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Video clip synopsis – An excerpt from The Royal Empire Society Banquet. Liz Jacka describes the impact which radio broadcasts had on Australian life.
Year of production - 1923
Duration - 1min 38sec
Tags - audiences, broadcasting, changing communities, children, culture, family life, identity, media and society, radio, script writing, see all tags


Early radio broadcasting

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 earlyradio_pr.mp4 (12.1MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 earlyradio_bb.mp4 (5.7MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


The excerpt of The Royal Empire Society Banquet was filmed in Sydney in the late 1920s. This video clip is on the From Wireless to Web website, produced in 2005.

The interview with Liz Jacka was recorded for From Wireless to Web.
Liz Jacka is an Author and Professor in Communications Studies for the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney. You can view her full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


In this English unit students will:

  • discuss the history of early radio broadcasting in Australia, with relevance to their own listening experiences today
  • work in teams to produce, present and record a radio program
  • produce a piece of imaginative creative writing set in the year 1923.

Curriculum links
National: The Statements of Learning for English- Year 7

Reading, viewing and interpreting texts
Students read, view and interpret imaginative, information and argument texts
texts in books, films, and on television programs, CD-ROMs and websites.
Students understand that:

  • texts can entertain and evoke emotion
  • subject matter is selected to appeal to different audiences
  • readers’ and viewers’ interpretations of texts are influenced by the knowledge and values of the groups to which they belong, and by their own experiences.
  • texts can be constructed for more than one purpose (eg to report, to present a point of view, to create a market for more readers and viewers)
  • creators of texts use their assumptions about readers and viewers to engage their interest and attention
  • aspects of subject matter are selected to appeal to, and to influence, different groups of readers and viewers.

Students write texts to entertain, inform and persuade in print and electronic mediums for unknown or specified audiences.
Students understand that writers:

  • select subject matter within a chosen topic according to purpose and audience
  • can draw on their own knowledge, experiences, thoughts and feelings
  • can draw on the subject matter and forms of texts they have heard, read and viewed.

Speaking and listening
Students speak and listen through discussions, conversations and oral presentations including prepared and spontaneous discussions, meetings, debates and group discussions. Students examine ideas and information and present arguments that are drawn from topics of interest to them and that may need to be researched.

This resource is also relevant to Media Studies: Audiences, History of media forms, Media in society, Representation and Codes and Conventions of radio.

This is an extract only. Go to The National Curriculum Statements for English
Teachers and students should consult their state’s curriculum and learning programs.

Background Information


The 1920s was a decade of extremes in Australia, Europe and the United States. For some it was the age of fast living, with motion pictures and motoring, booze, jazz, cabaret and fashions for women that showed some leg. But for others, the years following World War I were years of hardship and suffering that were only to worsen when the Great Depression hit in 1929.

The First Radio Broadcast
During the evening of 23 November 1923 people across Sydney gathered eagerly in their homes around pieces of wondrous new technology to hear the first radio broadcast in Australia. At precisely 8 o’clock they tuned in to hear the St Andrews Choir with soloists Misses Deering and Druitt, and Messrs Saunders, Pick and Thorp. The ensemble performed 'Le cygne’ (The Swan), from Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals).

The advent of the ‘wireless’ and the first radio broadcast was a keenly anticipated event. The radio station’s call sign was 2SB, for Broadcasters (Sydney) Ltd. The company staff breathed a sigh of relief at the success of their radio broadcast, particularly as they had beaten their rival station, Farmer and Co. (2FC), who did not achieve transmission for another two weeks (5 December 1923). Soon after their initial broadcast, 2SB changed their call sign to 2BL. 2FC went on to become ABC Radio National.

Classroom Activities

  1. Getting started
    As a class, view the video clip interview with Liz Jacka and the archival clip of the banquet speech then discuss and write notes on the following:
    1. Explain how the introduction of radio broadcasting in Australia in 1923 changed family life in the home. (Jacka interview)
    2. Comment on whether you think radio broadcasting has the same impact on Australian audiences as it did in the 1920s.
    3. What evidence of radio broadcasting is there in the camera shots taken at the location of the banquet? Describe any other evidence of radio broadcasting presented in the video (Archival clip)
    4. Comment on whether there has been any moment in your life where a radio broadcast has completely captured your attention. Comment on any similar television viewing moments you recall.
  2. Working in teams to produce a radio broadcast
    In small groups research, plan, produce, present and record a 15-minute radio broadcast of 1920s popular music, as though it were actually taking place in the 1920s. You may wish to include a brief bulletin of genuine news story headlines from the era, and one or two advertisements. (The full broadcast does not have to be recorded in unbroken ‘real time’; if you are able to do so, separately recorded sections may be edited together in software into one sound file for playback on a computer, or even placed on your school’s intranet.)
  3. Writing a letter to a friend
    It is November 1923. Your parents have bought a new-fangled radio receiver, and you have just heard your first radio broadcast. Draft, edit and proofread a letter in 300–400 words to a friend in the countryside, telling them all about it.

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

Go to When radio was the cat’s whiskers, radio broadcast, ABC New England North West NSW, 24 September 2002, presented by Kate Sieper.

Go to Radio Yesteryear

Go to Old-Time Radio

Colin James. Something in the Air: A History of Radio in Australia, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1995

Read Media new ways and meanings 3rd Ed. by Colin Stewart and Adam Kowaltzke. Jacaranda, Milton, QLD, 2008. Go to a sample of chapters online at Jacaranda Books