JOY 94.9 and the LGBTIQA+ Community – Podcast Episode 29

In this podcast, Partner, Bec Dahl is joined by Ange Barry, CEO of JOY94.9, an independent and community-based radio station and voice for the LGBTIQA+ community. They discuss what JOY94.9 provides for the LGBTIQA+ community, the significance of radio and the prevalence it can have in people’s lives, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bec is also a presenter on JOY’s “Chicks Talking Footy” program.

 

Rebecca:

Good afternoon, everyone, my name is Bec Dahl and I am a partner at Nicholes Family Lawyers. Today I am excited to be joined by Ange Barry, CEO of JOY 94.9. Ange has a diverse background with a range of skills, including her previous position as general manager of a Melbourne-based community radio station.  She is also a qualified accountant.  For those of you who don’t know, Joy 94.9 is an independent voice for the LGBTIQA+ community and has an audience of about 530,000 Melbournians.  The station also has a podcast, blogs and a wonderful online platform which covers music, debate, news, current affairs, arts and culture.  The station is fuelled by the commitment of 300 volunteers and provides over 450 free community-service announcements on behalf of organisations that support the community.  Welcome, Ange!

Ange:

Thank you very much, Bec.  Lovely to be with you and what a wonderful introduction!

Bec:

Some of us are lucky enough to know a lot about JOY but some people who are listening to this podcast, won’t, so could you start by giving us a little bit of a background about JOY and how it was created, why and what its purpose is?

Ange:

Yes, absolutely. JOY is what I consider to be a lucky organisation in that we are one of a handful of community media organisations in the whole entire world who are dedicated to the Rainbow Community.  So there are only about three of us and we all started as community radio stations but JOY itself is now really morphing into a multi-media community organisation.  We were started, I guess, during the AIDS crisis, actually, and people getting together to apply for a community radio licence; in particular people who were isolated during the AIDS virus who were wanting to create a communication channel so that people could remain connected.  It was very much about mental health and wellbeing, which is ironic given where we are today, amidst the pandemic.  More than ever, organisations such as JOY are so sorely needed.

The history of JOY is that we secured a community broadcasting licence here in Melbourne, Australia, which enabled us to use the FM frequency and basically deliver radio.  So we delivered that radio for 26  plus years now and our audience has grown – I can actually update you on this, as from last week, we have some new statistics.  Our audience has grown to 600,000 listeners per month on the FM signal only, that’s only through the FM signal, but we now have audiences which pick up our website streamed through the JOY website, through IHEART radio tune-in, and other radio streaming Apps.  We have a really big audience there.  We also have an extensive podcast library which is actually the largest Rainbow podcast library in the world, and these podcasts have been downloaded over two million times.  We have now started JOY TV which is a new video arm, if you like, of our organisation and we have a fantastic program called Kerri and Dolly which goes to air once a week on a Thursday.

JOY is morphing into an organisation from very humble beginnings as community radio right through to a multi-media organisation.  Mainly this has been done by an amazing team of volunteers who give their time and their dedication and commitment to JOY.  We have a really small paid staff team, literally just a handful of people, 6 or 7 people, who coordinate and manage activities and together we are a pretty dynamic community and very hard-working and really dedicated to bringing great content to our broader rainbow community and our allies.

Bec:

I wanted to mention that about the volunteers; I’ve been lucky enough to have been part of the JOY family and have volunteered there for about four years now.  I’ve really seen that commitment from so many people.  What do you think it is about JOY that brings people in and keeps them there?

Ange:

Yes, that’s a really good question.  I think that sometimes people who are not part of community groups such as JOY don’t really understand the power behind such an organisation.  Why do people volunteer? This is an interesting discussion; it is absolutely not about money. Most of the time, I think, it is about people wanting to do something good, wanting to make a contribution, and if you can do that in a fun way, then what better way than creating media.  You would know, Bec, it is so much fun to do a show, and the professionalism that you bring to your show means that you actually care about it – yes, you care about having fun yourself but you also care about what the listener is going to experience.  When you combine those two – care for me and care for you, and you put it together, that’s when you get a great volunteer contribution.  I think that is what brings a lot of people to JOY. And also, JOY as a family supports each other and inspires each other too.

Being media, we get feedback – we get people texting in, emailing, ringing; it is a participatory kind of medium and as we do every day when we get someone saying: Thank you for doing that show, or thank you for keeping me informed or connected and particularly right now…..that is the fuel in your tank and it is much better than money.

Bec:

Absolutely, and I think that in my experience, JOY is also a really safe place, particularly for people who don’t have safe places and community to go to.

