Radio and the Technology of the Common Law in 1930s Australia: Victoria Park Racing v Taylor Revisited
Griffith Law Review, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2011
20 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2013
This article examines how radio broadcasting in Australia in the 1930s challenged the monopolies of racing clubs who exercised tight control over access to the racecourse, supported by existing laws, with minimal media reporting in the form of scores scratched on boards at the racecourse and newspaper summaries after the event. In the 1937 case of Victoria Park Racing v Taylor, commercial radio emerged as a disruptive force that changed the way races were experienced by audiences, from attendance at the racecourse to listening to a contemporaneous report of the event as it was being played on a radio receiving set. The different approaches to the ʻnovelʼ practice confronting the court reveal a dispute over the common lawʼs correct approach to dealing with new technologies more generally. In this case, the mechanical approach of Dixon J prevailed and the novel situation of live radio broadcast was treated as falling outside the established categories of legal protection, and therefore outside the lawʼs control. As such, the case may appear as an example of the ʻtechnologyʼ of law extended now to the law made by judges. But to end the story there would be misleading. For it would not be long before the rather different approach of the dissenting judges, and especially Evatt J, would be embraced by a later High Court as its traditionally preferred methodology for dealing with new technologies as well as other changes in the economic and social environment. As to the decision, broadcasts of live spectacles were the subject of Commonwealth legislation in 1956. Even so, it was television rather than radio that was the subject of regulation, radio having become less unruly and more amenable to licensing arrangements.
JEL Classification: K00, K19, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation