Triple J is a nationally-networked, government-funded Australian radio station (a division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), mainly aimed at youth (defined as those between 12 and 25). Music played on the station is generally more alternative than commercial stations with a heavy emphasis on Australian music and new music. In metropolitan rating surveys Triple J usually has less than one third the market share of its major commercial rivals, but its influence on Australian popular music belies the modest ratings, having provided a launchpad for numerous Australian recording artists and announcers.
2JJ was initially intended as the first link in a new national "youth network". However, this expansion was long delayed by the electoral defeat of the Gough Whitlam Labor government at the end of 1975 and by budget cuts imposed by the incoming Liberal government led by Malcolm Fraser.
2JJ commenced broadcasting on 19 January 1975, at 1539 kHz - (call sign 1540kHz in 1978) on the AM band. The station was largely restricted to the greater Sydney region, and its local reception was hampered by inadequate transmitter facilities. It was later relayed to other stations in the ABC network after midnight, when their regular programming ceased.
2JJ was often embroiled in controversy, which began with the choice of the first song played on air on the first broadcast day — "You Just Like Me Cos I'm Good In Bed" by Skyhooks, one of six tracks from their debut LP Living in the Seventies that had been banned by Australian commercial radio stations. The establishment of Double Jay marked a historic change in Australian radio — it was Australia's first non-commercial 24-hour rock music station, one of the first rock stations in the world to hire female disc jockeys and, excluding the first experimental FM licences, was granted the first new radio licence issued in any Australian capital city since 1932.
By the time Double Jay went to air the Whitlam government was in its final months in office, and less than a year later the ALP was ousted by the Australian electorate, replaced by the Liberal Party, led by Malcolm Fraser. Double Jay and some of its announcers were accused of being significantly more left-wing than the usually conservative major political parties and in its early days the station and staff were often criticised by the right for alleged political bias.
The Double Jay programming policies were in many ways a radical departure from the narrow formats and restrictive playlists then in place in commercial rock stations. Double Jay's programming was influenced by British pirate radio, early BBC Radio 1 rock programs such as John Peel's The Perfumed Garden and the American Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format.
Presenters originally were given a wide latitude in choosing the music they played, and few restrictions were placed on music, lyrics or topics discussed on programs. In the early days of Double Jay, the station was run co-operatively and all staff (including office staff) were given a say in programming decisions.
It featured unprecedented levels of Australian content, favoured long album cuts, played many tracks banned by other stations, championed many styles of local and overseas music that were being excluded from commercial pop playlists (including reggae, punk rock, electronic and New Wave), and (following the trend set by the BBC) mixed its recorded music programming with an innovative blend of regular weekly live-to-air studio concert broadcasts.
Double Jay broadcast many original comedy sketches and comedy serials, and in the early years of the station it regularly ran "anti-ads" which parodied its commercial competitors. It also featured audio documentaries like the controversial "The Ins and Outs of Love" (which included graphic interviews with young people about their first experiences of sex) and groundbreaking radiophonic works like "What's Rangoon To You Is Grafton To Me" and "Hot Bananas", created by presenter Russell Guy and featuring former ABC-TV newsreader James Dibble, and works by cult writer-musician Pip Proud.
One infamous event in the late 1970s was an on-air launch party hosted by George Wayne to celebrate the release of the new AC/DC album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, which got so out of hand that police were eventually called to the studio.
The station also regularly sponsored live concerts and organised a number of major outdoor concert events in the late 1970s, culminating in a huge outdoor all-day event in Parramatta Park in 1980, to celebrate the end of Double Jay and the start of Triple J and headlined by Midnight Oil.
On 1 August 1980 2JJ moved to an FM frequency of 105.7 MHz (again restricted within the greater Sydney region) and became 2JJJ (later, Triple J). Through the mid-to-late Eighties, Triple J continued to pioneer new music and developed a wide range of special-interest programs including the Japanese pop show Nippi Rock Shop, Arnold Frolows' weekly late-night ambient music show Ambience and Jaslyn Hall's world music show -- the first of its kind in Australian mainstream radio.
It was not until the late 1980s that the ABC was finally able to begin development of the long-delayed national "youth network" and in 1989 JJJ expanded nationally to Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Newcastle and Perth.
