Radio Australia

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ABC Radio Australia
TypeRadio network
OwnerAustralian Broadcasting Corporation
Launch date
20 December 1939
Official website
LanguageEnglish, Pidgin, French

Radio Australia is the international broadcasting and online service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Australia's public broadcaster. Most programming is in English, with some in Tok Pisin.

Radio Australia broadcasts on FM transmitters in seven countries across the Pacific Islands, and to the rest of world via online streaming.[1]


Shortwave services from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation were inaugurated in December 1939 by Prime Minister Robert Menzies.[2]

One of the functions of Australian shortwave broadcasting was to counter Axis powers propaganda, particularly that of the Japanese. However, the ABC's transmitters were much weaker than the Japanese or German services. The transmitter of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) (AWA) near Sydney had 10 kilowatts (kW) of power, and stations VLR and VLW had 2 kW each.[3]

In 1941, following consultation between the British and Australian governments, a transmitter site in Shepparton, Victoria was selected, in part because of a flat landscape and soil conductivity. The site was completed in 1944 with one 50 kW and two 100 kW transmitters. The station was then formally named Radio Australia.[4]

A new transmitting facility was installed by the PMG's Department at Cox Peninsula near Darwin in the late 1960s, rebroadcasting programs emanating from Radio Australia studios in Melbourne. Equipment included three Collins Radio 250 kW HF transmitters and five log-periodic antennas directed at East Asia and Southeast Asia. The antennas were largely demolished by Cyclone Tracy on 25 December 1974 and Radio Australia broadcasts from this locality were not reinstated (by then Telecom Australia) until about 1988. During the first Gulf war in 1990/91 the station provided valuable information and support to expatriate Australians caught in Iraq, and others working in (eg) Saudi Arabia. In the event however, due to financial and political pressures, as it was an expensive facility to staff being some distance from Darwin proper, transmissions from Cox Peninsula were terminated in the late 1990s. For a few years the facilities were leased to commercial operators, but eventually it was closed down. The equipment and buildings were removed, and the land restored.

Radio Australia had a considerable range of broadcasts to the Asian region in the 1970s and 1980s, however in the late 1990s political influence on its broadcasting range and programming limited its Asian spread.[citation needed] In recent years Radio Australia programs have also become available via the internet. These services are streamed from machines hosted by Akamai Technologies in Steinsel, Luxembourg ensuring good network connectivity for listeners in Europe.

In 2019, ABC Radio Australia celebrated 80 years of international radio broadcasting service.

On 14–15 March 2020 the Shepparton and District Amateur Radio Club organised a special event station VI3RA, with Amateur radio operators connected their equipment to the disused antenna arrays at the Shepparton site in order to communicate with amateur radio operators worldwide.

Involvement in Indonesian killings in 1965-66[edit]

Radio Australia has been implicated in the Indonesian mass killings of 1965–66 for its propaganda broadcasts that contributed to the anti-Communist hysteria in Indonesia.[5][6] At the time Radio Australia was the most popular foreign radio station in Indonesia and had a high signal strength.[7][6][8] It was popular with students as it was the only station in Indonesia to play rock music.[7] The Indonesian National Armed Forces gave Radio Australia daily briefings on what it should report and what phrases should be used.[9] The station was instructed to report manipulations of the truth as if they were facts.[6]

The Australian Department of External Affairs gave daily guidance to Radio Australia over its Indonesian broadcasts,[7] instructed it on the topics it should report on and the phrases it should use,[5] and often edited the station's programming.[8][10] Radio Australia was instructed to not broadcast disavowals by the Communist Party (PKI) of responsibility for the attempted coup,[7] and was told, "Radio Australia should not give the impression that the army alone was acting against the PKI. Civilian organisations should be mentioned as often as possible. ... Reports should never imply that the army or its supporters were in any way pro-Western or right wing."[8][7] Radio Australia faithfully followed these guidelines.[7]

The Australian ambassador, Mick Shann, encouraged Radio Australia to report manipulations and misconstructions of the truth in line with requests from the Indonesian Army, and told the station to not compromise the Army's position.[5] He said Radio Australia's broadcasts were "excellent propaganda and of assistance to the anti-PKI forces"[6] and "we must be a bit dishonest for a while."[5][11]

Richard Woolcott explained his guidance to the radio station by saying "Radio Australia should, by careful selection of its news items, not do anything which would be helpful to the PKI and should highlight reports tending to discredit the PKI and show its involvement in the losing cause of the 30th September movement."[8][11][10]

The propaganda encouraged militias and civilians to participate in the slaughter, and justifying the killings through the demonisation of the victims.[5]

Target areas[edit]

Radio Australia's shortwave signal was primarily aimed at the Asia-Pacific region. Programming was broadcast in multiple languages, namely English, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Khmer, French, Burmese, and Tok Pisin (a creole language commonly spoken in Papua New Guinea). A daily Pacific news bulletin is podcast in French.[12] Though Radio Australia did not directly target North America or Europe via shortwave, some of its transmissions could be heard in those areas.

