The Student Power Sound – The History of UNE Student Radio

In 1968 a group of five UNE students had a vision…Over 40 years later this radical vision continues to be an exciting and important part of life on campus.

These dedicated students called themselves the ‘UNE Radio Committee’ and each week they would present a half-hour radio show on Armidale’s local commercial station. Wishing to expand upon this project, the committee, with the help of Professor Neville Fletcher of the UNE Physics Department wrote to the Postmaster General with the vision of providing a service similar to those seen on university campuses in the United States. After a long time digesting this novel idea, the Postmaster General replied on 14 January 1969 to say a license would be granted.

Many hurdles and test transmissions later, at 7:00pm on 27 April 1970 RadioUNE (or RUNE) was officially opened by a taped recording from the former vice-chancellor Professor Zelam Cowan, thus marking the birth of Australia’s first university broadcaster. Operating on only a yearly budget of about $3000, the initial construction of the station was an impressive example of passionate student motivation and community spirit. The studio desk was built from scraps by one volunteer, another student did the electrical wiring and one especially committed staff member even built a studio in his own home for production work.

Only a few months later on 4 August, RUNE put itself firmly on the map with a bold attempt at an Australian record. 19 year old student Nigel Wood extraordinarily broadcast non-stop for 87 hours going on-air every 15 minutes. Several years later in 1991, the station would take back its record with student Ian Ferguson smashing out a massive 192 hours of non-stop announcing. Current Station Coordinator Tania Court has hinted that it may again be time to take back the crown, this time once and for all.

(Note: At the time the world record was 213 hours set by New York DJ in 1959. When he went of air he reportedly dropped dead.)

By the time the eighties rolled up, several hundred volunteers had passed through the RUNE studios. The station had well and truly established itself and again wished to expand its presence in the university and Armidale community. Low powered transmission and interference problems led the station to experiment with alternative transmission methods and at times station could be heard as far away as Uralla and Guyra. Eventually in 1986 the station was granted a license on the FM-bandwidth and consequently the name of the station was changed to 2UNE.

2UNE had built a strong volunteer and listener base across the university and the dedication to the station was made crystal clear in 1988. The then SRC had appointed a non-student as station manager and ultimately provoked one of the largest student rallies UNE has seen with over 300 angry students camping outside the SRC offices threatening to storm the office over the controversial decision. All issues were soon resolved, but again 2UNE had shown how the student voice is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

When the new millennium came knocking so did fresh new change for 2UNE. A new manager meant bold decisions that ultimately led to further engagement with students, a strong relationship with the UNE Union and another name change, now named Tune!FM. However, like many other campus organisations, in 2006 Tune!FM was caught right in the middle of the Voluntary Student Unionism storm. The future looked very bleak for Tune!FM with censorship, sackings and a spate of confusion bringing the station to the brink of extinction. On 11 July 2006 the university announced a funding package that included the operation of Tune!FM and ensuring the station could continue long into the future. Only a few years later Tune!FM received an important grant from the Federal Government and the university. In 2010 the station moved into its brand new studio coinciding nicely with the station’s 40th anniversary.

Since its conception Tune!FM has always been a station that has survived on the enthusiasm of volunteers and the passion of the students. The goals of the station have been the same since 1970;

• Provide another means of communication for students and staff
• Provide programs designed and orientated towards student listening audiences
• To experiment in programming techniques, presentation and format
• To involve as many students as possible
(Neucleus 23 July 1970)

Over the course of Tune!FM’s colourful history many volunteers and staff members have gone onto successful careers in the media industry and as we approach the 43rd birthday of the station and dig through the dense archives, we are prompted to nostalgically reflect on the many Tune!FM shows and segments gone by. It would be interesting to see how the media career progressed for the creators of the on-air burping competition which would see contestants battle it out to produce the longest burp. Similarly, the volunteers who would patrol campus recording student’s farts and allowing the listeners to vote on the best flatulence and the scrapped production of Big Brother the Radio Edition where listeners would be locked in a room for 48 hours and recorded. On the other hand, the station is perhaps legally obliged to forget the person who allegedly built a bong into the studio desk.

Tune!FM is place where student’s zeal is harnessed and creativity is encouraged and developed. For 43 years Tune!FM has been the home for the student voice and provided a unique radio experience for UNE and the Armidale community. 2013 promises to be an exciting year for the station with the development of many new programs and podcasts designed to reach out to UNE’s diverse student community and further give external students a way to connect to day to day life on campus

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer at Tune!FM now is the best time to do it! We aim to equip volunteers with the skills not only to progress at Tune!FM, but also to provide a foundation of communication and professional skills that can be applied in professional careers when you leave university. Simply drop into the station or visit the www.tunefm.net for contact details.

- Josh Dobos

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