Saturday, January 02, 2016

International Broadcast from a Small Country Radio Station

The tenth Prime Minister in the national government of the Commonwealth of Australia was born in a small country town at almost the north western tip of the island of Tasmania.  He was Joseph A Lyons and he was born in the town of Stanley on September 15 in the year 1879.
            The very small town of Stanley in Tasmania is nestled between the steep cliff of a high hill on one side and the water front on the other, and even to this day the total,population is less than 500.  A major tourist attraction is The Nut, a 500 feet high flat hill top that projects out into the ocean waterway; it is described by geologists as an old volcanic plug. 
            The young Joseph Lyons left school at the early age of 9 in order to work as a newspaper messenger boy in Ulverstone, another nearby country town, so that he could help support his parent’s large family of eight children.  Lyons subsequently re-entered the education scene, and he became a school teacher, though he subsequently entered state politics at the age of 30. 
            At age 35, Joseph Lyons married a 17 year old school teacher, Enid Burnell who herself subsequently became a highly successful politician at the national level.  Together, Joseph and Enid produced a brood of twelve children.
            At age 44, Joseph Lyons became State Premier; at age 50, he became Postmaster General in the federal government; and at age 53, he was elected to Australia’s highest political office, as Prime Minister in the national government.  Lyons was loved by his fellow citizens, and he was portrayed in the newspapers as a cartoon character, a sleepy Koala Bear. 
            However, in all of his remarkable accomplishments, Joseph Lyons early recognized the value of the newly developing communication medium, radio.  The Australian Dictionary of Biography states that Lyons placed an emphasis on radio broadcasting in his political endeavors. 
            Joseph Lyons was a 16 year old country youth in Tasmania when 21 year old Guglielmo Marconi began his wireless experimentation in earnest in northern Italy in 1895.  He was 44 years old when the first radio broadcasting stations in Australia, 2FC and 2SB-2BL were inaugurated in late 1923.
            As far as can be determined, the first radio broadcast made by Joseph Lyons was an election broadcast over an amateur radio station that was officially granted approval to act as a temporary radio broadcasting station in 1929.  This amateur station was licensed as VK7CS and it was owned and operated by Mr. A. C. Scott at 14 Law Street in Launceston in northern Tasmania.  On air, Mr. A. C. Scott usually identified himself as Darryl Scott.
            As soon as amateur radio stations were permitted to activate their transmitters again after the end of World War 1, Scott became a very prominent operator and, as was expected in those days, he frequently went on the air with program broadcasting.  In 1927 for example, the program outline for his Saturday evening music broadcasts were listed in the local daily newspaper and they were heard  widely throughout Tasmania as well as over in several mainland cities, such as Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. 
            During the evening of Saturday August 20, 1927, Scott arranged a hookup from a local hall in Launceston for a music and speech program that was radiated on 235 meters, 1275 kHz.  This special broadcast was acknowledged as the first occasion for an offsite transmission by an amateur radio operator in the radio history of Australia.
             On the occasion of the federal elections in October 1929, Daryl Scott obtained official approval to broadcast election speeches over 7CS in advance of the voting, and also to release information over the air as the progressive voting figures became available on election day.  It was on the evening of Thursday October 3 that Joseph Lyons was given the microphone, and his campaign speech was broadcast over 7CS, an amateur station temporarily turned professional.
            Back then, there were no regularly licensed mediumwave broadcasting stations on the air in northern Tasmania, and at that time 7CS was transmitting on 226 metres, 1325 kHz.  In fact, there was only one radio broadcasting station on the air in the entire state, and that was 7ZR in the capital city, Hobart, more than a hundred miles distant.
            Less than three weeks later, Joseph Lyons was appointed Postmaster General in the federal cabinet, a position that gave him authority over the development of radio broadcasting throughout the entire nation.  Even though his term of office as Postmaster General ended eighteen months later, his involvement in the development of radio in Australia continued.
            In December 1931, Lyons made a nationwide political speech from station 3LO in Melbourne; and during the following month in the New Year 1932, he was elected as the tenth Prime Minister in the Australian federal government.  Six months later, he inaugurated the newly organized ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which was made up of mediumwave stations located in each of the state capital cities.  It was Lyons who fostered this government organized broadcasting system, with two stations in each major location, one carrying national programming and the other producing local programming. Mr. K. S. Inglis states in the opening paragraph of his authoritative book, “This is the ABC”:  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 in the confederation.    “This is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation”, said the announcer Conrad Charlton.  Then he introduced the Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons to pronounce the Commission inaugurated.
            Among some of the other radio events in which Prime Minister Joesph Lyons participated, are the following:-
* Official opening of Tasmania’s first ABC station in a country area, 7NT Launceston, 1935.  He made this broadcast while he was in London at the Silver Anniversary Celebrations for King George 5.
* Official opening of commercial station 7BU in Burnie that gave radio coverage to his home town,
            Stanley, 1935.  Relayed also by 7LA Launceston and 7HO Hobart.
* Official opening of new studio suite for commercial station 3AK in Melbourne, the only radio station in the entire continent that was on the air overnight, 1936.
* Official opening of station 2CA, the first commercial station in the national capital Canberra, 1938.
            However, it would seem that the widest coverage for any of his radio broadcasts was the triple New Year’s broadcast that Prime Minister Joseph Lyons made from his residence in Devonport on the “Holiday Coast” in northern Tasmania on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1936.  At the time, station 7BU  in Burnie was just a new station, with a mere 100 watts from its recently installed second transmitter on mediumwave 660 kHz.  This was the station that gave coverage to his birth town, Stanley, and it was the station that he had officially opened a little over a year earlier.

            For this 1937 New Years broadcast, Joseph Lyons presented three programs; one each for listeners in Australia, New Zealand, and the British Empire.  These broadcasts were coordinated through 7BU in nearby Burnie, they were transmitted via the new undersea cable running from Stanley underneath Bass Strait to coastal Victoria, and thence on to the ABC for a nationwide hook up, and then onward to Pennant Hills near Sydney for broadest to New Zealand and to the BBC London for worldwide coverage.  A truly international relay from a very small country radio station.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 357)