much of the Australian AM radio industry was plainly unprofitable. Southern Cross was obliged to divest itself of two Melbourne radio stations – 3AK and 3MP – to meet with the licensing restrictions of the Australian Broadcasting Authority.
In this business context, it is not unreasonable to accept that Southern Cross was entitled to consider a less-resourced or less-competitive buyer. Why have a strong opposition in the market place that could cannibalise the market share that it had taken 3AW so long to secure in the lucrative and powerful ‘talk’ market? Such a strategy would be clearly within the legislative framework.
Enter the Buyer: Mal Garvin, National Director of the Fusion Australia. For more than 30 years, Garvin was a radio ‘groupie’, buzzing around peripheral metropolitan and country stations with his ‘Breakthrough Generation’ Christian ‘do-good’ 60-second community service announcements. These were played without charge by many small radio stations across Australia.
“These programs receive a stream of positive response from the audience, who while impatient with religion, are nonetheless interested in Christian spirituality in a language that’s their own,” Garvin assured his followers, in his propaganda.
1997 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 6.00am Robert Hicks inc. Legal Circles with David Whiting (9.00am). 10.00am Jim Hilcke inc. Strange Stories, Amazing Facts; Alex First, entertainment. 1.00pm Peter Tarnawski. 4.00pm Leigh Drew inc. Computer Chat with Bill Healy (6.00pm); Real Estate with Tim Fletcher (7.00pm); Food and Wine with Chris Barnes (7.30pm). 8.00pm Cecily Waters. 12 Midnight, Graham Rebbeck. (Monday, March 24, 1997).
Saturday. 5.00am Glenn Knight inc. Recreational Boating and Fishing Show. 7.00am Paul Higgins inc. Radio Classifieds (7.00am); Golf Show with Leon Weigard (8.00am); yachting report (8.05am). 12.00 Noon, Paul Konik inc. Beach and Bay Report (2.05pm, 4.05pm). 6.00pm Carole Browne. 12.00 Midnight, Jim Hilcke. (Saturday, March 22, 1997).
Sunday. 6.00am Graham Rebbeck inc. yachting (8.05am); Sunday in the Garden with Jhody Goy and Michelle Adler (9.00am). 10.00am Hicks Around Australia. With Robert Hicks inc. Beach and Bay Report (10.05am). 12.00 Noon, Paul Konik, inc. Beach and Bay Report (12.05pm, 4.05pm). 6.00pm Cecily Waters. 9.00pm Sunday Night with Mal Garvin. 12.00 Midnight, Graham Rebbeck. (Sunday, March 23, 1997).
Fusion has a wide mix of objectives. It described itself as ‘an organisation strongly focussed on community care and welfare in Australia’.
“Starting out originally as a youth organisation it is now highly regarded as a youth, family and community organisation,” it wrote on the 3AK web-site. “It has over 200 full-time volunteer workers, who are highly regarded by both government and private agencies. Along with full-time workers who operate out of 25 centres around the country, there are also in excess of 125 associate groups that we are linked with. In these, people of goodwill are brought together, trained to research their area, and then to systematically provide youth and community services.”
Fusion Australia listed noted that it had 12 housing services for homeless young people. “It has a Performing ARTS Colony at Malmsbury (Vic.) and a Fine Arts Colony in Brisbane (Qld.).”
Fusion Australia Limited is a not-for-profit public company, limited by guarantee. Its registered office is at it retreat in Gordon Street, Poatina, Tasmania. The retreat, built in the late 1950’s by the Tasmanian Hydro Electricity Commission, includes a three-star no-alcohol accommodation facility for up to 180 people in 54 brick houses. Poatina also houses its own radio studio from which Garvin broadcasts to the world.
Fusion’s radio interests included Garvin’s national Sunday night program, carried by dozens of stations, most of them non-profit community stations. Garvin regarded the use of media as important in delivering the Fusion message.
“Fusion’s strategies already includes training young people and adults in facing the influence of the digital revolution, including radio, interactive television, multimedia and the Internet, by helping them to become skilful in the use of the media,” Garvin said, on Fusion’s web-site.
His other works included The Captain Midnight Show, Breakout on WAY-FM, media training courses, and involvements in Radio 7PA and Coastal FM.
Fusion was quick to jump at the offer to buy 3AK. Southern Cross also offered 3MP to Fusion Media, according to Garvin. Agreement was reached in July 1996, and Garvin signed off a $2.5 million contract, with three years vendor finance from Southern Cross for $2.2 million of that amount.
1998 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am The Breakfast Show. With John Blackman and Arthur Higgins. 9.00am Melbourne Magazine: With Robert Hicks and Annette Allison. 12 Noon, Jim Hilcke. 4.00pm Tony McManus. 6.00pm Melbourne Skyline. With Leigh Drew. 10.00pm Niteside. With Mal Garvin. 12 Midnight, Paul Higgins. 2.00am James Tsiavos. (Monday, September 27, 1998).
Saturday. 5.00am Glenn Knight. 9.00am Jim Hilcke. Live Broadcast from the Royal Melbourne Show. 12.00 Noon, Kerryn Marlow. 6.00pm Don Lunn. 1.00am Leigh Drew. (Saturday, September 25, 1998).
Sunday. 6.00am Tom Stokes. 10.00 Robert Hicks. Live broadcast from the Royal Melbourne Show (10am-6pm). 12.00 Noon, Tony McManus and Zinta Jurjans. 3.00pm Tony McManus, Inc. Rugby League NRL Grand Final. Brisbane Broncos v Canterbury Bulldogs, live from Sydney Football stadium. 6.00pm Kerryn Marlow. 9.00pm Sunday Night. With Mal Garvin. 12 Midnight, James Tsiavos. (Sunday, September 26, 1998).
Malcolm Dascar Garvin was born in Concord, New South Wales, on November 18, 1941. In company returns, he listed his address as Poatina. Fusion Media’s Company Secretary, the Middlesex-born accountant, Michael Peter Cleary, also furnished his address in company returns as Poatina.
Garvin authored Us Aussies: The Fascinating History They Didn’t Tell Us At School. And his Fusion organisation’s web-site was not shy in beating the drum about Fusion’s potential power in the community: “Its creative struggle to find real solutions to current problems and its skilled management team, has made it one of the more remarkable quiet achievers in Australian society.”
The Fusion web-site continues: “In recent years Fusion has also worked closely with the Australian church in the Awakening movement which began with the National Prayer Gathering in 1988 and has emerged as the Reclaim Easter movement, linking with the special mission opportunities of Operation Reconnect, and the Global March for Jesus …The purchase of Poatina has been underwritten by the sale of staff houses and a Fusion property at Bright, along with the finance raised through the sale of the houses in the village. As many would be aware, Fusion is a faith mission and does not have cash reserves for such an enterprise, which is very much a step of faith.”
