Aural nation: knowledge, information and music in early Australian public broadcasting

John Tebbutt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


When the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) announced the 2017 schedule for the Radio National (RN) network, all but one music programme had been dropped. Removing music from RN in a time of technological change – there are suggestions RN will become a post-broadcast digital platform by 2020 – reflects a deeper relationship between knowledge, information and the arts at the heart Australian public service media. Using historical examples from early Australian broadcasting this article revisits the notion of radio ‘liveness’ in the context of shifting understandings of knowledge production that emerged when radio was ‘new media’. Radio broadcasting’s ability to serve up events to listeners as if they were present had a critical effect on emerging media forms from broadcast concerts to dramatic news presentations. The article situates radio within the shift from traditional knowledge values, championed by music appreciation’s representation of European art-music, to information programming (including sports and news) presented to a new listening subject that was being formed within broadcasting. With the establishment of local practices to exploit the cultural impact of liveness, conventions emerged in the ABC’s national radio service that shaped its information programming for years to come.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-131
Number of pages18
JournalHistorical Journal of Film Radio and Television
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Audio cultures
  • Media
  • History
  • Australia

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