2006 winner is Celebrity Drug Disasters.

In a first for Australian commercial radio, the country's four major networks are jointly working to break an unsigned Australian act.

The initiative, involving radio networks Austereo, Nova, Australian Radio Network and Macquarie Regional Radioworks, came through the annual New Artists to Radio Showcase (NA2R).

At that two-day conference and awards ceremony, which took place in Sydney Oct. 13-14, developing acts are showcased before radio executives. Commercial-radio trade body Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) organized the event.

The 2006 winner is New South Wales rock/dance act Celebrity Drug Disasters. The act was chosen by 650 radio executives at the Oct. 13 NA2R showcase at the Luna Park entertainment center/amusement park. Celebrity Drug Disasters performed the following day before 900 executives at the Commercial Radio Awards at Luna Park.

Its prize includes $100,000 Australian ($76,000) worth of free advertising airtime over two weeks on Austereo, Nova, Australian Radio Network and Macquarie Regional Radioworks. The two-week campaign, showing how Celebrity Drug Disasters won and featuring a clip of the winner's self-funded debut single "Getting Better", kicks off Oct. 23. CRA will handle the ad's creative.

The other three finalists were Melbourne pop/rock vocalist Bobby Kidd, Sydney folk singer Mark Wilkinson, and Byron Bay-based funk band Kurtis. They also performed before the industry executives at the NA2R showcase.

Formed in 2002, the NA2R has provided crucial early exposure to several acts-including unsigned talent and acts newly signed to major labels. Among the acts to have been featured are Sony BMG's Delta Goodrem and Tammin Sursok, Warner Music's Thirsty Merc, Universal's Sarah Blasko and EMI's Little Birdy, all of whom have subsequently had major chart success Down Under.

The ARIA ceased being a NA2R joint partner in 2004. But the CRA has continued backing the showcase and opted to only feature unsigned acts this year. "We're proving that radio can still create stars," says CRA's Sydney-based CEO Joan Warner.

The indie sector sees such support as unprecedented. "Anyone who has worked an indie act on radio knows the power of commercial radio," points out Vicki Gordon, managing director of Sydney-based media and marketing consultancy VGM.

Adds radio plugger Russell Thomas, managing director of Sydney-based Kaos Management: "What was most significant about a win like this is it got the band in front of 900 program and music directors with one appearance, and that made all the difference."