We know triple j as our beloved national youth broadcaster, with a vast web of tentacles spreading throughout the Australian music industry. From music, to news, to live events, triple j have got it covered.
But when the station launched as Double Jay back in the ’70s, it was a bratty runt started by a bunch of hippies-cum-radio enthusiasts who felt like Australian youth, who were all about civil action at the time, deserved a voice on the airwaves.
Case in point, after the station was ordered to stop playing NWA’s incendiary hip-hop anthem ‘Fuck The Police’, the station decided to launch their own fist-in-the-air protest by playing the same song for 24 hours (roughly 360 times).
The story goes that in 1989, triple j was the only station in the world playing ‘Fuck The Police’. According to the ABC, the tune had been bouncing across the airwaves for six months when the station was forced to pull it.
Police and politicians forced ABC management to pull the song, which didn’t sit well with the folks at the station. In response, they played NWA’s ‘Express Yourself’ for 24 hours straight. For an entire day, NWA’s anti-censorship anthem was all you heard on the station.
A couple of years back, when the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton hit Aussie theatres, the Sydney Morning Herald decided to reprint their report on triple j’s 1990 protest in honour of the film’s release.
At the time, Fairfax branded the station’s non-violent resistance “one of the strangest and most controversial protests in Australian radio history”, which was precipitated by the banning of a song by “the increasingly notorious Los Angeles rap act, N … With Attitude”.
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According to the report, the call to nix ‘Fuck The Police’ came from the head of ABC Radio, Malcolm Long, who requested the track be given “a rest”. Fairfax described the track in vivid detail as containing “64 expletives” and advocating “the use of automatic weaponry”.
It was also originally reported that the station only played the tune from 9am until 4.30pm, repeating the song just 82 times, preceded by “a spiel explaining that due to industrial action, normal transmission had been interrupted”.
Fairfax‘s report also reveals that the protest was in fact launched after the station’s then-acting news editor, Nick Franklin, was suspended for playing 22 seconds of ‘Fuck The Police’ during a mini-dock on unsavoury language.
After lengthy discussions at the station, the staff agreed not to play NWA’s signature tune and in return, Franklin’s suspension was revoked. Check out this incredible piece of Australian music history via the Sydney Morning Herald here.