Our History

Signing the agreement to pool our funding to buy our first transmitter - at the Australian-Austrian Club, 1994

Signing the agreement to pool our funding to buy our first transmitter – at the Australian-Austrian Club, 1994

The Saga of CMS

  • Canberra Multicultural Service – 1CMS – is operated by the Ethnic Broadcasters Council of the ACT and Surrounding Districts Inc, incorporated in 1977.
  • The idea of ethnic community radio was born in the 1970s. Then the vision of a multicultural Australia first gained acceptance at the political level, particularly thanks to Gough Whitlam, Neville Wran and Al Grassby. It soon became a bipartisan policy. The interest of Malcom Fraser and the openminded approach by Ian McPhee were important. As was the support of Don Chipp and Janine Haines.
  • One result of the Galbally Review of Migrant Services, commissioned by Mr Fraser, was the foundation of the SBS (Special Broadcasting Service), both television and radio.
  • At the same time general community broadcasting was developing strongly; and it was natural that ethnic communities would seek to get to air through this emerging radio sector.
  • The Federal Government saw ethnic broadcasting as an effective way to reach, in particular, emerging communities. Especially, the introduction of Medicare was facilitated by the new ethnic medium. Governments also recognised the benefits accruing to Australia from cultural maintenance and language resources in a rapidly globalising world. The adoption of the National Policy on Languages further strengthened multilingual broadcasting through ethnic program grants.
  • Initially the subsidy was channelled through SBS. Later the disbursement of ethnic radio grants was transferred to the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).
  • To ensure the effective disbursement of funds directed to ethnic community broadcasters, the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council (NEMBC) was set up in 1983. The EBC was a foundation member of the NEMBC.
  • Initially, the EBC’s raison d’etre was to organise multilingual broadcasting on Canberra’s first general community station 2XX.  Twelve hours per week were shared by 25 different language groups. At that stage the AM band on 1008 KHz was used. A typical ethnic broadcast lasted 30 minutes.
  • In the early 1990s the EBC sought to expand ethnic broadcasting in Canberra. Language broadcasters increasingly felt like sardines in a tin. EBC members were then contributing about 40% towards the whole station budget but access was limited to only 13 hours a week (less than 10% of air time). Negotiations stalled and the bulk the EBC’s members were expelled from 2XX. From January until August 1992 almost all ethnic broadcasting activities ceased in Canberra.
  • In the long run, this impasse lead to the establishment of the Canberra Multicultural Service – the full-time ethnic radio station we are today. The EBC then gained independent access to the airwaves under the Broadcast Services Act (1992). A temporay license already obtained by Jim Saragas to trial Greek language broadcasting in Canberra was converted into a temporay community broadcasting license for multilingual programming.
  • From 1993 to 1997 the EBC hired the facilities of Canberra Public Stereo Radio (now Artsound). On Tuesdays and Fridays, ethnic radio was once again on Canberra’s airwaves. All costs were covered from sponsorships and donations by the public.
  • Ron Eskrigge (founder of the Country Music Collective) met Heinrich Stefanik at the German Harmonie Club in Narrabundah and they developed the idea of a joint venture – country music and ethnic programs would create their own, joint home. Soon after CMR was born.
  • Among the determined band of early CMR broadcasters were Jim Saragas (Greek), Jaques Petit (French), Diana Rahman (Muslim Voice), Heinrich Stefanik (German), Ruth Ederle (Swiss) and Henryk Sek-Sekalski (Polish).
  • The acronym CMR stood for both Canberra Multicultural Radio and Country Music Radio. The flying bird logo still used by CMS recalls this important phase – the emerging station had two wings.
  • Minister Tony de Dominico assisted the EBC to find its current home in the Grant Cameron Community Centre.
  • The EBC bought some second hand studio equipment, volunteers built the studios, and a new transmitter with a 1 Kilowatt output was installed on Telstra Tower. The first solid state transmitter for community radio in Canberra.
  • In 1997 the studios in Holder were offically opened by Bill Stefaniak (MLA), Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
  • In 1999, the EBC received a full-time test licence for community radio. The frequency was 103,5 FM.
  • Unfortunately the name Canberra Multicultural Radio was registered by somebody else, therefore the EBC changed the name of the fledgling station to Canberra Multicultural Service or CMS, under which we are known today. The frequency was also changed to FM 91.1 MHz.
  • The big next step came when the EBC applied for a full community broadcast licence under the call sign 1CMS.
  • The Country Music Service was unable to raise enough funding for on-air fees and ceased broadcasting in 2000.
  • We soon made use of satellite programs to back up our 24 hour programming schedule. Deutsche Welle donated a satellite dish for rebroadcasting multilingual programs. Later on, other satellite services – the National Idigenous Radio Service and Radio France International – helped to expand programming on CMS. Local broadcasting, however, always received and receives the highest priority.
  • On 15 June 2001 came the big moment: the EBC was granted a full time broadcast licence. The licence was renewed in 2006 and 2011.
  • More and more program groups joined the EBC and existing programs expanded. This trend is continuing.
  • In 2002, the EBC participated in the National Multicultural Festival in Canberra for the first time.
  • Unfortunately, after Triple S community station was dissolved an outside broadcast van was no longer available. We converted our Studio3 into a portable studio and have maintained our presence at the Canberra National Multicultural Festival since 2002.
  • Around Australia there are at present 6 full time ethnic radio stations – one of them is 1CMS.
  • Our involvement with the NEMBC has always been strong. Heinrich Stefanik was president of the NEMBC from 1992 to 1996. Today Werner Albrecht is on the NEMBC executive. Heinrich has also served the ethnic broadcasters interests around Australia on the Community Broadcasting Foundation since 1994. CMS joined the CBAA (Community Broadcasting Association of Australia) in 2004.
  • Also in 2004 an eagerly awaited project was realised when we went from mono to stereo transmission. In 2005 our old transmitter was replaced with a state of the art unit that uses less energy than conventional transmitters
  • Studio1 was replaced in 2005 and a range of technical innovations introduced. Multiple phone connections for talkback; a GPS clock system; computers in all studios; and, full automation were further milestones. Internet streaming was introduced in 2008. CMS is now present around the World.
  • Today CMS is recognised part of the media landscape in Australia’s capital city. We have come a long way, thanks to team work and untiring effort by a band of dedicated volunteers.
  • Currently we broadcast in 36 different languages used in the Canberra community. Our ethnic broadcasts provide young people with the opportunity to maintain their home languages and diverse cultural heritages. Even more important is the role we play in the life of our elderly listeners as well as new and emerging communities.
  • Ethnic broadcasters build bridges — between the old and the new homeland. Most importantly, we build bridges within the community that we live in.
  • Community broadcasters are people from the community, volunteering for the community.The community trusts community broadcasters. Ethnic radio is fulfilling tasks that other media cannot fullfil.
  • About 60,000 People in Canberra’s households speak a language other than English.
  • Getting information out to all sectors of the community can be vital as was shown up in the Canberra bushfire emergency in 2003.— Portable radios do not depend on a power supply grid, which failed during the bushfires.
  • The challenges for CMS are, however, far from over. We are currently working to share community broadcasting facilites on a new transmission site with 1Way, Artsound and 1XX to improve our reception. Soon there will be a significant improvement of reception in the areas lying in the shade of mountains such as Mt Taylor. And then there is the digital age around us: the internet has become a further platform for CMS.
  • Community radio has to work hard to make its voice heard in the new media sphere and obtain a fair share of spectrum and financial support. This is, however, not a new situation for 1CMS.

(Based on a speech given by Werner Albrecht, EBC President 2004-2013)