American born Grace Gibson established one of the most successful radio production companies in the world. An astute businesswoman, Gibson brought to Australia the latest technology and business practices from the radio industry in Hollywood.
Born in El Paso, Texas in 1905, Grace Gibson moved to California to finish her schooling. Her first job was for La Fiesta de Los Angeles, an event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of Los Angeles in 1931. Though not necessarily seeking a career in radio, her next position was as office secretary for the Hollywood recording division of the Radio Transcription Company of America or TRANSCO. This company was one of the earliest producers of radio transcriptions, which were recordings of radio programs on discs that could be distributed to a number of radio stations.
In late 1933 Gibson successfully sold a number of radio programs to a visiting Australian station executive, AE Bennett, manager of the Sydney radio station 2GB. On his return to Australia, Bennett offered Gibson a six-month contract to take up the role of secretary for the new transcription department of radio station 2GB in Sydney, which aimed to sell American serials to stations all over Australia.
Gibson arrived in Sydney in May 1934 and together with Bennett established the American Radio Transcription Agency (later called ARTRANSA). Gibson introduced early American serials into Australia including: Pinto Pete and his Ranch Boys, Chandu the Magician and The Air Adventures of Jimmy Allen. In 1935 Gibson was probably the only woman in the world to be heading up a radio transcription company.
Though Gibson found that Australia was less welcoming to women in executive roles than the United States, she decided to stay on. She did however return to Hollywood for a buying trip in late 1941, just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and was unable to return to Australia for several years. During her enforced stay in the USA, Gibson became managing director of the Transcription Company of America and had great success in sales of radio programs.
Returning to Australia she formed Grace Gibson Radio Productions in 1944, one of the most successful radio production companies in the world. Though Gibson concentrated on the sales side of the business, she could recognise a good script and was noted for her skill at spotting talent. Considered careful where money was concerned she was also generous to her staff and was admired for her skill at sales and her total commitment to work.
Gibson’s company specialised in soap operas and serials, ranging from long-running family dramas Dr Paul and Portia Faces Life, to crime serials Night Beat and Dossier on Dumetrius.