Did Sammy J accept an on-air challenge to strip off and jump into the less-than-tropical waters of Corio Bay after presenting his breakfast show on March 1? 

ABC Friends Geelong

Frankly, reader, we don’t know.

The ABC Friends Geelong group was keen enough to turn up at all this year’s pop-up broadcasts from the waterfront campus of Deakin Uni, but too discreet to follow the off-duty Sammy as he headed towards the boardwalk after some selfies and a friendly chat.

This was the third consecutive year that ABC Radio Melbourne has come down the highway for a series of broadcasts in March. As always, the ABC presenters and production teams were happy to have Friends there, even chatting with Anne and Brian Edwards, visiting ABC Friends from the Blue Mountains!. The feeling is mutual, but we also took every opportunity to promote our campaign for a stronger permanent ABC presence in the broad Geelong region.  

We were even able to get past his minders and give the Deputy PM, Richard Marles, our campaign leaflet and a very brief sales pitch as he departed after an interview with Ali Moore. He gave us a quick thumbs-up in return. 

Across the pop-up launch and through the month, we caught up with several old Friends and recruited a few new ones. We were also able to have informal conversations with a couple of senior ABC managers and various local producers. Sammy J, Trevor Chappell, Raf Epstein, Jacinta Parsons and Brian Nankervis generously made time to meet and greet us and other ABC fans after their respective shows. 

The biggest crowd of the month came along for the Friday Revue, at which a bemused passer-by accidentally won the weekly quiz. She was only persuaded to return the following week as the carryover champion after being told which station’s program she was on. She didn’t seem terribly familiar with ABC Radio Melbourne, but agreed to come back anyway. That’s the power of an outside broadcast: lifting ratings one innocent bystander at a time!    

Jon Faine to lead Geelong campaign meeting

It’s now over a year since the ABC Friends Geelong group launched its campaign to strengthen the ABC’s coverage of the broader Geelong region. Several of the local mayors, state and federal politicians and community leaders have already expressed their support.   

The next step is to show how much popular enthusiasm there is for an improved ABC service – and discuss what form the improvements could take – at a public meeting. 

The meeting is to occur at 7pm on Tuesday, May 28 at the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre. Entry is free, but as space is limited everyone planning to come along needs to register here. 

If you live in the area, please help us send the strongest possible message to Ultimo and Canberra. 

Jon Faine has agreed to lead the discussion through a series of conversations with invited guests. Various suggestions for change will be proposed and a senior ABC manager will be invited to respond and help set up ongoing consultation. 

The Geelong area now has a population of around 360,000 and has the fastest growing population outside the Melbourne metro area, including all the youthful demographics so important to the ABC. For years it was promised its own ABC radio station, but the ABC is now firmly committed to retaining Geelong region listeners as part of ABC Radio Melbourne’s audience.  

ABC Friends fully appreciates how much financial pressure the ABC is under. The aim of this campaign is to find cost-effective ways the ABC can reach a bigger local audience with intelligent, trustworthy coverage of the issues and events that often matter more within each community than state and national headline news. It’s a WIN-WIN proposition!