Jordan Abela – Team Coordinator of UCFM, tells us about Belconnens own radio station broadcast from the University of Canberra.
UCFM is a volunteer & student-run, community broadcasting, completely independent radio station. It broadcasts on the FM band at 87.8
We have very little to no revenue, and our service costs are (mostly) funded by the UC union. But, we’ve been quietly running as a freewave advertisement-free station for a niche, local audience for the past 20 years.
UCFM is listed as a club and business independent from the union, run only by the students of the University of Canberra, but with some financial support from the union.
Our listenership is open, and we never ask for any membership or donations (but donations are always appreciated).
Around 1992, professors handed UCFM over to the student body. The university union couldn’t manage it due to the niche field, so they relinquished it to our now overseers, Mitch and Joffy.
Since then we’ve been moved into a smaller studio (pictured was once a janitor’s storage), and all is well. I should point out – we don’t run off the Telstra Tower like most radio stations as it costs several thousand dollars a year to maintain the broadcast (and that’s not even the licensing costs!) We have a custom-made antenna built on the top of the UC Library, which is rare for a radio station.
As the name implies, our main listenership is UC. But, that doesn’t mean we only cater to them. We pride ourselves on being a casual, advertisement free student-run frequency that anyone can listen to. The majority of our tracks are popular music, but we’ve always kept it interesting.
On weekends, you’ll hear a lot more indie/alternative music, particularly in the afternoons.
On Friday nights, we have our 90s, naughties and now segment, where we give a huge spotlight to artists of the past decades.
We have two overseers for our best show In The Hub on Thursday night (currently on hiatus for the student break). Then myself – who manages the ground level and trains volunteers. Two people on Wednesday night for The Hump. We have a regular indie/new music show submitted in called Passport Approved, and that’s it. The rest is automatic. We’re thinking of organising a show for Thursday or Friday lunch/afternoon called The Lounge (with myself and a new recruit), so maybe we can get that on air too!
For our Thursday show In The Hub, we do a minor promotion with the bar next door to us. They give us a bar tab for the night, and we critique the beer on air. And then we’ve got a live DJ on at the same time. The small studio gets packed! We made a lot of great memories in there. One time Joffy suggested (on-air) that the beer in question would go well with ‘a meaty… meat… McMeat pizza!’ And then a new special appeared on the pizza board at that bar the next day: Meaty Meat McMeat Pizza. Great fun.
To be honest, the last five years have been quiet. I won’t beat around the bush – radio is a dying industry, and although there’s still demand for it, it’s slipping. Community radio, especially student-run radio is no exception.
However, we’re kicking along just fine. I’d like to think we’re going through a stage of resurrection at this point. Taking in student volunteers, performing training, working with the UC Press Club and the Audio Journalism students. Baby steps for now, but if we could get back to the glory days of 10, 15 years ago, it’d be fantastic.
The largest challenge is the resurrection ahead. How do you bring a slow station through a dying industry? Aren’t we fine just being quiet, but serving to a small listenership? We’re breaking even, we’re kicking along fine, but nothing is happening. We need to bring UCFM back into the spotlight of the community. Broadcasting live concerts, announcing for the university, supporting even more local bands. Getting involved.
But for now, the small community that we have, we love it dearly. And as long as we have their support, UCFM will do just fine.
Jordan Abela – Team Coordinator
87.8 FM Canberra’s Alternative
You can listen to UCFM on 87.8 on your FM band.
Their website is at: www.UCFM.com.au
Their Facebook page is at: www.facebook.com/UCFMradio