It is not difficult to imagine that Garvin and Co. viewed themselves as carrying out some form of divinely-inspired mission in taking over 3AK to spread His message.
Vern Stone, newly re-appointed 3AK General Manager, had a more commercial focus for the station. Soon after the Fusion purchase of the station, he fielded enquiries from journalists about 3AK’s new development.. Stone told journalists about a further investment of $300,000 in equipment at the station. He nursed AK through a period of disappointing ratings surveys, and had to deal with a few in-and-out prominent presenters such as raconteur John Hindle, radio journeyman Dave Barnett and sports commentator Bill Jacobs.
From the start there was no money. 3AK was operating out of rented premises at 432 St Kilda Road, originally built for 3EE (Magic 693). One of its faithful managers was Jim Hilcke. Hilcke won a reputation as a friendly and sound radio manager at 3KZ, Perth, Adelaide, and even briefly at Melbourne’s station for the print handicapped (3RPH).
Hilcke recalled that there was no computer to run the station’s advertising ‘traffic’ bookings; the sales of commercials were recorded by pen in an exercise book. When electricity bills couldn’t be paid on time, management resorted to removing half the light globes from the ceiling, in order to keep the account as low as possible. For three years, Fusion Media sought refinancing from various potential investors and institutions.
One of the new AK line-ups, under Fusion Media control, saw newsman Robert Hicks take the breakfast shift, followed by Hilcke in morning, and Program Director Pete Tarnawski run the afternoon program. Graham Rebbeck handled the weekday overnight program, as well as fronting a religious news program on Sunday mornings.
Breakfast presenter John Blackman was soon recruited to add some personality to the line-up. A handful of large 24-sheet posters adorned Melbourne, with his on-air partner Rob Hicks being given publicity. But Blackman summed it up well in a newspaper interview: “If you wander around 3AK, you’ll find a lot of a professional, dedicated and enthusiastic people. There’s nothing wrong with the radio station, it’s just that we don’t have the promotional bucks to tell the world about it.”
1999 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Breakfast Show. With John Blackman and Miss Pinky. 9.00am Melbourne Magazine. With Greg Evans. 12.00 Noon, Afternoon with Robert Hicks. Broadcast from the National 4×4 Show. 4.00pm Drive. With Doug Aiton. Broadcast from the National 4×4 Show. 7.00pm Melbourne Skyline. With Leigh Drew. 12 Midnight, James Tsiavos. (Friday, October 8, 1999).
Saturday. 5.00am Fishing Show and Big Country. With Glenn Knight. Broadcast from the National 4×4 Show. 9.00am Building Ideas and The Golf Show. With Leigh Drew. 12 Noon, The Motorsport Report.With David Brown. 12.30pm Talk and Music.With Kerryn Marlow. 6.00pm Party On. With Don Lunn. 1.00am James Tsiavos. (Saturday, October 9, 1999). Sunday. 6.00am Tom Stokes. 9.00am Down The Garden Path. With John Patrick. 10.00am Money Talk. With Bruce Ewen and Robert Hicks. 11.00am Grape Expectations. With Robert Hicks. Broadcast from the National 4×4 Show. 12 Noon, Sunday Magazine with Don Crawford. 7.00pm Kerryn Marlow. 9.00pm Mal Garvin. 12.00 Midnight, James Tsiavos. (Sunday, October 10, 1999).
Other ‘names’ came and went. Annette Allison presented a ‘Melbourne Magazine’ program with advertising man Peter Lawrence; Tony McManus was a short-lived afternoon presenter; Don Lunn brought his madcap Saturday night juke-box party-style show to the AK airwaves.
Others said Bert Newton’s wife, Patti, was even offered an afternoon shift at 3AK, but was told the station could not even afford the $100-a-shift being paid to other presenters. Patti was told she could have some lawn mowers, obtained in a ‘contra’ arrangement with a suburban mower shop. “I don’t work for lawn mowers,” Mrs Newton is said to have politely replied.
Meanwhile, Garvin – now as 3AK Managing Director – suffered these words to be published about himself at the 3AK web-site: “Mal Garvin, author, therapist, human resources consultant, businessman, student of our culture, and a friend to all, is committed to the future of Australia and young Australians in particular. Mal covers many facets in the life and times of our community including philosophical elements, ethical values affecting today’s families. Mal Garvin is much more than a pleasant voice on radio.”
3AK had started to use the slogan – or ‘positioning statement’, as some radio executives call it – ‘3AK: Melbourne’s Breath of Fresh Air’.
Whatever the slogan, by early 1998, 3AK faced to the realities that its poor ratings was not producing the revenue needed to pay the bills of an ambitious programming strategy. Margaret Easterbook of The Age reported that 10 presenters and staff were sacked, in a bid to slash costs. Drive-time presenter, Melbourne raconteur John Hindle, was included in the culling after just 22 weeks. So was Program Director Pete Tarnawski. And so too was breakfast show partner Dennis Donoghue, as well as producer Bernadette Funnell.
By mid-1999, Fusion Media was experiencing even more severe financial difficulties. Its seven shareholders at that time were: Arthur Bryden Sims Black, Armadale; Wilson and Leslie Bruce; Burilla Pty Ltd, associated with accountant Ron Pitcher and Kay Pitcher; CVM Co. Pty Ltd, associated with Simon McKeon; Far West Radio Pty Ltd, Broken Hill; Fusion Australia Ltd; and W.A.L. Investments Pty Ltd (Wilson).
Its shoestring list of staff included: Acting Manager/Music Director, Jim Hilcke; Sales Director, Murray Franklin; Sales Manager, Paul Cochrane; Executive Producer and News Director, Robert Hicks; Marketing Manager, Vern Stone; Promotions Manager, Stephen Bond; Manager – Special Projects & PR, Leigh Drew; Production Manager, Stephen Poole; Executive Administrator, Heather Barry; Copywriter/Executive Secretary, Becca Smith; Copywriter/Panel Op./Producer, James Tsiavos; Assistant Producer, Noni McOmish; IT Executive, Cameron McIver; Engineer, Paul Taylor.
In June 1999, Fusion Australia was circulating its followers with Prayer Points: “Please pray for 3AK’s business operations, that sales will continue to grow and that all costs will be covered. Give thanks for the commitment of the staff to the station and its purposes.”
2000 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.30am Breakfast Show. With John Blackman and Miss Pinky. 9.00am Melbourne Magazine. With Greg Evans. Broadcast From The Investment Show. 12 Noon, Mansfield From Midday. With Bruce Mansfield. Broadcast From The Investment Show. 4.00pm Drive.With Doug Aiton. 6.00pm Hardball. With Ian Major, Simon Madden and Paul Gough. 7.00pm Ric’s Room. With Ric Melbourne. 10.00pm Arthur Higgins. (Friday, October 13, 2000).
