In late 1974, Gough Whitlam’s Australian Labor government allocated a new AM radio license to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) for a “youth-style” radio station that could reach future potential Labor voters in Sydney.
Alternative rock radio station, 2JJ AM 1540 – or “Double Jay” – began broadcasting on Sunday 19 January 1975 using an old ABC radio standby transmitter. Apart from a minor technical fault that put the station off-air briefly after transmission began at 11:00, the broadcast was heard in most parts of Sydney.
The first announcer was Holger Brockman (real name Bill Drake) and the first record played was You Just Like Me ‘Cos I’m Good In Bed by Skyhooks which had been banned by commercial radio stations, but as a government-funded ABC station, Double Jay was not bound by the Federation of Commercial Broadcasters’ Code,
Despite initial plans that the station would only operate during restricted hours because it shared a frequency with a New Zealand radio station, it actually broadcast 24 hours a day (there were no interference problems with the kiwi station).
Double Jay’s programming philosophy was to play the broad area of rock/pop/blues/jazz/folk music which was labelled ‘contemporary’, while at the same time remembering the roots of this music, and presenting news, comedy and features for the “young people” the ABC had asked the station to cater for.
The station’s willingness to air frank documentaries – for example, on teenage sexuality – quickly brought accusations of breaching community standards. Such charges were perhaps encouraged by the Catholic church-run Sydney rock station 2SM, which had already suffered a dip in its ratings as a result of 2JJ capturing 17% of the 18- to 24-year-old market.
As well as documentaries, Double Jay featured non-chart local and imported LP tracks, as well as underground comedy with shows such as Chuck Chunder and the Space Patrol, Captain Goodvibes, Nude Radio, and – later – This Sporting Life.
The station began simultaneously transmitting on the FM band in July 1980, and in January 1981, the AM transmissions stopped and ‘Double Jay’ ceased to exist. The new FM version of the station – broadcasting on a frequency of frequency at 105.7 – was christened 2JJJ (‘Triple J’).
In 1989, the Sydney station was transformed into the Triple J National Youth Network, and the rollout to other major Australian cities began with Triple J Melbourne in October.
It was the only radio station that year willing to play NWA‘s expletive-laden Fuck Tha Police – the song ended up being banned, and a staffer was fired.
There was a protest in which another NWA song – Express Yourself – was played on the station for 24 hours as part of some innovative “industrial action”.
The next year, ex–Triple M general manager Barry Chapman began to aggressively “commercialise” Triple J, purging seven on-air announcers.
An Australia-wide regional rollout began in January 1995, with Triple J reaching an average of 1.092 million listeners per week in over 90% of the country. The same period saw the station launch the “Hottest 100 Countdown”, and Triple J became one of the most important and influential platforms for new Australian music.