CHYFM with Becky Cole

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Becky Cole started at CHY FM as a 14-year-old junior volunteer, and she’s now the Station Manager. She tells us more about her big plans for the station.

Give us a bit of background on CHY FM.

John Townsend from The Salvation Army started CHY back in 1973 as a youth project, to give the kids something to do in the Coffs Harbour area – and since then it has really grown. We are the first youth radio training school in Australia, and one of very few youth radio stations. We are run by young people for young people. Everyone who works here is still quite young, and the music is selected by our listeners, who are young people. We have a demographic of 18 to 39, but we actually have a really broad range of people who listen to us.

We are a community station, so we run entirely on community support.

> What is the station’s role as a training school.

We have had more than 4,000 students go through. Our membership this year is standing at 70, and it’s growing exponentially. We take on kids from the age of 12, and they come from all the different schools in Coffs Harbour. We have done workshops with some of the schools, and we want to do bigger things with a lot of the schools next year – including partnerships.

We have a 3-tiered training system – bronze, silver and gold. In bronze, we teach students some broadcasting basics – how to use a microphone, how to use the software and panels. We also help to boost their self esteem and we teach them public speaking and how to feel comfortable with an audience.

In silver it’s interviewing bootcamp. Here we show them how to interview bands and people in the local area. When they’ve graduated, they move on to the top level, which is gold. That’s where we teach them how to run outside broadcasts, and do script writing. We encourage people to learn all aspects of the job – not just being an announcer. We encourage all the kids to get involved with everything, from sales, to merchandising, to picking the T shirts, to running all the events … This is the perfect opportunity for kids to rise up through the ranks and learn real skills.

A lot of people from here have gotten major careers in media. We’ve got people who have sprung from here to many of the major media outlets in Sydney and Brisbane. We are a big springboard for major careers in media, and we’re well known for it. We’ve actually got a really good reputation for it, so that’s wonderful.

> You started here as a junior and have worked your way through the ranks. What has your experience been like.

I started here as a volunteer when I was 14. I was a nervous little girl! I used to do the drive time shifts as a young person, and I actually used CHY FM as a springboard. I did script writing here as part of my studies, and I used those same skills I’d learned in radio to go across to television script writing. I used it as part of my portfolio to get in and do a Bachelor of Arts and Television Production at Charles Sturt University.

I worked on some great productions and did some camera work for the Olympics and worked on Home & Away and some other bits and pieces during my internship. When I’d finished, I came back up here and worked as a teacher. I taught film and television and media studies in Grafton and Maclean for a few years. I LOVE teaching! After that, I decided I wanted to expand my horizons, so I moved to Brisbane and worked in marketing for a few years at TAFE QLD. Eventually, I decided I wanted to get back to basics. So when the offer came up for this role, I threw my hat in the ring and came back. It’s a bit of a change of pace from doing marketing in a cubicle in Brisbane. But what I love about this job is the sheer variety – I’ll do script writing one day, teaching another, and I’ve got great people to work with. Because I have a teaching background and I love it so much, I’m getting the opportunity to really bring that out.

I’ve got big things planned for the future of CHY FM in terms of the media school. There aren’t a lot of media courses around, and the difference between us and another institution is that it’s real – you’re going live on the air.

It’s not just practicing; you’re getting to do it, which is something that is very rare. It’s real experience that you can use out in the workforce.

> How have you seen the station change since you started as a junior?

It’s been huge! We’ve always had a couple of kids on air, but we didn’t have any training courses like we have now. We have so many volunteers now; we used to have to look for people to fill spots, and now we are struggling to give spots to kids! We take kids after school between 4pm and midnight, all day Saturday and we train on Sundays. We have a stack of kids who are here and we’re still growing.

I’m hoping that the schools will come on board and release kids during the day, so we can actually fit them in, because we’re still getting so many who are wanting to come in. I’d like to do more with other schools, where we’re getting to have a hands on teaching media. The workshops we had late last year went really well, and I want to try and do them again.

The major change though, is something that we started last year, which is the local music initiative. It’s the feather in our cap. There are not many radio stations in Australia who are actually dedicated to playing local music, so we started this local music initiative last year – and it has been huge. We have 20 local bands that we play every hour, and we actually have a dedicated portion of our programming every hour just for local bands.

We’re looking to be the platform for local music. We interview a lot of local bands, and we’re trying to help young artists get their foot in the door to kickstart their music career, because it’s so hard to get a break in the music world. At least we can give them something to say; they’ve gotten started, and they’re getting a fan base started here locally.

> Tell us about the new broadcast room.

Because we are run by the community for the community, we obviously have a shoestring budget. So when our panels (which are about 20 years old) went down, we put out a cry for help, and we were lucky enough to raise nearly $10,000. ETC, an anonymous donor and Rotary all chipped in, and that bought us the new panel and microphones that are in our new broadcast room.

Everything has been donated, and the people who help us stay afloat are Coffs Harbour businesses. We’d sink without them, and we completely rely on their generosity to stay alive. The room is in the process of being built now. We’ve had a lot of people who have just really opened their hearts to help. It will be the main broadcast room, and when it’s finished we will actually have 3 studios.

We’re always looking for new sponsors to help us out, so if anyone is interested in being involved with the station as a sponsor, we would really appreciate their support.

> What advice do you have for anyone interested in a broadcasting career?

Get started! Come and see us, sign up for the training programs and just get started. You never know where it might take you.

> Thank you Becky.

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