40 years of broadcasting to the Bellingen Shire and surrounds.
2BBB FM first began temporary transmission in 1980 from the showroom of a local service station, with the support of proprietor Carl Foster.
After more than forty years, the station has grown to be a Bellingen Shire institution – a vital part of the community that provides music, local news, information, and a wide range of quality programming reflecting the original aim to serve the diverse needs and interests of the Bellingen Shire community.
Those who took the first step towards creating a community radio station were unaware of the enormous task ahead.
It began with an application for a license to the Minister for Communications back in 1977. The first public meeting was convened some months later in 1978, at which a steering committee was formed.
The next five years saw increasing momentum, with volunteers driving thousands of miles in the work to become ‘radio ready’ – attending conferences and seminars, conducting tests, gathering information. As well as procuring the necessary licenses and finding suitable premises, they obtained equipment and found people with the expertise to install and operate it.
All the time, working hard to gain residents’ and Council’s blessing and support.
As a result of their efforts, they raised enough money to finance the entire project, then under the working name of Community Radio Bellinger.
It was a divisive journey to the first 2BBB FM broadcast. In the late 1970s, the idea of a community radio station faced its fair share of opposition.
The driving force for a new station was expatriate American radio enthusiast Stephen Abell – and his dream of starting a community radio station.
He called a first meeting to discuss setting up of a radio station – and was faced with comments such as “who the hell was this Yank from out of the blue telling us that a radio station would cure all of the community’s ills!”
This was rural NSW in the ’70s and the majority of support for the station was from the new settlers to the area.
Many established locals regarded the idea of alternative media beyond their political and financial control with suspicion (even antagonism) for those they regarded as ‘hippies’.
One letter to the local newspaper, signed by an individual known as “Square Eyes,” sarcastically pondered whether they would have to turn off their television to listen to council business being discussed on the airwaves.
Fortunately, a few local luminaries had the vision to see that community radio could do much to foster understanding and tolerance within the community.
With support from both established locals and new arrivals, as well as local businesses, the station gained momentum.
In February 1980, the volunteer dedication paid off and permission was granted for a test transmission. The first broadcast was from the front section of Carl Foster’s local garage, marking the humble beginnings of the station.
In October 1981, the formation meeting of the Bellingen Community Communications Co-operative Limited was held, formally taking over the assets, liabilities, and operations of the fledgling Community Radio Bellingen.
Due to the terrain of the Bellingen Shire, the station needed permission to operate Australia’s first public VHF translator and transmitter. The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal granted the necessary licenses on September 1, 1983, allocating the frequency 107.3 MHz for the transmitter and 90.5 MHz for the translator.
On September 9, 1983, 2BBB FM began its official broadcasting from temporary premises located in the rear of an electronics repair shop, adjacent to the present studios. The first year of operation focused on formal training for on-air workers, establishing basic management structures, and organizing fundraising efforts.
World’s first mud-brick station
The community came together to build 2 Triple B a permanent home – the world’s first mud-brick radio station.
A block of land was provided by Shire Councillor Braithwaite at a reduced cost, and funds were contributed by long-time supporter Clover Wade.
With the help of approximately 130 volunteers from the community and bricklaying apprentices from Coffs Harbour TAFE, the mudbrick studios were built over a 12-month period.
The building, along with all the equipment, was eventually purchased from Clover Wade with the assistance of a loan.