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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity - [Archived] GLB How JOY 94.9 became one of the world's most successful queer radio stations

How JOY 94.9 became one of the world's most successful queer radio stations

DougPollardJOY 94.9 in Melbourne Australia is the world’s only full-time queer radio station. Peter Hackney goes behind the scenes to learn the secrets of its success.

11 June 2011

Large cities like London and New York don’t have one.

Neither do queer capitals such as Sydney and San Francisco.

But the city of Melbourne, Australia has what these others don’t: a full-time radio station for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, sex and/or gender diverse community.

While there are other part-time queer radio stations, and some full-time radio stations that carry significant queer content, there’s nothing else in the world quite like JOY 94.9.

Pumping out a steady stream of pink-tinged music, current affairs, chat and community info around the clock, JOY broadcasts from studios in Central Melbourne to an estimated 280,000 regular listeners in the Melbourne metro area, and thousands more around the world online.

It’s one of Australia’s greatest queer success stories, and it’s down to the confluence of several factors, says station president David McCarthy.

“A lot of things came together to get us to this point,” he surmises.

“We started at a time [in the early 1990s] when the government was handing out test broadcast licences and allowing community groups to bid for those licenses. We were very fortunate that many members of our community had experience in radio and TV.

“We were also in a period when HIV/AIDS galvanised the gay community, and brought it together in a way that hadn’t happened before.”

A coterie of supportive political “fellow travellers” such as former Liberal Member for Prahran, Leonie Burke, also helped lobby the government to grant JOY a licence, says McCarthy.

But what really got the station off the ground and ensured its continuing success can be summed up in one word: volunteers.

“We were lucky and continue to be very fortunate to have a strong [queer] community here in Melbourne that’s really willing to give of itself.

“Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the station, and the results they achieve are really quite incredible,” he says.

To the point where Joy doesn’t sound like a community radio station – it arguably sounds more like a fully-fledged commercial station with the backing of advertisers and big money.

“Which is so not true,” laughs McCarthy. “Behind the scenes it’s held together with Band Aids and gaffer tape. It comes down to the professionalism of our volunteers.”

KylieOne of those volunteers is Leo Stubbing.

A key on-air personality, Stubbing is the host of Morning JOY each Friday from 9am to midday, co-host of the Sound Museum music show 10pm-midnight Wednesdays, and a co-host of Orange Ribbon, a multicultural chat show which runs from 5-6pm every Saturday.

Stubbing joined the station in July last year, after conducting the station’s ‘Taste of Radio’ training course, which covers areas such as on-air presentation, media law, digital editing, interviewing and panel operation.

“I think the key to Joy’s success is how passionate everyone is, whether it’s people on-air, behind the scenes, on the switch or at the front desk” he tells The Scavenger.

“We’re all different people with different backgrounds but what binds us together is our passion and it helps us get on like a little family.

“I think listeners can relate to that and that’s a big part of JOY’s success.”

The fact that JOY doesn’t just adhere to gay stereotypes is another reason for its success, he says.

While he’s a confirmed fan of ‘gay’ pop princesses like Kylie and Dannii Minogue, Stubbing enthuses about the way the station spreads its JOY to all areas of the community.

“Not everyone in our community is a fan of your stereotypical favourites like Kylie Minogue or k.d. lang, and JOY really recognises that with shows playing country music, jazz, opera, indie pop and all sorts of genres.”

Similarly, the station shuns stereotypes in its approach to news and current affairs, says queer journalism stalwart Doug Pollard, who presents JOY’s well-respected Rainbow Report current affairs programme each Friday from midday.

“I try to take a broad focus,” he tells The Scavenger. “Rather than just reporting directly on GLBTI issues, we will often take an important broader issue of the day and come at it from a gay angle.”

Asked for an example, he proffers: “Environmental issues don’t have a specifically gay application, but we will cover them and feed them back in. For example, gay people tend to be renters more than the mainstream community and it’s harder to be ‘green’ because they don’t own the property – so we’ll explore aspects of the debate like that.”

Another strength of JOY’s news and current affairs coverage is the station’s relative freedom from advertisers and gaystream organisations, as a community radio station that relies on members and volunteers rather than advertisers.

“The gay press do take on gaystream organisations but it has to be a bit more careful than we do,” says Pollard. “We can go out on a limb a little more. JOY has been able to challenge the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) at times, and took a lead role in exposing the ALSO Foundation’s serious financial and organisational problems."

