As the bells in the tower of Sydney’s General Post Office chimed eight o’clock on the evening of Friday 1 July 1932, the peals were picked up by a microphone and carried to every State of the Federation. “This is the Australian Broadcasting Commission,” said the announcer, Conrad Charlton.
So begins K.S. Inglis’s compelling history of the first fifty years of the ABC. In a sparkling tour de force Inglis shows us the ABC’s triumphs and failures, its great medley of personalities and the effects it has had on Australian public life.
The ABC was modelled as closely as possible on the BBC, but had always to live with commercial competitors. Inglis tells the story of how government-appointed Commissioners and the staff they chose competed for the ears and – after 1956 – the eyes of Australians, trying at the same time to attract large audiences and to offer programmes that were distinctive and not merely replicas of what the commercials were doing.
Based on the Commission’s own archives, on newspapers and journals, on a rich assortment of interviews and on the author’s own listening and viewing, this is social history of the highest order.