Ange:

For sure, JOY is – it is open to our community to come and communicate, and we provide training for people and we encourage people to build their skills and experience so that they can undertake various activities within the organisation. But number one, the Rainbow community, our people are welcome here and their allies – and it is all about having that safe space to be creative, but also to be who you are.

Bec:

Tell us a little about yourself: what brought you to be the CEO of JOY? Why was that a job that you wanted to have and how did you get there?

Ange:

Yes, well my career has spanned both corporate and community spaces.  I started with an accounting kind of background …..it was a Bachelor of Business and I actually went  straight into management roles, so I wasn’t like an accountant who did tax returns.  People often ask me how to do their tax return and I’m like “I don’t know!”  But my work-life started in the financial sector where I was working with people and their money and understanding the importance of financial security and then I had kids and then had a kind of sea-change mentally and decided that I needed to work more with community. So then I went into leadership roles in not-for-profit organisations and one of the very first roles was in a community-based radio station in the north-east of Melbourne, what we called a sub-metro station.  Really interesting, culturally diverse, amazing diversity in what we called the City of Whittlesea area – really, the northern suburbs of Melbourne. A really fascinating job, I loved it.  I was actually a volunteer there for many years until I stepped into the management role.  I was on the committee and the board, and all that sort of stuff.

What I most loved was the sense of community in that organisation, and the messaging, the conversations which we could have on air.  So I did that, then went away and did lots of other things, I very much worked in the space of social change; one of my roles was to introduce a food education program to Australia, and then that spread to some other countries as well.  It very much taught me about the power of change and positivity and how we can make great change possible.

So combining that experience with experience in community media – I’ve come to JOY because I have seen the power that community media can play in creating great social change.  I think the key social change that should happen in Australia right now is exactly what we have been articulating as JOY’s purpose which is to build a more inclusive Australia.  So I want to bring my skills, experience and knowledge together in this organisation, to really grow JOY and grow its reach.  By that I mean reaching the people who can participate in JOY and reaching the people who can receive the services of JOY as well.

Bec:

There’s a great diversity in JOY but one of the things that I love is the diversity in the programming, so I do a show on JOY called “Chicks Talking Footy” which is a show talking about AFL footy, but that is just one of the shows on JOY.   But how do you decide what content to put on there, what people want to hear?

Ange:

It’s really interesting, Bec, and its great question because there is a balance between what we believe a community organisation to be as far as individual contribution and then a balance between a community organisation with a purpose and a singular approach.  So we want people to be creative, bring their strengths, bring their networks, bring their thoughts, bring their creativity to build something but we also need to give a guideline around the identity of JOY and the purpose of JOY so we make sure we get the balance right.

So we look at what should go to air – in the past, JOY has been a bit of a patchwork quilt where lots of people come up with lots of ideas, so it’s like: Wow! .…what we have moved to, particularly in the last 12 months while I’ve been at JOY is to look at who exactly is our listening community and are we actually serving all the needs of our listening community.  So what I mean by that is, as we know,  if you are a member of the Rainbow community, we are diverse within our own Rainbow, like really diverse.

When JOY first started it was called a Lesbian and Gay community radio station.  But as we know these are only the start of the Rainbow letters and there are now so many other communities so what we have been doing at JOY particularly in the last 12 months is to ask ourselves how do we make sure we are servicing, or serving, I should say, our transgender, our intersex, our bi-sexual, our a-sexual, how do we make sure we are actually covering everybody.  So what we have done right now is we have put together what we will call a content matrix.  We called all our presenters together, and this was when I first started and this was pre-COVID, and we talked about what we think we should be delivering.  We talked about if we put ourselves on the listening end, what would we want to hear from an organisation like JOY?

So we have started to come out with some pillars, and we are starting to apply these now, and this will take time, and we are pro-actively looking to ensure that we have content for the intersex community, how are we getting that content, let’s get that content out there.  And the transgender community.  And then youth, and people with mixed abilities, our indigenous communities and our culturally-diverse communities.  It’s a journey, one which JOY is certainly on, and what we are doing right now is being more proactive and saying: we need this content; this is missing.

Bec:

Yes, which is fabulous to hear.  Is JOY one of a kind, or are there other radio stations which support the LGBTIQ+ community in the same way?

Ange:

JOY is one of a kind in Australia, and there are three, maybe four, some debate about this, in the whole entire world.  So we are as unique as you can be when it comes to a Rainbow community media organisation.  And there have been some commercial media organisations for the LGBTIQ+ community which have come and gone, but JOY is the only Australian community media organisation which serves our community.

