R4440 Synthetic cricket broadcast, 1938 - asset 2



This is an excerpt taken from a segment in a 1938 black-and-white Movietone newsreel. The full segment is entitled 'Cricket broadcasting: how it is done: ABC Chief and originator of idea, C K Moses' and shows Charles Moses explaining how the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Sydney broadcast ball-by-ball descriptions of Test cricket matches being played in England, making them sound as if they were live broadcasts. This excerpt shows the commentator in Sydney describing the match as though he were seeing and hearing it at the ground. He makes the sound of the bat striking the ball by hitting his pencil on a wooden block. The excerpt includes scenes of people at home listening to the commentary on the wireless (radio).

Acknowledgements: Stock Footage supplied courtesy of Film World Pty Ltd and Cinesound Movietone Productions. Reproduced courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive. Produced by Fox Movietone (Australia).

Educational value
This asset reveals how simulated live broadcasts of cricket matches were made in 1938 - radio transmission from England to Australia was slow and unreliable, and to meet audience demand for news of what was happening in the Test matches, 'synthetic broadcasts' had been devised in which the news reached the audience only minutes after each over had been bowled in England.
It depicts an aspect of a remarkable story in the history of broadcasting - the first synthetic broadcast was made in 1934, with Moses himself, then the sports editor at the ABC, at the microphone; the ABC had not set out to mislead the public, but by 1938 it had received so many requests to show the production process that Moses decided to explain the process on newsreel; 1938 was also the first year in which short-wave reception to Australia had improved sufficiently to allow for some live coverage direct from the matches.
It portrays the commentator seated before the microphone with papers in front of him - some of the papers were copies of cables that had been phoned through to the ABC studios, having arrived direct from England via a special telegraphic link installed by the London Post Office that went straight through to the Sydney Post Office; other papers were diagrams of the field prepared by cricket experts on the basis of the cables, which described each over played.
It reveals the appearance, voice and accent of Alan McGilvray (1909-96), the commentator in the excerpt and the distinctive voice of cricket on the ABC for 50 years.
It reveals the basic level of the technology used by the ABC at the time and the high level of skill displayed by all involved in the broadcasts - in 1985 McGilvray explained: 'It was a peculiar experience to sit down ... and try and do it ... of course you've got the cable, six balls on it ... I'd get through those in about 2 minutes, and it took me a long while to realise ... that the [actual] over would take about 4-and-a-half to 5 minutes. So when we finished those six balls, we had no further information ... we [had] a lot of padding to do'.
It illustrates something of the social life of the 1930s as it related to the radio - the synthetic broadcasts led to a large increase in the number of radios purchased; many people who could not afford a radio camped outside the Sydney ABC studios to hear the broadcasts; as the Test matches were played during the day in England, the play was broadcast during the night in Australia, from 8.30 pm until 3.30 am, and some people stayed up for most of the night to listen.
Sound effects
Test cricket
© Curriculum Corporation and National Film and Sound Archive, 2008, except where indicated under Acknowledgements