LeoStubbingThis ability to investigate news unfettered, combined with JOY’s broad approach and its large listening base, has paid off to give the station access to the political big league.

An impressive list of politicians have beaten a path to JOY’s front door to appear on the Rainbow Report, including Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Victorian Opposition Leader (now Premier) Ted Baillieu, former Federal Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, and a slew of local and state representatives.

Similarly, big names from the arts and entertainment world, like Kylie Minogue, tend to pop into JOY whenever they’re in town.

This helps lead to an impression that JOY is so successful it doesn’t need anyone’s help – but while he’s thrilled with JOY’s success, station president David McCarthy is keen to point out that JOY needs constant community support.

“I like to say that we’re on air but we don’t run on air,” he says. “The main message I’d like to get across is that if you enjoy the station, we’d really encourage you to give something back.

“If you’re a local, there’s plenty of opportunity to volunteer, and listeners anywhere around the world can become members and help shore up the finances.

“And that way, we can keep spreading the JOY.”

You can listen to JOY 94.9 in the Melbourne area by tuning into 94.9 on the FM radio band, or anywhere in the world by visiting the JOY website. JOY also has an iPhone App and a Facebook page.

To become a member ($150 per year for a business, $88 per family, $66 per person, $33 concession or $22 for under-18s) visit the membership page or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Images from top: Rainbow Report presenter Doug Pollard in the studio; Sound Museum hosts John Edie (left) and Leo Stubbing (right) with pop star Kylie Minogue; Joy 94.9 presenter Leo Stubbing in the studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments   

0 #7 Melburnian 2011-06-15 20:47
Obviously "sounds" refers to production values, not content. Joy sounds very professional but that does not mean the content is banal.
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0 #6 Brendan 2011-06-14 22:51
Interesting article, but surely sounding "commercial" is hardly a sign off success of a community station? Surely community stations aim to be better than the banal sounds coming out of commercial radio!
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0 #5 Melburnian 2011-06-12 22:15
I believe the correct way to describe Joy is: the world's only full time GLBT community radio station. There are other GLBT stations but they are not full-time - or in the case of Proud FM and Gaydar Radio they are not community stations but commercial stations that run on advertising. Joy does not rely on advertising (as a community station it is *not allowed* to advertise and would lose its broadcasting licence if it did). Anyhow, Joy, is a great station and this is a great article highlighting just how amazing it is, replying solely on volunteers as it does.

On the same subject , it would be fabulous if the GLBT radio stations around the world got together and created some kind of queer radio organisation. They could even share some programs that might translate internationally .
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0 #4 Katrina Fox 2011-06-11 09:53
Hi Stark

Thank you for your comment and info on your radio station. Fair point about the headline - which I have now amended to say 'one of' the world's most successful full-time queer radio station. It's good to hear about your show, and hopefully we will hear of others and you can network and, as you say, work together.

Kind regards
Katrina Fox
Editor-in-chief, The Scavenger
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0 #3 stark 2011-06-11 09:43
I am an announcer and creative director for 103.9 PROUD FM (www.proudfm.com/) in Toronto, Canada. While I am excited to see another successful queer radio station in the world, Joy is hardly the only one. PROUD FM is a full-time, terrestrial, commercial radio station dedicated to serving the LGBT community, we have a listenership of 150,000 people in the Toronto area, plus thousands more internationally who listen online, and we have been broadcasting as PROUD FM since 2007. In short, we have a lot in common. Maybe we ought to be working together... :-)
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0 #2 Peter Hackney 2011-06-11 03:04
Hi 'outoutout',

Thanks for your feedback. I'm the author of this article and my understanding is that GaydarRadio isn't a radio station in the true sense of the word, in that it doesn't broadcast on any radio band (AM, FM, SW, etc.) and is only available online - and even then, only to people with a Gaydar account.

I understand that GaydarRadio did broadcast for a time on Sky-TV in the UK on Channel 0158, but ceased to do so on February 18 this year.

Having said that, I appreciate that it's debatable whether JOY is the only full-time queer radio station, and if one considers GaydarRadio to be a 'proper' radio station, then JOY is not the only one.

Glad you liked the article. :-)
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0 #1 outoutout 2011-06-11 00:27
Forgive me if I'm missing something, but is Joy 94.9 really "the world's only full-time queer radio station"? What about Gaydar Radio in London/Sussex? www.gaydarradio.co.uk I believe they're also terrestrial (albeit DAB) & broadcasting 24/7.

That said, of course I've been a massive fan of Joy and its programming for years. What a great article!
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