Australia’s first commercial FM station celebrates 40th b’day
Australia’s first commercial FM station began broadcasting on 92.3FM Melbourne on July 11 1980, first as EON-FM and later as Triple M on 105.1FM.
A consortium that included entrepreneur Bill Armstrong, band manager Glenn Wheatley and stockbroker Bill Conn successfully bid on one of two Melbourne FM licenses in 1979.
Armstrong headed the consortium, having seen the commercial opportunities of FM radio in the US and the UK and despite their application, had no blueprint from which to launch from.
They did, however, beat Fox FM to the airwaves by just two weeks.
Clyde Simpson was the station’s first general manager, Lee Simon the first program director and Billy Pinnell the Melbourne station’s first music programmer.
Simon is affectionately known as the ‘godfather’ of rock and gave 47 years of service to the Aussie radio industry, having started out as a high-rating jock first on 3XY.
At first, EON played songs that “would not be played elsewhere”, having no playlist and avoiding Top 40 songs. “We thought we were going to be the beginning of a new era,” Armstrong admits. “It took us a while to realise we were wrong.”
Simon went against the flow of the album rock formats favoured by Australia’s FM stations and radically changed EON-FM format by playing Top 40 hits and staging outdoor concerts.
EON finally topped Melbourne’s ratings in 1985 and sold to Hoyts one year later for $37.5 million. The deal was reportedly negotiated by Wheatley.
The station was rebranded 3MMM on November 27 in 1988 and moved to 105.1FM.
It launched the careers of programming greats including Ian Grace, Brad March, Jeff Allis, Grant Tothill and the network’s current head of content Mike Fitzpatrick. And so many more.
“We’re all honoured to be the custodians of this radio station, and the history of EON as Australia’s first commercial FM,” Fitzpatrick told Radio Today.
“It’s not lost on us how much we owe the founders, people like Lee, Gracie and Karl. Thanks to them, we’re able to continue to create great radio today.”
Over four decades the station’s many programmers are credited for breaking some of radio’s best lineups: The D Generation, The Cage and The Shebang among the alumni.