Saturday. 5.00am Boating & Fishing Show/Big Country. With Glenn Knight. 10.00am Talking Travel and Tourism. With Craig Opie and Tom Smith. Broadcast from The Investment Show. 11.00am The Golf Show with Leon Weigard. 12.00 Noon, Major Sport. With Ian Major and Simon Madden. 6.00pm Life & Style. With Yvonne Lawrence. 12 Midnight, Arthur Higgins. (Saturday, October 14, 2000).
Sunday. 6.00am Tom Stokes. 9.00am Down The Garden Path. With John Patrick and Melissa King. 10.00am Money Talk. With Bruce Ewen. 11.00am Grape Expectations. With Robert Hicks. 12.00 Noon, Huey and The Doc. With Iain Hewitson. 1.00pm Kerryn Marlow. 3.00pm Front Row. With Rozzi Bazzani. 5.00pm Those Were The Days. With Yvonne Lawrence. 9.00pm Sunday Night. With Mal Garvin. 12 Midnight, Leigh Drew. (Sunday, October 15, 2000).
3AK needed more than prayer. Its owners, Fusion Media, faced a deadline in the following month (July 31, 1999) to re-pay its outstanding debt of more than $2 million to Southern Cross Broadcasting, from whom it had purchased the radio station licence. Fusion did not have the cash.
“That day came and, with other commitments, we were short of the figure,” Managing Director Mal Garvin told the Herald Sun. “In our negotiations with Southern Cross we chose to put the station on the market to clear up that debt.
“We, at one level, don’t want to sell. We have invested a lot of time and money and energy into the station and it is now delivering all we want it to deliver.”
Garvin’s published interview did not mention the many people who had provided services to his company in good faith, and who will be lucky if they receive less than 10 cents in the dollar in years ahead.
PriceWaterhouse Coopers, the large accounting firm, were given the mission to offer the 3AK assets. They told potential purchasers that Fusion would consider an outright sale, a 51 per cent sale with some ongoing benefits to Fusion, or a 40 per cent sale.
Southern Cross Broadcasting, who held a debenture over the station, allowed an orderly sale process.
Chris Daly, Partner in the Financial Advisory Services division of PriceWaterhouse Coopers, was quoted to say that 11 interested parties had performed a due diligence process, as at September 1999.
Fiona Byrne, radio writer for the Herald Sun, traced the negotiations in an article headlined ‘Big Roll Up For 3AK Fire Sale’, saying that more than 20 parties had expressed interest in the station.
“There were several high-profile bidders including the huge US Christian broadcaster, Salem Communications, the former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, and Steve Vizard with backing from the British-based media company Granada,” reported Andrew Dodd of The Australian.
“But Garvin said no to all of them. He was looking for a special kind of bidder – one who would put up plenty of cash while allowing his own group to control the station and continue its unique style of programming based on what Garvin calls ‘ethics and vision’.”
Detail of some of the negotiations from that time may yet be presented in outstanding legal actions.
In a document to potential buyers, the claim was made that “the principals of Fusion Media Pty Ltd have worked in radio broadcasting and station management for over 30 years”.
“In August 1996, Fusion and a consortium of investors took a significant step in the acquisition of Radio 3AK to build that business into a profitable enterprise through engagement with a target audience and advertising market by an ‘infotainment’ strategy focussing on niche marketing to the over 35’s, higher than average income earning listener demographic.
“Significant opportunity was also recognised in the looming advent of digital technology and internet broadcasting and advertising to provide capital growth in the value of the radio asset.
“The process of re-engineering 3AK has progressed well to the point where the station is now well positioned of those goals. Cost-effective, yet professional, operations have been maintained. However, the financial and human resource demands upon Fusion which ownership of the station have brought have stretched Fusion’s capacity to service the radio station to the level required to secure the aims of the station.
“Accordingly, a strategic decision has been taken for the consortium to divest itself of this asset, or alternatively obtain a significant partner with management and financial resources to contribute and adequately service the needs of the station.”
Many potential partners were entertained. Fusion Media Pty Ltd told potential buyers that it acted as trustee for The Radio 3AK Unit Trust, that had 2.3 million units on issue, each at $1. That structure had tax losses approaching $4 million, documents said. “Revenue to date has increased from a $20,000 monthly base on acquisition to approaching $120,000 average per month, exceeding $150,000 on occasions”.
Despite the parlous state of financial affairs at the radio station, it appears Garvin did not object to a description about himself in the information memorandum to potential purchasers: “Mal Garvin’s outstanding work and presence in community affairs has establishing (sic) a growing following in the over-35 age listener market. The more traditional values being fostered are deeply treasured by mature aged people who often feel threatened by the rapid changes of the technological age and are critical of the world of instant entertainment satisfaction.”
Garvin found Melbourne lawyer Greg Flood, a man with a passion and respect for show business. Flood announced that Tait Williamson, which he termed a ‘merchant banker’, would take a 49 per cent interest in 3AK for $2.5 million. Press speculation was rife that the purchase would be made on behalf of the Leisure Entertainment Tourism and Sport Trust (LETS). Greg Flood specifically denied this.
The full purchase price – due by February 2000 – was never paid.
A media release dated February 21, 2000, on 3AK letterhead, distributed by James McPherson of McPherson Promotions, detailed: “After six months of negotiation, 1503 3AK and Melbourne-based merchant bank Tait Williamson have reached an agreement that will see the Melbourne radio station operate with an all-new structure. In so doing, they have ushered in a new era in Melbourne radio.
“Tait Williamson has a track record of investing in entertainment and sporting projects such as 1998’s Fiddler On The Roof, and is currently involved in a joint venture with the Leisure, Entertainment, Tourism and Sport Trust.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission records indicate that Tait Williamson Pty Ltd was registered on June 25, 1999. Gregory David Flood, of St Kilda Street, Brighton, was listed as sole Director and Secretary.
“3AK Chairman Mal Garvin has described the partnership as being ‘just what this great radio station needs’. Tait Williamson Chairman Gregory Flood has forecast: “In the next three months, you’ll see dramatic changes in 3AK’s programming and image.”
In a March 2000 e-mail to the Media Flash newsletter, Flood tersely explained: “I have told you that the backing for the company comes from the Capital Group of Companies. I have told you that Tait Williamson have a joint venture with the TWU Superannuation Fund. I have told you that the 3AK purchase is not part of the joint venture.
“The facts as you have them are: Tait Williamson have entered into a heads of agreement with Fusion Media regarding 3AK. Tait Williamson is backed by the Capital Group of Companies and a large announcement about the tie up between Tait Williamson and Capital can be expected soon. The TWU Super Fund has nothing to do with the 3AK purchase.”
Meanwhile, opinion maker, Peter Maher of Rehame, was savaging the station. “They have the most self-indulgent line-up on radio in Australia,” he told The Age. “It is an unmitigated disgrace that it lets that programming be broadcast every day. It is the saddest thing that in Sydney there are four commercial talk alternatives and in Melbourne we’ve only got one (3AW) because 3AK are just totally irrelevant.”
Maher’s reference seems squarely aimed at Fusion chairman Mal Garvin. Greg Flood may have privately agreed, and wanted to take a greater hands-on role in the station’s programming
Flood eventually closed his legal practice, to become Chief Executive Officer of 3AK. Dodd’s report in The Australian further reported: “Fusion Company Secretary Michael Cleary said that over the next 12 months Flood came up with $985,000, which he had borrowed from a range of sources. This was delivered ‘on a drip feed’. The result was that Fusion slipped further into debt.”
Many people tried to help keep 3AK at its best.
John Blackman was at the top of Melbourne’s radio ratings in the 1980’s when he was at 3AW. He also had national prominence as Daryl Somers’ voice-over man on the Nine Network’s Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Blackman describes his ill-fated move to 3AK’s national CBC experiment as “going from sweets to boiled lollies”.
‘Blackers’ manned the lonely AK breakfast shift for a number of years, with little reward in the way of promotion or ratings. When he wanted to resign after the station failed to attract a decent ratings figure, station manager Vern Stone publicly appealed in the press for him to stay at 3AK.
Blackman would arrive at the unmanned studios at 4.30am daily to ‘prep’ (prepare) his program, often to be greeted only be the recorded sound of announcers James Tsiavos or Jim Hilcke presenting an overnight shift on a malfunctiong computer, spitting out absurdly incorrect time-calls and missed-cued commercials.
Long-time radio ‘pro’, Ian Major, presented a daily sports update. He was certainly well qualified to do so. ‘Maj’ had built an enviable reputation as a football commentator at 3KZ with the legendary ‘Captain Blood’, Jack Dyer. ‘The Captain and The Major’ had also been heard on 3XY. ‘Maj’ was appointed as Program Director at 3KZ in April 1977, and in more recent times has successfully filled an advertising marketing role at 3AK.
Blackman requested that the station pay his on-air partner Dennis Donoghue at the start of 2001. But 3AK did not have money for extra on-air presenters. In an end-of-year dispute with CEO Greg Flood, Blackman’s AK career suddenly ended. It seemed an unfortunate way for an excellent performer to be rewarded for the loyalty he had shown 3AK over a number of its difficult years.
AK was disrupting the lives and careers of many people, through its inability to pay its way. One staffer recalls: ‘Supplies were allowed to run perilously low; sometimes the fax and photocopier had to share one ream between them with the stationery supplier close to refusing to deliver anything more due to unpaid bills.”
Monies Left Unpaid
Blackman was replaced briefly by Robert Hicks and ex-politician Bernard Finn; who were themselves axed in favour of Kathy Bedford and Kevin Hillier. Hicks had been left holding the bag, owed more than $18,000 from the Fusion Media fiasco. For years, Hicks had worked additional and odd shifts, as well as presenting the weekend Grape Expectations.
Ric Melbourne, who had pulled some of Melbourne’s most brilliant radio ratings in his earlier stints at 3DB and 3KZ, was encouraged back to his home town by Greg Flood. However, when 3AK/Fusion cheques worth many thousands were temporarily not paid, Ric Melbourne quickly ended his association with the station, and returned to his successful media business in the Mount Tamborine hinterland above Queensland’s Gold Coast. Another crazy, unnecessary disruption.
Likewise, Bruce Mansfield tried a year at 3AK, after he was sacked by 3AW following controversial cash-for-comments allegations. Mansfield, backed by producer Nathan Zwar, presented a 12 Noon-4pm shift, but was rewarded only by the lowest commercial radio ratings in Australia. At one time he rated just 0.4 per cent of the total available Melbourne listening audience. It was not for the lack of trying. Mansfield conducted a radio version daily of This Is Your Life; presented top-line interviews; and a regular comedy session with writer Mike McColl Jones.
One of Bruce’s regular guests was Melbourne society queen and charity worker, Lillian Frank. Earlier, in 1996, Sunday Herald Sun columnist Graham ‘The Penguin’ Pearce met up with her, and spoke about her spots on 3AK. “Isn’t that a music station?” “Yes,” she said, “but when I’m on air it is talk, talk, talk.”
Mansfield’s resignation from 3AK, re-joining 3AW exactly one year after being dumped by Southern Cross, was met with anger from some quarters. John Blackman said he felt “personally betrayed” by Mansfield, with whom he had re-started their popular Storytime segments, so popular in their 3AW days.
“After 3AK threw Bruce a lifeline when he was publicly disgraced by 3AW 12 months ago, this is the gratitude and loyalty he exhibits to my station and our listeners. I hope his next stint at AW is a miserable one and it will be when the listeners realise what he really is,” Blackman said.
Mansfield’s unexpected departure from 3AK at Christmas 2000, saw Yvonne Lawrence take the microphone, seven days a week, for six weeks. Lawrence did a mighty job, but the crowning insult was that she remained unpaid by the failing Fusion Media for the marathon effort. Yvonne still conducts Saturday Live & Style programs, and a Sunday Those Were The Days nostalgia show.
Staffers were distressed to see Jim Hilcke leave the station. Jim had taken the General Manager’s role at the station on several occasions, despite the owners’ unfortunate financial circumstances. He had been Station Manager at Melbourne’s 3KZ, converted Perth’s 6KY into profit, and also had management experience in Adelaide at 5KA and KA-FM.
Arthur Higgins – a talented veteran Australian TV and radio identity – was also unceremoniously dumped from the 3AK line-up in early 2001. Higgins had worked hard as an AK producer, as well as an on-air performer. He also presented a one-man coverage for 3AK for its National Rugby League programming, in an exclusive arrangement with Melbourne Storm. AK was linked with stations in all Australian states and New Zealand to ensure a comprehensive coverage.
Higgins was backed with special comments and match statistics from Colin Tannahill. However, AK’s rugby league coverage also fell over. Today, Higgins reads TV news for Renaissance Television on Channel 31, and also conducts the weekend midnight-dawn session on Sport 927 (3UZ).
Others to come, then go, included former AW afternoon host Muriel Cooper, real estate contributor Tim Fletcher, travel commentator Liz Sullivan, chef Iain Hewitson, the late restaurateur Meitta O’Donnell, Sydney radio curmudgeon Clive Robertson, Hollywood gossip Randy Michaels, and many more.
