For one week beginning November 2 local community radio station 2XX FM will host its annual radiothon.
This event encourages financial support for the longest-running community radio station in Australia going back to 1976 and is also a reminder that I should tune in more often, particularly when yet another airing of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody or the latest 'indie' sensation on Triple J becomes a bit much.
Station co-manager Simon Kravis says the focus this year is to raise money for a new and more powerful transmitter. "For the last five years 2XX has been transmitting with what other stations would consider an emergency set-up. The new transmitter will improve reception in built-up areas and the region outside Canberra."
Community radio provides a level of cultural engagement absent from the mainstream entertainment industry and I also like the personal touch when tuning into a program shaped by the announcer's tastes.
I know this from experience, having guest announced at 2XX on a Friday afternoon program. I played a bunch of music that ranged from roots reggae to 1960s Texan psychedelia to lo-fi punk which other stations wouldn't dream of 'playlisting'.
"Community radio reflects the media interests of all sections of the local community," Kravis says. "Not just those with a significant demographic aimed at by the commercial media sector or the more constrained public service provided by the ABC and SBS."
This diversity also includes ethnic and Indigenous programming and alternative media.
Before I succumbed to the trappings of the five-day working week I would tune into 2XX each Thursday morning to listen to Alternative Radio, a syndicated program from the US which broadcasts meaningful commentary from a large audio archive of talks and seminars.
What a joy it was to bypass familiar outlets and turn my attention to in-depth discussion and debate on significant contemporary and historical events from the likes of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Arundhati Roy.
Quality music is also a mainstay on 2XX and it has been a regular delight listening to Mike Collings on the lunchbox program play The Beatles alongside Brian Eno and free music pianist Cecil Taylor.
"The selections played on 2XX reflect the interests and often profound knowledge of presenters, rather than a desire to maximise audience reach," Kravis says. "And there is a strong focus on locally produced music."
The 2XX radiothon reminds Canberrans the station has come a long way from those many frustrating hours spent fiddling with the radio aerial to pick up the late night heavy metal program through static and hiss, and broadcast from a tiny shoebox studio on the ANU campus. That had a certain charm but a new transmitter would certainly do nicely.