In 1983 four Triple Jay presenters - Pete Doyle, Virginia Moncrieff, Tony Barrell and Clive Walker - began producing a fanzine with the inscrutable title of Alan (see: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/30years/stories/alan.htm). Designed in a manic collage style by David Art Wales, Alan featured programming information, pop trivia and irreverent interviews with recording artists (see: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/30years/stories/interview.htm). Wales also supplied a comic strip featuring a boy sage named Guru Adrian. In a twist that added to the character's appeal, the Guru's face was that of a real child whose identity was never revealed, leading many to believe that he was in fact a real guru. Guru Adrian's philosophy, Adrianetics (see: http://www.guruadrian.com), consisted of quixotic maxims, including "Having fun is half the fun," "Gee, you are you" and "Realize your real eyes," which rapidly gained the character a cult following in Australia, with Wales making many radio and television appearances during the mid-1980s to discuss the Guru Adrian phenomenon.
In 1984, Wales teamed with renowned Australian journalist Bruce Elder on the book "Radio With Pictures: The History of Double Jay and Triple Jay." (Hale & Iremonger, publishers. National Library of Australia card no. ISBN 0 86806 191 3)
The station's callout also changed from "Jay Jay Jay" to "Triple J" at this time.
Concern was expressed about the introduction of a more highly programmed music format, and the appointment of Chapman, a former commercial program director, was seen as an indication of a more commercial direction. Management responded that to launch a national network meant that the station must broaden its then almost-exclusive focus on the Sydney music scene, requiring the addition of newer talent. When the dust had settled on the dispute, the radio programming was not nearly as free-form as it had been before going national, but neither was it as highly-programmed as its critics feared. In the pre-national era, there almost was no playlist, but the introduction of a playlist still allowed a significant input (at least initially) from the individual announcer, beyond that usually permitted on a commercial station.
The laissez-faire approach that had existed in the Double Jay days was gradually replaced by a more business-like top-down management style and after the controversial appointment of Chapman, as described above, many of the 'old guard' were dismissed from the station and replaced by presenters who were more amenable to the increasingly structured format.
The appointment of Chapman was a watershed for the station's programming, and although opinion remains sharply divided about the changes he implemented, it is undeniable that he was very successful in raising the station's profile and ratings. Chapman had previously been the program director and station manager of Sydney AM pop station 2SM, which had been Australia's top-rating and most profitable commercial radio station for most of the 1970s. As noted above, not long after his appointment, Chapman controversially replaced many of the established on-air staff (such as Tim Ritchie) with younger and less experienced presenters such as Michael Tunn, who at the time of his appointment was the youngest on-air presenter in the history of Australian radio. Chapman also reduced the amount of comedy, documentaries and news (compared to the late Seventies) and imposed a much more structured music playlist with a stronger focus on contemporary music, although (as he did at 2SM) he maintained and strengthened the station's commitment to live music.
Chapman oversaw a radical overhaul of Triple J's programming, implementing a version of the music-and-talk format that had been so successful for him at 2SM. This basic format — including an early morning comedy breakfast program with duo presenters; a late morning talk and talkback program and a light talk-and-comedy afternoon drive-time shift — remains substantially in place.
In the late 1980s Triple J was accused of ignoring the emerging hip hop scene and related genres, in favour of the more marketable rock-oriented grunge style that dominated American music at the same time.
Throughout the 1990s, Triple J commenced expansion to more regional areas of Australia. In 1994 it was extended to another 18 regional centres throughout the country. In 1996, the total was brought to 44, with the new additions including Launceston, Tasmania; Albany, Western Australia; Bathurst, New South Wales and Mackay, Queensland. As of 2006, Triple J's most recent expansion was to Broome, Western Australia.
During the late 1980s and 1990s Triple J came under increasing criticism for its program direction and it has been accused of ignoring many important new developments in music in favour of a more structured rock-oriented playlist that, in the view of some critics, has become a sort of "Indie Top 40". Long serving program director Arnold Frolows was also regularly criticised, and there was certainly some irony in the fact that the self-proclaimed "youth network", which was aimed at the 16-25 age group, was by the late 1990s still being programmed by a man in his late 40s.
