6PM was Perth’s third commercial radio station when it launched April 22, 1937, broadcasting from the transmitter at Coffee Point, on the south side of the Swan River, near the South of Perth Yacht Club. 6PM was also the first Perth station to schedule announcers in regular time slots.
Young listeners enjoyed attending the incredibly popular “live” children’s sing-along program, Willie Weeties Club, the ‘Kiddies’ Kommunity Koncert and the Happy Hour Club, held Saturday mornings in a hall on the top storey of Boans department store. The Saturday Morning Children’s concert with John Luke was advertised as Children’s Concert. The sponsor was Weeties.
Early announcers included John Luke, Kevin Whitby, Noreen (Margo) Leen and Nell Shortland-Jones. Other loved personalities over the years on 6PM-AM included: Brien Thirley, Graham Gooden, Alan Robertson, Graham Bowra, Keith Taylor, Tony Barber, Philip Clark, Ashton Farley, Peter Chaplin, Steven Cooper, David Ellery, Laurie Henry. Programme managers included Jack Anstey and Monty Menhennett. Betty Farrington was heard broadcasting Community Announcements.
A popular lunch time show was a weekday 1 to 1.45 pm singalong ladies concert called the “John Luke’s Shopping Basket”. It was compered by John Luke in the studio’s auditorium, with a live audience of mostly women shoppers’ in the city. Luke’s “Down the merry isle with the shopping basket” was one of his well know sayings when giving out little gifts and two shillings in cash. The first compere during WW2 was Stan Gervas. The station was owned by Frank Whitford (Managing) of Perth, and Archer Whitford of Sydney. In 1937 the studios were located in Fremantle and later moved to St. George’s House, 115 St George’s Terrace, Perth. The Whitford Network comprised 6PM Perth, 6AM Northam, 6KG Kalgoorlie and 6GE Geraldton, covering large areas of Western Australia. The regional stations were not on relay, (except at times for 6AM Northam) as each broadcast in their own right.
6PM was the last commercial station in Perth to give up taking the A.B.C. News, in 1964. Their early newsreaders were Brian Hocking (ex 6PR), Bill Gill, Peter Holland and Doug Foley.
PM’s Football Commentators included Bill Brophy, Jack Sweet, Clive Lewington, John O’Connell and John Dethridge. Match compere was Graham Gooden.
At one point TVW Channel 7 offered to purchase all of the issued shares in the Whitford Broadcasting Network, pending approval from the Postmaster-General. Brian Treasure was involved in the negotiations, but due to complications with major shareholder WA Newspapers’ interest in 6IX, Sir Frank Packer became the new owner. The Whitford Broadcasting Network was then renamed Consolidated Broadcasting System (CBS). 6PM General Manager was Eric Fisher who was later transferred to Melbourne and appointed General Manager of the Packer group’s GTV Channel 9. TVW eventually acquired 6IX.
In 1970 George Chapman became General Manager of the CBS Network and moved 6PM operations from the basement of St. George’s building, to new broadcasting studios and offices at 283 Rokeby Road, Subiaco. The new 6PM studios were officially opened on 31st August 1970 by the then Premier, Sir David Brand, who at the same ceremony laid a time capsule containing taped 6PM airchecks, messages and a microfilm copy of the Sunday Times “State of the West” supplement.
In 1971 Lionel Lewis moved from 6KY (where he had been top rating for many years) to 6PM Breakfast and joined the team including Gordon O’Byrne, Michael A’Hern, Geoff Bradley and later Lionel Yorke. The same year 6PM became No. 1 and held the top position for many years.
During the hey day of Top 40 radio in the ‘60s and ‘70s, 6PM promoted itself with slogans like ‘The Pleasure Machine’, ‘Peppermint Radio’ and later ‘6PMusic’. In the early-‘80s, 6PM was one of several stations at the time that adopted the signature tune ‘Rhythm Of The City’ as its main slogan.
Later in the ‘80s, while fighting off the growing dominance of FM, 6PM was promoted as ‘Better Music’. The competition came from one of the first FM radio stations in Australia when 96FM was launched on 8th August 1980 by Brian Treasure with the financial support of Kerry Stokes and Jack Bendat.
George Chapman was the inaugural Managing Director of 96FM (1980-1984), who had returned to his hometown after several years in Sydney as General Manager of Kerry Packer’s TCN Channel 9 and later Station Manager of 2UW Sydney.
The first Program Director of 96FM was Gary Roberts, who had returned to Australia from New Zealand, whilst former 6PM announcer Gordon O’Byrne was the first DJ to be heard on FM radio in Perth.
In 1987, Kerry Stokes and Jack Bendat sold the Golden West regional TV network to Frank Lowy’s Northern Star Holdings for AU$206 million (who later sold GWN back to Stokes in 1988 for AU$54 million).
On 31 December 1990, 6PM was the first AM radio station in Perth to convert to the FM band. The new station was branded 6PMFM (call-sign 6PPM) on the frequency 92.9 MHz. Now known as 92.9FM.
In 1991, the Jack Bendat owned 6KY was the second AM radio station in Perth to go FM, initially being identified on-air as 94.5 KY FM, later to be known as Mix 94.5.
In 1992, Gary Roberts moved from 96FM to 94.5FM to take up the role of General Manager (after being General Manager of 96FM from 1984 to 1992).
In 1993, the Triple M network in the eastern states, bought 96FM and renamed the station Triple M.
In August 1993, 94.5FM purchased PMFM (now 92.9) from Kerry Packer, and Gary Roberts was subsequently appointed Managing Director of both stations, with Jack Bendat investing some of his $100m from the sale of Golden West to finance both stations.
In 1994, the Triple M network, owned by Hoyts Media, was in financial difficulties and sold to Village Roadshow, who then sold the network to Austereo, in return for a controlling share of Austereo.
In 1997, Village Roadshow subsidiary Austereo purchased both stations from Jack Bendat, but Australian media ownership laws required the divestiture of Triple M (former 96FM), so Village Roadshow sold it to Southern Cross Broadcasting (a division of Fairfax Media from 2007), which also owned AM radio station 6PR. Southern Cross then returned the station back to its original ’96FM’ branding.
In March 2007 92.9FM and sister station Mix 94.5 moved from premises at 283 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, to a new purpose built broadcast centre at 450 Roberts Road, on the corner of Monteath and Roberts Roads, Subiaco, Western Australia.
6PM story contributions thanks to George Chapman, John Cranfield, Richard Ashton, Paul Bendat and Bret Treasure.