our magazine

National Broadcasting Service

On 26/7/1928 the Government announced its intention to establish a National Broadcasting Service, whereby one organisation would cater for the National programmes for all States. The technical services of all States would be owned and operated by the Government, while the provision of programmes would be left to experienced entrepreneurs under contract. An advisory committee to assist the Postmaster-General in the matter was appointed, consisting of Mr. H. P. Brown (Chairman), Mr. J. H. Hammond, K. C., Professor J. P. V. Madsen, Hon. R. B. Orchard, and Mr. W. H. Swanton.

This Committee prepared a detailed scheme for the establishment of the National Service and the extension of the broadcasting service generally throughout the Commonwealth. The recommendation included:-

  • (a) The establishment of a National Broadcasting Service in place of the Class "A" stations. The Postmaster-General's Depart ment would undertake the provision and maintenance of the technical services of the stations, studios and the relaying circuits while the programme services would be let by tender to a programme company;
  • (b) The continuance and extension of the existing system of Class "B" stations, the number, allocation and power of which would be decided by the Postmaster- General;
  • (c) The establishment by the Postmaster-General's Department of a number of Class "C" stations. The programme time of these stations would be made available for the transmission of publicity programmes or programmes sponsored by large advertisers.
  • (d) The broadcast listeners licence fees would continue at 24/- per annum, of which 12/-would be the maximum amount available to the Programme Contractor. Of the balance, 3/- would be paid to Amalgamated Wireless in accordance with the 1927 Agree ment between the Commonwealth and the Company and the remainder would be retained by the Postmaster-General's Department to cover the cost of establishing and maintaining the additional stations, studios, relaying circuits, etc., and the cost of general administration in connection with licence records, etc.

In accordance with the Government's approval of the Advisory Committee's plan, action was taken concurrently by the Department:-

  • (a) To acquire the plant of the existing Companies, so that the services would be continued without interruption.
  • (b) To arrange for a contract for the provision of the programmes of the National Service; and
  • (c) To arrange for the erection of additional subsidiary stations in country districts.

About this time the Company owning Station 6WF, Perth, informed the Department that they were unable to continue the service owing to the heavy losses that they had sustained, and were likely to sustain during the remainder of their licence period. They requested the Department to take over and continue the service. The Department purchased the plant and provided the service, including the programmes, from 20/12/1928 until the station was taken over under the National Broadcasting Scheme on 1/9/1929.

Stations come under the Government

As the licences of the four main stations in Sydney and Melbourne were due to expire in July/August, 1929, and as the Government wished to assist the pioneer companies by taking over their assets, if they so desired, the plants of the existing stations were acquired. At the same time tenders were called for plant for additional stations in accordance with conditions specifying plant of the most modern type.

The assets of the Companies were acquired by the Postmaster-General's Department at the expiration of the various licences and utilised for the National Broadcasting Service. The Government had decided on this course, although it was recognised that considerable expenditure was needed in most of the stations to modernise the equipment and generally to improve the transmissions.

On 9/5/1929 tenders were invited for the provision of the programmes in accordance with specified conditions, and eight tenders were received. The combined tender of Union Theatres Limited, Fuller's Theatres Limited, and J. Albert & Son was accepted, and the tenderers formed the Australian Broadcasting Company, which Company entered into a contract with the Commonwealth for the provision of the programme services for a period of approximately three years ending in all States on 30/6/1932.

Listeners Licence Fees

The schedule hereunder shows the fees charged for broadcast listeners' licences from July, 1924, to the present time:-

Period Fee
Paid to Broadcasting Company Retained by department for Administration
17/7/24 to 31/7/25 35/- 30/- 5/-
1/8/25 to 31/12/27 27/6 25/- 2/6
1/1/28 to present timeL 24/- 20/- (b) 1/-
(3/- to A.W.A.) (c)

  • (a) These fees refer to listeners located in Zone 1, that is the territory within a radius of approximately 250 miles from Class "A" Station. Lower fees were charged for Zone 2 covering the territory between 250 and 400 miles radius, and lower still in Zone 3 outside the Zone 2 boundary. Since January, 1928, only two Zones are recognised Zone 2 including all the territory outside 250 miles from a Class A " station.
  • (b) From the date of the inauguration of the National Broadcasting Service in the various States, as mentioned already, the Australian Broadcasting Company receives 12/- per licence.
  • (c) An amount of 3/- is paid to Amalgamated Wireless (A/asia) Limited as patent royalty, under the Wireless Agreement Act of 1927. This payment commenced in November, 1927. Prior to that date the Company received patent royalty from the Class A Broadcasting Companies at the rate of 5/- per listener's licence.

From 1/8/1925 to 31/12/1927 the payment of the listeners' licence fees in two instalments of 15/- each was permitted; 2/6 being retained by the Department in respect of each instalment. Owing to difficulties which had arisen, the instalment system was discontinued on 31/12/1927.

Up till 31/12/1927, Dealer's Listening Licences, Special Licences and Temporary Licences were also issued, the fees charged and the departmental proportion being:-

- fee Departmental Proportion
Dealer's Listening Licence 5 1/5/-
Special Licence 10 5/-
Temporary Licence 1 5/-

These licences were abolished on the introduction of the uniform licence from 1/1/1928.

The apportionment of a listener's license fee (24/- for Zone 1 and 17/6 for Zone 2) from the date of the inauguration of the National Broadcasting Service in each State is as follows:-

Programme Contractor Zone1
Zone 2
(Australian Broadcasting Company) 12/- 12/-
P.M.G. Department (for administration and technical services) 9/- 2/6
Amalgamated Wireless (Patent Royalty) 3/- 3/-