And something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones ?
— ‘ballard of a thin man’ by bob dylan
Editor’s Note: Thanks to the efforts of Peter Gray we now have the transcript and sound track of 4ZZZ’s initial broadcast on 8 December 1975.
You can hear John Woods read out the opening statement here:
To set the scene — the day prior to the first broadcast on 4ZZZ, Indonesia invaded East Timor beginning 25 years of brutal repression resulting in the deaths of one third of population. The Whitlam Labor government knew of the impending invasion but did nothing. Nor did the caretaker Fraser government.
The Whitlam Labor government was sacked by the governor general, sir john kerr, on 11 Novemeber 1975, less than a month before Zed’s opening.
In this constitutional coup, Malcolm Fraser was made caretaker PM. That year the US military was defeated in Vietnam. The US had conducted a secret and genocidal war in neighbouring Cambodia for the past three years. After years of invasion and bombing by French, American and Australian military – Saigon was taken by the National Liberation Front and re-named Ho Chi Minh city.
Meanwhile, in the sleepy town of Brisbane, the broadcast below hit the airwaves — to the few that had an FM receiver. Queensland was run by a conservative government that carried on racist policies against aboriginal people and attacked the democratic rights of workers, banned educational programs, criminalised womens rights and gays.
However none of these events were addressed in the initial broadcast! The push for alternative media like 4ZZZ had come out of the anti-war movement. Why such a speech so devoid of critical analysis of the political events of the day? Was it that the people at Zed were afraid the caretaker Fraser government would pull their licence if they played pro-Whitlam material?
Instead Zed left it to ‘The Who’ to say it for them with the opening track ‘We wont get fooled again’,
Two years later, after Bjelke-Petersen made his famous edict: “the day of the political street march is over” 4ZZZ did talk about the way people were arrested after a dance ‘Rock against Petersen.’ The dance held on 30 November 1979 had been organised to support the right to march. Zed did cover the police violence. However the underlying reasons for why street marches were banned was lost.
4ZZZ did cover the story in a way sympathetic to dancers who were beaten up by police task force and bundled into paddy wagons.
One of the dancers beaten and arrested had a favourite song, ‘Joe Hill‘ — but we did not hear Zed play that old working class anthem, not then at least. 1977 was the era of punk, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Graham Parker were more cool than Joe Hill — at least to those hanging out at the station under the refectory at University of Queensland, so many years ago.
Perhaps Zed could have been mindful of Dylan’s savage indictment of mainstream rock media in “Ballard of a Thin Man’?
Well, you walk into the room
Like a camel and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket
And your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law
Against you comin’ around
You should be made
To wear earphones.
Please note the emphases in the opening statement at Zed (see below) read out by John Woods are all mine. So too are my reflections upon that time. No matter how harsh they might seem, we all lost an opportunity to bring about change, myself included. Knowledge is not enough. We need to be able to work together and be closer to the people most affected by social injustice.
We pointed out the way to go
And scratched your name in sand
Though you just thought that it was nothing more
Than a place for you to stand
Now I want you to know that while you watched
You discover there was no one true
Must (most?) everybody really thought
It was a childish thing to do
Tears of rage, tears of grief
Why am I the one who must be the thief ?
Come to me now, you know
We’re so alone
And life is brief.
— bob dylan, Tears of Rage, Tears of Grief
22 February 2012
A transcript of 4ZZ-FM’s opening statement read by John Woods at the start of 4ZZ’s inaugural broadcast, which went to air at midday on 8th December 1975:
Hello friends in Sydney taking us through 2JJ as part of our first broadcast.
You are listening to 4ZZ-FM in Brisbane bringing you stereo FM rock on a frequency of 105.7 megahertz. 4ZZ-FM is Brisbane’s first new radio station in over thirty years, and first ever stereo FM station.
4ZZ-FM is not only Queensland’s first stereo FM station, it is also a public broadcasting station, non-commercial, and non-ABC, the product of the Labour Government’s initiatives in the field of the media.
These initiatives have created a host of new stations, 2MBS-FM, 3MBS-FM, 2EA, 3EA, and expanded the role of 5UV, as well as giving a further twelve licenses to a number of institutions, one of which is 4ZZ-FM. As a result the Australian public is receiving a more diverse variety of program sources. All of the stations mentioned have proved enormously successful within the groups to which they have directed themselves.
The previous Government also allowed for the ABC to expand with the opening of the rock station 2JJ in Sydney and the access station 3ZZ in Melbourne. Similarly 2JJ and 3ZZ have met with unprecedented success and response from their respective audiences.
The creation of these new stations has finally widened the range of media in Australia which has the second highest concentration of media ownership in the western world. From their entrenched positions the powers behind the established media have already fired the first salvos at us through their organization, The Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters.
It is essential that as many people as possible have access to the media, and as radio is the cheapest and easiest way for people in groups to be heard, then it stands to reason that any new outlets should be able to perform a social function that commercial broadcasters cannot, and do not, want to perform. Fairness in broadcasting is not achieved by all stations seeking the lowest common denominator in programming, but by diversity.
While some people may not enjoy some of the material we put to air we certainly don’t deny them the right to switch us off. To attempt to impose limitations or restrictions on public broadcasting is to seriously threaten a fundamental liberty, that of free speech. While it is easy to lapse into rhetoric in defense of free speech, we’ve been forced to make a stand and we intend to do so from the start. We see that freedom is in danger of becoming hypothetical.
We now have a situation where the Post Master General issued a press statement to the effect that rumours circulating around the country with the twelve licenses granted to educational institutions have been delayed, were untrue. We finally received our license last week signed by the Post Master General, Mr. Peter Nixon.
In last Friday’s Financial Review, the caretaker prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, was quoted as saying that he would like to see stations such as 2JJ and the ethnic stations encouraged. Then on Friday night, the Attorney General, Ivor Greenwood, said that if this caretaker Government attained legitimate power on December 13th, the new radio licenses will have to be looked into very closely and he seriously doubted their legality.
We consider that it is time for the coalition parties to accept the Labour Government’s achievements as a fact of life and for them to formulate a coherent policy with regard to broadcasting.
And while we are waiting with the time at three and a quarter minutes past twelve, lets get down to some serious business from “Who’s Next”.
This is The Who: “Won’t Get Fooled Again“.
“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss