Jewish Radio is a major new development in the Diaspora.
In Australia there were plans for an AM radio in Sydney
in the period 1949-51 -- but these failed. Actual full-time Jewish Radio stations
in the Diaspora have only come into existence in the past ten years.
What - apart from the emergence of more radio affordable technology -
has stirred this development of essentially full-time Jewish broadcasting stations?
What special challenges do these and future stations in the Diaspora face ?
How is it that Jewish Radio Now came about --
and will it survive ?
The Australian Jewish Community
Australia was established as an outpost of the west when the First Fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. Of the original population, there were 200 convicts, of whom at least 14 and possibly 17 were Jews. Thus even after counting in the military garrison Sydney commenced with a European population that was more than 5% Jewish. However during the colonial era the Jewish percentage of the Australian colonies rapidly fell to around 0.5%. A generally agreed figure for the Australian jewish population today is circa 115,000 with over 45,000 in Melbourne, and a similar number in Sydney. Today's Australian community is very diverse, it includes the largest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel, sizeable numbers from of post-War migrats from eastern Europe and Russia, Mizrahi Jews, and Israelis.
Australian Jewish Newspapers
As early as 1842, when the Jewish population was only 1000 the first Sydney edition of the London Jewish newspaper, The Voice of Jacob was published in Sydney -- but only a few issues were printed. There were other efforts to start Jewish newspapers during the nineteenth century, the first permanent wekly publication was the Jewish Herald, published weekly in Melbourne from 1890 to 1935. The first permanent Sydney based Jewish (weekly) newspaper was the Hebrew Standard of Australasia which was launched in 1895. The Standard after a merger became the Australian Jewish Times, but in 1987 was merged with the Melbourne based Australian Jewish News, or AJN, which is now the sole Australian Jewish newspaper. As ever the formula for the AJN has been a mix of world Jewish news, news of local organizations and items of special interest to Australian Jews, news of prominent Jewish personalities, obituaries and special announcements, photos from communal events, with several pages devoted to notices of Births, Deaths, Engagements, and marriage. For some years the news content of this paper has been published online at www.ajn.com.au.
From 1931 until 1995 the AJN included a Yiddish section, called the Yiddisheh Nayess,
initially edited by the notable Yiddish writer Pinchas Goldhar.
There has never been a (modern) Hebrew Section, despite the sizeable number of Israelis in the community, nor a Russian language paper for the Jewish community.
Over the years the Jewish newspapers have been the focus of furious debate about certain key issues. Those involving the Australian Jewish News and its forebears are well documented in Suzanne Rutland's 1995 book, Pages of History: A century of the Australian Jewish News. Inherently not included in Rutland's book is the story of the most striking incident in Australian Jewish newspaper history: when in 1968 the Melbourne based Australian Jewish Herald published an anti-Zionist column by Mark Braham. Subscribers cancelled subscriptions immediately, advertisers vanished, and the paper folded.
Not Now: The Sydney Jewish Radio Station That Never Was
In the period 1947 onwards -- some ultra-British nationalists in Australia (including some Jews) saw the emerging Jewish state -- which was so vigorously opposed by the British PM of the day -- as anti-British. In fact the popular weekly paper Smith's Weekly in 1947 falsely accused Australian Jewry of sending funds collected for the Jewish rescue organization, Youth Aliyah, to aid the campaign against the British in Palestine. An attempt by community leader Dr Fanny Reading to sue Smith's Weekly for libel failed, as group libel was outside the gamut of defamation. Even the stories in leading newspapers stories of the last days of the Mandate invariably reproduced without question the British official perspective. Thus many community members felt most uncomfortable, and agitation arose for establishing an AM radio Station in Sydney, broadcasting from a Jewish perspective. Leading Rabbi Dr Israel Porush, of the Great Synagogue, who was born in Jerusalem was involved with the organising committee. However,in the years immediately following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and with increasing knowledge of the holocaust, the attitude of leading newspapers became more sympathetic towards the Jewish homeland and to local Jewish support. In this situation -- of less compelling need in the very small community of that era -- the project ultimately founded (in 1951).
