Saving Joy

Wild Cat: Tsubasa

Still trying to Save Joy

It may have come to readers notice that I have been somewhat critical of LGBTI radio station Joy 94.9 of late, and the stirrer has provided a platform to the campaign to try to Save Joy.

This has been difficult to do, thanks to the unwillingness of Save Joy campaigners to show their names and faces, or provide specific chapter and verse. Even though such evidence, in the form of email trails, does exist, and even though employee and volunteer advocates have offered to assist them pro bono. It’s hard to help people who won’t help themselves. But that’s not an excuse for not trying.

Under these circumstances the Save Joy campaign has understandably collapsed, and everyone is pretending nothing is wrong, at least while Joys annual radiothon fundraiser is running. No-one wants to see the station starved to death. Thankfully that now seems unlikely, with over $100k in the bag and a strong likelihood they will come within a respectable $20-30k of their target

But the problems at Joy will not have gone away, and without proper remedy, will soon break out into the open again. Unless the issues that have been raised are tackled boldly and publicly, the station will die. Joy is not saved yet. We owe it to our community not to let that happen.


There’s an old story about a bunch of mice discussing how to save themselves from a hunting cat. They vote to hang a bell round the cats neck, so that they will hear it coming. Everyone thinks this is a great idea, until someone asks:

So, who’s going to tie the bell round the neck of the cat?

Needless to say, there are no volunteers, and lots of excuses. Just as no-one will step up to Save Joy. I’m not offering to bell the cat myself, but I can see how it might be done.


I have been asking and listening (and receiving unsolicited advice and opinion), trying to discover what people want to do and, more importantly, are willing to do, and the answers are

  • “something”, but
  • they don’t know what, and
  • whatever it is, they don’t want to do it themselves, and
  • won’t take any personal risks to do it, or
  • put their names to it (so they can slip away penalty free if it all goes belly up), and
  • are just hoping that things will come right by themselves

They don’t even know what result they want, or if they do, they won’t say it. A word of advice: this strategy never works.


This is not surprising: Joy has a very good track record of defending itself through ad hominem attacks on its critics, which is what’s been happening, yet again, in the current situation.

So we hear “it’s all about x’s ego”, so-and-so is just a “bitter old queen”, another is “putting personal ambition ahead of the community”, people “think they’re more important that the station”, etc etc, tired old tropes Joy management have been trotting out since I first walked through the door in South Melbourne in 2002. This solves nothing, and only sets things up for another stoush down the track.


The only and obvious answer is for the bullied, the hurt, the damaged, the attacked, rejected, discarded (the merely uncomfortable, even), to stop sitting around licking their wounds, get together, and work en bloc. Otherwise they will continue being picked off one by one. Like the aforementioned mice.


The standard route to change, and the one spruiked by Board and management for the last fifteen years or more, is: get involved, stand for election to the board, put up a slate of candidates, gather the proxies to get them elected and voila, there’s your reform.

I estimate it would take about five years of very hard work and political infighting, by a united and driven group, holding fast to a vision and purpose. I don’t see anyone prepared to devote even five minutes to such an effort. At my age it certainly isn’t going to be me: I nowadays confine myself to the proper role of an elder and an old British Queen, to advise, guide and warn only.

Plus, if that worked, it would have been done already. And lo and behold, it has, and is, every year, by the same tight little clique who have got us into the current situation. We need a new approach.


I have been accused of criticising without offering alternatives. And it is true that I have no cure to offer, but I can suggest a fair, decent  and transparent way to arrive at one. So I will stick my head over the parapet one last time and offer this way to devise and develop a fair, healthy, respectful, sustainable culture.

As an immediate first step, and as an earnest of good faith, the Board and Management must acknowledge its maltreatment of volunteers past and present and apologise.

The Board must then establish an independent external inquiry into its policies, principles and practices, to hear evidence both in camera and in public, to investigate all the alleged issues and problems, and then stand aside and let the inquiry run the station until its work is finished. The inquiry would be charged with recommending a new structure, constitution, mission and principles.
To ensure all the necessary viewpoints are canvassed, the inquiry has access to all the necessary expertise, and management cannot derail its work, it will need:
  • a six month timeframe minimum,
  • a guarantee of absolute confidentiality to all whistleblowers
  • a membership drawn 50/50 from the LGBTI community and other community radio stations,
  • selected by our LGBTI commissioner or other totally independent person or body,
  • made up of independent individuals with no current presence or interest at Joy,
  • with reps from VGLRL, VAC, Minus 18 and all the other main LGBTI orgs,
  • and from other community radio stations such as PBS, RRR, 3CR, SYN etc
  • stand down the current management staff, on half pay, for the duration of the enquiry,
  • and employ interim management to fill their roles, probably on secondment from the other radio stations

As I said, it’s not an answer. It is a way to give everyone a “fair shake of the sauce bottle”, keep the station on life support while we find a means to end the constant, recurrent instability, and ultimately, Save Joy.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)