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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Full house for French film despite call for boycott

A festival of French film is bound to evoke many and varied reactions in the current political environment yet more than 450 cinemagoers turned out for the gala opening of the 13th annual French Film Festival at the Academy Cinema in Paddington – greater than the theatre’s official capacity.

So unexpected was the large turnout, that proceedings were delayed by seating rearrangements. MC and President of the Alliance Française, Joelle Akim, joked that at this rate, next year they would need to use the Olympic Stadium.

Yet all was not so light-hearted and the event’s political significance against the current world backdrop is clear. Film critic, David Stratton, said: “In the United States of America at the moment, people are boycotting French products and French culture.

“An exhibition at the Alliance Française in San Francisco has just had to be closed down”, he continued.

The boycott movement is lead by New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy. US citizens are being encouraged to avoid French products as a statement against the French veto over any UN-sanctioned military action in Iraq.

“A boycott? Mais oui. Let’s stop buying French wine”, he said in his February 12 column. The last weeks have seen stirring images of patriotic Americans uncorking their bottles of bubbly and using the blood of the martyrs to water their urban gutters.

Last week on American television, senator Jim Saxton revealed the introduction of anti-French legislation in the US Congress to prevent the purchase of French aeronautical equipment if the veto should be passed.

Such a ban together with the boycott would severely impact on the US$ 9 billion France earns from the US in export revenue.

But Sydney’s French film lovers were not to be swayed by this US call to boycott. David Stratton, said, “I’m extremely proud to be part of this event because I’ve been inspired by the principled stand of the French government against the war”.

Such popular support for the French anti-war effort has not been unnoticed in France.  John Howard has been suffering bad press in Europe for his pro-US stance, though there is recognition that a large percentage of Australians are not in agreement with his actions.

“Howard is one of the most fervent defenders of the hard line taken by Washington in regards to the regime of Saddam Hussein. This position isn’t shared by the majority of Australians”, translates a French Reuters bulletin of March 14.

In opening the festival, French Consul-General, Marc Finaud, placed these differences in context by saying that although Australia and France did not agree on how to protect Iraq, at least the two countries recognise the importance of cultural industries.

French film, as an industry, has grown enormously in the past years. In 1995 Australia purchased $16 million worth yet last year this had risen to $40 million. In 1998 our distributors bought 8 French films and last year, 25.

Another example of the shared passion for film between Australia and France is typified by one of the Festival’s featured films: L’Idôle. The Idol is a French film in every way, except that the director is Australian Samantha Lang.

Festival Director, Olivier Litvine, said to see an Australian make a French film in France, in French is an example of a “victory of intelligence, exchange and openness of spirit”.