City Park Radio surfs the airwaves for 30 years

WAVES: City Park Radio volunteers Adam Brooks, Janice Devine, Shirley Lee and Craig Ellis at the radio's museum. Picture: Hayden Johnson
WAVES: City Park Radio volunteers Adam Brooks, Janice Devine, Shirley Lee and Craig Ellis at the radio's museum. Picture: Hayden Johnson

For 30 years Launceston residents have benefited by having a radio station managed by locals, and with the city’s interests at its heart.

The studios of City Park Radio are nestled among the trees, inside converted horse stables next to the park that shares its name.

Sitting at the head of City Park Radio for the past few years is president Craig Ellis.

Under his leadership the station has seen change in programming and more accessibility to the community of Launceston.

In one of its largest and longest ongoing projects in recent memory, City Park radio sought to address a 20-year black spot problem for residents in the Tamar Valley and surrounding districts.

“It was mooted that another antenna and frequency would be a good way to overcome that,” Mr Ellis said.

With dozens of people involved, it took about 15 years to plan where a new antenna should go to solve the patchy reception problem.

“We finally got it going about two years ago with a grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund and that enabled us to get serious with the project,” Mr Ellis added.

Once the grant was received an army of about 30 volunteers enabled the construction of the antenna within about ten months.

After interference testing, checks and balances, the frequency went live about two weeks ago with regular programming on City Park Radio.

From the presenters to the technical staff and sponsorship managers, the station is manned by volunteers.

City Park Radio president Craig Ellis.

City Park Radio president Craig Ellis.

And as the media industry undergoes great change, Mr Ellis believes community radio is as relevant as ever.

“We’re there to help the community, not make a profit,” he said. 

“If there’s any topic that needs expressing we have programs for discussion – the community is given a voice.”

In times of flood, fire and disaster, City Park Radio has been on the air across Northern Tasmania.

“While we’re not the ABC, we do what we can by relaying messages and we give out warnings and things like that,” Mr Ellis said. 

Looking to the future, he anticipated the biggest change in community radio would be a transition to digital programming – as major radio stations in the capital cities have done.

He said while those larger stations had moved to a clearer and higher-quality broadcast, rural and regional stations were slow to follow suit.

Any investment in equipment upgrades is likely to cost the station money.

For that, it must rely on the annual fees from its 120 members, sponsorship and government grants. 

“The current government have committed to keeping going the funding, but I’d like to see in ten years going closer to digital transmission,” Mr Ellis added. 

Sitting in the station’s live-broadcast studio, Mr Ellis reflected on the history of the station and the immense work to get it live.

“The people back then, 30 years ago, got the vision and ran with it,” he said. 

“It took eight years for them to get a licence and build the station, incredible.”