Talented female broadcaster Kerryn Marlow was a 3AK weekend regular, simultaneously launching her Threehands media company. Her company went on to launch the busy Bodytalk website, dealing with weight management issues and low fat cooking.
Kerryn was cast aside for a short-lived sports program … yet Mal Garvin’s turgid Sunday night programs just kept on coming!
Stop Press: Garvin’s Sunday night programs were finally removed from the 3AK line-up in the last week of 2001.
2001 Program Guide
Monday-Friday. 5.00am Breakfast. With Kathy Bedford and Kevin Hillier. 8.00am Mornings. With Derryn Hinch. 11.00am Afternoons. With Greg Evans. 3.00pm Drive. With Nick Papas. 6.00pm Evenings. With Gavin Wood. 9.00pm Doug Aiton. 12 Midnight, Jill Rogers. (Friday, October 5, 2001).
Saturday. 5.00am The Fishing Show/Big Country. With Glen Knight. 11.00am Pet Care. With Dr Cedar Warren and Glen Knight. 12.00 Noon, Brett De Hoedt. 6.00pm Life & Style. With Yvonne Lawrence. 12 Midnight, With Jill Rogers. (Saturday, October 6, 2001).
Greg Flood’s best efforts to find funds for 3AK were criticised by Fusion Media as not being enough in monetary terms, or in time. But it is also Flood who is generally credited with introducing a Perth-based company interested in 3AK’s future.
The start of 2001 saw digital broadcaster, Data & Commerce Limited (DCL), set to purchase a 50 per cent stake in 3AK for $2,975,000 in cash and shares. Australian Associated Press listed the seller as ‘Associated Entertainment Industries’, with a proviso that the purchase was subject to due diligence undertakings.
Due diligence is the process where potential buyers are able to investigate the full financial affairs of the purchase. DCL, led by Kevin Campbell, was astute enough to secure an option to purchase the remaining 50 per cent of the company.
Campbell, 57, a successful former Managing Director of the Seven Network, announced DCL’s involvement as being able to re-establish 3AK as an option to 3AW and ABC 774 (3LO), as well as providing datacasting in Australia. His fellow DCL Directors are currently Jeff Chatfield, Professor Yianni Attikouzel, Lim Soon Hock, and Seah Kian Peng.
“The acquisition is in line with the company’s strategy presented in September 2000 in which we identified equity in broadcast interests as a source of revenue and an opportunity to deliver digital broadcast technology,” Campbell said.
“By building a stable of opportunities like this acquisition, DCL is establishing the foundations on which it can deliver digital broadcast technology on a large scale.”
Stock Exchange Listing
DCL had listed on the Stock Exchange in late November 2000, after raising $10 million through the issue of 25 million 40-cent shares, which gave the company a market capitalisation of $19.3 million at the issue price. One of the company’s major shareholders is the Singapore-based international media developer, Advent Television.
Even after DCL’s involvement in early 2001, Fusion Media chief Mal Garvin still tried to delay the obvious day of relinquishing ownership of 3AK. DCL found the figures were not to their liking. Some staff were going unpaid, their superannuation payments had not been made for months, and creditors were chasing their money from Fusion.
It took a board-room showdown to finally lever 3AK’s control from the hands of Garvin and Fusion Media. Producer Brett De Hoedt was calling for staff to take strike action. They did not, but a shutdown of the station came close.
It took the station receptionist to strike Garvin verbally: “You call yourself a f—— Christian!” Garvin broke down in front of staff, but, later, his negotiations with DCL insisted that his religious program stay on air for a further two years!
Derryn Hinch let fly on radio, and in his newspaper columns, damning the Fusion Media team as “Godbotherers”.
“It is with regret and some grief that Fusion Media Pty Ltd sold radio station 3AK this week,” lamented Fusion Australia’s National Director Mal Garvin, in a press release dated February 9, 2001.
“We were caught in the vice between our obligations to Southern Cross and the failure of our joint venture partner to provide the money that had been agreed to. We would love people’s support and prayer at the moment as it seems that there have been some less than helpful forces at work.”
Garvin’s press release failed to mention that his company would not be able to complete payments to its creditors.
Staff were told their superannuation payments had not been made for months, and that their outstanding entitlements might not be paid. One staffer recalls the mood: “It seemed to me it was like pushing bricks up a river. The station just never seemed to get anywhere, poor ratings figures after poor ratings figures. Sacking people didn’t help at all. When Jim Hilcke and Rob Hicks were sacked, it was a great loss to the station.”
The Fusion Media books showed assets of $1,135,748. Liabilities were listed at $4,662,214.
Administrator Michael Scales of Ernst & Young quoted Fusion Media’s Michael Cleary: “The cause of the failure of the company was due to under capitalisation.”
Christine McQueen, DCL Company Secretary, announced on March 1, 2001, that DCL had been able to complete the 100 per cent purchase of 3AK on “improved terms”, involving a total consideration of $3,634,837.
“Following the acquisition, DCL has taken over the management and improved its business by improving the talent line up, promoted the station and sold more advertising.
“The current published rating for 3AK has risen to 1.4, which is a very large increase over the previously published figure. As a result of increased number of listeners there has been a corresponding resultant increase in advertising sales revenue.
“It is our opinion that 3AK is enjoying an uptrend in ratings due to improved talent line-up. Data & Commerce expects to enjoy reliably improving revenues from 3AK proportionate to the improvement in its ratings share.”
Data & Commerce Ltd were quick to install Victorian media man John Jost as their new Chief Executive Officer for most of 2001.
Jost won an enviable reputation as Canberra correspondent for The Age newspaper, and is remembered for his by-line on The Age covering the historic sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by Governor-General Sir John Kerr on November 11, 1975.
Jost rose through management ranks at The Age, and presented the Victorian edition of The 7.30 Report on ABC television between 1986 and 1991. He briefly presented a morning program on 3UZ where his style was described by journalists as ‘laid back’. It was not long before he took over the 3LO morning timeslot made popular by Michael Schildberger. John Sorell, GTV9 News Director, installed him as host of the 5.30pm experiment, Melbourne Extra, before Jost moved his interests to manage the Bass Media radio group in Tasmania.
Jost made a blunt assessment about 3AK.
“In 35 years in the media I’ve never seen a soap opera like this,” Jost told Andrew Dodd of The Australian’s Media section, early in 2001. Jost’s statement came as he assumed the station’s CEO role, as incumbent Greg Flood left the station, amongst quite some drama.
Jost’s words were reminiscent of the quote given to the Sunday Observer by 3AK General Manager Mark Collier, 12 years earlier, about radio rumours: “They come so thick and fast there that I’ve almost ceased being infuriated by their distraction … they can damage the morale of station personnel and particularly on air talent.”
