During 1975 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) student campus station 3ST applied to the Broadcasting Control Board for a restricted commercial AM licence. The application was done under the name of the SRNA, with 3ST, 3CT, 3MU and newly formed 3SW (Swinburne University). The application was unsuccessful and the licence went to 3CR.
In 1976 Felix Hofmann, who had no affiliation with any broadcasting radio station, called a meeting of interested parties to establish an FM radio station for "progressive music". It was not practical to hold this meeting at his parent's home in St Kilda East so it was held at 1 Baldwin Street, Armadale in a house shared by Rosalie Brookes, Jane Henderson, another student and Garry Page. To publicise the meeting Felix Hofmann used a press story in "The Southern Cross" newspaper and an advertisement in "The Toorak Times" newspaper; while Garry Page, as a former member of 3ST, extended personal invitations to other 3ST members such as John Maizels and Barry Bron and also posted notices at the ABC, 3CR and 3ST studios.
Given his knowledge of the industry and radio licencing process the elected chairman was John Maizels, technical manager at 3ST, co-host of the 'John and Paul Show' on 3ST (with Paul Cuthbertson), and son of noted broadcaster Monty Maizels. Although not a member of 3CR, but given his expertise, John Maizels was one of the announcers on 3CR's first test transmission on 1 May 1976. Felix Hofmann was elected vice-chairman and ensured the vision of a progressive music service was not lost. Early active members also included Maria and David Stubbs, Rosalie Brookes, Alan Quirk and Sally-Anne Rosario.
Also during this early period of 3PBS, enthusiasts who had an interest in microprocessors from Intel, Motorola, Signetics 2650, Fairchild F8, etc. were meeting at the Clayton campus of Monash University, Graham Thirkell's Optro premises and went on to form the Microcomputer Club of Melbourne (MICOM). Peter Jetson, who was to play a significant role in 3PBS plus MICOM, and Garry Page, a broadcast technical officer who was employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) to perform studio maintenance, were both members of MICOM. Rosalie Brookes facilitated the meeting when the 'Progressive Broadcasting Service' name was adopted. Subsequently membership cards were printed for the unincorporated 3PBS group with the first three memberships to John Maizels, Felix Hofmann and Garry Page.
As the initial meeting was about 400 metres from the 3CR station in High Street, Armadale there were a significant number of curious 3CR members in attendance. Although names and addresses were recorded and used for initial mailouts, the vast majority of 3CR members were not seen at subsequent meetings, did not pay memberships or become active members of 3PBS. Garry Page managed the membership records on his account on the Control Data Corporation (CDC) Cyber 6000 series mainframe computer system at St Kilda Road. For convenience the initial 3PBS mailing address was a post box in Armadale. The 3PBS membership records were later transferred by John Maizels to an IBM mainframe after some difficulty with a magnetic tape formatted on the CDC system using packed BCD that had to be converted into EBCIDIC for the IBM mainframe. Subsequently the 3PBS postal address was moved from Armadale. Therefore 3PBS could claim the first use of computer-based membership records by an Australian public radio broadcaster.
Soon after the 3PBS group was established meetings moved to John Maizels home in Port Melbourne. 3PBS membership was drawn from ABC, 3ST, unaffiliated public and some 3CR members. It is a myth that 3PBS was an early splinter group of 3CR headed by John Maizels. The group registered as the Progressive Broadcasting Service Co-operative Limited at a meeting at Ken Fargher's upstairs room, Peel Street, North Melbourne.
3PBS test transmissions from a low power FM transmitter located on the BHP Building, corner of Bourke and William Streets in the Melbourne CBD occurred from a studio at John Maizels' Port Melbourne home in 1977 and 1978. Reception reports were received from listeners throughout Melbourne's extended metropolitan area. In August 1978 the station was successful in its application to the Australian Broadcasting Authority for a licence and subsequently began a series of short broadcasts from temporary studios. The fledgling station started to make regular broadcasts to inner Melbourne in the early 1980s between 9am and 4pm from its studios at the Prince of Wales Hotel and a 200W transmitter on the old Royal Women's Hospital site in Carlton. The first programme was presented by David Stubbs, and the first track broadcast was I'll Be Gone (Someday I'll Have Money) by Spectrum. David Stubbs selection of I'll Be Gone was significant for Melbourne radio as it had been the final rock track played on the formerly top rating, commercial station 3AK 3AK#1970s-1980s when it had changed from a Rock/Pop format.
In 1985 it moved into its permanent studio of 15 years in St Kilda, from where it started to broadcast 24 hours a day to greater Melbourne in 1987. In November 2001 the station moved again, this time to Collingwood.
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