Jewish Radio Segments inside Community and Ethnic Radio|
The Whitlam Government (1972-1975) was the first federal government to appoint a Minister for Immigration, and when that Minister (Al Grassby) lost office, appointed him as the first Commissioner for Community Relations, this move coincided with governement funding of community radio stations and of SBS Television.
Once these opportunities existed, the need of the Jewish community for community-specific radio was met by up to two hours weekly on 3EA (Melbourne) and in recent years by up to three hours weekly on 3ZZZ (Ethnic Public Radio - Melbourne).These programs have included as much as half an hour weekly in Ivrit (Hebrew) and Yiddish. A similar story of token catering to community needs applies in Sydney. There has been no such broadcasting in other state capitals, or Canberra. There has been no broadcasting in Russian aimed at the Russian-Jewish community.
Within mainstream broadcasting, there has been quite regular presentations of klezmer music on ABC, both by overseas and Melbourne groups. The Punk Rock Jewish group Yidcore, a Melbourne based group that has toured Israel and the US, has broadcast on rather few occasions.
Jewish Broadcasting takes off
To the left is an image of broadcaster Dulcie Kanoptosky with programme co-ordinator and broadcaster Uri Palti in 3EA (Melbourne) studios. Dulcie Kanatopsky reported in the Australia and New Zealand Jewish Year Book for 1985 that Jewish Broadcasting takes off". In this article Kanatopsy detailed with enthusiasm the four hours per week of Jewish radio then available. She also expressed the hope, based on the Jewish programs success and the community size that when rescheduling occured, more time would be allocated to the Jewish Community, "especially for English language broadcasts". She also reported that "the news policy of SBS requires that all news broadcast by SBS radio stations shall be accurate, impartial and responsible." In fact more air-time was never allocated, and news reportage on SBS radio and television re the Middle East has been notable for its heavy anti-Israel slant.(See the next section).
Political Interference in Jewish Broadcasting|
In the early 80's, an outstanding broadcaster of local and world Jewish news was Rabbi John Levy. Rabbi Levi broadcast his half-hour segment in English, initially on 3ZZZ and subsequently on 3EA at the popular time of 10am every Sunday.
In this era -- long before the internet -- access to international news was very difficult. Rabbi Levy gathered the latest news from Israel by listening to Kol Israel on Short Wave in the early hours of Sunday. In the second part of his half-hour he would play Kol Israe tapes sent by air (!) with date information like "yesterday" removed.
Because of his popularity within the community station management decided to terminate his role. Although he broadcast in English, he was required to take a test in oral Ivrit - and although roughly able he failed this test. The gross dishonesty of station management is at once apparent when one notes that speakers in the 3EA Irish program were not tested in Gaelic, and speakers on aboriginal programs were never tested for fluency in any aboriginal languages.
More recently there was the case of the popular Yehuda Kaplan in charge of Hebrew (Ivrit) broadcasting on SBS. During the recent Lebanon war he was declared biased towards Israel because of his accurate reportage, and dismissed from SBS.
|| Lion FM is born |
In early 2009 Melbourne Jewish Radio Inc was establised to set about the task of developing a Melbourne Jewish Radio Station. Following multiple applications, on January 6, 2010, the Australian Communications and Media Authority allocated radio spectrum sought. What had been granted to Melbourne Jewish Radio was a 12 month Temporary Community Broadcasting Licence on 96.1 MHz, to commence in the first half of 2010. Permission was granted to broadcast from a central CBD location, with the proviso that radiation output had to be limited in the direction of Geelong, where Geelong Community Radio broadcasts at 96.3 FM.
Starting at the beginning of 2010 there were a series of meetings at private homes gathering in volunteers of all kinds to run the station. Here is a pix taken at one such meeting:
|Transmission tower includes Lion FM antenna viewed from skylight in the transmission room.||
Start-up Lion FM team plus the station logo March 2010.
