By Jessica Howard
It’s been 32-years since David Steele founded the voice of Moorabool.
Apple 98.5FM was first aired in October 1986 (then 94.7FM), with a test broadcast that coincided with the 150-year celebration of the founding of Bacchus Marsh.
The broadcast was granted by the Australian Broadcast Standards for just one week, with a temporary station set up in the garage of a real estate office at Underbank Estate.
Mr Steele said he advertised the idea for a community radio station through the local newspaper.
“I put the word out there to see if the station would get enough support from the Bacchus Marsh community, and it definitely did,” he said.
“We had a crew of about 20 of us. Some were there to operate the equipment and some were doing their own segments, which ranged from the breakfast program to news items and community announcements, and music”.
The station attracted a number of local high school students, jazz and country music enthusiasts and amateur news presenters. Mr Steele said the broadcast switched off at midnight and started up again at 6am.
“After the broadcast had been running for two days, we got a call on the Wednesday from a local business that ran 24-hours a day in Bacchus Marsh and they said, ‘What’s happening after midnight? We want to listen, but you’re switching it off’. So I spoke to our group and one man said he would run a segment from midnight to dawn.
“That was pretty great; to go from only just starting up, to running 24-hours a day after only the third day”.
The last two days of the test broadcast saw the town celebrate the annual Apple Valley Fest. Mr Steele said the weekend transmission included a live recording of the festival procession, local harness racing and a country show held at the show grounds.
“On the Sunday night we finished up the week and we were really quite enthusiastic about it all.
“It had become obvious that people were listening, because we had a telephone there for song requests and that rang hot; especially between 4pm and 6pm when the school kids were on”.
In the weeks that followed, the station saw over 200 people become members. As a result, the Australian Broadcast Standards granted a further three test broadcasts per year, which were extended to two-weeks at a time.
Mr Steele said the next few years saw the station relocate from Underbank Estate to the local school, the community centre, the post office and a Main Street building located above the chemist.
Finally, in 2001, a full license was granted.
“That was definitely a relief,” Mr Steele said.
“We found a new home on Gisborne Road and while it was a bit of a slog to get all the equipment up and running, it was great to finally see Bacchus Marsh have their own permanent community radio station”.
Mr Steele was actively involved in Apple 98.5FM until 2008. He said his 22-year stint saw the station change and progress dramatically.
“Naturally our music was played from old vinyl records and we later started using cassettes and cartridge players, which we used to record all our ads. Then came CDs, followed by computers and MP3s”.
However, the biggest change, according to Mr Steele, was the introduction of radio programming.
“When that came in, members who weren’t available, especially overnight, used to make programs up and we’d automatically run them on the computer and on air. That was a big game changer,” he said.
“Another big change was online streaming. I moved to Torquay in 2013 and I know a couple of other guys who moved on from the station and on from Bacchus Marsh, yet we can still listen to the station from wherever we are”.
With the support and help from Moorabool Shire Council, Apple 98.5FM is now located at the Darley Community Hub. Members attended a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday September 7, (The Moorabool News 10 Oct 2107).
Mr Steele said he hopes to see the community radio station continue to go from “strength to strength”.
“It was really encouraging to see Council help in moving the station to a much more permanent home… hopefully it can now continue to provide a voice well into the future”.