Bec:

Something to be really proud of!

Ange:

Absolutely and we are incredibly proud of this.

Bec:

Now we are in a global pandemic, as you know, and we as a legal firm have had to change, we have had to adapt, have had to get more virtual, and for a law firm that is hard enough but for a radio station which relies on people, mainly, talk to me about how JOY has managed to keep going during this time, because it would have been quite easy to just turn the plug off and go… this is too hard, we are out of here!

Ange:

Too true, Bec, what is the saying when you have a crisis and people really come to the fore, that has absolutely happened at JOY.  Within a space of about three days, we had to set up about 150 broadcasters plus about another 50 volunteers who go across producing, office admin, podcasting, you name it.  We had to basically locate those people to their homes.  You can imagine the technological difficulties around broadcasting a program from your living-room, or having to pre-record it at home.  We had a mixture going on, and still do today. That was enormous, it just shook us up completely, and we had to figure out, we had to problem-solve completely, our team members were totally displaced, they had to watch videos to learn how to use new software and all sorts of things.  But everybody has given it their utmost commitment to actually make this happen. And I think we are really lucky in that regard.

As a leader of this organisation, I feel incredibly proud, and if I am really honest, I also feel sad some days, because I can’t come into JOY, into the studios every day to see people; it’s quiet, but they are there.  Some people are broadcasting from their living rooms, in their closets, one broadcaster was recording in her closet, I think it is fantastic.   We all know from the feedback in our listenership, and the growth in our listenership, that we are needed now more than we have ever been and that is because people are feeling isolated at times, so we need to keep this connection strong, they need to be informed.  It has been quite an amazing evolution.  We have taken a hit to our sponsorship income, a really big hit, as have most media organisations right now in Victoria.  How can you advertise when no one can consume your product or your service?  So that has really hurt us.

But we are lucky in having the support of the government who have enabled us to deliver our JOY TV program, which in itself is a COVID strategy to a) keep some of our beautiful performers in work and b) to keep our people at home feeling that they are not alone and so the government has been really supportive of us in that regard.  Our membership, our radiothon happened during COVID and we have really appreciated that support, those donations, and we need them to keep coming. It’s a challenging time, from an income perspective, but we are finding our way through and we will continue to find our way through.

Bec:

This brings me to my last question which is: why do we have to have JOY, why does this radio station have to stay on air, why does it need to exist? Why is it so important?

Ange:

I think that communication is vital for the survival of our community first of all, and that communication comes in many forms.  What good communication does is that it validates who we are. Our community – we are a minority – so we need to feel validated, we need to feel like worthwhile human beings who have such a great contribution to make to this society, and to have a dedicated media service that communicates with us, lets us share knowledge between ourselves, promotes are artists, dedicates news to the topic that is particular to the Rainbow community, all this is absolutely critical. Without this kind of service, we become disjointed and there is a real possibility of a fragmentation within the community, so JOY is so important in giving a voice to our community, keeping this community connected and also engaging with our allies because that is how we will build a more inclusive Australia.

People need to learn what it means to be transgender, what would my life be like, what does it mean to be asexual, what does that even mean, what is intersex?  These are all questions which people want to ask but don’t always ask, so I think that by our community, talking about these things openly and with great authenticity, we are going to educate the rest of Australia.

Bec:

It is interesting that you should mention that because as an ally myself, when I started at JOY there were so many things I didn’t know, and I’m always very conscious that when I’m in a community that I’m not naturally a part of, that it is not their job to educate me, I always feel like it is my job to educate myself.  I encourage so many other allies to become part of JOY or listen to JOY because it has opened my mind to things, and I have met people whom I would never have met. So I think it is of utmost importance to the community, and I also think that those of us who are allies can learn so much as well.

Ange:

Absolutely, Bec, and you know what? Even members from within the Rainbow community, we can all learn so much, because as I said earlier, we are diverse. And in fact, diversity goes across the whole population and the whole idea of inclusivity is that we learn from each other and we get to know each other and JOY plays such a crucial role in doing that.

Bec:

Well, Ange, thank you so much.  I know this is a really busy time, but congratulations on your great work on running the show there, and we look forward to hearing JOY on air for many years to come.

Ange:

Thanks so much, Bec, and thank you for all you do at JOY including that great show: “Chicks Talking Footy”.

Bec:

Thanks Ange

 

Disclaimer: Nicholes Family Lawyers intends the information provided in this podcast as general information only, please contact Nicholes Family lawyers if you require specific information and advise in relation to any family law matter.

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