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Video clip synopsis – Behind the scenes of a radio broadcast and the role of the Postmaster-General Department personnel. Liz Jacka talks about how the Australian Broadcasting Commission was modeled on the BBC and the philosophy of its director John Reith.
Year of production - 1932
Duration - 1min 23sec
Tags - ABC, broadcasting, media and society, radio, see all tags


The ABC Act

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About the Video Clip


7 O’clock News is an excerpt from the film 7 O’clock News, produced in 1949. 7 O’clock News is an Australian National Film Board production, produced by Commonwealth Film Laboratories for the Postmaster-General’s Department.

The interview with Liz Jacka was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web produced in 2005.
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 Great Depression of the 1930s cut deep into Australian society. At the top end of town there was little effect. At the other end, one in every three workers lost their jobs and many families lost their homes. People on the land suffered as overseas prices for wheat and wool collapsed. Recovery was uneven and only just beginning when Australia’s sense of isolation was shattered by the outbreak of war in Europe.

The ABC Act (1932)
On 17 March 1932 an act of parliament established the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) as the national public broadcaster, replacing the three-year-old private Australian Broadcasting Company. Under the ABC Act, the public broadcaster would be run by a five-member Commission and funded predominantly by listeners’ licence fees. The Postmaster-General’s Department would be responsible for the technical side of broadcasting.

Mr W.J. Cleary, Chairman of the Commission, described the job of the ABC as promoting 'the finer things of life’. He said the ABC should encourage Australians “to find interests other than material ones, to live by more than bread alone”. (Johnson 211)

Mr J.A. Fenton, Postmaster-General, said, “There are now twelve A-class stations in Australia … In order to have a proper national system, it is essential to build another eight stations, and when we have about twenty of them properly distributed throughout the Commonwealth the people will be remarkably well served”.

In 1983 Federal Parliament established the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to succeed the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The 1983 ABC Act included a formal charter and provision for a governing board for the new corporation.

Classroom Activities


Making and Producing

  1. Make a radio play
    The impact of sound effects greatly enhanced the production of programs. Foley artists are people who specialise in producing sounds and noises that add to the psychological and dramatic impact of the event being portrayed. As can be seen in the archival video clip of a radio play, there are the actors, narrator and sound effects crew members (foley artists). Produce a radio drama that runs for no longer than 6 minutes.

Critical and Historical study

  1. Look at the archival footage on the ABC Act 1932. Who managed the technical operations of the broadcasting of ABC radio programs?
  2. According to Liz Jacka, what model did the ABC base their organisation on? How significant was the establishment of a national broadcasting commission in terms of the needs of the Australian people?
  3. The ABC sought to provide a voice and later an image of Australia. Discuss how the broadcasting media of radio and television assist in formulating a national identity within Australia.
  4. The ABC was envisaged to provide Australians, in the words of the first chairman of the commission, with “the finer things of life”. What do you think he meant by this? Was the ABC targeted to provide highbrow culture to their audience?
  5. Outline what you would like to implement if you were controlling a national broadcasting commission. What would be the most important aspects and responsibilities for such an organisation that broadcasts throughout Australia? Provide reasons for your decisions.
  6. Debate the following statement in terms of the roles and responsibilities of a national broadcaster such as the ABC:
    1. Radio should be for the masses! The idea of cultivating high culture through this medium is snobbery and does not address the needs of the wider Australian audience.

Further Resources


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