Above: Hope 103.2 Chairman Stephen O’Doherty, former chairman Roger Climpson, and CEO Phillip Randall.
When it comes to historic moments, 1979 was a big year. Sony introduced the Walkman, Mother Theresa received a Nobel Peace Prize, ‘The Life of Brian’ hit cinemas, Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s first female prime minister … and radio station 2CBA FM hit the Sydney airwaves for the first time.
The date was Tuesday, March 5, and it was the first-ever broadcast of what is today known as Sydney’s beloved Hope 103.2. So began a journey of Christian media ministry that’s now been going strong for four decades.
If you’re curious about where we’ve come from and where Hope 103.2 is headed into the future, take the journey on our Hope 103.2 timeline…
The Timeline of CBA / Hope Media
The Microphone Man
1920s – 1940s
In the 1920s an Adelaide schoolboy named Vernon Turner started making microphones by pulling apart old telephones – sparked by his interest in electronics and passion for radio. Little did he know the seeds were being planted of what would one day be a national Christian media ministry.
In 1942, after his family had moved to Sydney, a now grown-up Vernon Turner began presenting a 10 minute ‘Church News’ bulletin on radio station 2CH each Sunday. It was the start of his work in radio that would span six decades and pioneer Christian broadcasting in Australia.
Having relocated to Brisbane to finish theological studies and be ordained into the Presbyterian Church, Reverend Vernon Turner was asked to present ‘Morning Devotions’ on 4BC. He went on to present this program on various stations for 48 years.
‘The Sunshine Hour’ was launched – a half hour community hymn singing program, syndicated across various radio stations to become ‘Australia’s National Christian Broadcast’. A Sunshine Hour Committee was formed to handle listener letters and donations.
The Turners returned to Sydney so Vernon could edit a national Christian newspaper and continue producing programs – first from the city, and then Darlinghurst.
The Sunshine Hour Committee was replaced by the Christian Broadcasting Association (CBA), and programs were provided free to commercial stations.
Setting Up in Five Dock
The Presbyterian Church in Five Dock/Abbotsford appointed Vernon Turner as its minister in 1954, and gave part of its church hall to CBA to build a small studio and control room.
CBA applied for an AM licence (Dec ‘55) and then an FM licence (Feb ‘56), to establish a dedicated Christian Radio Station in Sydney. Both applications failed at this time.
In 1959, the historic year that evangelist Billy Graham toured Australia, 2CBA spoke to him and covered the event.
By now the staff of CBA had grown, with 15 people now working in overcrowded and under-resourced facilities to produce Christian-based programs that were reaching the nation.
To solve this problem, Vernon Turner negotiated to buy three adjoining blocks of land at 420 Lyons Road Five Dock.
Listeners across Australia gave the £28,000 needed to build a production facility, that would also be ready for when a radio licence was eventually granted. The new building was officially opened by the Governor of NSW.
CBA was by now the major supplier of Christian programs to commercial radio in Australia, which – by government regulation – were required to give one hour a week for free to religious programming. Each week, CBA sent 800 copies of programs to more than 100 stations at no charge. Most stations dedicated more than the stipulated one hour to religious content.
A Radio Station is Born
It was 1978 when the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal began hearings to grant the first public (community) radio licences: stations that would be supported by listeners. More than 20 years after applying for its licence, CBA was awarded a ‘Special Interest’ licence on the frequency of 103.5FM. The frequency was later moved to 103.2 due to interference with ABC FM on 92.9.
5 March 1979
Blast off! Australia’s first Christian radio station, at the time named ‘2CBA-FM Stereo 103’ – launched on March 5, with a mission “to bring hope and comfort in the gospel message through quality of life broadcasting to as large and varied a listening audience as possible” (based on the Bible verse, John 10:10).
Changing of the Guard, The Big Move
In 1996, more than 50 years after first stepping into radio work, Vernon Turner announced his retirement and would leave the station the following year. Major Chris Witts, on secondment from the Salvation Army and himself a former commercial radio announcer, became the new CEO of 2CBA, and presenter of ‘Morning Devotions’.
Chris is still presenting this well-loved radio spot to this day, heard on the air just after 9am each morning.
Chris Witts Reflection
radio station’s first website, 2cba.org.au, was launched. The Chairman of the Board at this time was Roger Climpson, a popular TV personality who was a Channel 7 news reader, and hosted the shows This Is Your Life, and Australia’s Most Wanted.
Roger Climpson Reflection
The Saturday night show “Fresh” is launched, hosted by Andrew Morris, broadcasting two hours of new contemporary Christian music, aimed at a young audience. This show continues today.
The Salvation Army recalled Chris Witts, and so the station needed a new CEO. The board’s choice was Phillip Randall – a radio veteran who’d managed both commercial and Christian stations for almost two decades. He moved his family to Sydney from Perth for the role, and was charged with making 2CBA-FM more appealing to young families. Programming gradually changed to an adult contemporary music format.
Having outgrown its premises, 2CBA sold the Five Dock building, and purchased what is still its home today: the former 2WS radio complex at 2 Leabons Lane, Seven Hills. These facilities, purpose-built for radio, were a Godsend – three times bigger than the previous building, with extra room to share with other Christian ministries. The station also rebranded, and relaunched as ‘FM103.2 – the Heart of Sydney’ (to complement the mission statement of “bringing hope and comfort”).
New Shows, New Ministries, a New Name
Online streaming of Hope 103.2 began, marking a new era in listening. Streaming enabled listeners to tune in from anywhere in the world, and today, web streaming makes up a significant portion of our audience – including not only Aussies tuning in from their office desks at work, but also listeners in the USA, Africa, UK, South East Asia and South America.
The Youth program ‘Fresh’ launched its own web radio station – www.freshradio.net – streaming Christian youth programming 24 hours a day. Today this stream continues, via the hope website, hope1032.com.au.
The Sunday night current affairs and spirituality program ‘Open House’, with interviews “exploring, life, faith and culture” – was launched. Hosted by Sheridan Voysey, it was syndicated around Australia. Podcasting of FM103.2 programs also began.
The first ‘Pray4U’ month was held, in which listeners were invited to share their prayer needs, which the station team lifted up to God in prayer groups. This is now an annual event that ministers to thousands of Sydneysiders every year.
‘FM103.2’ became ‘Heart 103.2’. However a commercial network advised it owned the ‘Heart’ trademark so ‘Sydney’s 103.2’ was adopted in the interim while listeners were invited to submit suggestions for a new station name.
15 December 2008
The station relaunched as “Hope 103.2 – communicating hope to transform life, faith and culture”.
The Christian Broadcasting Association became Hope Media Ltd, to reflect that the ministry was no longer solely a radio broadcaster, but a Christian content creator – providing content both on air and online, shared around the world.
‘Christmas Hope’ was launched – Australia’s first online pop-up digital station dedicated solely to Christmas.
Inspire Digital – Australia’s first Community Station on the DAB+ band – was launched.
Reaching Further and Wider
The station launched its first ever outdoor advertising campaign, featuring eight billboards and 100 bus-back ads.
Hope 103.2 went digital – broadcasting on both the DAB+ and FM bands.
5 March 2019
Hope 103.2 celebrates 40 years of broadcasting, with a monthly audience of 756,000*, making it a top 10 station in Sydney, the second biggest Christian outreach to Sydney (besides personal sharing of faith), and reaching millions more online around the world. Hope Media announced plans to launch its own news service, a goal we are now working towards.
Hope Media is about to launch Sydney’s newest news service thanks to Hope 103.2 supporters.
*McNair yellowSquares Audience Survey – Sydney All People 15+ – January 2019