Donate to Life FM’s 20th Birthday Appeal here.
In the early hours of October 29, 2003, a new era began in radio and for the Christian community in Gippsland. It was then a new community radio station, Life FM, first went to air on the 103.9 frequency.
Two decades later, 1039 Life FM Gippsland is still going strong, broadcasting positive, uplifting music and messages of hope across the region.
Life FM also features locally-made programs such as “Gippsland Perspective”, which covers local news and events, “Light Up Latrobe” and “Make Gippsland Great Again”.
One person integral to getting Life FM on the air was Deb Bye, a former manager at ABC Gippsland who was CEO of Gippsland Christian Broadcasters, the organisation behind Life FM, from 1999 until 2015.
Deb said she was motivated by a desire to give the Christian community a place in Gippsland radio which hadn’t previously existed.
“In 1999, when I started doing deputations to tell people we wanted to start a radio station, I met a lady in South Gippsland, who said, ‘I’ve been praying for Christian radio in Gippsland for 20 years’. For me, that was like a rubber stamp, I was on the right track,” Deb said.
Until Life FM was able to afford a link between the studio in Sale and the transmitter on Mt Tassie, a loop of content, downloaded on to a hard drive and connected to the transmitter, was broadcast.
“We’d drive up to Mt Tassie once a month or more, and we’d switch over the hard drives. It was full-on,” Deb said.
“If we went off air, we’d have to drive back up and press a button to turn it back on again.
“The night we (first) went on air was amazing, we started getting calls at two in the morning.
“People started calling us from W Tree and Gelantipy (in East Gippsland) and places like that. God had just opened up the whole of Gippsland to something that we had said, ‘it’ll probably just be around the Sale area’, but people in Paynesville, Bairnsdale and Omeo, they could all hear us, and down to South Gippsland.”
Former production team leader and station manager Randell Green said Life FM had made a positive impact in the lives of people in Gippsland over the past two decades.
“I remember one pastor in Traralgon said he had a young guy come to his church because he was driving home from work one day, and just happened to be listening to Life FM. Something in it touched him, he decided to seek out God and came to this church,” he said.
“You often heard testimonies like that. Even if they didn’t become Christians, they might have heard something that was uplifting and encouraging for them.”
Current station manager David Braithwaite acknowledged the efforts of people like Deb and Randell as well as the many volunteers who helped make Life FM what it had become.
“Without their vision and efforts, we may not have had a Christian radio station in Gippsland, created for Gippsland,” he said.
“Twenty years on air is a milestone we’re proud to have reached. It’s a big achievement, but we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of listeners – through memberships and donations – as well as local churches, businesses and community organisations.
“To all who have helped us over the years, a massive thank you and we look forward to that support continuing.”
David said there was still a place for Life FM in the Gippsland media landscape.
“Now more than ever, there is a need for uplifting and family-friendly music and messages that encourage and inspire,” he said.
“Times have been tough for most in recent years, and people need a sense of hope. At Life FM, we aim to play a part in providing that.
“We are part of the Gippsland community, and we also aim to tell Gippsland stories.
“It is this mix of music, messages and stories that makes Life FM unique in Gippsland. There is something for everyone on Life FM.”
To mark the milestone, Life FM will host a range of events, including a trivia night, shopping centre displays and, early next year, a celebration night.
Life FM will also hold its 20th Birthday Appeal. Donations, which can be made via the Life FM website, help keep Life FM on the air. Donations $2 and over are tax-deductible.