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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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 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.
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.
|Frequency||Call-Sign||Location||Owner||Transmitter 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|
|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|
|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|
|1041||5PI||Port Pirie||Midland Broadcasting Co.||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|
|1110||2HD||Newcastle||Airsales Building Co.||0.2|
|1125||2UW||Sydney||2UW Radio Broadcasting Ltd||1.5|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|1350||3KZ||Melbourne||3KZ Broadcasting Station||0.2|
|1380||4BH||Brisbane||Broadcasters [Aust] Ltd||0.2|
|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|
|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.
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.