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Video clip synopsis – Actors gather around a microphone to record an episode of radio soap The Country Hour. Tim Bowden reflects on how significant radio series were in Australia.
Year of production - 1950
Duration - 2min 48sec
Tags - broadcasting, capitalism, entertainment, family life, radio, soap operas, see all tags


Radio Soap Operas

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About the Video Clip


This video clip is an excerpt from the film This Is the ABC, produced in 1955 by the Film Division of the Department of the Interior for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This video clip is on the From Wireless to Web website, 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.

Background Information


The 1950s were boom years for Australia. The nation shared a vision of creating great wealth from the land through new resource-based industries and construction of the massive Snowy Mountains Scheme. A million 'new Australians’ arrived from war-torn Europe – many speaking languages other than English – and the forces shaping Australian society were on the move again.

Soap Operas
Serials populated by 'ordinary Australian families’ were the most popular entertainment on radio in the 1950s. The genre termed 'Soap Operas’ originated in American radio serials of the 1930s, and owes the name to the sponsorship of programs by major soap powder manufacturers. Promoted as a way to 'liven the humdrum’, they offered an escape from the drudgery of real life. Listeners rode the roller-coaster of emotional crises through their beloved characters. The focus on nuclear families – mum, dad and the kids – expressed and reinforced the most important social values of Australia in the 50s.

The most famous of all Australian radio soap operas in the 1950s was Blue Hills, which aired Monday to Thursday from 1948 to 1976, a total of 5795 episodes. Blue Hills was broadcast as part of ABC radio’s Country Hour. The fifteen-minute serial dealt with the problems of rural life and recounted the adventures of the Gordon family. Whole towns ground to a halt for fifteen minutes each day. The service in stores and pubs virtually stopped while each episode went to air. Other popular soap operas included When a Girl Marries, Portia Faces Life and the classic Dad and Dave.

Classroom Activities


Making and Producing

  1. Make a jingle for a fictitious advertisement on one of the list of fictional products listed below. The jingle has to be catchy and have the brand name clearly announced through the jingle. The jingle is to be 40 seconds in duration. The production of the jingle must identify who the targeted audience is for the jingle.
    1. Yum-Yum chewing gum
    2. White Shine washing powder
    3. Rocket energy drink
    4. Cho-Cho chocolate
  2. Look at the archival video clip. Make your own radio play that satirically deals with family values that were being presented in the 1950s. Provide a postmodern soapie that parodies the ideals of the past and presents an ironic account of the nuclear family.

Critical and Historical study

  1. View the interview with Tim Bowden. He talks about the power of radio series to the wider community within Australian. Why do you think radio series and soap operas were so popular?
  2. View the archival video clip. What does this tells use about the production of radio programs and series?
  3. Research and provide an historic account of the history of radio soap opera.

Further Resources


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