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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

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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.

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. Students are asked to do an audit of how many radios there are in their homes. Are car radios, phone radios, and radios as a component of other equipment, included? Construct a whole class profile of radio owners. Discuss if there has been any event broadcast on radio that has completely captured the students’ attention. Can the same be said of television?

2. As a class, view the video clip interview with Liz Jacka and the archival clip of the banquet speech and discuss how the introduction of radio broadcasting in Australia in 1923 changed family life in the home. Students consider whether radio broadcasting has the same impact on Australian audiences today as it did in the 1920s. Ask students, in small groups, to develop a set of questions about radio usage to ask people of at least two generations older than themselves. Report findings to the class and analyse the trends in the use and popularity of radio and possible explanations for trends.

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 archival video clip. In the recording of events like music concerts, interviews, etc is the technology of the radio or film/video or other tehnologies a better form of recording the event? Give reasons.

4. Consider the idea that technologies, like the radio, television or iPod, might identify and support social cohesion and assist in the articulation of rights and responsibilities with being a citizen. To what extent can some groups in society be excluded from the impacts of these technologies? To what extent can the owners of the technologies influence citizens’ views, sometimes with bias and by representing stereotypes?

5. In small groups research, and with persmission, plan, produce, present and record a 15-minute broadcast to played over the school broadcast sytem or intranet, 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. How might you measure the impact of the broadcast?

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