Australian Broadcasting Commission : Policy and practice, 1932-48




Thomas, Alan William

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



During the 1930s and 1940s , members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission believed they could uplift the· cultural standards of Australians. In their attempts to create an antipodean BBC, William James Cleary, R.J.F. Boyer and their fellow commissioners evolved policies and practices which continue to affect ABC operations. From its inception in 1932, the ABC met strong resistance both to its stated purpose and its very existence. The bulk of the population were more attracted to the commercial stations . Established media and entertainment interests, particularly the press and sporting and theatrical organizations, did not we lcome a new competitor, especially when they were feeling the effects of an econo~ic depression . The ABC found that it faced considerable government interference. It was forced to adopt a cautious approach to contentious material and tended to censor itself in advance. Many of these problems intensified during the war of 1939-45. Added to the external pressures were those from within the ABC. Cleary's highly personal and centralized organizational structure ensured that his policy directives found accurate translation at lower levels. However, some ABC employees did not share the cultural zeal of the commissioners , and were more concerned with their conditions of work . As the ABC took on new functions and extended its sphere of influence, both programming and staffing policies were questioned by the staff. Unions were established. By the late 1940s , the commissioners were forced to modify their policy ideas and opt for pragmatic compromises . This helped to ensure the ABC's continuance against pressure from the community, from governments, and from within its own organization. Throughout the period 1932-48 , although ABC policies reinforced some of the divisions between Australia's cultural elite and the rest of the community, new areas of common appreciation did emerge . The ABC played a highly .innovatory role , patronizing music , drama, literature and the arts to a degree never before witnessed in Australia, and it evolved a model of 'high culture' , setting standards both of performance and of appreciation , which many Australians still observe as the desired level in a cultured society.






Thesis (PhD)

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights



Restricted until