RTRFM Celebrate 40 Years

Published: Tuesday, 5 December 2017 at 2:02:37 PM

RTRM started broadcasting on the first of April 1977, as 6UWA and in the early 80’s applied for a community radio licence as Arts Radio Ltd.; RTRFM is a play on words ‘aRTy radio.’

Chris Wheeldon, Operations, Events and Volunteer Manager of RTRFM; was interviewed in 2016 and he describes the move up to Beaufort Street, from the Sanders building in UWA, and the switch over in 2004:

‘Pete Carroll the General Manager of RTRFM at UWA, was friendly with Haydn Robinson who owned the building. It was part of Haydn’s Planet Music Empire which was on the corner of Beaufort and Walcott Street. Haydn said: “I’ve got office space above Planet video rentals, maybe you guys can move into that.”

‘Stan who is our technician and still is our technician, came down and checked it out. The line of sight was perfect; we could see our main transmitter up in Lesmurdie from our antenna. The talks started and we moved in.’

‘Haydn, who is a very generous fella, gave us a low rent for a long time and also helped fit out the station. He essentially gave us a loan that we repaid over time because, as a not-for-profit, it would have been very hard to get a bank loan.’

‘RTRFM moved from UWA to the Beaufort Street building over a period of a few months. And when the switch happened, we went off air for about a second. We were broadcasting on air in UWA; I think it may have been the programme Out to Lunch; the show finished and the next show that was broadcast was Full Frequency transmitted from here. And most people listening wouldn’t know that we had just changed buildings completely.’

RTRFM brought some fixtures and fittings with them from UWA: ‘We brought windows; there is a window between the two studios, a double-paned window that is sound proof. And 6 lead-lined doors, the doors into the studios, are double-doors, you open one door and then open another door, which helps with the sound-proofing. We nicked them from the station. Well, not nicked, I guess we took them – they were ours – they belonged to us, so we brought them with us.’

Chris remembers that the building used to be a bank. ‘This was a bank for a long time beforehand, I think it was a Westpac and maybe another bank’

And last year, when the builders were levelling out the concrete floor in the shop below, they had to dig even deeper when they discovered the buried bank vaults:

‘Haydn had made the floor level with the shop next door and it was half-a-metre above the level of the pitch of the street, which was great for a CD shop, but terrible for a restaurant or a retail store. So [the new leasee or owner] hired a builder and they had to dig it all out; they had to cut through all the concrete and dig down by about 500mm.’

‘But where the bank vaults used to be, the concrete was an extra 100mm thick. So, what was supposed to be a pretty quick job turned into a bit of a nightmare. We were living with jack-hammers for 3 months, just going crazy, which is not great for a radio station. Down stairs it’s all been screeded off, and levelled and concreted. So it’s all ready to start fitting out as a shop now.’

Chris has been involved with the community radio broadcaster since he first joined as a university student. He remembers how two large street trees growing in Walcott Street nearly cost them their line of sight.

‘There was a couple of palm trees on Walcott Street that were starting to grow a little bit into our line of sight and the talk was, ‘do we have to maybe go ask the owners to chop them down or pull them back?’ Luckily it just sorted itself out naturally, they started growing back towards the sun, and it hasn’t been an issue since.’

RTRFM is an independent radio station and is funded by government grants, local sponsors, by fund raising from local musical events and listener subscriptions.

The radio station recently celebrated the 40th anniversary with a picnic in Hyde Park on April Fool’s Day. And it is in discussion with the State Library WA about a celebration of the radio’s 40 years in community broadcasting in summer this year.

RTRFM is also celebrated by an exhibition at the State Library WA.

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