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4ZZZ celebrates 40th birthday

The Beastman mural on Brisbane Radio 4ZZZ in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Photo: FlickrForty years ago today, Brisbane youth radio station 4ZZZ broadcast for the first time.
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Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier. Queensland was a very different place.

To celebrate this milestone for the station, here are 10 interesting facts about 4ZZZ from the past 40 years. 1. Pirate radio

Gough Whitlam speaks on the steps of Parliament House after his government’s dismissal on November 11, 1975. Photo: Supplied

The original idea for 4ZZZ was to set up a pirate radio station based on the Radio Draft Resistance stations in Sydney and Melbourne.

The first meeting about the station was held on the day then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen declared a state of emergency in Queensland.

The state of emergency was declared to stop anti-apartheid protesters interfering with the 1971 South African Springbok national rugby union tour.

Though after hearing about the Whitlam government’s support for public broadcasting, founders Jim Beatson, Marian Wilkinson, John Stanwell and Alan Knight decided to set up a legitimate radio station.

It was not until December 1975, after the fall of the Whitlam government and weeks of uncertainty, that they received their broadcasting licence and broadcast for the first time. 2. Agenda setting from the start#onthisday in 1975 – Radio @4ZZZ’s first broadcast. Check out our collection – https://t杭州龙凤论坛/mNd3l6pT88pic.twitter杭州龙凤论坛m/WetfjoZ6iT— State Library of Qld (@slqld) December 7, 2015

4ZZZ set their agenda, which has lasted for 40 years, moments after they first went to air.

“To attempt to impose limitations or restrictions on public broadcasting is to seriously threaten a fundamental liberty, that of free speech,” announcer John Woods said just after noon on December 8, 1975.

“While it is easy to lapse into rhetoric in defence of free speech, we’ve been forced to make a stand and we intend to do so from the start.

“We see that freedom in danger of becoming hypothetical.

“We consider that it is time for the Coalition parties to accept the Labor government’s achievements as a fact of life and for them to formulate a coherent policy with regard to broadcasting.

“And while we’re waiting, with the time at 3 and a quarter minutes past 12, let’s get down to some serious business from Who’s Next. This is the Who Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

The station goes by the motto ‘Agitate, Educate, Organise’. 3. Phoning a premier

Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Photo: George Lipman

According to reports, it was not uncommon for 4ZZZ presenters to directly phone Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen at his farm in Kingaroy to question decisions he made.

The Premier was reportedly unhappy about these calls. 4. Another premier connection

Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks about the future of the radio station. Photo: 4ZZZ

Current Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who was Queensland Young Labor President at the time, actively campaigned in 1989 to keep 4ZZZ based at the University of Queensland.

This is despite an ALP-aligned student council in 1988 trying to take funds away from the station.

Ms Palaszczuk was unsuccessful; the station was moved off campus by then Young Nationals-led student union.

Protests ensued, with up to 300 people occupying the studios so 4ZZZ could continue broadcasting.

They were escorted off campus by police.

4ZZZ has since been based in Fortitude Valley. 5. A focus on local music

The Go-Betweens. Photo: Kerrie O’Brien

While 4ZZZ is a youth station, you will not be hearing Taylor Swift’s latest hit on rotation.

One of 4ZZZ’s main focuses is to promote local music.

Brisbane acts such as the Go-Betweens, the Saints, the Belligerents and Jeremy Neale can in some way attribute their success to 4ZZZ.

The station regularly supports concerts and festivals in Brisbane. 6. The Original Hottest 100

Triple J presenters Zan Rowe and Lindsay McDougall ahead of JJJ Hottest 100 countdown two years ago. Photo: James Brickwood

Do you love listening to Triple J’s Hottest 100 every year on Day? Well you have 4ZZZ to thank for that.

4ZZZ began its annual “Hot 100” countdown, based on listeners’ votes, on New Year’s Day 1977.

The countdown was initially filled with popular music from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but soon more alternative music became prominent.

Triple J producer Lawrie Zion was influenced by the idea and brought it to Triple J in 1989. 7. Breaking news

The main entrance to Boggo Road jail. Photo: Robert Rough

The station has a history of breaking important news stories that has lead to change in Queensland.

One of the most prominent stories it broke was about the 1983 riots at the Boggo Road Gaol.

Q&A Series Producer and former 4ZZZ journalist Amanda Collinge said the radio station was forewarned about the riots.

“We knew a long way before the rest of the media, so we had people down there, and we were able to get tapes smuggled out that we could broadcast,” Ms Collinge told the ABC.

“Prisoners would speak to us at ZZZ from the windows, so of course the rest of the media wanted our stuff.

“So that’s how it made its way from us as ZZZ journalists to the rest of the Brisbane radio and television, and then to the mainstream commercial.”

The riots continued sporadically for a number of years before a government inquiry in the late 1980’s closed down the gaol. 8. Giving a voice to the marginalised

Matilda the Kangaroo was mascot at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. Photo: Vic Sumner

4ZZZ has been at the forefront of the campaign for LGBTIQ+ rights.

It began airing shows for the LGBTIQ+ community in 1978, at a time where being homosexual in Queensland was still illegal and police were regularly arresting gay men.

Indigenous rights have also played a strong role in the station’s history.

During the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the station heavily campaigned for Indigenous land rights and better treatment of aboriginal people.

This campaigning for social justice still goes on at the station today. 9. Radio hosts and senatorsFrom 1985 – me at a @4ZZZ station meeting; all the excitement was starting to get to me #40yearsof4zzzpic.twitter杭州龙凤论坛m/RNhkBtWsKj— Andrew Bartlett (@AndrewBartlett) December 8, 2015

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