100 not out – Radio Celebrates a century

Commercial Radio & Audio is hosting a special event in Parliament House in Canberra tomorrow to remind Government of the valuable role and influence of commercial radio.

The CRA Board and other industry leaders will be celebrating 100 years of radio and launching a new study by Deloitte Access Economics on the economic and social contribution of radio.

Russel Howcroft from 3AW’s top rating breakfast show will be hosting proceedings, with CRA chair Ciaran Davis, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Shadow Communications Minister David Coleman expected to speak.

Around 100 guests including MPs and Senators from all parties are expected to attend the event.

The history of radio in Australia has been chronicled in Steve Ahern’s book Making Radio and Podcasts. Key points from the History of Radio chapter include:

  • The most notable pioneer of radio in Australia was Ernest Fisk. He arrived in Australia from England in 1910 with patents from Marconi and Telefunken. He eventually became managing director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited (AWA), which played a big part in the development of radio in Australia.
  • The world’s first radio station to broadcast regular programs was the Marconi transmitter in Essex, England. It started in February 1920 with a recital by the renowned Australian singer Dame Nellie Melba.
  • Many temporary and test transmissions were carried out during the 1920s. In 1922, AWA entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth of Australia to develop, manufacture and sell radio communication equipment, to erect radio stations and conduct radio services.
  • In 1923 the Australian Commonwealth Government approved the ‘sealed set’ system that had been proposed by AWA. Listeners paid a subscription to a private broadcasting company and a licence fee to the government, then tuned into only the station or stations to which they subscribed.
  • The first two stations were approved for Sydney: 2SB, operated by Sydney Broadcasters Limited, with a subscription of 10 shillings, and 2FC, operated by Farmer and Company, with a listener’s subscription of three guineas. In Melbourne there was 3AR, the Associated Radio Company; and in Perth 6WF, Westralian Farmers Limited.
  • On 23 November 1923 at 8 pm, the first licenced radio station went to air. This was 2SB Sydney which later changed its call sign to 2BL, moving from ‘Sydney Broadcasters’ to ‘Broadcasters Limited’ because it differentiated it from the sound-alike callsign 2FC. 2BL is today named ABC Radio Sydney and is the oldest continually operating licenced radio station in Australia. Radio 2SB’s opening program, a live musical performance, was broadcast from a studio in Phillip Street.
  • Twelve days later 2FC went to air, it is now ABC Radio National (Sydney)
  • The next radio station to open was 3AR Melbourne, on 26 January 1924. It is now ABC Radio National (Melbourne).
  • In those days, ten years before the ABC was created, all stations were commercial, divided into A-Class and B-Class stations, depending on how much advertising they were allowed to broadcast. A-Class stations moved from advertising to licence fee funding and eventually were absorbed into what became the national broadcaster, ABC.
  • Radio 2UE is the oldest existing commercial station in Australia. It began operating in 1925 on a licence granted in 1924. It was originally named 2EU, standing for the company that owned it, Electrical Utilities. It was thought that 2EU sounded too much like ‘who are you?’ so the letters were reversed.



Related report: 80 Years of Australian Radio in 2003



Russel Howcroft. Pic: CRA

Main Pic: Parliament House, Canberra, Shutterstock merteneh


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