The minutes of the Labor Council of NSW Executive Committee meeting of 17th February 1925 recorded the following:
R E. Voigt was present by invitation of the Council to place the matter of “Radio” fully before the Executive. He explained the approximate cost of the installation of a B Class Broadcasting Station would be £1,500 – 500 watt station. This station could broadcast to any part of Australia or New Zealand. It could be picked up by small crystal sets on a 12 mile radius. Crystal Sets could be made at a small cost approximately 4 or 5 shillings each”.
The following resolution was soon carried unanimously:-
“That we recommend that the principle of installing a broadcasting set of the B Class be affirmed. Further that a Committee be appointed with power to go right ahead, addressing meetings on the matter”.
Class B stations were stations financed by selling commercials. Class A ones were financed by license fees.
Emil Robert Voigt was the prime mover behind Labor Council getting into broadcasting. He was clearly concerned that unions have their own media voice via the radio (and also union newspapers). He was also the instigator of the Labor Research and Information Bureau at Trades. Other NSW labour movement names on the Labor Council Executive at the time were Jack Beasley and Jock Garden.
On the 7th of May 1925 the Labor Council applied for permission to build a “B Class” broadcasting station in Sydney with programme material that focused on “Matters of educational value, musical entertainment, news service, weather and market reports, public debates and other matters of general public interest”.
The P.M.G. approved the License on the 20th of May 1925 for a fee of £5 per annum. The Labor Daily reported that the Station was one of the most powerful in the Southern Hemisphere. The call sign allotted by the P.M.G. was 2IC. This was changed briefly to 2LC, then 2TH and finally to 2KY, which was Voigt’s preference.
Emil Voigt on the Sydney Harbour Bridge prior to it’s completion
At the beginning it was a financial struggle for the station so Voigt took little or no pay for the first couple of years, but he made sure that the staff was paid by going round each week to the Unions in Trades Hall and collecting small sums from each from their petty cash. Within only a few years the station was soon operating on a paying basis and had become one of the most popular radio stations in the country.
2KY was unique. It was the first high-powered, union-owned radio station in the world. Operating from Sydney Trades Hall it gave a voice to the Labor movement in New South Wales. Advocating better wages and conditions for the workers it had a marked influence on political and industrial affairs. It was always a sports broadcaster, with the world’s first outside broadcast of a boxing match from the Stadium at Rushcutters’s Bay.
SPORT AND POLITICS DO MIX
Prior to his involvement in radio and politics he was famous throughout England and Europe as an Olympic champion, winning a gold medal in the 1908 London Olympic Games for the five-mile race. He travelled all over the world during his athletic career and later on business, and learnt to speak five languages – English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.
The gold medal won by Emil Voigt for the five- mile race, London Olympics 1908;
Voigt at the Olympic Games
Born in Ardwick, Lancashire, he began running cross-country events at the age of 14. He won the first race he ever entered – the four miles – and competed for the next 10 years with the Slade Harriers and the Manchester Athletic Club. On the point of retiring from competitive athletics at the age of 25, he made a last minute decision to enter the Olympic Games in London in 1908 and ended up winning the gold medal for England in the five-mile race!
He has the unique distinction of holding an Olympic title and record that has never been broken. It was the only time this non-metric distance was included in the Games as at the next Olympics it was changed into the 10,000 metres. His time of 25m 11.2 seconds still stands as an Olympic record today.
He asked a club official to put him down for the Olympic trials which were to be held in one week’s time. The Manchester official thought it was too late to have his entry accepted but sent a telegram anyway to the selectors who were having their final meeting that night. The official asked Emil what distance he would like to run and although he had been training for half mile events, on the spur of the moment told the official to put him down for the 5 mile race.
He was accepted into the Olympic Games and won his heat but broke down after that race due to the rigorous training he had been undergoing. The arch of his foot had collapsed due to torn muscles. It was thought that he would have to withdraw but he was determined to continue on, had a special plaster of paris arch support built overnight and ran with the heavy plaster support in his running shoe in the finals, clumping along not knowing whether he would be able to finish. He said he was surprised to see that he seemed to be passing everyone, so doggedly ran through the pain and thought he’d ‘just keep running and see what happened’. He ended up winning the event by 70 yards..
He was feted for his achievement and invited to tour the Scandinavian countries in the following year where he collected more medals and as he was an engineer he was also given a contract to design the first cinder athletic track in Scandinavia, the Eläintarha Stadium in Helsinki, which is still in use today. He established British records over all distances from one mile to 10 miles and won races in Finland, Sweden, Germany and France.
When he later came to Australia he set many national records, including the Australian 6 miles race in 1911, Australian 2 miles in 1913, as well as Victorian one mile in 1912. He put in Australia’s first cinder athletic track in Melbourne, similar to the stadium he had designed in Finland in 1910.
During the early 1900s in England Voigt had become involved with the Independent Labor Party and joined the Clarion Movement and the Vegetarian Cycling Club. He joined members cycling around England distributing the socialist newspaper The Clarion and spreading the message of socialism to towns and villages.
He ran until was 80