Public Broadcasting: Liz Jacka

Public Broadcasting: Liz Jacka

In this clip, Liz Jacka explains that public broadcasting in Australia in the 1920s and 30s followed the British model and was designed to inform, educate and entertain – in that order.

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, their resulting formation was influenced by the British model developed under the first Director-General of the BBC, John Reith.

The legislaton 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, Paddy and Cardiff, David, A Social History of British Broadcasting, 1991).

'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 Rieth, Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation, 1924, as quoted in Scannell and Cardiff). 

Liz Jacka researches in the areas of broadcasting history and policy and is Emeritus Professor at University of Technology Sydney.