On the 6th January 1980 5EBI FM made its debut on 102.3Mhz.
The station’s official launch was on February 2nd, with approximately 200,000 people expected to tune in. At the time the station was controlled by 33 committees, elected by ethnic and language groups in South Australia. Two month after commencing transmission on 102.3 Mhz. 5EBI-FM was extremely happy with their progress. They had many more live programs, compared to the majority of programs being pre-recorded when on 5UV, and the station was receiving a “fantastic response” from their listeners. In the words of 5EBI’s secretary at that time, George Kokoti, having more live programs-which created a real station atmosphere, had helped to “bring the audience closer to us”. There were letters from people more than 90km away. 5EBI was broadcasting more than 100 hours of programs each week. The main problem was that the station developed faster than expected: expanding at such a rate its present premises couldn’t cope. New programs constantly starting had placed more demands on studio time. More studio space was needed, and so plans to move to another building were inevitable.
From September 1980, 5EBI,having lost its battle with the Post and Telecommunications Department over frequency changes, and being forced to shift to a new frequency on the FM dial, was to be heard on 92.9 Mhz.
The change from Mile End to 10 Byron Place, where the white brick antique salesroom was doubtlessly to be transformed into a modern radio station, was a very big event. On the 1st of October the present building was purchased – EBI borrowed money to equip the place properly. At first it was very difficult to pay accounts, such as electricity, thus forcing EBI to pay them in bits, as well as prioritising their payments. During this time of the planning development, most of the unofficial meetings and relevant discussions were held at the local Hungry Jack’s. With lots of patience and good management, the building was eventually paid off.
On October the 3d, 1981, 5EBI-FM started broadcasting for the first time from their new $ 110,000 premises at 10 Byron Place, between Grote and Gougers streets in the City. The call sign changed, the letters FM were added. Going FM meant the station could now broadcast in stereo with increased quality, especially for its music broadcasting. This was a tremendous boost for a radio station just beginning to flourish under its own steam. The station ‘switched on’ with a two day Radiothon, to raise funds for the three studio building. George Kokoti said it was hoped more than $ 20,000 would be raised. The station was off to a good start with a donation from the Government of South Australia. The new station converted from an old warehouse, encompassed reception offices, storage for records, library, meeting rooms, studios, record library, kitchen and bathrooms. The ethnic communities made the move possible through devoted efforts and an unusual degree of co-operation. They could put aside individual politics and all differences, and put in the effort – donating their time and labour. The station had been overwhelmed by the responds from listeners to appeals for help in converting and renovating the warehouse. It was to commend the Adelaide City Council for the way the building application process was handled, to enable an easy and quick conversion to a full scale radio station.
The new premise was opened by the Primer of South Australia, Mr. David Tonkin. The newspaper covering the opening event conveys the atmosphere as ‘truly cosmopolitan …with people wearing the national dress of their countries of origin mingling with the multinational crowd of station workers and media representatives.’
Members of the 5 EBI family were drawn from about 47 language communities. Each community has a radio committee, consisting of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and members. The committee has many responsibilities, e. g. overseeing production, handling conflicts and paying fees to EBI.
Program contents varies greatly and is subject to the presenter. Almost all of 5 EBI’s programs are produced by volunteers. They dedicate their time to help preserve the language, culture and traditions of their home countries. But it’s not all hard work. They also have the opportunity to meet people from other ethnic backgrounds. New volunteers are always welcome at 5EBI. The station and the communities benefit from getting more people involved. The presenters are able to touch the soul of their listeners through their program.
The year 1984 marked a new beginning in Ethnic Broadcasting throughout Australia. The Public Broadcasting association of Australia did nothing to promote and further ethnic community broadcasting. 4EB in Brisbane and 5EBi joined forces to help establish the National Ethnic Multicultural Broadcasting Council (NEMBC). Luigi Penna, vice chairman of 5EBi at that time, was one of the first Vice presidents. Hans Degenhart, life member of 5 EBI, was an Executive member and Treasurer for many years. His wife Brenda Degenhart held the Chair of the Woman’s sub-committee for 2 years.
5 EBI has also been involved in festivals and other multicultural events. Their special Outside Broadcast Van (OBV) was purchased and opened in 1985 by Chris Summer, Minister for Ethnic Affairs and Attorney General. Since then it has been used extensively to broadcast from events like the Schutzenfst, Adelaide Royal Show, Glendi, Spanish Festival a. s. o. Many radio groups have used the OBV to promote their events on air and as a public address system at functions.