Official development of radio in Queensland occurred later than in other states, with A-class station 4QG being established in Brisbane in July 1925, under the guise of Queensland Radio Services, run by the Queensland government. Radio development in the state was influenced heavily by the size of the state, and its associated population distribution.
Radio stations in major regional centres were established initially in the commercial sector, with some of these being later drawn into the ABC network, and the early role of many of these regional stations was simply to relay Brisbane-based programming. Demand for more local programming has, however, driven development and expansion in radio in Queensland, and a mix of local and networked programming is now seen in most sectors.
Two of Queensland’s early stations, 4QG and 4RK in Rockhampton, were included in the first 12 Australian stations incorporated into the ABC network in 1932. Initially, the network relied on relay programs broadcast from metropolitan stations. For example, 4QN was established in 1936 in Townsville to relay news to the North Queensland region, and 4RK Rockhampton (1932) was the relay point for information to central and northern parts of the state. As the network expanded, infrastructure grew in key regional cities, and the inclusion of local regional programming became increasingly important.
Expansion of the ABC Local Radio network grew in stages. During the 1930s, the network grew from 4RK and 4QN to include 4QS Toowoomba (1939). There was then limited expansion in Queensland until after World War II, when 4QL Longreach (1947), 4QB Bundaberg (1948), 4QY Cairns (1950) and 4QA Mackay (1951) were established. They were followed by 4SO Gold Coast (1983) and 4MI Mt Isa (1986), and Sunshine Coast-based 90.3 and 95.3 FM in the 1990s.
In 2000, all local radio stations in Queensland stopped using their call-signs and were rebranded with their regional name: ABC Brisbane (612 Brisbane), ABC Capricornia (Rockhampton, formerly 4RK), ABC Coast FM (Gold Coast and Northern Rivers, 4SO), ABC Far North (Cairns, 4QY), ABC North Queensland (Townsville, 4QN), ABC North West Queensland (Mt Isa, 4MI), ABC Southern Queensland (Toowoomba, 4QS), ABC Sunshine Coast (Sunshine Coast, 90.3 and 95.3), ABC Tropical North (Mackay, 4QA), ABC Western Queensland (Longreach, 4QL), and ABC Wide Bay (Bundaberg, 4QB). Within the ABC Local Radio network, ABC Brisbane, ABC Coast FM and ABC Sunshine Coast target more urban populations, while all other stations include regionally specific local programming as well as networked country programs such as The Country Hour.
Many ABC stations, particularly those in the north of the state, are located in areas prone to natural disasters such as cyclones. In these areas, ABC Radio plays a vital emergency role, particularly to regional communities, as noted in a number of significant reports, such as the 1997 Mansfield Report, The Challenge of a Better ABC.
The birth of commercial radio in Queensland was concentrated in Brisbane, with 4BC and 4BK (1930), 4BH (1931), 4IP (now Radio TAB, 1935) being early commercial AM stations. The only AM station established in Brisbane post-World War II, the labour station 4KQ, began broadcasting in 1947. The push for FM commercial stations commenced in 1980 with the birth of Triple M 104.5 FM. In 1990, 4BK moved to the FM band, changing its call-sign to 4BBB (using the on-air name of B105). Triple M and B105 remained unchallenged in the Brisbane metropolitan commercial market until developments in the 2000s saw the arrival of a community station, 97.3fm (2001), and Nova 106.9 (2004).
Toowoomba and Townsville were two centres outside Brisbane that saw the establishment of more than one commercial station in the 1930s. In Toowoomba, 4AK and 4WK were established in 1935 after 4GR in 1925. 4GR remains the longest-running commercial station in Queensland. 4TO Townsville was established in 1931, and has been heard on the FM as well as the AM band since 1999. Other early commercial stations included 4MK Mackay (1931), 4FC Maryborough (1932, now Radio TAB), 4RO Rockhampton (1932), 4BU Bundaberg (1935), 4LG Longreach (1936), 4CA Cairns (1936), 4VL Charleville (1936), 4ZR Roma (1937) and 4SB Kingaroy (1938, now known as 1071 AM).
