FOR Conrad Browne, JOY 94.9’s annual Radiothon is far more than just a big fundraiser and station promotion.

“The motivation behind it is not just financial,” said Browne, who is the general manager of JOY 94.9, the LGBTI community radio station based in Melbourne.

“It’s a way for us to showcase our amazing volunteers and what they do on air and behind the scenes, too, and remind our loyal listeners about all of the great events, activities and programming JOY delivers 365 days a year.”

Browne told the Star Observer that the station’s first Radiothon was in 2005, and that they have a come a long way since then.

“Over that time we’ve become bigger and better in many ways,” he said.

“Thanks to a one-off grant from the (Victorian) State Government, the station relocated in 2008 to new studios in Melbourne CBD. Since then JOY has continued to develop and grow.”

Indeed, the station now has increased volunteer engagement and developed digital strategies like online streaming, a new website, social media and podcasting. With the latter, Browne said it was achieving an average of 60,000 free downloads per month. In addition, according to a McNair Ingenuity Research survey last year, the station showed a staggering 50 per cent increase in listenership to 329,000 listeners per month.

Browne said the biggest challenge the station faced every year during Radiothon was ensuring they engaged their audience to support the station through donations or becoming a member.

“In some ways JOY can be a victim of our hard work and success — the perception being that we look and sound so good that we don’t necessarily need any financial support but the reality is very, very different,” he said.

“The station receives no on-going government funding so as a self-funded not-for-profit community organisation we do everything on a tight budget — but thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of our staff and 250 volunteers and support from our amazing members, patrons and sponsors, we always manage to get there.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Browne said the the most rewarding aspect of JOY was its ability to continuously connect and provide a voice for the LGBTI community on the air waves.

“After being on air over the past 20 years our mission statement is still as true as it was when we started,” he said.

“JOY 94.9 is committed to providing a voice for the diverse (LGBTI) communities, enabling freedom of expression, the breaking down of isolation and the celebration of our culture, achievements and pride.”

Browne reiterated that role in providing a voice for the community and presence within the broader community as the main reason behind the importance of having an LGBTI-only radio station such as JOY.

In fact, he said it’s the only LGBTI radio station in Australia and one of four in the world.

“We are well respected for what we do and how we do it and what we manage to achieve at times is phenomenal,” Browne told the Star Observer.

“A great example of this was JOY’s 20th Birthday celebration and World AIDS Day Worldwide project in December 2013. We not only celebrated this amazing birthday milestone with a week-long on-air party, we (also) capped it off with a 24-hour audio and visual broadcast that showcased the upcoming AIDS 2014 conference (by featuring a) selection of medical experts and international guests combined with an in-depth look at the past, present and future of HIV and AIDS around the world.

“This special event again highlighted the amazing contribution of our volunteers and staff, the collective skills and talent that they bring to the station and the ability to pull this huge project off with little or no sleep over a 48-hour period.”

With the 2014 Radiothon happening between May 30-June 6, Browne said listeners should expect something for everyone.

“It’s a party, it’s a time to show appreciation to all the wonderful folks at JOY who give their time and effort each week to bring our loyal listeners great radio and it’s also an opportunity for the community to celebrate what we do and get involved too,” he told the Star Observer.

“For eight days the station becomes all about Radiothon and asking people to re-new, become a member and make a donation and in return we’ll continue to entertain and engage you for another year plus you go in the draw for some amazing prizes.

“We also encourage each presenter to do something fun and exciting on their shows so expect loads of great celebrity and community guests, special music performances plus there’s always a few surprises, too.

“We highly encourage the healthy competition that springs up between shows to see who can sign up the most members too, which always leads to some interesting antics around the station.”

In regards to some of the more general “interesting antics” that have happened in previous Radiothons, Browne was able to recall a few, including live amateur drag shows in the station foyer to volunteers streaking naked through the streets of Melbourne.

However, one particular moment struck out.

“One particular hilarious moment from last year revolved around one very brave male volunteer allowing a hair wax strip to be removed live on air for each membership made during his show,” Browne recalled with a laugh.

“He had a bit of hair to spare but our audience really got in to it and by the end of the show he was very smooth all over and sore but also a big smile on his face too as he’d brought in a lot of new members for the station.

“So everyone was happy, plus the hair grew back so all good.”

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RADIOTHON DETAILS

When: May 30-June 6

Theme: “That’s so JOY!” with the station reclaiming the negative phrase ‘That’s so gay’ and putting a positive spin on it to celebrate the diverse and wonderful LGBTI community

Prizes: A Smart Car, thanks to Mercedes Benz Berwick plus five other major prizes valued at over $36,000 combined. To be eligible, sign up or renew your membership during Radiothon

Listen: Tune in via 94.9FM in Melbourne, or visit joy.org.au for online streaming

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