Running radio stations proves as difficult in 2001 as any other year. DCL noted in its 2001 Annual Report that it “is in receipt of four claims for unfair dismissal by previous employees of 3AK”.
“The company is also a respondent to a claim by Southern Cross Broadcasting Ltd and Anthony Bell in respect to alleged defamatory remarks made by Derryn Hinch in various broadcasts on 3AK. The content of the claim has not been quantified and is being vigorously defended.”
Data and Commerce
3AK’s first year under DCL saw a number of corporate moves, after the Fusion Media collapse ‘mop-up’.
DCL moved to bring economies of scale with a $6.5 million takeover of Melbourne ‘Easy Listening’ station 3MP. The transaction, completed on September 28, 2001, comprised $4.5 million cash, and eight million shares at a deemed value of 25 cents per share.
DCL had also sought out a media partner, and attracted The Text Media Group Ltd, headed by newsman Eric Beecher, to become a joint venture partner in the operation of the stations.
Beecher, who founded The Melbourne Weekly Magazine, offered to spend $4.24 million on a 50 per cent stake in the two radio stations. He said the partnership would offer another revenue stream to an already diverse media business: “We have spent the past nine months looking at dozens of potential acquisitions across all forms of media.”
John Jost, quoted by Annie Lawson of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, said the extra cash meant 3AK would avoid slipping into debt and it would help fund plans for more aggressive advertising and marketing activities. “It means we are going to be fully cashed up. Had we not done the deal, we may have had to go into debt.”
Media buyer Harold Mitchell warned that low-rating radio stations had the tendency to guzzle cash: “There is no apparent benefit to either party, and I can see little value to the radio stations because Melbourne Weekly has a readership that is not relevant to that radio market.”
Within eight days, Text Media said due diligence revealed that the financial positions of 3AK and 3MP were below expectations. The Text – 3AK deal would not go ahead.
Cossima Marriner, reported in The Sydney Morning Herald: “Although Text has refused to comment beyond the statement, it is understood that the company was disappointed with the financial position of the radio stations that was uncovered during due diligence.
“To say the numbers were optimistic would be a gross understatement,” said a source.”
DCL acknowledges the problems of the station. Its 2001 Annual Report comments: “The station has been operating for 70 years. It has changed owners, style, strategy and even language over the last 15 years. Because of a shift to specialised religious and ethnic content, the station’s ratings performance went into steep decline until January early this year when the process of converting the station into a talk format began.”
It was not all plain sailing for 3AK’s new owners in another arena. Data & Commerce Ltd were asked by the Australian Stock Exchange in August 2001, and again in November 2001, about the company’s cash reserves and the ability to finance their activities.
A Stock Exchange query asked: “It is possible to conclude on the basis of information provided that if the company were to continue to expend cash at the rate for the quarter indicated by Appendix 4C, the company may only have sufficient cash to fund its activities for the next quarter. Is this the case, or are there other factors that should be taken into account in assessing the company’s position?”
“It is not the case that the company will not have sufficient funds to fund its activities for the next quarter,” replied Christine McQueen, DCL’s Company Secretary to the first query. “The company’s investment in Melbourne Radio 3AK, in February 2001, has been significant and it represents by far the largest cash investment the company has made.
“The total investment in one time restructuring costs, the broadcasting licence, the business, capital equipment and working capital is approximately $4.5 million which to date has been funded solely from cash reserves. The company has also invested significant working capital in the fibre optic business, Commcord, to meet customer demands, particularly Visionstream.”
Strategies In Place
DCL said its takeover of 3MP – “which is currently returning a profit” – would be part of its strategy to continue its operation. The bayside station had been headed by successful Victorian businessman, Andrew Fairley.
On November 6, 2001, DCL further replied: “Strategies put in place towards the end of the last quarter have eliminated the necessity for further working capital contributions required for the company’s fibre optic cable laying business, Commcord. In addition, with the completion of the acquisition of Radio 3MP and the merger with Radio 3AK, the company anticipates an increase in revenue and significant cost reduction.”
3AK’s sister station, 3MP, commenced broadcasting as ‘Bay City Radio’ on July 22, 1976. Radio men Andrew Baudinette, Wayne Browne and Paul Ramsden note that the station was granted the first metropolitan commercial station licence in Melbourne for 41 years. Main movers on the project were radio-TV producer Norm Spencer, Alan Miller, and television-radio identities Joff Ellen, Brian Rangott and Graham Kennedy. General Manager was Ray Bean; News Director was Frank Avis.
First On Air
AK man Glen Knight was first MP mid-dawner; and first DJ on air was ‘Baby John’ Burgess presenting ‘Howzat’ by the Sherbet pop group. 3MP had various re-positionings, and after a series of ownership changes, was bought by AWA in 1985 for $11.2 million. 3MP came a little cheaper to DCL in 2001 as 3AK’s sibling.
“The expenses associated with both Commcord and Radio 3AK during the quarter were higher than anticipated as these businesses were expanded,” DCL replied to the Stock Exchange in August 2001. “The revenues were substantially in line with expectations and with the revenue growth in the activities, so the working capital has required funding.”
DCL Chairman Kevin Campbell has been much more optimistic in the company’s 2001 Annual Report. His October 2001 notes record that the company was listed in November 2000, and that the loss for the year was $553,000, plus a write down of the company’s investment in Cable and Telecoms Ltd of $895,000.
“The loss prior to deducting significant items was in line with our prospectus forecasts and, with the acquisitions made in the course of the year, the future outlook for the company is very promising.”
Campbell notes: “Radio 3MP is an easy listening AM radio station with a complimentary audience to Radio 3AK. Merging Radio 3MP with Radio 3AK will enable the creation of a commercially viable radio network using a well a well established business model.”
DCL Managing Director Robert Jeffries ‘Jeff’ Chatfield, 36, who is also Advent Television MD, adds: “The proposed merger of the radio stations offers Data & Commerce Limited a strategic position in the Melbourne metropolitan market and also gives the company a base from which it can eventually develop digital broadcasting projects around existing media businesses.
“On completion of the merger of the radio businesses the Company has high expectations for the potential of revenue and ratings performance. The early signs from the rebuilding process at 3AK are more than encouraging and indicate that the Company is on track in building a credible talk back/easy listening radio combination.”
In December 2001, the AMT online radio newsletter reported that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission had placed a seven-month limit on the fundraising options available to DCL, owners of 3AK.
“Data and Commerce cannot use a short-form prospectus until August 2002 after ASIC alleged that the company had breached its continuous disclosure obligations.
“ASIC believes that Data and Commerce breached its obligations by not telling the market early enough that it would not meet its forecast consolidate revenue projections. Data and Commerce should have announced by August 3, 2001, that its forecast revenue of $7.1 million was not going to be met for the 12 months ended June 30, 2001.
