#CBAAConf: Making community radio history - Celebrating 40 years

amclellan, 20th December 2016

Half a room of community broadcasters are about to celebrate a significant milestone. So how best to prepare and make the most of a station's archive and history?

When a big milestone approaches, activities may be about more than celebrating your station's history. Formalising an archive of the station can ensure there is something kept for the next generation. Three community broadcasters who have recently turned 40 are Melbourne's 3CR, Triple R, and Brisbane's 4ZZZ, and in their birthday celebrations, each brought together and exhibited their archive to the public differently.

Maryanne Doyle of the National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA) tips on archiving:

  • Start by making a list of what's available. Make a spreadsheet: format, storage, written info, etc. This will enable you to determine multiple copies, and you can go with the best
  • Ask: what's significant? What are key moments in our history? Which programs are important not just to the station, but to local or even national history?
  • Just because it is at the station, is it significant?
  • Do a callout to long-term or former presenters, volunteers, staff. Do they have material at home?
  • Scrapbooks are fantastic. Clippings from newspapers, personal records, photos, etc.
  • Who is going to assist you? Community Heritage Grants, council/state funding, philantropy, volunteer assistance, or even offering it to the NFSA

Deadline 2025: time is running out to preserve magnetic media. Formats are degrading, playback machines are becoming obsolescent, and skilled operators/repair-people are disappearing.

For Michelle Brown, Station Manager of 4ZZZ during the station's 40th in 2015:

  • Archiving was very important, and began seriously in the leadup to the 35th birthday
  • Lots of archived materials went on show over the year-long celebrations for 40 Years of 4ZZZ
  • Wanted to focus not only on music, but also political and news and current affairs engagement
  • Activites included live gigs and partnerships, social media engagement, teasing archival material online and on air, and much more
  • Engaged with past listeners/volunteers as well as current Zed-heads
  • Partnered with Brisbane Festival for 4ZZZ Flashbacka big live music event and live broadcast
  • State Library of Queensland posted some 4ZZZ material from their own archives
  • On the 8 December birthday, a full news and current affairs retrospective took over the morning's programming with a music celebration into the evening

Think about:

  • Current and former volunteers. Recording messages, engaging with social media, sending in photos of old station shirts, jackets and merchandise
  • Connecting generations. Younger volunteers appeared at the station because their parent's interest was rekindled
  • Do you want the archive to be available for free, or can you raise revenue and encourage members?

Juliet Fox and Rachel Kirby of 3CR:

  • Used the archive to create an anniversary book: Radical Radio: Celebrating 40 Years of 3CR
  • Took 3 years to pull together
  • Started the project by going through scrapbooks and newspaper archives
  • Also accessed ASIO files (Over 2000 pages referencing 3CR within the volumes dated 1974 to 1989)
  • Created a Book Working Group of volunteers and a brain's trust. Book making was a collaborative and collective process
  • Collaborated with local art institution, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces
  • Exhibition titled If People Powered Radio featured live broadcasts, archived materials on display

Think about:

  • Starting now - it's going to be harder for the next generation
  • Starting the project yourself. No one else is going to come into the station and offer to do it
  • Expertise of collaborators. The art space was a specialist, and able to tell what was interesting, and make it interesting to the public (not just station people)
  • The book and archive contributes to the station's knowledge, but also the pride of the station
  • Documenting community radio histories is part of our contribution to social and political change

Community radio's place within Australian media history is often missing from discussion. We need to be present, and it is up to us to get that information out, and show how we are part of history.

Dave Houchin of Triple R:

  • Partnered with State Library of Victoria to exhibit: ON AIR: 40 Years of 3RRR
  • In the long term this partnership sees station material properly archived and managed
  • Started planning 18 months earlier
  • Built awareness of birthday activites during the annual Radiothon
  • Looked through previous slogans and artwork from the station's history to create theme
  • Created a 40 Years logo to build awareness
  • Worked with a video company to create 40 year videos featuring current and former presenters
  • Created a week of live celebrations including a debate
  • 40 Years in 40 Days: a documentary series playing each day at 4PM
  • Used a weekly spot on the grid to replay old live-to-air recordings
  • Re-prints of retro t-shirt designs
Think about:
  • Concentrating activites over a smaller amount of time. Creates more promotional impact, but is a lot of work at once
  • Save everything you prepare for the next celebration. The 40th would have been easier if this was done for the 30th
  • Be careful who you partner with: do their objectives line up with the stations?

Facebook comments

Triple R’s Archiving Tips from Archie and Phillipa
  1. Date everything
  2. Keep multiple copies of everything and if possible, keep them in different locations and on different platforms
  3. Store things in the best available way
  4. Keep a master list of what you have
  5. Develop regular processes for archiving different types of items, and keep up to date with both archiving and documentation. 
  6. Make sure related items are kept together e.g. a live-to-air recording is kept with a copy of the setlist, video and photos.
  7. Don’t let everyone have access to them
  8. Keep an extra copy that almost no one has access to
  9. Write in  pencil on printed material
  10. Be mindful of keeping things that may not seem that important right now, but may be part of what becomes a historical story
  11. Collect things from your listeners when offered
  12. Take photos of everything and store and label them – people, dates, events get forgotten really easily
  13. Create regular events or opportunities for documenting a moment in time – e.g. a station get together – take group photos, keep invite lists
  14. Think about your archive items if you renovate, relocate or move your archives and double check your list of items
  15. All audio archives should be retained as original recordings, if required some minimal normalisation may be applied but no other filtering or EQ should be.



Community owned and run radio stations weave a rich history throughout their years on air.


To celebrate the station's anniversary this year, 3CR will be be holding an exhibition - 'If People Powered Radio: 40 years of 3CR'.


Tuesday 13 February saw broadcasters and the broader community celebrate community radio as part of World Radio Day.