Tuning into any community radio station in Australia is an auditory lucky dip — often absorbing, at times pedestrian, but usually worth the trouble if you listen long enough.

Queer broadcasts have always been a colourful piece of the radio patchwork and with the advent of podcasting and online streaming, never before has community radio had the potential to connect with such a previously unreachable audience.

This year, full-time Melbourne GLBTIQ station JOY 94.9FM launched its Queer News Network (QNN), a five-minute weekly news bulletin, now syndicated to community radio stations around the country.

A buzz has already started among some forward-thinking broadcasters for a move towards a more unified approach to resource sharing, something JOY is uniquely placed to initiate.

Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and JOY board member Addam Stobbs told Southern Star the station has sown the first seeds with QNN.

“A few years ago when I started going to the Community Broadcasting Association conferences, I realised there was a bigger role to play in the broadcasting community and as the only full-time gay and lesbian broadcaster, [JOY] should really be setting up the body, or sector organisation, that puts together like-minded broadcasters under a common goal,” Stobbs ssaid.

Stobbs and others are sounding out a plan for a formal alliance called the Australian Gay and Lesbian Broadcasting Network.

“There’s never really, until recently, been much of a need to have one,” Stobbs said. “[Queer radio] is probably more relevant now because this community’s become blurred. Information from groups is going in different ways, coming from different places.”

So now the community enjoys greater rights than ever before, is fattening up our queer radio options necessary?

Long-time broadcaster on Brisbane’s 4ZZZ program Queer Radio, John Frame said he’s witnessed firsthand the profound impact queer radio can have on people’s lives.

Frame started working on Queer Radio in 1993, around the time he came out.

“In the first two years talking to people on a personal basis about how they felt about their sexuality or their gender identity… it’s like I had an epiphany and in every fibre of my being, I had no doubt at all it was absolutely okay to be gay, as it is to be straight, and that people’s gender identity is their own business,” Frame said.

“Not everyone has the privilege to be able to get on the phone and have a heart-to-heart with a couple of hundred people, but what I hope happens, [listening to my] interviews online, is people will come to the same conclusion a lot quicker — that’s it’s okay to be gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual and all the variations.”

Frame has hung up the headphones after 15 years on air and said he feels Queer Radio is just as necessary today as when he started in the early ’90s.

“Just because more people are coming out, doesn’t mean fewer people are dealing with it badly,” he said.

“I think it will take a while yet for it not to be an issue to be gay at school, gay at university or gay in the workplace.”

As it was for Frame, Queer Radio has become a beacon for Brisbanites trying to find their way.

Stephen Pickells, who anchors the Queernoise program on Sydney’s 2SER, said he still believes queer radio has a place on the airwaves.

“I think queer radio is necessary because people still want to be able to tune in and know there are people like them out there,” Pickells said.

“With JOY in Melbourne you can turn on the station and know there are people who are not hitting you over the head. They’re simply saying here we are, we’re queer, and this is what we’re into.”

Melbourne’s queer radio programs outnumber those in other state capitals, perhaps in no small part due to the dominance of JOY.

Stations in other capital cities have fallen prey to underfunding and volunteer burn-out in recent times. Perth is without a queer-specific station or program and we couldn’t find details for any in Darwin. Adelaide and Hobart listeners only get a few short hours of programming a week.

Queernoise — which replaced the long running Gaywaves on 2SER — runs for half-an-hour a week. Liverpool community radio, in Sydney’s west, offers two programs, Queer Out West and Lesbians on the Air, leaving Sydneysiders only four-and-a-half hours of queer content a week.

“I don’t see any reason why Sydney, with a gay population which is at least comparable to Melbourne, can’t have its own station, but what it will mean is for all these different factions to put aside their differences and work together, and work together for the greater good,” Pickells said. “A lot of people get territorial with this type of thing.”

Territorial things became in 2001 when two gay and lesbian Sydney broadcasters, OUT FM and Free FM, couldn’t agree to disagree and join forces, losing the chance for a full-time community radio licence. Sydney has had scant queer radio pickings ever since.

Stobbs said JOY has not ruled out developing a sister station in Sydney, however, it would only be in the form of a narrowcast station as there are no community licences on offer.

“We’re not looking at it immediately. We’ve got to look after the station in Melbourne at the moment and make sure things are stable because we’ve just moved in in the last 18 months, so there’s still a lot to be done,” he said.

In the meantime, Pickells said as one of the few Sydney queer radio broadcasters, he feels a duty to keep the show on air.

“I think it’s a privilege to have a show like this and we owe it to the listeners to keep going.”

TUNE IN

Melbourne
JOY 94.9FM, 24-hour GLBTIQ station
Out of the Pan, 3CR 855AM, Sun noon
Dykes on Mics, 3CR 855AM, Sun 3pm
In Ya Face (due to return to 3CR next year)

Regional Victoria
Rainbow Radio on Phoenix 89.5FM, Tues 8pm (Bendigo)

Sydney
Queer Out West, 2GLF 89.3FM, Mon 10pm,
Lesbians on the Air, 2GLF 89.3FM, Tues 10pm
Queernoise on 2SER 107.3FM, Friday 7pm

Regional NSW
OUT on The Manning 2BOB 104.7FM, Thurs 8pm (Manning Valley)

Adelaide
Aqueerium, Radio Adelaide 101.5FM,
Sat 11am

Brisbane
Dykes on Mics, 4ZZZ 102.1FM, Wed 7pm
Queer Radio on 4ZZZ 102.1FM, Wed 9pm

Hobart
Borderline, Edge Radio 99.3FM, Mon 10am

*all stations streamed online except 2BOB and Phoenix

© Star Observer 2022 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.