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Video clip synopsis – Families tune in to a broadcast of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra over the ABC. Liz Jacka describes how the BBC's preference for 'high culture' programming influenced the nature of early broadcasts in Australia.
Year of production - 1955
Duration - 1min 40sec
Tags - ABC, broadcasting, media, media and society, media ownership, popular culture, see all tags


Public broadcasting

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Additional help.

About the Video Clip


The archival video clip is an excerpt from the film This is the ABC produced by the Film Division of the Department for the Interior for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1955 and is on the From Wireless to Web website, produced in 2005.

The interview with Liz Jacka was recorded for the website.
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


Area of study 3. Australian media organisations

This area of study focuses on an analysis of Australian media organisations and the social and industrial framework within which they operate.

Media products are produced within a cultural, aesthetic, legal, political, economic, institutional and historical framework. Their production, distribution and circulation is affected by law, self-regulatory codes of conduct, industry pressures and the practices of particular media organisations. Other factors (for example, sources of revenue, ratings, circulation, ownership and control) influence the nature and range of media texts produced by individual organisations. Consideration of the impact of these factors on media organisations and their products is important in developing an understanding of the production role of different Australian media organisations.

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

Background Information


In the 1920s, Australian society and culture were influenced by Britain, which was still thought of by many as 'the Mother Country’. When the Government took control of 'A’-class radio stations, the resulting formation was influenced by the British model developed under the first Director-General of the BBC, John Reith. The legislation which allowed the Government to take over the 'A’-class licenses was passed in March 1932. The Reithian model sees broadcasting as a 'public service’ which should act as a 'cultural, moral and educative force for the improvement of knowledge, taste and manners’. (Scannell & Cardiff 7)

“Broadcasting … carries direct information on a hundred subjects to innumerable people who thereby will be enabled not only to take more interest in events which formerly were outside their ken, but who will after a short time be in a position to make up their own minds on many matters of vital moment, matters which formerly they had either to receive according to the dictated and partial versions or opinions of others, or to ignore altogether. A new and mighty weight of public opinion is being formed …” [John Reith, Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation, 1924, as quoted in Scannell & Cardiff]

Classroom Activities

  1. Read the Video Clip Context section of the Learning Module and answer the following questions:
    1. What did Reith see as the duty of a public broadcaster?
    2. Do you think it is possible and/or desirable to direct ‘public taste and manners’ via the media?
    3. Do you think public broadcasters should provide positive role models?
  2. What sort of audience (demographic) does the video clip show? Do you think this was a typical ABC audience?
  3. Answer the following questions:
    1. What do you think of as a typical audience for a public broadcaster today?
    2. Do you think there is a difference between the audiences of the public broadcasters such as ABC, SBS and JJJ? What might the difference be?

Further Resources


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