Commercial Radio Stations24Apr07
The stations have all had varied and colourful histories and now part of the radio duopoly that has emerged in the market. 2HD and NEWFM are owned by Bill Caralis’ Super Radio Network while KOFM and NXFM are now owned by Macquarie Media after a succession of owners in recent times.
Soon we will explore stations in the Upper Hunter as well as some alternative commercial offerings.
2HD is Australia’s second oldest existing radio station. 2HD began broadcasting on January 27, 1925. Just one day after Sydney’s 2UE. Despite misconceptions 2HD is named after the "Hunter District", the call sign actually derives from the name of the man who began the station, Harry Douglas. Harry was a keen amateur radio enthusiast leading up to the start of 2HD, and served as an alderman on Newcastle City Council from 1919 to 1922. The station initially was established in Hamilton, before moving to the corner of Darby and King Streets. Harry Douglas sold 2HD in 1928 to William Johnston, who in turn sold the station to the Airsales Broadcasting Company in 1930. It was this company, which owned 2HD for over 10 years and was responsible for the move to Sandgate and the landmark studio building, which was home to 2HD for almost 50 years. In fact, although 2HD now looks very different inside and out, the structure of the most middle section of the studio complex is still the original 1931 building.
2HD was closed under controversial circumstances during the Second World War under the National Security Regulations in 1941. At the time there were about 25 staff, and stories still abound over claims covert messages were being sent by the station owners of the period, based on the timing of music played etc. The station remained silent until near the end of the war when the business was sold to the Labour Party and Labour Council of New South Wales and broadcasting resumed on January 15, 1945.
The Labour Party and Labour Council of New South Wales owned 2HD from 1945 until 1999. The first 29 years of this ownership were under the management of Jim Storey, with wife Twink Storey as program director and on-air personality. Other long serving on-air staff of the time include Stuart Dibbley and Tom Delaney. The late 60s and early 70s were also the "Good Guy" era. The concept also proved very popular on other stations including Sydney’s 2SM. The Good Guys included (in no particular order) Art Ryan, Mal Lamonte, John Hill, Allan McGirvan, Ted Bull, Mike Jeffries, Malcolm Elliott, Keith Harris, Graeme Gilbert and Cliff Musgrave. Geoff Gregory also joined the station at the tail end of the Good Guys, but is better remembered as a long-term program director and host of Sunday night "Country Sounds" for many years.
The end of the Good Guy era brought a series of formats for 2HD including the "Easy Alternative" and country. 1977 also saw the end of the original landmark office building on Maitland Road Sandgate. The beginning of the end actually dates back to 1964 when the original transmitter building was demolished to make way for Maitland Road becoming a dual carriageway. The extra traffic and the road being closer to the old building took its toll and by the mid 70s the structure had become unsound. Premier Neville Wran opened the current administration building, often called the submarine, in 1977. Internal re-modelling took place in 1995 to accommodate 2HD’s acquisition of NEW-FM.
The last 30 years of 2HD’s long history has been our most successful. After the ratings doldrums following the Good Guy era, the station adopted a strong news and talk focus, which resulted in the first number one ratings result after 62 years of broadcasting in 1987. Two key names key to this success were Pat Barton, who had been recruited to breakfast after more than twenty years at number one on 2KO, and Warwick Teece, whose Openline program achieved phenomenal success. Geoff Jay and Brad Carr also have played a major part in the 2HD line-up during the 80s and 90s. In 1997 the John Laws Show became available to 2HD and line-up including Luke Grant, John Laws, and Graeme Gilbert.
Newcastle FM trading as NEWFM was Newcastle’s first commercial FM radio station.
NEWFM exploded onto the airwaves to the accompaniment of a blast of pyrotechnics and laser technology on the night of April 14 1989.
After a decade long pursuit to get an FM licence, the anticipation and expectation that greeted the slick music driven station was considerable.
In 1999 the stations were sold to business man Bill Caralis and became part of the Super Radio Network.