FBi cracks Sydney scene

Originally published in April 2003

“FBi is going to give Sydney the best aural sex it’s had in years”, says Sharon McDonald, a coordinator at Free Broadcast Incorporated. With a mission to promote Sydney’s Culture, Arts and Music, Australia’s largest community radio station is set to hit the airwaves in June 2003.

Community radio like FBI plays a real part in the emergence of an alternative arts and music culture. At the Wednesday launch event of FBi, renowned eccentric hipster John Saffran spoke about the value of FBi’s sister station in Melbourne. He thinks the relationship between community radio and a vibrant cultural scene is “a bit chicken and egg “ and outlined a dubious benefit to community radio: “There are a lot of annoying pretentious rock snobs and 3RRR allows them to get off the streets and host a show”.

One of Sydney’s amateur aficionados looking to host a show on FBi is Shaun Alexander.

Recently Shaun spied an ad for FBi radio, a soon to be launched community station who are in the final stages of selecting their team to launch with. They have been targeting fresh ideas and new talent, to train the right people for the role.

Shaun applied for one of the positions and sent a package of CDs to FBi, but he isn’t too confident at this stage “I saw the ad and I thought, what an opportunity, but now I haven’t heard back and I’m sort of thinking, ‘oh my application was dodgy’”.

As a fifteen year old, Shaun used to make compilation tapes from his parents’ record collection to impress girls. When asked how successful these efforts were, he smiles “I definitely got a laugh and a smile. I guess you can’t really ask for much more than that”. Now at 26, not much has changed. “I’m still trying to impress girls with the albums I make.

Shaun is what you may refer to as a bedroom banger or a DIY DJ. He spends time and dollars building his record collection, researching the background of artists and mixing tracks together in the comfort of his own home.

He produces a Christmas album each year for friends. “That really took off and everyone loved it and now I’ve done four of them. Since then I just thought I’d like to share my love of music with anyone who’s prepared to listen.”

Shaun is convinced that there are many more people out there who will appreciate his taste in jazz-based groove. For a few years now, Shaun has been considering getting a radio show up and running “Footloose and Fancy-free, to be named after my first compilation”.

Shaun is not alone in fretting about his application to FBi.

“Around 250 people who applied for a program or presenter position with FBi have not yet been notified. As you can imagine short-listing has been one hell of a job” said Meagan Loader, FBi program manager.

A helluva job indeed, with the plethora of enthusiasm and talent available to them.

Tim Ritchie, the MC at the FBi launch and long-time radio stalwart said: “Our volunteers are passionate. We have passion coming out of our ears. Look around and see and feel and hear how people are reacting to being part of FBi”.

New member Linda Mirabillo has volunteered because she loves “the buzz and excitement of live broadcasting”.

Local DJ, Dave Warrell says, “I chose to join FBi because I saw it as a brilliant opportunity to get into an industry that is notoriously difficult to crack, in Sydney especially.”

Rick Warner also views an opportunity: “I see working with FBi as a step in the right direction to do what I do. It’s an educator role, and I’m sick of educating my unappreciative friends”

After a six-year campaign of test broadcasts and lobbying, the collective has won the 150kW license to give it an unprecedented audience reach and all the power of commercial licenses like Triple J and Nova.

“FBi will be good radio that focuses on Sydney and Australian music. In the mainstream radio, the focus is often placed on U.S. music, giving small Australian bands little chance to get their ‘big break'” says volunteer Madeleine Genner.

Local music promoters have also jumped on the bandwidth wagon. Adele Robinson is the chief of Fuzzy Productions who have brought such events as Fuzzy Breaks and Field Day to Sydney. She says, “in terms of a station that supports dance music, there isn’t a station like FBi that does that”.

Most importantly, Fuzzy and other industry heavies have begun to put their money where their mouth is for FBi’s ‘Cash for Content’ fundraising drive.

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