Queensland is a vast state, and the need to network or create associations was recognised early. For example, the Queensland Broadcasting Network of the 1940s comprised 4BC, 4SB, 4GR, 4RO and 4MB. This network shared programming, but at the same time was concerned to ensure programming was localised for regional audiences. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, a significant expansion in FM broadcasting occurred, and commercial radio was dominated initially by DMG Radio and RG Capital Radio before most stations were acquired by Macquarie Regional RadioWorks (later Southern Cross Austereo) and Prime Radio, with DMG retaining a stake in Brisbane’s Nova. Smaller network interests included Grant Broadcasters Pty Ltd, an independent company that bought Fairfax Media’s interests in Bundaberg Broadcasters Pty Ltd in 2011. Most commercial stations in Queensland are therefore part of a network, with a very small number remaining privately or independently owned.
The development of radio in Queensland had a number of innovative aspects, particularly in community radio. For example, 4ZZ (now 4ZZZ) was one of the first community radio stations to be granted a licence to broadcast by the federal government. In Queensland, it was the first station to be heard on the FM band, commencing broadcasting on 8 December 1975 from premises based at the University of Queensland. It is also noteworthy as having been the first community broadcaster to use journalists accredited by the Australian Journalists’ Association (later the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance), and has had a history of political agitation in Queensland. 4ZZZ was followed by fine music station 4MBS in 1977, and 4EB, an ethnic broadcasting station, in 1979. All were based in Brisbane.
The first community licence to a non-metropolitan area was granted to the Darling Downs Broadcasting Society, which established 4DDB in 1979, followed by 103.9 triple t in Townsville (1982), 4CRB, a community station targeting senior citizens on the Gold Coast (1984), 4CBL in Logan (1988), 4YOU in Rockhampton (1989) and Classic Country 4OUR in Caboolture (1990). Aside from the development of Indigenous community radio, which expanded rapidly during the early 1990s, the development of community radio in Queensland remained largely static until the late 1990s and early 2000s. The majority of non-Indigenous community broadcast licences in Queensland were granted between 1997 and 2001, and just under half of all community licences in Queensland are currently operated by Indigenous broadcasters.
Brisbane was the location of the first Indigenous capital-city community radio station. Originating as the Murri Hour on 4ZZZ in the 1980s, the Brisbane Indigenous Media Association (BIMA) applied for a licence in 1991, and commenced broadcasting on 6 April 1993 on 98.9 FM. In regional areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander broadcasting expanded rapidly courtesy of the Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Scheme (RIBS) in 1991, which replaced the Broadcasting from Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRACS), established in 1987. Some 24 Indigenous community stations were established in regional and remote Queensland in 1992. Of these, one station, 4K1G, had an established callsign, having been established in 1972, and was run by the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Media Association (TAIMA). The rest were relay stations run by local regional councils throughout Queensland. These were joined by 4MOB Mt Isa (1997), 4MW Torres Strait (1997), Bumma Bippera Media 98.7 FM Cairns (1999), 4US Rockhampton (1999), 4RR FM Charleville (2005) and Murri FM 105.9 Mackay (2006).
Queensland Remote Aboriginal Media (QRAM) commenced operation in 2007, based out of Cairns. It supports radio stations in remote Queensland communities in the Cape York and Gulf of Carpentaria regions that are able to access its Black Star radio network and program support service. The National Indigenous Radio Service (NRIS), which operates out of Brisbane, also supports Indigenous programming through distribution of its radio programs.
Open narrowcasting in Queensland began in 1993 in the regional towns of Barcaldine, Cloncurry, Cooktown, St George, Mount Isa, Normanton, Thursday Island and Weipa, and expanded again in the late 1990s and mid-2000s. Open narrowcast licences have limited reception under section 18 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, and there are now almost as many open narrowcast licences in Queensland as there are community licences, with almost all licences dedicated to regional areas. Open narrowcasting in Queensland, as in other Australian states, is dominated by Radio TAB, which broadcasts horse racing throughout Australia through commercial AM, FM and open narrowcasting licences, and the Vision Radio Network, a Christian FM network that also broadcasts from a number of regional centres throughout the state. These stations are reliant on networked programming with limited or no local content.
REFs: ACMA, List of Licensed Broadcasters (2014); Australian Government, Review of Local Content Requirements for Regional Commercial Radio, Final Report (2011); J. Deger, Shimmering Screens (2006).