In July 2006, Triple J launched jtv, a series of television programs broadcast on ABC and ABC2, as well as being made available online. Programming includes music videos, live concerts, documentaries and comedy, as well as a behind the scenes look at Triple J's studios.
Triple J's coverage also expanded in 2006, when transmission began in Broome, Western Australia. As Broome was one of the largest towns in Australia to not receive Triple J, the station celebrated with a concert featuring many local bands, also simulcast on the Live at the Wireless program.
In common with other Australian radio stations, Triple J has also gradually increased the amount of talkback content in its programming. There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, talkback provides an inexpensive and popular source of program content, and also provides the appearance of listener interactivity and involvement. And, like many other former 'all music' stations, Triple J has had to respond to the advent of music file-sharing, digital music players and other digital music innovations, which have drastically reduced listeners' dependence on radio as a means of accessing new music and/or their favourite music.
Although the station still promotes itself as being "free and easy" and it remains far more open to new music than any of the commercial stations, there is in fact a high degree of programming structure at Triple J, and while presenters retain a degree of autonomy, most of the music played on air is part of a carefully structured playlist, posted in the studio, to which presenters are obliged to conform .
Over the years the station gained considerable renown for breaking new local acts -- Midnight Oil are probably the prime example of this, and the group would almost certainly not have had anything like the success they enjoyed without the help of Double Jay/Triple J. The station also broke countless overseas acts who were being ignored in their home countries. Double Jay was virtually the only 'pop' station in Australia in the late Seventies to play reggae, dub, punk rock, New Wave, world music, electronic music and ambient music.
Over the years the station moved away from its early style, which featured a high level of news, features, documentaries, current affairs and comedy, and was gradually steered towards a non-commercial version of the continuous music format that prevailed in commercial radio. Many original Double Jay segments -- the nightly "What's On" gig guide, its extensive news and current affairs coverage (which was often criticised for its alleged left wing bias), and its 'community noticeboard' segment -- were gradually eliminated, as were almost all the character comedy spots that had been popular features in previous years.
Triple J routinely championed many local and overseas acts — e.g. Midnight Oil, The Models, Paul Kelly, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Pixies, Ben Folds Five and hundreds more. As with the ABC's long-running pop TV show Countdown, the support of Triple J in Australia also had a strong effect on the success of emerging overseas acts.
A classic case in point is American group The B-52's and it is believed that Double Jay was the first radio station in the world to play their debut single "Rock Lobster". The support of the Jays had a significant effect on the worldwide success of many acts including Blondie, Devo and more recently Ben Folds Five, Garbage and especially Ben Harper, whose popularity in Australia — which was almost entirely the result of support from Triple J — was instrumental in breaking him back in his home country, the United States.
It is also notable that Triple J was for many years routinely used as a free market research facility by commercial stations. As mainstream pop radio struggled to establish itself on the FM band, commercial stations like those owned by Austereo constantly monitored what songs and acts were doing especially well on Triple J and would then introduce the most 'saleable' of them into their own playlists. The huge commercial success of acts like The Police and Nirvana in Australia unquestionably stemmed directly from the support of Triple J.
In 1989, Triple J had been playing N.W.A.'s protest song "Fuck tha Police" for up to six months, before gaining the attention of ABC management who subsequently banned it. As perhaps the only government-funded radio station in the world to play the song, as a reaction the staff went on strike and put the group's song "Express Yourself" on continuous play for 24 hours, playing it roughly 360 times in a row.
Mornings with Zan is the 9 a.m. to midday music show, hosted by Zan Rowe. This timeslot was formerly held by chat and current affairs program The Morning Show until 2003, and Mel in the Morning hosted by Mel Bampton from 2004 until January 2007.
Lunch with Vijay is Triple J's midday to 3 p.m. show and is hosted by Vijay Khurana.
Midnight to Dawn, also known as Mid-dawn or The Graveyard Shift is the name of the 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. timeslot. It is often hosted by new or unknown DJs. Previous mid-dawn hosts who then went on to regular shifts include Adam Spencer, Scott Dooley, Dave Callan and Zan Rowe. Current mid-dawn presenters include, The Cloud Girls, Brendan Maclean, Tom Ballard, Alex Dyson and MC Brothablack.
