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Early radio broadcasting

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.

Reading Standard: students view, analyse and discuss a wide range of informative and persuasive texts and identify the multiple purposes for which texts are created. They compare and contrast the typical features of particular texts and synthesise information from different texts to draw conclusions.

Writing Standard: students write sustained and cohesive narratives that experiment with different techniques and show attention to chronology, characterisation, consistent point of view and development of a resolution. They compose a range of other texts, such as feature articles, webpages and workplace texts. They proofread and edit their own writing for accuracy, consistency and clarity.

Speaking and Listening Standard: students compare ideas, build on others’ ideas, provide and justify other points of view, and reach conclusions that take account of aspects of an issue. They draw on a range of strategies to listen to and present spoken texts, complex issues or information imaginatively to interest an audience.

The activities in this unit are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strands of Level 6 Communications (Listening, Viewing and Responding standard; Presenting standard), and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, Processing and Inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 6 Interpersonal Development (Building Social Relationships standard; Working in Teams standard), and Personal Learning (The Individual Learner standard; Managing Personal Learning standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

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