Australia Radio Dial 1931

Working on the mast for 4RK Rockhampton, March 1931. © John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Little more than a decade after the end of WWI in 1918, some 6.5m Australians in all states could listen to music, sports commentaries and results and ‘educational’ talks on a wide variety of subjects from the newly emerging entertainment medium of radio.

Sun & Surf girl, Australian Travel Poster 1931
© Josef Lebovic Gallery

In 1931, Australia was still in the grip of a global economic depression with almost 30% unemployment. The Sydney Harbor Bridge was under construction. The first airmail service between Australia and England was in the future, and ‘talking’ pictures relatively new.

Early broadcast from 4BK Brisbane
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Listeners to the Australian Broadcasting Company station 2BL Sydney could enjoy such programs as ‘a description of the fight at the Sydney Stadium’ at 8pm on Saturday, or ‘a two-pianoforte recital by Carl Morris and Madame Evelyn Greig: “Concerto in G Minor” at 8.15pm the night before.

Bondi lifesavers North Bondi, Australian Surf Lifesaving March Past Champions, 1931
© Local Studies Collection, Waverley Council [Sydney]

The population of Sydney was about 1.3m, and listeners had eight local stations to choose from. Of course, they broadcast for only a few hours daily, often closing down for lunch and dinner. There were 55 licensed stations nationwide, although radio amateurs were also allowed to broadcast music and talks for local audiences as experimental stations.

Empire Airwaves heard on the Mullard Radio. Poster c.1931
© Josef Lebovic Gallery

The ‘NZ Radio Record’ reported in May 1930 ‘that Mr KH Thow of the Wellington office of the Standard Telephones and Cables [Australasia] Ltd, left Wellington by the ‘Makura’ last week for Sydney to assist in the installation of five new broadcasting stations for the Commonwealth Government, ordered from the above company. Two of the stations, which are to have an aerial power of 2 kilowatts, will be erected at Newcastle and Rockhampton. Three 5-kilowatt stations will be erected at places not yet disclosed.’

Working on the mast for 4RK Rockhampton, March 1931.
© John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The most powerful stations in the Commonwealth were at Corowa [2CO] in the Riverina district on the border of Victoria and NSW, and north of Adelaide at Crystal Brook [5CK] to serve the northern Spencer Gulf ports and Broken Hill.

‘The Nation’s Station’ 2GB listener card
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

The private stations were much lower powered, only 2GB Sydney [3kW] with a strong enough signal to cover the city and surrounding districts, and both 2KY and 2UW having only half this power and less coverage.

However, Sydney was already the dominant ‘radio city’ at this time, and listeners further afield soon became accustomed to the programs and personalities of the Sydney stations, especially as night fell and signals reached further inland and across the Tasman Sea.

Reaching into the skies, Eveready advertising poster c.1931
© Josef Lebovic Gallery

In the coming decade, Australian radio flourished as new studio buildings were constructed, new stations and ever more popular personalities came on air to a growing audience, and local manufacturers built beautiful radio receivers that became standard living room and lounge furniture.

By 1931, the shift from amateur to professional radio broadcasting that was to shape the structure and sound of the Australian radio industry for the following five decades was well underway.

This reflection of the Australian Radio Dial in that pivotal year pays tribute to those men and women of early Australian radio who informed and entertained listeners across the Commonwealth and in far flung Pacific territories as the 1930’s dawned with new hope.

