NFSA marks 100 years of Australian radio

Media Release

The National Film & Sound Archive’s new digital exhibition Radio 100 marks the start of a 100-day celebration of radio’s centenary and features Australia’s earliest surviving live radio broadcast.

Launching today, the exhibition features a range of digital and audio content exploring the resilience, adaptability, and influence of the radio medium, and revealing five distinct chapters of radio history over the next four months.

Amongst the historical radio gems shared in Radio 100  is the ABC’s live call of the Melbourne Cup by legendary race-caller Eric Welch on 1 November 1932, in a race won by favourite Peter Pan.

The first licensed radio broadcast in Australia occurred on 23 November 1923, when Sydney station 2SB went to air with a broadcast of The Swan from Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals.

No material survives from the first nine years of Australian radio broadcasts, but in an extraordinary coincidence, the NFSA’s second-oldest surviving broadcast – from radio station 2KY and comprising a boxing match between Teddy Lawler and Taffy Jones – also took place on 1 November 1932.

Other Radio 100 material celebrating the centenary includes audio of Charles Kingsford-Smith making an emergency landing at Mascot airport, examples of 1920s radio comedy sketches and radio jingles from the 1930s - a rarity as most promos were done live to air and not recorded.

The NFSA is also collecting radio memories from Australian audiences, asking them to record a voice memo or leave a note to share their most prized radio memories: hearing major news, remembering a particular station or host, responding to a jingle, a specific program or a song that haunted the airwaves for a summer.

‘Radio has been one of the primary Australian cultural forces of the past century,’ said Patrick McIntyre, CEO of the NFSA. ‘Our curators have done an incredible job sifting through the collection to bring together all the stories of cultural, commercial and technological innovation that have powered our distinctive radio industry - from the earliest experiments in the country to today's new digital formats.’ 

‘From hearing breaking news in childhood to making your first mixtape, from finding the music that connected you with your friends to discovering your favourite podcast community – radio has truly been the soundtrack to so many lives,’ added Gayle Lake, the NFSA’s Chief Curator. ‘Radio 100 is a chance for all Australians to revisit historic moments in our history, but also to explore the shaping of culture through media, and a strong argument for the perennial place of live engagement with audiences.‘

The NFSA’s new podcast, Who Listens to the Radio? will launch early in 2024. It will explore the stories, people, possibilities, and anxieties which have propelled radio’s first century, and will feature a range of high-profile guests from across the audio, music and entertainment arenas.

New Waves, the first chapter of Radio 100, launches today and explores Australian radio’s complicated birth and its journey from a military technology to a broad-based cultural medium.

Further chapters comprise:

December 13: Chapter 2 – Golden Days, 1920s-1960s: radio as a family essential and trusted voice

January 05: Chapter 3 – Youthquake, 1950s-1980s: Radio’s role in the invention of youth culture

January 22: All the Voices, 1970s – now: Radio as a vital medium for First Nations, LGBTQI+ and multi-lingual voices

February 11:  Let’s Get Digital, 1990s – now: Digital disruption, tech convergence and radio’s rebirth as audio culture.

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Louise Alley | Communications Manager | 0422 348 652 |