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Programs with Staying Power

Video clip synopsis – Behind the scenes of a recording of a popular radio soap of the 1940s. Tim Bowden recalls his father listening to popular radio series Mrs Obbs and the personalities who brought the characters to life.
Year of production - 1946
Duration - 2min 36sec
Tags - ABC, audiences, media production, popular culture, radio, ratings, script writing, see all tags


Programs with Staying Power

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Additional help.

About the Video Clip


Programs with Staying Power is an excerpt from the film The Invisible Link produced in 1951. The Invisible Link was produced by the Department of the Interior for the Post Master General’s Department for the Australian National Film Board. This video clip is included in the website From Wireless to Web produced in 2005.

The interview with Tim Bowden was recorded for the website. Tim Bowden is a broadcaster, radio and delivision documentary maker, oral historian and author. You can view his 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 aspects of the history of Australian radio, drawing comparisons to radio and television today
  • write a researched commentary for a popular magazine
  • draft and edit a short radio play
  • rehearse and record the radio play for playback.

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


At the start of World War II in 1939 Australians rushed to support Britain – the mother country – in her battle with Hitler’s Nazis. Then the Japanese bombed Darwin, killing hundreds, and the nation realised a greater enemy was battering at the door. Help came not from Britain but from a new friend, the United States. The 1940s shifted Australia’s sense of its place in the world.

Programs With Staying Power
Starting during the war years, thousands of children across the nation responded to ABC Radio’s invitation ‘boys and girls come out to play …’, the opening jingle of the long-running program Kindergarten of the Air. First broadcast in Perth in 1942, then going national the following year, Kindergarten of the Air was devised as a response to the closing down of many kindergartens and pre-schools during the war. Broadcast daily, Kindergarten of the Air continued until 1953 and enjoyed a brief revival during the 1960s.

Pick A Box, the high-rating radio quiz show hosted by Bob Dyer, a popular vaudeville artist from the United States, was launched on the Macquarie Radio Network in 1948. Using the simplest of quiz show formats, contestants were asked general knowledge questions and a correct answer entitled the contestant to take a cash prize or pick one of several boxes, which may contain a big prize or a booby prize. Ten years after its launch on radio, Pick A Box moved to television where it continued to air each Saturday night until 1971.

ABC Radio is credited with the longest-running daily serial, Blue Hills, written by Gwen Meredith. Blue Hills began in 1948, taking over from The Lawsons (1944-48), a serial by the same author. Blue Hills contained some of the most successful characters from The Lawsons and ran until 1976. In all, 5795 episodes of Blue Hills were produced. (Kent 56)

Classroom Activities

  1. Getting started
    As a class view the broadcaster interview with Tim Bowden and the archival video clip from The Invisible Link then discuss and write notes on the following:
    1. Comment on Tim Bowden’s attitude towards radio serials and the actors who took part in them.
    2. Explain what happened if a radio actor made a mistake while recording a drama program on acetate disc (Bowden interview).
    3. Describe in your own words the events being depicted throughout the archival video clip from The Invisible Link.
    4. Comment on the general popularity of radio today, compared to that of television, and whether radio is better at doing some things than television.
  2. Writing a commentary for a popular magazine
    Research a popular, long-lasting Australian radio program (or programs) of the 1940s-1950s era, and write a commentary in 200 words about it for a modern popular magazine market. You may include photographs and other illustrations if relevant. Some examples are:
    1. Quiz programs such as Pick A Box, The Ampol Show, The Dulux Show
    2. Children’s radio serials such as Search for the Golden Boomerang, Hop Harrigan
    3. Women’s serial such as Blue Hills, When a Girl Marries
    4. Comedies such as Yes, What, and Life with Dexter.
  3. Preparing a radio script
    In small groups draft, edit and proofread a comedy radio play script (i.e. for sound only) of one scene, two or three minutes’ duration, about actors trying to record a serious radio drama, where things keep going wrong.
  4. Recording a radio play
    Using sound effects and music if required, rehearse then record your group’s radio script as a sound file for your school’s intranet. (Remember you don’t have to record everything in one “take”.)

Further Resources


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

Go to Australian Old Time Radio

Jacqueline Kent, Out of the Bakelite Box: The Heyday of Australian Radio, ABC Enterprises, Crows Nest, NSW, 1990.