Melbourne. Travel Poster from the early 1930’s.
© Josef Lebovic Gallery
FrequencyCall-SignLocationOwnerTransmitter Power [kW]
560 2CO Corowa National Broadcasting Service 7.5
580 7ZL Hobart National Broadcasting Service 3
610 3AR Melbourne National Broadcasting Service 5
635 5CK Crystal Brook National Broadcasting Service 7.5
665 2FC Sydney National Broadcasting Service 5
690 6WF Perth National Broadcasting Service 5
The Main Studio of 5CL Adelaide.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
730 5CL Adelaide National Broadcasting Service 5
760 4QG Brisbane National Broadcasting Service 5
800 3LO Melbourne National Broadcasting Service 5
855 2BL Sydney National Broadcasting Service 5
880 6PR Perth Nicholson’s Ltd 0.2
6PR logo.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
890 7HO Hobart Commercial Broadcasters Ltd 0.05
910 4RK Rockhampton National Broadcasting Service 2
930 3UZ Melbourne J Nilsen & Co 0.5
950 2GB Sydney Theosophical Broadcasting Station 3
960 5DN Adelaide Hume Broadcasters Ltd 0.5
970 3BO Bendigo Amalgamated Wireless [A/asia] Ltd 0.2
1000 4GR Toowoomba Gold Radio Service 0.05
1010 3HA Hamilton Western Province Radio Co. 0.2
‘The Age’ Broadcasting Service 3HA listener card.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
1025 2UE Sydney Radio House 1
1041 5PI Port Pirie Midland Broadcasting Co. 0.05
1050 2CA Canberra AJ Ryan 0.05
1070 2KY Sydney Trades & Labour Council 1.5
1080 3SH Swan Hill Swan Hill Broadcasting Co. 0.05
1100 7LA Launceston Findlay & Willis Pty Ltd 0.2
‘Tasmania’s Apples are world renowned’ claims this listener card from 7LA Launceston.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
1110 2HD Newcastle Airsales Building Co. 0.2
1125 2UW Sydney 2UW Radio Broadcasting Ltd 1.5
1135 6ML Perth Musgroves Ltd 0.3
1145 4BC Brisbane JB Chandler & Co. 0.6
1145 3YB Melbourne Mobile Broadcasting Service 0.025
1170 4TO Townsville Amalgamated Wireless [A/asia] Ltd 0.1
The spacious Main Studio of the Herald Station 3DB Melbourne.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
1180 3DB Melbourne 3DB Broadcasting Station Pty 0.5
1190 4MK Mackay Williams’s Agencies Ltd 0.1
1200 5KA Adelaide Sport Radio Broadcasting Co. 0.3
1210 2CH Sydney Council of Churches 1
1220 6KG Kalgoorlie Goldfield’s Broadcasters Ltd 0.1
‘The Heart of the State’ identifies 6KG Kalgoorlie in this early listener card.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
1220 2MV Moss Vale Moss Vale Broadcasting Service 0.05
1245 2NC Newcastle National Broadcasting Service 2
1260 3WR Wangaratta Wangaratta Broadcasting Pty Ltd 0.05
1270 2SM Sydney Catholic Broadcasting Co. 1
1280 3TR Sale Gippsland Broadcasting Service 0.05
‘The Tallest Trees in the British Empire’ Australia Travel Poster c.1930.
© Josef Lebovic Gallery
1290 4BK Brisbane Brisbane Broadcasting Co. 0.2
1300 3BA Ballarat Ballarat Broadcasters Pty Ltd 0.05
1310 5AD Adelaide Advertiser Newspaper Ltd 0.3
1330 2MO Gunnedah MJ Oliver 0.05
1340 2XN Lismore GW Exton 0.05
1350 3KZ Melbourne 3KZ Broadcasting Station 0.2
1380 4BH Brisbane Broadcasters [Aust] Ltd 0.2
‘Hello Everybody’ is the call from 4BH Brisbane.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
1390 2GN Goulburn Goulburn Broadcasting Co. 0.05
1400 3GL Geelong Geelong Broadcasting Pty Ltd 0.05
1415 2KO Newcastle Newcastle Broadcasting Co. 0.2
1425 3AW Melbourne Vogue Broadcasting Co. Ltd 0.3
1435 2WL Wollongong Wollongong Broadcasting Co. 0.05
1480 2AY Albury Charles Rice 0.05
1500 3AK Melbourne Akron Broadcasting Services Ltd 0.05

If you enjoyed this introduction to Australian radio in 1931, you’ll also enjoy any of our station profiles in the Long Lost Australian Radio Stars Series [such as 2CA Canberra Voices, 2CH Sydney, 3MA Sunraysia Station, 5DN Adelaide and many more.

‘Licensed Broadcast Station 2CA Canberra’ 1930’s logo.
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
Canberra Travel Poster, early 1930’s.
© Josef Lebovic Gallery

For a detailed review of the original 1920’s pioneers of Australian radio, read Early Australian AM Radio and if you’d like to know more about the 100+ listener clubs that many stations introduced from the late 1920’s, visit our popular Australian Radio Clubs guide.

Collecting Classic Radios is an introduction to vintage radio sets in Australia and is full of beautiful images. You’ll find many more Australian radio articles and stories throughout the site; just use our Google search option to easily find them.

The colorful vintage Australian travel posters included here are from exhibitions held at the Josef Lebovic Gallery in Paddington, Sydney. We recommend them for quality collectable Australiana ephemera.

As always, please email us if you have any ephemera, memorabilia, recordings, memories or other items relating to Australian radio that you’d like to share with others through this volunteer based online social, cultural, and educational heritage project.

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