Radio National celebrates 100 years

Sydney radio station 2FC aired its first test broadcast on December 5 1923, before officially going to air on January 9, 1924. 2FC stood for Farmer and Company. It held its name for the first few years while 2SB (now ABC Radio Sydney) changed to 2BL, as the two were thought to be too similar in sound.

In 1928 the Sydney Broadcasting Company (where 2SB’s name originated) took over 2BL and 2FC. The ABC bought the station in 1932 and from 1947 until the 80s 2FC became Radio 2, broadcasting the ABC’s national programming across Australia. In 1985 Radio 2 rebranded to Radio National and in 1990 all stations across the country began using the callsign that remains today, RN.

Presenters have shared special memories of working at the station.

Awaye! presenter Rudi Bremer had an incredible experience while researching Indigenous family histories. One of her guests was Brad Steadman from Brewarrina, which was home to one of the biggest Aboriginal missions in NSW.

“Just as I was finishing up the interview, he asked me about my family. I told him my mum’s maiden name and he recognised it, saying he had a photo of a woman named Gladys Toomey. Gladys was my nan’s sister and an incredibly special person in my life.”

Gladys had moved to Wellington, NSW, where she lived the rest of her life. Bremer stayed on the line while Steadman rifled through a tin of photographs and kept recording as he found the one he was looking for, taken around the 1930s.

“He ended up sending me a scan of the photo and it’s so precious to me. My family really don’t have pictures of Aunty Glad from when she was young.”

Natasha Mitchell remembers Madge, on Life Matters a decade ago and a reconnection that followed the broadcast.

Madge talked about the young nun who stood by her when she was a pregnant student, and emboldened her to resist pressure to adopt out her son.

Mitchell said:

“The order of nuns heard the interview and we reunited the nun, her former student and her — now adult — son. Radio is so often about sharing, connection, challenging taboos and the ties that bind.”

The Art Show’s Daniel Browning will never forget hearing the stories of Richard Campbell and James Michael ‘Widdy’ Welsh, survivors of the notorious Kinchela Boys Home.

“Their grief was tangible. If you listen closely you can hear the sound of tears breaking — even in the voices of these broken and traumatised, but now reconstituted, men. You can mainline emotions with radio, straight to the heart.”

One listener told presenter Annabelle Quince that he’d binged listened to 13 years of Rear Vision episodes in six months.

“People take you into their lives and their ears in a way that is very humbling,” Quince said.

There are more stories here. RN has been podcasting since 2005 with all their programs (like Rear Vision) available to be streamed or on demand. Richard Fidler and Sarah Kanowski‘s Conversations program was last week named Apple’s most popular Australian podcast of 2023. RN yesterday announced show and lineup up changes for 2024.

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5 Dec 2023 - 2:07 pm

I am not sure it was bought by ABC in 1937 given that it was nationalised and part of the ABC when it commenced in 1932. I think the source article that Wikipedia quotes is incorrect.

    Jen Seyderhelm
    5 Dec 2023 - 3:53 pm

    Thanks Andrew, will amend. Ed.


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