Australia’s first licenced public radio broadcast


The 1920s was a decade of extremes in Australia, Europe and the United States. For some it was the age of fast living, with motion pictures and motoring, booze, jazz, cabaret and fashions for women that showed some leg. But for others, the years following World War I were years of hardship and suffering that were only to worsen when the Great Depression hit in 1929.

The First Radio Broadcast

During the evening of 23 November 1923, people across Sydney gathered eagerly in their homes around pieces of wondrous new technology to hear the first licenced public radio broadcast in Australia.

At precisely 8 o’clock they tuned in to hear the St Andrews Choir with soloists Misses Deering and Druitt, and Messrs Saunders, Pick and Thorp. The ensemble performed ‘Le cygne’ (The Swan), from Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals).

Listening to the wireless – courtesy National Museum of Aust.

The advent of the ‘wireless’ and the first radio broadcast was a keenly anticipated event. The radio station’s call sign was 2SB, for Broadcasters (Sydney) Ltd. The company staff breathed a sigh of relief at the success of their radio broadcast, particularly as they had beaten their rival station, Farmer and Co. (2FC), who did not achieve transmission for another two weeks (5 December 1923).

2BL control room – courtesy ABC

Soon after their initial broadcast, 2SB changed their call sign to 2BL – for Broadcasters Limited.  2BL became one of the inaugural stations in the ABC network when it was founded in 1932.


In 2000, 2BL was re-branded as 702 ABC Sydney, and continues to this day.

2FC went on to become ABC Radio National.



National Film and Sound Archive