Today, the J-Files is a one hour Saturday afternoon show, hosted by various Triple J presenters. Generally it is pre-recorded, and only artists are featured.
Current news staff:
Past news journalists (some of whom are still with Triple J):
The Breakfast Show is one of the station's flagship shows. In the late 80's it was hosted by Rusty Nails, and later by resident "dag", Maynard F# Crabbes (Maynard Crabbes). In the early 1990s it was co-hosted by Helen Razer and Mikey Robbins, and later by Mikey Robbins, Paul McDermott and The Sandman (Steve Abbott). From 1999 until 2004, it was co-hosted by Adam Spencer & Wil Anderson. The pair were known for their unusual sense of humour, highlighted by regular segments including Mary from Junee, Essence of Steve and Are you smarter than Dools?.
Spencer and Anderson broadcast their final program for the station on Friday 26 November 2004 from Sydney University's Manning Bar, a site that held sentimental value to Spencer, as that was where he got his start in stand-up comedy. In 2005, Jay and Lindsay (aka 'The Doctor') from Frenzal Rhomb took over as hosts of Triple J's breakfast show. New segments include the radio skits Space Goat and Battalion 666, as well as the Under the Weather Sessions and The Friday F--- Wit. From January 8 2007, former Lunch presenter Myf Warhurst joined Jay and Lindsay as a permanent member of the Breakfast Show team.
Restoring the Balance was broadcast sporadically on Sunday afternoons during 2004. The primary concept behind the show is a satire of the contrasting political views between the conservative Australian Howard government, and the left-wing government-funded Triple J radio station. The show suggests that the station was forced to broadcast a segment of right-wing political views in order to restore the balance.
Ross and Terri have broadcast weekdays at lunch times, for two 2-week periods, over summer 2005 and 2006. It was hosted by Ross Noble and Terri Psiakis. It was initially a filler show, but the popularity of the pair was enough to bring them back in 2006.
The Triple J Hottest 100 is an annual poll of the most popular songs amongst its listeners. It has been conducted for almost a decade in its present form, and in 2005 it attracted 606,060 votes - the largest music poll in the world. It has also spawned a series of successful compilation CDs, and more recently, music DVDs.
The countdown of the top 100 songs on Australia Day weekend, usually accompanied by a barbecue plus obligatory beverage, has become an annual summer ritual for Triple J fans around Australia and around the world.
Unearthed, an ongoing project to find hidden talent, began in 1995. It originally focused on regional areas but now covers all areas of Australia. Many of these discoveries have been very successful -- some have even been successful enough to receive commercial radio airplay, such as Grinspoon, Killing Heidi and Missy Higgins.
The Unearthed competition was inspired by the success of a talent search on SBS-TV program "Nomad" called "Pick Me". This segment, co-produced by Triple J, discovered a trio from Newcastle called the "Innocent Criminals", who later gained international fame under the name Silverchair.
The most recent incarnation of Unearthed is run online, and allows listeners to rate and review songs uploaded by bands and musicians.
In late 2004, the station's promotion for that year's Beat The Drum contest caused a brief but bitter controversy after it released a series of promotional images featuring the 'Drum' logo. Many were outraged by the inclusion of a mocked-up image of the former World Trade Center draped with a huge Drum flag.
The Impossible Music Festival, broadcast in August 2005 was a celebration of 30 years of live music recordings made by JJ and Triple J. Voted for by listeners from over 1000 recorded gigs/concerts, the broadcast went from 6pm Friday the 26th to 1am Monday the 29th. The 2006 Impossible Music Festival was aired on the weekend of 7-8 October. The 2007 Impossible Music Festival broadcast from Friday May 25 to Sunday May 27. The 2008 Impossible Music Festival will be broadcast from Friday September 19 until Sunday September 21.
The One Night Stand, held annually since 2004, offers a small town the opportunity to host a free, all ages concert, sponsored by Triple J, featuring three or four Australian musical acts. Entries must include examples of local support, including community (signatures), local government (council approval) and a venue for the concert.
The Jay Award is an annual award for best Australian album, judged by a panel of Triple J presenters. The inaugural year was 2005, with the winner being Wolfmother's debut self-titled LP. In 2006, the Hilltop Hoods were awarded the prestigious J Award. In 2007 The Panics were awarded the J Award.