History of wireless telegraphy and broadcasting in Australia/Introduction

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This history of wireless telegraphy and broadcasting in Australia will focus upon the individual persons, businesses and government agencies that gave effect to the two technologies. Similar focus will be placed on the specific regulations and policies which enabled (or hindered) particular implementations.

It can at times be difficult to appreciate that the warmth and humanity of broadcasting has its historical roots entirely within the cold and harsh technology of wireless telegraphy. But the path to broadcasting in Australia could not have been found without the efforts of our earliest wireless experimenters and then the various wireless businesses and Government agencies seeking to gain a foothold in Australia.

In the earliest years, adoption of broadcasting in Australia using AM radio spectrum was a few years behind most other nations in the developed world. Certainly the technology needed to be adapted and developed a little for Australian conditions. But more importantly, Australia looked for regulatory policy settings that balanced and supported the often competing needs for quality content and quality carriage (which at the time could only be provided by a well-funded Government entity) against the needs for diverse and agile content and carriage (at which private enterprise invariably excelled). In what came to be known in Australia as national and commercial broadcasting, the nation established a broadcasting system distinct from those of the two nations one would have expected Australia to blindly follow: Great Britain (solely Government funded services) or the United States (solely private enterprise services). By the early 1930s, Australian content and carriage was arguably on par with anything worldwide and the system proved effective in meeting the broadcasting needs of the Australian people for the next half century. Eventually demand from numerous niche interests could not be met within the existing policy settings. But after much Sturm und Drang, a new category of broadcasting delivering community radio was forged from the 1980s aided by the fresh spectrum opportunities delivered by our late adoption of FM radio. Again in the lead up to a new broadcasting act of 1992, new players emerged which eventually became categorised a narrowcasters and they too were eventually formally accommodated in the broadcast mix.