Radio party: General manager John Fitzgibbon and former managing director Peter Caligari are set to celebrate 3BA’s 90th anniversary this Friday. Photo: CHIPPY RIVERA

Broadcaster’s birthday bash!

July 31, 2020 BY

WHEN 3BA commenced broadcasting in 1930 it was introduced to Ballarat as the voice of the city.

Ninety years on the station still maintains a vital voice for the city as it’s set to celebrate a major milestone.

Current general manager at 3BA and Power FM John Fitzgibbon said that the station is a pillar of regional Victorian radio history.

“Ballarat was the ninth commercial license in Australia and one of the first outside of a capital city,” he said.

“At that time, it was established as Ballarat’s radio station and that’s a philosophy that is maintained today after 90 years.

“We continue to be there for the people of Ballarat through good times and bad to entertain and support.”

During its extensive time on the air, the radio station has been in control of just a handful of managers.

Warne Wilson took care of operations for the first five years, then handing it over to J H Davey until the early-60s.

From there, Ern Whykes continued the legacy until 1978 when Peter Caligari was appointed as general manager.

Former general managers Peter Caligari and Ern Whykes at a 3BA fundraising event in 1977. Photos: SUPPLIED

Although Mr Caligari stepped down from this role in 1999 and replaced by David Hoey, his presence within the organisation remained consistent.

During his 54-year long association including 21 years as general manager, Mr Caligari played an integral role in the growth and development of the station.

From the opening and closure of the station’s own record store, to a massive radio antenna overhaul and the introduction of Power FM, he witnessed it all.

“It’s been incredible really. I started in 1956 in radio, over those 64 years, my greatest achievement without any question of doubt in 1980 when I started the 3BA Christmas appeal,” he said.

“That has benefited the community so much, helped so many families.

“It’s a great feeling on Christmas morning, you get up and think so many families are having a great day because of your hard work.”

The former manager took the anniversary as an opportunity to thank Ballarat and its residents for their continued support and encouragement over the years.

Mr Caligari said he was proud of the work that the station continues to do to this day in keeping residents happy, safe and entertained.

In the mid-1970s, the large antenna was removed off the top of the 3BA building.

“Together with the Ballarat community we have stood together through the good times and the bad,” he said.

“We have been there to entertain and inform, we have covered the important events and recognized those who have made a positive and major contribution to Ballarat.

“I’d like to think that we have provided the utmost support wherever and wherever it has been needed.”

In 2007, John Fitzgibbon officially took over the position of manager where he currently remains.

During this time, Mr Fitzgibbon said that Mr Caligari was a consistent source of support and knowledge that made it easy to transition into this role.

“Pete not only with the Christmas appeal but on a day to day basis has been there to mentor me,” he said.

“Even though he technically retired 20 years ago, that institutional knowledge he offers has been great.

“That’s the benefit of working for a family business, you are allowed those sort of mentoring opportunities.”

Family owned company Grant Broadcasters bought 3BA FM in the mid-1989, which saw them convert the station to FM later that decade.

CEO of Grant Broadcasters Alison Cameron said they are very proud of their ownership of 3BA which currently spans over more than 30 years.

“We fiercely believe in servicing the local community and that is why we broadcast mainly local programming and we invest heavily in local staff,” she said.

“I am very proud of all the work that everyone at the station does on a day in and day out basis, but it is what we do over and above our daily programming that I most proud of.

“The 3BA Christmas Appeal is a perfect example of that, launched in the 1980s and every year supports over 4000 Ballarat families.”

To celebrate a 90th birthday is a huge milestone and to spend those years supporting the local community is a worthy achievement of Ballarat’s own radio station.

Ms Cameron said Grant Broadcasters are immensely proud of all of the contributions made by hundreds of 3BA employees over the years.

“To celebrate 90 years of providing to the local community is a more worthy achievement and we celebrate this milestone with them,” she said.

A 3BA broadcaster in the 1930s.

“It’s always hard to predict the future for any company, and particularly the media industry, but I believe that the people of Ballarat will continue to listen to 3BA.”

Over the past nine-decades, the station has undergone countless changes and adjustments to suit the times, however, the past six months have proved to be one of the biggest challenges yet.

From the bushfires through to COVID-19, Mr Fitzgibbon said the need to continue running appeals and supplying donations has been extraordinary.

“I’m pleased with not only the way that we responded but the people of Ballarat have continued to embrace who we are and supported us through this time,” he said.

“That relationship with the community has never been more evident than it is today, that’s the thing everyone in this organisation

Very early station advertising.

really values and that’s what drives us.

“What the future looks like is uncertain but one thing that is clear is our commitment to the people of Ballarat and us being here will continue as it has done for the last 90 years.”