FBi launch – opening speech

Newly launched FBi is the highest powered community station ever, operating at 150 kW and covering all of Sydney.

A lot has happened since Lee Hubber and the first board of directors began to form a youth focused community radio group around ten years ago. The station encountered many trials on its way gaining its permanent licence but finally got on air this week.

In her opening speech, President Cass Wilkinson alluded to some of the history of the station and to its commitment to the youth culture and music of Sydney.

She said:

“I knew I was right”

With apologies to Julie Burchill I have entitled this brief speech, “I knew I was right” .

In the eight years it has taken to get this radio station built, I have had many opportunities to think about why it’s necessary.

As music has changed, as the city has grown, as audiences and artists embraced new technology, I’ve reassessed the urgency of FBI’s case.

At each turn, I’ve been able to say with conviction that it matters more than ever.

It matters because – as Our Nicole has said – because art is important.

Through art and music, people give a voice to their passions, insights, rages and hopes. And for those of us who are less articulate about what moves us – these creative phrases, become part of the language of our emotional and social communication.

I often asked myself whether in this high tech world radio was still the best way to initiate that communication. And once again, I can say with conviction I believe it is. It’s cheap, it’s portable and it’s intimate. At its best, it delivers not just noise but a relationship. A relationship with the station, with its people and its values.

My dad and his mates in the small industrial town outside London where he grew up used to listen to Radio Luxembourg to hear the first rock’n’roll records. For a bunch of boys in a factory town, it was the sound of a totally different world being born.

I met a guy who works at a radio station in Melbourne. His radio was the first inkling he had that he might not be the first gay Greek boy in outer-Melbourne.

I’ve heard a hundred stories like this from people of all ages.

Radio is community building technology – and it is proper that a radio station this size will for the first time belong to the community.

Over the last eight years, I wondered from time to time whether it mattered that the music be Australian. Or, more specifically, that it be from Sydney.

Is FBI a narrow minded patriot in a global culture?

Again you’ll be pleased to hear, I can say with all the certainty that careful research and moderately priced champagne can deliver – we were right.

We were really, really right.

Sitting on the Southern fringe of Mc World, our parochialism matters more than ever.

As a wealthy, American-speaking nation, we are an easy target for their cultural products. We soak up their music, films, TV, literature and visual art.

Much of it is world class. Too much is garbage.

FBI is based on the simple albeit radical principal that if people listen to Australian music, they will like it.

Paradoxically in an age of widespread, affordable audio technology, the opportunities to listen to new Australian music have contracted.

You can carry 2,500 songs in your pocket but apparently only 4 or 5 of them belong on the radio.

And this inverse relationship between technology and variety extends to the kind of music we get as well.

While music is increasingly released from traditional stylistic conventions, what we hear on the radio is largely homogenised pop.

It’s music that underestimates its audience. It’s music that relates to young people principally as consumers of culture – not creators of culture.

FBi has total faith in the creativity of young people. FBi puts its very future in their hands.

We owe so much to so many for making this work.

I want to thank David Flint and the Board and staff of Australian Broadcasting Authority for having the imagination to see that this could work.

To Lee and the original Board, we owe tremendous thanks for beginning the journey.

To Brett and Jake and their staff – who have been with us since the beginning, we are so grateful and hope we may soon be in a position to think about paying our Bills.

George and the folks at Gilbert and Tobin – without whom we would not be here at all.

Cristina, Megan, Jacinta, Sharon, the magnificent Tims and Brandon deserve special mention for their astonishing achievements in the final months before broadcast.

All the staff and volunteers who have been in here literally building the station from the ground up, your determination and optimism have been astounding.

You have never ceased to impress me. Every test broadcast dozens of new volunteers would appear. With tremendous energy you built the station and with heavy hearts you took it down again.

We did that 14 times.

The sight of this sturdy, elegant, well-equipped studio with staff, volunteers, all the gear – and its permanence. Just its permanence stirs the deepest emotions in me.

At its core, I knew this would project work because I had faith in all of you. Today, I know I was right.

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