Easily find Australian radio stations

At radioinfo we are often asked for help finding the details of Australian radio stations.

But locating that information in one place is not so easy. Each sector lists its own statiions, but national listings are difficult to find.

When the subject was raised again in several informal conversations during this year’s CRA conference, we decided to do something about it.

As of today, you can look up any station in Australia via an interactive map we have just introduced.

You’ll find it at a in our menu. When you go there, you can select maps for AM or FM stations.

Radio people travelling around the country will find this map particularly useful.

Zoom the map to where you want to go, then click on a transmitter.

When you click the transmitter icon, a window will open and tell you the transmitter callsign and frequency. You can click through from the side window to find more information.

The data is supplied by the ACMA and we have consolidated in on Google Maps.

There is some complexity to the map. If there are a lot of transmissions from one site, as in most capital cities, you may have to zoom right in to see all the transmitter icons, and then click through to a detailed list if there are too many to list in the side window.

For example, Mt Coottha in Brisbane is home to most of the commercial, community and ABC services for that city. If you zoom right in you will see there are two towers shown for that site. Click one and you see community services, click the other and you see mostly ABC services. Because there is not enought room in the side window to show all services, you need to click through to see more transmissions, including the commercial services that broadcast from that tower.

The FM map also lists digital services, but you have to zoom in, click the list and look hard for that.

As radio people know, there are protocols with Australian station callsigns which go way back into the history of Australian broadcasting.

Stations are designated by numbers that correspond with state post codes, so all NSW stations begin with the number 2, all Queendland stations with the number 4, etc. Even though stations may have long since changed their on air branding to drop the state based call number, the licenced callsign is still the one shown on the official licence paperwork and on this database.

AM stations were officially allocated two call letters after the number, while FM stations were officially required to have three letters after the number.

There is a treasure trove of trivia and history in the database if you want to go looking.

Here’s just two examples of the richness you can uncover in our new maps:

When 2WEB Bourke was allocated its AM licence community radio was very new, there was no firm protocol about community stations being on the AM dial. Most community stations (then known as E Class educational licences) were allocated FM frequencies.

To serve its vast area of Outback NSW 2WEB needed an AM transmitter, but the regulators back then were in the habit of giving three call letters to Educational community licencees, so 2WEB became an anomoly, an AM station with an FM style three letter callsign.

The 2WEB transmission tower still proudly sits in a paddock 5 kms out of Bourke on the Brewarrina Road, just past the high school, and pumps out local news and information for outback NSW from a dedicated team of staff and volunteers led by station chairman Ian Cole and manager Wayne Harrison.

Another interesting example of radio history to be found in the database is WSFM in Sydney.

When 2WS was first launched, it was groundbreaking because it was a station for Western Sydney. At a time when the big stations like 2SM, 2UE and 2UW were clustered in Sydney or North Sydney, the new station located its headquarters in Blacktown, signalling its commitment to the working people in the heartland of Western Sydney, not the silvertails of the CBD and North Sydney.

It was an instant success with its geographically targeted audience and the call sign needed to symbolically reflect Western Sydney by being called ‘WS.’

But there was a problem… the regulators required it to officially have three call letters.

So the clever management and programming team at the time found a solution.

That’s why the official call sign for WSFM is 2UUS – Double U, S, FM.

There’s more about the history of station callsigns in Making Radio, by radioinfo’s founding editor Steve Ahern, published by Allen & Unwin.

We hope you will enjoy browsing through our new map feature to find stations to listen to as you travel around Australia and to discover more about the facinating history of Australian radio transmission.

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