Excellent transmission facilities were found with the shared use of the top level transmission room and broadcasting tower on a 54 storey building in the Melbourne CBD. The actual transmitter rack was designed, configured, and assembled by a volunteer.
|2010-2011|| Lion FM develops |
Lion FM commenced broadcasting on FM at 96.1 Mhz on July 11, 2010, after 4 weeks of test transmission. Internet broadcasting from a tab in the station's website www.lionfm.org commenced on September 1, 2010.
Initial broadcasting was totally the replay of studio or home generated MP3 files, which were physicaly brought to the transmission room on memory sticks. However by December direct broadcasting from the Lion FM studio commenced. One highlight of the early period was Lion FM's first outdoor broadcast, in December 2010.
The Lion FM caravan studio at Chanuka in the Park, Caulfield Park, 2010.
Over the end of year break the initial studio was improved and a second studio was fully equipped.
Studio 1 circa March 2011.
A range of programs were developed by the volunteer workers. Notable were the following.
|2011|| Lion FM Ceases Radio Broadcasting |
As detailed above Lion FM was allocated a temporary license to broadcast at 96.1 Mhz in a special niche of the overcrowded radio spectrum in Melbourne. During the temporary license period complaints were received by ACMA about interference with reception to close frequency FM stations ( 3GDR 95.7 FM, 3GGR at 96.5 FM ) In response Lion FM was required to substantially reduce its broadcasting power. However broadcast reception in the suburbs of major Jewish concentration (known as Melbourne's Borsch, Bagel, and Veldt Belts) remained acceptable on better quality receivers with digital tuning.
Lion FM had been criticised during the first half of 2011 for not being sufficiently embracing of the entire community as is arguably a necessary requirement of community radio stations. It is interesting to note that similar criticism was levelled at the Sydney Muslim radio station, 2MFM during 2010-11. In that case senior Muslim community leaders wrote to ACMA complaining that 2MFM promoted fringe sectarian views. The ACMA took these criticisms on board to impose operating conditions on 2MFM to ensure it did reflect the ethnic diversity in its broadcast area and could no longer be categorized as fringe. This ACMA ruling was announced on May 19, 2011 . Of course with close on 1000 members in its Facebook Group, a significant range of presenters and volunteers it would not be easy to characterise Lion FM station as "fringe". So Lion FM insiders anticipated an extension of the temporary license possibly with special conditions. However, on June 10, ACMA announced that there would be no new spectrum for temporary Community Radio licenses in the Melbourne City area. , meaning that when the initial temporary license for Lion FM expired three days later it would be renewed.
Key phrase on the ACMA announcement was that The Australian Communications and Media Authority has decided not to make additional radiofrequency spectrum in the Melbourne City licence area available to temporary community broadcasting licensees.
Listeners and presenters were stunned at the announcement. The was much flaring on the Lion FM Facebook Page. But key figures proclaimed that all was not lost and that the station might yet be revived as a radio broadcasting station. Final night of broadcasting-- Monday June 13 -- the station closed at midnight with the playing of the Hatikvah, whose opening lines are in English Our Hope is not yet lost.
One week after the cessation of FM broadcasting, station manager Gil Barazny sent this email to "Volunteers, Members and Listeners" on the station's mailing list which included the following:
Ceasing the broadcasting caused a lot of unhappiness within the community. We knew that people loved the station, but only after stopping the broadcast we realised how much. We received countless phone calls, emails and Facebook posts from people who felt angry, sad and upset about what had happened. The reactions came from all sections of the community - Israelis, Australians, Orthodox, "Masorti" and secular. We even got responses from people who said that they are not Jewish but they love the station.
Lion FM Melbourne:
Go to Lion FM Now including Docs
|Lion FM is at a critical stage. Having broadcast on a temporary license for 12 months, the regulator (ACMA) did not extend the license or make it permanent. In fact it announced that henceforth the frequency on which Lion FM had been broadcasting would no longer be available. The regulator, however, accepted in part written complaints that MJR has breached license conditions, at the date of the complaint. This saga has an amazing counter to the situation in Sydney where the Islamic Radio Station 2MFM, in Sydney, following a complaint, was found to be and continued to be in far more serious breach of license conditions, but its license was renewed for five years, subject to vaguely worded enforceable conditions. Read more here.|