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THE HISTORY OF BROADCASTING IN AUSTRALIA


As in other countries, the broadcasting services in Australia had their beginnings in experiments - official, commercial and amateur. The first actual demonstration of transmission and reception of radiotelephony occurred in Melbourne at the Aircraft Exhibition held in June and July, 1920. The transmission was conducted at the headquarters of the Commonwealth Government Radio Service at Collins House, Melbourne, on equipment which had been loaned by the Air Force, and the reception was conducted in the Exhibition Building. In August, 1920, a public demonstration was given by Amalgamated Wireless (A/asia) Limited at the Royal Society in Sydney, and in October of the same year a further demonstration was carried out by the Company at Queen's Hall, Federal Parliament House, Melbourne. Early in 1921 a series of weekly experimental broadcasts were carried out by Amalgamated Wireless (A/asia) Limited, Melbourne. In August of that year a further successful experiment was carried out when the Commonwealth Government Radio Service conducted tests of two-way radiotelephony between Tasmania and the mainland. Experimental transmission by commercial and amateur interests developed gradually in the next two years, the reception being confined entirely to radio enthusiasts in the official, commercial and amateur fields. Notable amongst the amateur transmissions were those conducted by Mr. Maclurcan, of Sydney, 2CM, and Mr. Culliver, of Melbourne, 3DP.


The Sealed Set Scheme


The first proposal for systematic broadcasting was made to the Prime Minister's Department by Amalgamated Wireless on 27/7/1922, when the Company indicated its desire to undertake a radio concert service In all States. On 1/11/1922 the Company formally applied for permission to establish the stations, but before any details for a comprehensive scheme were approved several Other firms had intimated a desire to provide broadcasting services. Early in 1923 it was decided to consider the whole matter comprehensively, and on 24/5/1923 a conference of all interested parties was convened by the Postmaster-General in Melbourne. The conference unanimously decided upon a scheme which became known as the Sealed Set scheme, and as the Postmaster-General had promised the conference he would introduce any scheme put forward unanimously, the Department prepared regulations based on the conference proposals, but at the time the Department indicated a doubt as to the efficacy of the scheme. The regulation were issued on 1/8/1923, and among other things contained a provision that the station licensees could make their own charge for subscription by listeners who had sets tunable only to the wavelength of the particular station whose service was received.

Under the scheme the following stations supplied services:-

Station Company Service Commenced Listeners Subscription
2SB
later 2BL
Broadcasters (Sydney) Ltd. 13/11/1923 10/-
2FC
Sydney
Farmer and Company 5/12/1923 63/-
3AR
Melbourne
Associated Radio Company 26/1/1924 63/-
6WF
Perth
Westralian Farmers Ltg. 4/6/1924 84/-

In addition to the Company's subscription, the Postmaster- General required the Company to collect a licence fee from each licensee. This Sealed Set scheme was not a success between 1/8/1923 and 30/6/1924 only 1,400 listeners were licensed under the regulations. Considerable difficulty was experienced by the Department in dealing with applications for Experimental Licences. As many as 5.000 applications were received during that time from persons who could not he properly classified as experimenters. but who desired to listen to any station without restriction beyond a common licence fee.


"A" and "B" Stations.


Early in 1924 various suggestions for the amendment of the Regulations were made to the Department, mainly on the ground that it was desirable that any listener should be permitted to listen to any station without separate payment. The Postmaster-General received further representations from a conference which met in Sydney between 8/4/1924 and 14/4/1924, but it was found that the proposals were unacceptable, and the Department evolved a new plan and revised the Regulations which were issued on 17/7/1924.

The new regulations provided for the issue of two classes of broadcasting station licences-Glass "A" and Class "B" Two Class "A" licences were authorised for New South Wales and two for Victoria, mainly owing to the fact that the stations were already in existence in those States. In all of the other capital cities only one Glass "A" station was permitted, but the Regulations provided that the licensee of the Class " A" station or stations in the relative State should, if required, establish relaying stations for the purpose of serving distant country listeners.

The new system provided for Class "A" stations to be maintained by revenue received from licences issued to broadcast listeners, radio dealers and experimenters. The owners of Class "B" stations would not receive any such revenue and their services were to be maintained by revenue received from advertisements or from other sources. It was arranged that the licence fees Would be collected by the Postmaster-Genera1's Department - licences being obtainable at post Offices.

The Regulations required that the various broadcasting station licensees, Class "A" and Class "B" should make their own arrangements for the payment of any claims that might be made in respect of copyright or patents. The copyright payments by the Class "A" companies were practically standardised after a conference in 1925. It was agreed that the Companies should pay to the Australian Performing Rights Association ten per cent of the amount distributed to them by the Post Office from its licence fee collections. Different arrangements were made with the Class "B" stations, no standard basis being adopted.

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