UNE Student Radio Celebrates 50 Years

Do you remember getting into your car on campus and tuning the radio to UNE's student radio station?

50 years on and that station is still broadcasting out to UNE student's cars in Armidale, and now, through its webstream, can reach out to UNE students studying across Australia and around the world.

UNE Student RadioThe radio station that we all know, and love, was created in 1968 by a group of five UNE students that had a dream and went with it.  Almost 50 years later, TuneFM has grown into an exciting and important part of UNE campus life. Situated in Union Square, there is always music pumping out when students and staff members take a break at the café or head to the Stro for lunch, and throughout the year students will gather at one of the events TuneFM has become known for, whether it’s importing truckloads of snow for the annual, big “Winter” event or flooding the exterior of Booloominbah in colourful lights for a Ramadan. With their on-air broadcast, TuneFM’s announcers work to bridge the gap between online students and their university, giving students studying remotely a connection to what’s going on at the university that studying online can sometimes lack.

For those that aren’t acquainted with the history of Australia’s oldest university broadcaster, TuneFM started life as the UNE Radio Committee and consisted of a 30 minute show each week on Armidale's local commercial station. Wanting to take this project further, the Committee enlisted the help of Professor Neville Fletcher of the UNE Physics Department, who wrote a letter to the Postmaster-General, leading to the granting of a broadcast licence on the 14 of January 1969.

On the 27 April, 1970 Radio UNE was officially opened by a tape recording from the former Vice-Chancellor Professor Zelman Cowan, who introduced Australia to the first Australian university broadcaster. With a yearly budget of just $3,000, dedicated volunteers built the first radio studio themselves including building a studio desk, installing electrical wiring, and a dedicated staff member even added a home studio to help with production work.

Not being satisfied with being the first university broadcaster in Australia, in August 1970, they went for an Australian record by hosting a non-stop broadcasting marathon, with 19-year-old student Nigel Wood who broadcasted continuously for 87 hours, going on air every 15 mins.  This record was eventually broken, but in 1991 Ian Ferguson took it back by completing 192 hours of non-stop announcing.

As the station grew and times changed so did the station.  In 1986, the station switched over to the FM bandwidth and changed its name to 2UNE with the latest name change occurring in 2006, when the name was changed to TuneFM.

TuneFM has been home to many student volunteers that have come and gone, however, the original concept of using a student-powered radio to get students involved in their university life still proves true today. Today, TuneFM works to equip students with hands-on work experience in communication and has assisted countless students to gain employment in industries ranging from Agriculture to Zoology.

The format may have changed from tape reels to computer servers, but TuneFM is still at its heart “Student Powered Radio”.

Kimberley Ralph

TuneFM will be celebrating the anniversary of the first broadcast in April 2020.  They’d love to hear from any past volunteers and see any photos or memorabilia you have from that time.  Please contact them at manager@tunefm.net or join the alumni Facebook group at http://bit.ly/2UNEalumni