“Instead the actual consolidated revenue of $3.722 million was disclosed for the first time in the preliminary final report lodged with the Australian Stock Exchange on September 13, 2001. ASIC also found that Data and Commerce failed to lodge its audited accounts with ASIC by the due date.”
On another level, presenter Derryn Hinch marred 3AK’s 70th anniversary celebrations on November 29, 2001, by (temporarily) parting company, alleging that the station management had not paid some of its day-to-day water cooler or newspaper bills.
Data and Commerce
Derryn Hinch is 3AK’s big gun. He was recruited in 2001, taking on the station’s 8am-11am morning shift, against 3AW’s Neil Mitchell and the ABC’s Jon Faine.Hinch is best known for outspoken current affairs radio, and often fiery talkback format.
Hinch was at the top of Melbourne radio’s ratings tree in the 1980’s in the 3AW news-talk line-up orchestrated by Brian White. After a TV career at the three commercial networks, Hinch tried radio in Sydney and Adelaide, then a year in 3AW’s Nightline slot.
Age radio writer Suzanne Carbone noted in late November 2001 that the Hinch radio career was stalled when contract negotiations stalled between he and AK management. General Manager Steve Robinson said money was ‘not an issue’, and he wanted to postpone Derryn’s contract negotiations until after the station received its audience research figures.
By January 2002, Hinch announced he was back on air at AK, in a slightly-changed 8.30am-Noon time-slot directly against AW’s Neil Mitchell.
However, breakfast duo Kathy Bedford and Kevin Hillier (pictured) were axed in the Christmas break.
Bedford told industry newsletter Media Flash:
“Just prior to Christmas I was sacked as the Breakfast Presenter at 3AK. This comes after only seven months and a lot of promises offered to entice me away from 3AW (a move I now regret). The opportunity I was given at 3AK was a wonderful one. I’m deeply saddened and perplexed as to what went wrong. We were not given any guidance over the seven months and no explanation has yet been given as to the reason for our sacking. Whilst I recover from my disappointment I take the lesson that, as so many people told me, commercial radio is cut throat. It’s a tough lesson for this little country girl to learn. At the moment I’m rebuilding my confidence. Thankfully I have a supportive family. Tucking my six year old son into bed each night is a wonderful healer. He has absolute faith in me! I have got a few “irons in the fire” but it would be too premature to mention these at this stage. This is a tough industry but I’m determined not to let this blow knock me down for long. I’ll be back…. I hope. I remain passionate about radio.”
Known best for hosting Perfect Match on television, Greg Evans has hosted 3AK’s morning sessions. His current weekday shifts, Noon-3pm, follows Hinch.
Evans is a six-time winner of the TV Week King of Pop Awards for Popular DJ’s, as well as a Logie for the Network 10 Perfect Match program. He has served as Chairman of the Variety Club of Victoria, and has proudly undertaken work as an Ambassador for the Australia Day Council.
Greg Evans has enjoyed a wide cast joining him on his 3AK morning shifts. These include footballer Robert ‘Dipper’ Di Pierdomenico; media commentator Peter Lawrence; news analyst Adrian Tame; money expert Bruce Ewen; home stylist Zinta Jurjans; restaurant reviewer Stephen Downes; and former AK morning host Annette Allison.
Former Chief Magistrate Nick Papas conducts the 3pm-6pm ‘drive’ session, followed by an evening shift led by Gavin Wood. Former ABC presenter Doug Aiton has rated well in his 9pm-Midnight program.
Leigh Drew is the weekday midnight-dawn host of Nightwatch. Drew takes the microphone at Midnight, and attempts to present a more ‘polite’ talkback exchange with listeners than his ‘midnight-yawn’ 3AW counterpart, Keith McGowan. McGowan’s practised technique wins by a country mile ratings wise, with up to 30 per cent of the market share of available listeners. Drew is countering this with the ‘Nightwatch Melbourne Skyline Club’, which he says now has more than 500 members. Functions include movies, day trips and luncheons.
Leigh Drew’s guests include a San Francisco-based correspondent, Rich Dunn; UK stringer David Knight; collector Michael Ryrie; clairvoyant Tom Wards; movie buff David Earl; psychologist Dr John Jory; financial advisor Greg Smith; medico Dr David Dammery; and theatre man Blair Edgar. Former Swallows Juniors star Kay Sharples talks about jazz and music around town.
3AK celebrates its 70th anniversary, with a dedication to reclaim its Melbourne listenership franchise.
New owners, Data & Commerce Limited, have instituted a strong line-up of on-air presenters, and recent ratings have shown sizeable improvement. As a rough rule-of-thumb, ratings points equate to more than $1 million revenue in the Melbourne radio market. AK would no doubt like to enjoy a 5 per cent listener share – with a desirable $5 million annual revenue!
3AK may be half-way there already. Recent ratings for 2001 show a consistent overall 2.6 per cent demographics market share for 3AK. Breakfast presenters Kevin Hillier and Kathy Bedford scored 2.4; Derryn Hinch averaged 3.0 per cent; Greg Evans tallied 2.2; afternoon man Nick Papas rose to 2.8; with the same figures enjoyed by evening presenters Gavin Wood and Doug Aiton.
Indeed, the seventh radio listener survey in October 2001, conducted by AC Nielsen, indicates that the 3AK – 3MP combination has won a combined audience share in excess of 7 per cent of the Melbourne market. The Daily Mail Group has paid $70 million for a FM radio licence to operate ‘Nova 100’ in the Melbourne market; their Sydney ‘Nova’ station has won a similar 7 per cent market share.
Many Happy Returns
It is reasonable to say that DCL’s initial investment in acquiring two Melbourne radio stations – with 7 per cent of the audience – has been around $10 million. DMG initially seeks the same reward for seven times that figure.
DCL believes that the coming conversion of analogue broadcasting to digital provides a ‘level playing field’ in broadcasting between the FM stations and AM stations.
DCL Managing Director Jeff Chatfield notes that the company is building a new media enterprise around traditional broadcasting assets.
“Talk 1116 3AK is focused on being the radio station of choice for the 40+ year old listening audience,” says the company’s Annual Report. “Within this broad audience base the station intends to service ‘Baby Boomers’ and deal with issues of importance to them.”
Resources have been committed to build a new, independent radio news service under the ‘Macquarie’ brand, led by John Singleton’s 2GB and 2CH stations in Sydney. Under the leadership of News Director and Program Director, Dennis O’Kane, 3AK has recently upgraded the number of Melbourne-based news bulletins, after the pre-existing ‘Southern Cross’ news service access was cut to 3AK by commercial opponent 3AW’s holding company.
