ABC Radio’s AM – 50 years on

September 4th 1967. A new radio program was born, forever changing the way Australians received their morning news.

The ABC’s AM program was first broadcast at a time when people relied on the rustle of newspapers printed the night before for their daily fix of local, national and international events. Australian troops were fighting in Vietnam, decimal currency was still new and Indigenous Australians had just won the right to be counted in the census.

How eerie the echoes of the past must have resonated 50 years on when listeners this morning tuned in to hear Donald Trump had refused to be drawn on whether the United States would attack North Korea after the country carried out a sixth nuclear test.

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, echoed the sentiments of world leaders including President Trump when he told listeners “We are facing, the gravest threat to peace since the end of the Korean war”

Much has changed in radio since AM first went to air in 1967 — radio technology, audience behaviours and the political landscape have all shifted. But AM has remained the bedrock that has helped shape Australia and set the national agenda.

AM’s offices – 1967

Over the past 50 years the program has adapted and evolved with the times, but its original ethos has remained the same:“To bring to Australians as quickly as possible the essence of the news, commentary, interviews. That was how it started and that’s how it is today,” Paul Raffaele, who was part of the original team of AM reporters, said.

One big thing that has changed since 1967 is the technology delivering radio news to listeners.

Raffaele said in the beginning when a reporter was on the road the only way for them to send their audio back to the studio was by using alligator clips to attach their tape recorder to a telephone. “We’d go into the phone booth, unscrew the [mouthpiece] of the phone, we’d have alligator clips we’d plug into the [recorder] outlet and [the phone].

“Before that we’d alert AM that we were about to send it in so many minutes, we’d then ring up and when they came on the line we’d press the [play] button and send it down.”​

Sabra Lane, the current presenter of the program, said while Australians have never had so many different ways to receive their news, AM remained a crucial start to the day for listeners.
“I believe the program will continue to be regarded as important ‘appointment’ listening on radio, as listeners tune in to hear up-to-date information and analysis on breaking news events and emergencies here and around the world.”

This week, AM will commemorate its 50th anniversary on-air and online, looking back on some of the biggest stories covered by the program and giving audiences a look at what was going on behind the scenes. 

AM is heard at 8am Monday to Saturday on ABC Radio, online, on Digital Radio and ABC Radio app.

Early AM can be heard each weekday morning at 6.05am on ABC Radio and at 7.10am on ABC RN.  AM is presented by Sabra Lane Monday to Friday and by Elizabeth Jackson on Saturday.


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