Wireless radio in Australia

Media release: Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The history of wireless radio in Australia is full of fascinating stories. They include an interview with Adolf Hitler on 2FC in 1932, a ban on mentioning the Melbourne Cup on 2CH, and Harold Holt's father's role as manager of 3XY. Then there was the grand piano that fell through the termite ridden studio floor while being played live to air on 4WK.

Radio 4BC was the first to broadcast an Aboriginal corroboree, 4GR's tower was demolished by a crop duster and 3SY's race caller Ken Howard has his binoculars seized for the war effort during World War II.

'I've come across so many fascinating stories about wireless radio in the National Archives that I thought it would be good to share them with the people of Brisbane,' said Greg Cope, director of the Queensland office of the National Archives of Australia.

Greg has therefore organised two seminars on the evolution of wireless radio in Australia on Wednesday 15 and Saturday 18 May.

It wasn't until 1923 that the first radio broadcast in Australia went to air, on station 2SB (which later became 2BL, then ABC 702 in Sydney). They had beaten their rivals 2FC, owned by the Farmer & Company retail store, by just two weeks. Station 2FC later became ABC Radio National.

In 1929 the government nationalised wireless transmission facilities and contracted programming to the privately owned Australian Broadcasting Company. In 1932 that company was also nationalised.

The new Australian Broadcasting Commission's first day of programs included the children's session with Bobby Bluegum, British Wireless News, ABC Women's Association session, the first sports program Racing Notes, morning devotions, a chat session on goldfish and their care and music. On 1 June 1947, the ABC's independent national news service began.

During the Great Depression many families could not afford to own a radio so Glebe council in Sydney commissioned a 'Wireless House' in 1934, a public listening place in a local park. This operated until the early 1950s.

The National Archives holds many early ABC scripts including those from Meandering Martha who dispensed household advice and recipes on Brisbane ABC station 4BC.

Members of the public are welcome to attend Greg Cope's free seminars on Wednesday 15 and Saturday 18 May from 10.00 to 11.30 am. Attendance is free but bookings are essential on (07) 3249 4226.

Contact information

  • Greg Cope (Director, Queensland State Office)
    t (07) 3249 4229 m 0400 753 854
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019