Radio Australia could also be heard on CBC Radio across Canada during their overnight broadcast.[13] The station resumed Fiji transmission through negotiations with the Ministry of Information and the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) in July 2012. Radio Australia can be heard on 106.6FM in main cities of Fiji.[14]

Current market situation[edit]

There have been many changes and alterations in the international media market in recent years. One notable change is the move to new media and online content, such as digital radio, digital television, podcasting, and vodcasting.

Of the key markets that Radio Australia operates in, each market segment is at different stages of growth and requires marketing information specific to those markets for sustainable strategic plans to be developed that focus on product, packaging, placement, and promotion.

There are two key industry wide trends that affect the nature of Radio Australia's operations:

  1. Technology changes: changes within the radio/media broadcasting industry means that Radio Australia now faces greater competition, as the number of delivery platforms has increased;
  2. Asian and Pacific affluence: deregulated media environments across Southeast Asia, together with greater wealth and education, continue to drive the demand for diversified content, such as English lessons, and more defined information about Australian life or stronger understanding of Australian perspectives in issues.

Sources of programming[edit]

Radio Australia's English language programs consist of material produced by ABC Radio Australia, and also other ABC radio networks such as ABC Local Radio, ABC Radio National, ABC Classic FM, Triple J, Triple J Unearthed, Double J, ABC Grandstand and ABC NewsRadio.

Controversy over shortwave service closure[edit]

ABC boss Michelle Guthrie has been grilled in Senate over axing shortwave radio broadcasting [15] The decision has attracted criticism from cattle station owners, Indigenous ranger groups and fishermen, who argue it was done without community consultation and would deprive people in remote areas of vital emergency warnings, leading to Nick Xenophon introducing legislation to force ABC to reinstate shortwave radio service.[16]

In September 2017 the Nick Xenophon Team announced it had negotiated a review of the reach of Australian broadcasting services in the Asia Pacific region including examining if shortwave technology should be used to be included in the Government's Media Reform Bill [17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ahern, Steve. Making Radio: A Practical Guide to Working in Radio . 2000, Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-876351-07-1, p. 6
  3. ^ Wood, James. History of International Broadcasting. 2000, IET. ISBN 0-85296-920-1, p. 169
  4. ^ Wood, 2000: 170
  5. ^ a b c d e Millott, Marlene (30 September 2015). "Australia's Role in the 1965-66 Communist Massacres in Indonesia". Australian Institute of International Affairs. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Millott, Marlene. "Accomplice to atrocity?". Inside Indonesia. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Easter, David (1 February 2005). "'Keep the Indonesian Pot Boiling': Western Covert Intervention in Indonesia, October 1965–March 1966". Cold War History. 5 (1): 55–73. doi:10.1080/1468274042000283144. ISSN 1468-2745. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d Henry, Adam Hughes (1 January 2014). "Polluting the Waters". Genocide Studies International. 8 (2): 153–175. doi:10.3138/gsi.8.2.03. ISSN 2291-1847. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  9. ^ Sambhi, Natalie (2016). "Neither Truth nor Reconciliation: Why Indonesia's Army Wants the Country to Forget its Darkest Year". World Policy Journal. 33 (4): 102–109. ISSN 1936-0924. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b Henry, Adam Hughes (2014). "The role of propaganda during the Indonesian massacres". ISAA Review. 13 (1): 85–105. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  11. ^ a b Tanter, Richard (2013). The Great Killings in Indonesia through the Australian Mass Media / Pembunuhan Massal di Indonesia dalam Tinjauan Media Massa Australia. Kompas Gramedia Group. pp. 129–144. ISBN 978-979-22-9872-7.
  12. ^ "Pacifique sans frontières". ABC Radio Australia. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  13. ^ "CBC Radio Overnight". CBC Radio Canada. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Hodge, Errol. "Radio Australia in the Second World War," Australian Journal of International Affairs (1992) 46#2 pp: 93-108 online

External links[edit]