DCL had recruited experienced radio manager David McDonald as Chief Operating Officer to lead the stations, under the banner of ‘Victorian Radio Network’. Steve Robinson was Group General Manager of DCL’s radio division. He was presenting an effective marketing package of two complementary radio stations – 3AK and 3MP – to purchasers of radio advertising time, but both McDonald and Robinson have left the employ of DCL.
Will 3AK again see the profits of its ‘Beautiful Music’ era? Will it enjoy the ‘star’ personality days of the likes of Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton? Will it become a ‘power’ in the important ‘talk’ and public affairs sector?
3AK does see itself as being able to launch a creditable marketing alternative to the 3AW – Magic 693 package of Southern Cross Broadcasting, in the lucrative Melbourne commercial radio marketplace, now exceeding $100 million annually. Indeed, DCL has outlined to the Stock Exchange that it sees 3AK as a “direct competitor to ABC radio in Melbourne and fellow commercial broadcaster 3AW”.
In early November 2001, DCL told the financial markets that it had substantially reduced the cash out flows in the current quarter: “The company has also subsequently arranged funding for the radio operations with the National Australia Bank. The company is completing a placement to bolster its working capital facilities, fund future capital requirements of the group and facilitate growth in the next year.”
John Jost, 3AK’s Chief Executive Officer in early 2001, told the trade press during his tenure that the merged operations could see savings of $1 million a year, and that combined sales operations would deliver significant benefits.
Chatfield is a highly qualified electronics engineer with extensive experience in international business as well as technical expertise in the broadcast industry. He leads a diverse and experienced board comprising of leading Asian and Australian broadcasters, financiers, accountants and lawyers. Advent has an experienced international team of about 40 people working in the group’s offices in Singapore, New York, Perth, Kuala Lumpur and Sao Paulo.
Chatfield looks at the 3AK-3MP links: “The two stations share demographics and psychographics in Melbourne, and fit very well together as a duopoly. We expect consistent benefits from the creation of this merger for our advertising customers, our listeners, and ultimately our shareholders. We have a strong commitment to the emerging digital broadcasting market, and we see this as totally consistent with developing opportunities in broadcasting and digital spectrum.”
Certainly there will be increased competition for listeners and advertisers. DMG Radio Australia Pty Ltd – 75 per cent owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust of Britain – has paid its $70 million in cash at auction for a new FM radio station licence covering Melbourne. That company has built a network of approximately 60 stations across Australia, and its similar new Sydney FM ‘Nova’ station has already attained a market share of more than 7 per cent.
Much of AK’s answer will be as much with marketing and promotions. Seventy years of radio history teaches that promotion is as important in the chemistry mix; some argue as much as the on-air talent.
Over the past 15 years, various AK managements have failed to commit funds for large-scale promotions. In 2001, the station’s promotions have come a little way with Herald Sun quarter-page print ads boosting Derryn Hinch. White Advertising And Beyond, a small Melbourne-based ad agency, were appointed to handle both the direct advertising and strategic positioning of the station.
One past AK management figure told the author that the station believed word-of-mouth was the strongest form of promotion. It is hoped that this was not a strategy said aloud to potential 3AK advertisers!
Industry observers say that AK will be probably unable to attract large, national advertisers in 2002, as the market attempts to recover from recession and the uncertain international situation. It will have to rely on an energetic local direct sales team that attracts business from smaller Melbourne companies.
A strategic alliance with another Melbourne media group is likely to produce best results in this direction. A desireable strategic partner in this direction would be to link 3AK-3MP with an outlet such as the Fairfax Community Newspapers, headed by Neil Collyer at Dandenong. Collyer heads a group of some 18 newspapers including The Dandenong Journal and Community News. This group circulates close to a million copies weekly across most of Melbourne, and has a large readership catchment.
One idea is to cross-promote. AK’s personalities such as Derryn Hinch could contribute weekly columns in the Fairfax papers, in return for the publications being promoted on air. The AK message would be given a weekly reminder in a million homes every week. Similarly, joint sales team exercises can be launched to maximise returns for both newspaper and radio outlets.
Text Media’s Eric Beecher had this in mind, with cross-promotion of his Melbourne Weekly Magazine with the radio stations. The deal for a joint venture between Text and DCL did not go ahead for other reasons.
3AK will also look to market itself with newer technologies. Internet traffic to the 3AK, with its streamed coverage on real-time programming, was attracting more than 150,000 ‘hits’ per month. Owner DCL links with the Singapore-based Advent Television Limited, the world’s first DVB-T digital television broadcaster, will be handy.
“It is our common vision to create a global digital television and T-commerce business using the opportunities arising from the convergence of new digital media,” says Advent.
One thing is certain: 3AK is now a player on a media stage that is becoming increasingly global. No longer can 3AK be a quaint overnight wireless service for Melbourne’s taxi drivers. No longer affordable in a world economy would be the indulgent programming whim of some eccentric owner. No longer will ‘bit-players’ be tolerated in a business world that only rewards the best.
On February 6, 2002, DCL made the announcement that former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett was joining the station as a Director, and also as a presenter from March 25, 2002. More than $2 million was added in days to the market capitalisation, as seen by the stock market.
3AK has been a Victorian public institution since the Depression of the 1930’s. In many ways, its various owners have only had temporary custodianships to operate this public trust. There is no reason why the 3AK of the future should not be able to attract an equal calibre of some of the exceptional people that fill this book.
Good luck to the ‘Good Guys’
Appreciation is extended to all those who have helped to tell this unauthorised story of 3AK.
Gratitude is extended to the staff of the State Library of Victoria who assisted with accessing rare copies of the Radio Times, Radioprogram, TV-Radio Week, Listener In and Scene.
Night-time 3AK presenter Gavin Wood, his producer Graham Hasler, and assisted by John Tamb, put together a well researched 70th Anniversary program on Thursday, November 29, 2001. Some of the direct quotations from AK on-air personalities are taken from that program.
Gary and Joan Mac of the Melbourne Radio School helped with a number of photographs, especially from the station’s Good Guy era.
Industry veterans ‘Eddie’ Balmer and Clark Sinclair assisted with enquiries about the early years.
Radio historian Wayne Mac was extremely helpful with his rundown of 3AK on-air people from 1960. Ex-staffers including Warren Koglin and Mark Skurnik volunteered their comments about working at AK all those years ago.
Paul Nicholson offered accurate memories of listening to 3AK during its St Kilda days of the 1950’s, as well as recalling some of the early times of the station at GTV-9.
The late Myke Dyer, as Publicity Director for GTV-9 and 3AK, assisted the author in the mid-1970s.
A number of contributors – some still at 3AK, others who are now elsewhere – prefer anonymity.
The author thanks them all.