Radio kinda sucked for teenagers in 1992
Before Hitz FM, Australia’s official “youth” radio network refused to play pop, dance or hiphop. Great for Nirvana fans, not so great for anyone else. Commercial FM stations were playing classic rock and soft ballads. Think Barnesy and Michael Bolton. The best teens could hope for is a bit of top 40, after 7pm.
But a bunch of young Melbournians had an idea. What about a radio station just for youth? One that actually played songs teens liked – all day?
Hitz FM created something new
With a tonne of borrowed gear Hitz FM Melbourne coughed into life in December 1992. Hitz first broadcasted from a school because the building was free and you could get there by public transport. They brought CDs from home, plus the family CD player to play them on. They had their own news team, and took tonnes of telephone requests. Then Hitz did it again in July 1993.
And then it REALLY blew up
When Hitz FM returned in December 1993, they boosted the signal to cover the whole of Melbourne, and people went nuts. A near-riot occured when a celebrity visited. Four phone lines constantly ringing. Massive media coverage of Hitz FM. And then ratings day – they’d stolen so many youngsters from the leading FM station – it crashed from 1st to 4th place. The Hitz crew collected over 35,000 signatures on petitions and hoped to stay onair, but the government wouldn’t budge. Hitz’s record-breaking 3rd broadcast ended on March 12th, 1994.
Hitz returned to the airwaves many times from 1994 onwards. Each time the station got a bit more profressional, a bit more popular. They trained hundreds of youngsters in media, production and promotions. Gave thousands of kids a chance to get experience. Hitz FM released CDs. Ran live events. They broadcasted from nightclubs. And each year the government regulator said they’d be “Handing out fulltime licenses in the next year or two.”
Finally – the government made a decision
In 2001, Hitz FM finally got their chance to present their case at a public hearing. They faced a panel who asked probing questions – many concerned financial issues that had plagued Sydney stations – not Hitz FM. Later that year the license was finally announced. After 9 long years, Hitz FM was unsuccessful.
The government body chose another group – a youth station formed via merger just 18 months prior.
The Hitz FM legacy
89.9 Hitz FM has a very special place in the hearts of thousands of Melbournians. They listened. And called for requests. They went to gigs, wore the T-shirts and bought the CDs. And Hitz occupies a unique place in Australian radio history. At the very least – a historic achievement in terms of radio ratings with many Hitz alumni going on to very successful careers. But many would argue Hitz influenced radio programming across Australia showing that pop, dance and hip hop could be played all day to a big audience.
And if your local FM station isn’t playing Barnesy or Michael Bolton all day – you know who to thank.
“What a story. You should write a book!”
Actually… that’s exactly what I’m doing.