The radio serial industry in Australia: an historical study of the production of serials in Australia, and the influence of the industry in the development of commercial radio
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 22:47 by Diana R. Combe
Serials were an important element of commercial programming from the 1930s to the 1960s because they performed particular functions for stations and advertisers. Drama was expensive, however, so broadcasters had to organise cooperative production of recorded serials for distribution by networking, a process which continually challenged the Government regulations designed to prevent just that. The success of the broadcasters in popularising broadcast advertising provoked newspapers to involve themselves in broadcasting and stations to seek a reciprocal advantage through association with newspapers. The Government’s response was to restrict the formation of chains of ownership and/or control, but to permit the operation of cooperative networks which made country stations economic inclusions in sponsorship contracts. The demand for serials encouraged the formation of many independent production companies, but competition from cheap American transcriptions depressed their sales and prices. Moreover, the small size of the local market meant that many found it necessary to sell overseas to make a profit, so serials which had already been shaped to appeal to the mass audience in Australia, had to be further modified - 'internationalised' - to make them accessible to foreign mass audiences. This loss of Australian-ness, plus the circulation of American serials, led to a still-unresolved discussion about the nature of Australian 'culture', whether it should be protected, and if so, how best to do it. During the 1940s and 1950s, the radio serial industry was able to support a great many artists and technicians. The economics of the industry, however, were such that its viability depended on their accepting low fees and onerous working conditions. After 1956, wherever a television station began broadcasting, audiences lost interest in radio drama, and so too did advertisers. Sales of new serials began to fall off, and by 1960 the serial production industry was dead, and most of the artists unemployed.