Colin Cameron: A lifetime of radio achievements

While in Covid19 lockdown, retired regional radio identity Colin Cameron has been cleaning out his ‘man cave’ and reflecting on his career.

Born in Orange in 1936, Colin now lives in Lismore and continues to be actively involved with the community as vice president of the local hospital auxiliary, a driver for community transport, and a member of various local clubs and societies.
Colin is one of Australia’s most experienced and successful radio people with a career that spanned over 50 years and has covered the full spectrum from 2GZ ‘office boy’ to group owner/operator.
This is his story.
Colin began his announcing career with 2MG Mudgee in 1953, after winning guest announcing competitions on 2UE‘s Rumpus Room and 2GB‘s Teen Time.
Early in 1954 he joined 2DU Dubbo for a 3-year stint as a night announcer, specialising in sales. Early 1957 he was offered a sales position with 2UE and spent three successful years as Top 40 Junior Sales Executive, working alongside John Laws, Bob Rogers, Tony Withers and 2UE’s breakfast announcer Gary O’Callaghan.
In early 1960, aged 23, he joined 4LG Longreach and became Australia’s youngest radio manager at that time. This was the only position he actually applied for throughout his extensive radio career, he was head hunted for the other positions.

1961 saw a bigger move to manage 3UL Warragul in Victoria, a position he held for nine years. Soon after his arrival he discovered only one of the two major AFL football leagues in the stations’ service area were being broadcast.

Realising that football broadcasts were an excellent revenue earner, the station was able to arrange for the South Gippsland League to start their game 20 minutes or so earlier, with the Latrobe League alternating during each team’s four x twenty five  breaks, resulting in an uninterrupted Saturday afternoon of broadcasting the two major AFL games. It was an excellent listener and community goodwill success story.
3UL needed an interference-free frequency due to 4WK Warwick overpowering 3UL’s night time signal.
After many years of lobbing Canberra, under a cloud of secrecy, the station was offered the feasibility of pioneering a new AM frequency at the ABC end of the broadcast spectrum at 530 Kc/s (Kilocycles, now known Kiloherz, KHz). This required Colin to visit over 100 homes in the industrial heart of the Latrobe Valley in the Morwell/Traralgon townships with a portable signal generator, confirming radio receivers in those homes were able to tune into the interference-free frequency 530Kc/s. The station then installed a 2 tower directional system that finally improved its signal.

1970 was a time to accept another challenge… Television at AMV-4 Albury. A year later, 2UE boss Alan Faulkner invited him back to radio in 1971. Later that year following his return from winning a US Government Scholarship study tour of American Radio and shopping malls, Colin was recommended and appointed Advertising/Promotions Manager to the AMP Centrepoint Tower/Shopping project (now Westfield) in the heart of Sydney.
After establishing Centrepoint as a major retail complex in 1974, he was responsible for moving 2KA Katoomba ‘The Voice of the Mountains’ to Penrith, installing a low powered transmitter at Emu Plains to serve the fast-growing Western Suburbs of Sydney.  This was at the request of 2KA owner Labor Funerals, who were thoughtful enough to add, should he die of the job, he will be receive a free funeral.
Whilst at Penrith, nearing his 40th birthday, he was offered the opportunity to live his dream of 22 years to become a station owner. He purchased two under-performing Victorian Broadcasting Network stations 3SH Swan Hill and 3CV Maryborough, moving 3CV into Bendigo and increasing its operating power with a 5Kw directional aerial system halfway between Ballarat and Bendigo.
He then acquired a Bendigo newspaper, The Golden City Gazette with a circulation of 23,000 free editions to local households, to assist in cross-promoting 3CV. 12 months later he purchased another loss maker 3LK Lubeck, a relay station for 3DB over the past 30 years owned by the Melbourne Herald newspaper.
Turning his back on the negative thoughts from industry leaders at the time, he introduced an industry first, re-branding the 3LK callsign to 3WM (Wimmera Mallee) and increasing transmission power from 2Kw to 5Kw on a two-tower directional aerial system. The station slogan was ‘3WM We’re Here For You.’
His courage to try new things and think differently allowed him to achieve his dream of becoming an industry leader “who thinks sideways and around corners.”
“Minds are like a parachute, they only function when open.” Back in 1979 re-branding 3WM into a fresh new image was to ‘boldly go where no one had gone before,’ which created a tsunami of interesting new call signs across Australian Commercial Radio.
With years of successful management expertise in the industry, he knew he could turn those enterprises around. Colin was re-inventing radio. He saw things that never were and asked why not. For Colin, “life is about making a difference.” His radio career was one of innovation, where he wanted to make an impact without the use of consultants, who were so prevalent in Australian radio at the time.
Colin, a respected private enthusiast aviator, with over 1,000 hours flying time, regularly flew his Rockwell 112A aircraft to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide visiting his national sales representatives and advertising agencies, in addition to visiting his stations 3WM Horsham and 3CV Bendigo.
Colin also became a part owner of 3XY Melbourne and Bay FM. At the Public Enquiry for the FM Licence in Shepparton, Colin’s presentation and vast industry experience proved successful, as his group succeeded in winning the licence for SUN FM.
Colin retired from radio in 2011, on his 75th birthday, after spending eight years rebuilding WA’s oldest Indigenous station, Waringarri Radio (6WR) having arrived during its ‘darkest hour,’ after the station had been off air for 45 days. On leaving 6WR he then spent twelve months ‘fine tuning’ the National Indigenous Satellite Radio News Service based in Brisbane.
He is a broadcaster who defined his era but was always very different from those around him. Colin attributes his success to having the courage and a lifelong desire to achieve his dream to be an industry leader, with some talented people around him who are now lifelong friends, like former 3WM managers Ian Toull and Bob Harding.
As the coronavirus pandemic reached our shores, Colin and his wife went into lockdown in Lismore. “Gone was the freedom of a visit to the beach or the usual bush picnic out to the rugged Border Ranges.”
Hibernation hasn’t been all bad for Colin. It has given him the opportunity to “declutter whilst hiding out in his man cave.” He was able to reopen storage boxes that hadn’t seen the light of day for the past 30 years as a great “memory starter.” His wife and family have been urging him to get a skip and dump the lot, but he does not consider the content of the boxes or his 200 pages of scrap books clutter, and has resisted dumping it.
Colin is not related to the other regional radio family with the same name, led by matriarch Janet Cameron.
He and his wife Iris were seated at the radioinfo table at last year’s ACRAs and all the radioinfo team were delighted to be able to get to know them during that event.
Iris and Colin remain in good health and are looking forward to the end of the Covid-19 lockdown when they can again regularly visit friends and family.
Colin’s recently written memoir is titled ‘Before I Forget.’


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