Classic TV Guides: Hinch chases Skase

Christopher Skase was the Melbourne journalist turned corporate high flyer in the 1980s. His billion dollar corporation was built around lavish hotel resorts and a growing media empire.

His purchase of the east coast Seven Network stations in 1987 suddenly elevated him to one of the most powerful media men in the country and he spent up big to boost Seven’s profile.

But the economic boom of the 1980s was soon over, Skase’s Qintex group was in ruins and he owed millions.

He fled the country amid criminal charges and was soon found to be hiding out in Spain to avoid the authorities.

In 1993, Network Ten current affairs host Derryn Hinch — a former high-profile signing of Skase’s at Seven six years earlier — gained exclusive access to interview Skase in Spain. The result was a two-hour special, The Skase Mirage, taking its name from Skase’s former luxury hotel chain.

The broadcast of The Skase Mirage, 25 years ago, is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides.


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Obituary: Darrell Eastlake

Former Nine Network sports commentator Darrell Eastlake has died at the age of 75.

His media career started in the 1960s, doing surf reports for Sydney radio station 2UW and later worked at 2GO on the Central Coast.

He then moved into television, as a rugby league commentator for NBN3, Newcastle, before joining Nine for its Commonwealth Games coverage from Brisbane in 1982.

His rambunctious style and booming voice was unmistakable while co-hosting Wide World Of Sports and commentating rugby league and State Of Origin, Commonwealth Games, Winter Olympics, weightlifting and motor racing.

He got himself banned from the commentating booth at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland for his over enthusiastic style.

He retired from broadcasting in 2005 and in 2010 was diagnosed with  Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and emphysema.

Darrell Eastlake is survived by his wife, Julie.

Source: Nine News, ABC, Wikipedia



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Obituary: Ron Blaskett

Ron Blaskett, one of the first performers on Melbourne television, has died at the age of 96.

Blaskett was already established as a ventriloquist in the Melbourne theatre circuit when he appeared on of GTV9‘s first test transmissions in 1956 and official opening in January 1957. He had imported the doll that would become “Gerry Gee” (named after the TV station’s call-sign) from the US for £200.

Blaskett and Gerry Gee became regulars on GTV9’s first children’s show, The Happy Show (later The Tarax Show), and with them were a whole family of fellow dolls — some performed by Blaskett’s wife, Merle.

Gerry Gee inspired an early range of merchandise and was also to appear on In Melbourne Tonight, in commercials and even a series of movie shorts. Gerry Gee also “wrote” a weekly column in early editions of TV Week and was later depicted in a regular series of comic strips in the magazine, drawn by Ernie Carroll (who later created Ossie Ostrich).

Blaskett also took Gerry Gee interstate, including performances on Perth’s Channel Niners Club.

He continued to appear on TV throughout the Seventies on shows including The Ernie Sigley Show, Young Talent Time and a short-lived game show, All Star Sweepstakes.

Blaskett officially retired in the 1990s but continued to perform with Gerry Gee in retirement villages and nursing homes until he finally retired the puppet in 2012.

Source: The Weekly Review, WA TV History, TV Tonight

TV-Radio Week, 5 December 1957

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Seven, Foxtel in $1.2b cricket rights deal

Two weeks ago the Nine Network had announced that it had committed $300 million to a five-year deal with Tennis Australia — taking the game from the Seven Network, which had broadcast events such as the Australian Open for decades.

At the time it was unclear what the outlook was for Nine’s future in cricket. Nine had dominated cricket coverage since the 1970s, when its owner Kerry Packer created his rogue contest World Series Cricket, but the Tennis Australia deal meant it had just signed up to a new summer sport. However Nine still went in, with Network Ten, to bid for the upcoming cricket rights package.

As it turns out, Cricket Australia has instead opted to award the next broadcast rights package to Foxtel, which lodged a bid with Seven West Media (the Seven Network).

The deal, worth just under $1.2 billion for six years, will see Seven have coverage of all Test matches involving Australia, 43 Big Bash League matches, including finals, as well as women’s international matches involving Australia and 23 ‘’key’’ Women’s Big Bash League games.

Foxtel will have all One Day International matches, all International T20 matches, all Test matches involving Australia, all Big Bash League games (16 exclusive to Foxtel),  13 domestic one day matches and the domestic Sheffield Shield final. Foxtel will also have 23 Women’s Big Bash League games and shared rights to stream cricket on mobile devices with Cricket Australia.

Seven and Foxtel will each have their own commentary teams, with reports suggesting that both may pick up some of Nine’s commentators.

While Seven and Foxtel appear to be winners in the deal, some cricket fans may see themselves as the losers as some matches previously on free-to-air and supposedly protected on the anti-siphoning list will now be behind a Foxtel “paywall”.

The other loser in the deal is Network Ten, which has built up Big Bash League over the last five years to be its premier sports brand over summer. Ten CEO Paul Anderson said in a statement: ““We are disappointed that our bid for the cricket television rights was rejected.  Network Ten turned the Big Bash League into the television phenomenon it is today and one of the most popular sports in Australia, a sport that all Australians were able enjoy for free. We had planned to extend that innovation to other forms of the game.”

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has acknowledged the contributions made by both Nine and Ten:  “Our thanks go to Channel Nine, who for more than 40 years has broadcast international cricket at a world-renowned standard – and in so doing has done more to promote our sport than any organisation in Australian cricket history. Our sincere thanks also to Network Ten for their role in taking the Big Bash League to a new level, and for so willingly providing a platform to launch and grow the Women’s Big Bash League. As a startup League, the BBL is a phenomenal success story. Over the last five years Ten has made an extraordinary contribution to the league and its growth in bringing new fans to cricket.”

“We have nothing but gratitude and respect for Nine and Ten – and sincerely thank them for their contribution to our sport.

“We’re very excited about what the future holds with both Fox Sports and Seven West Media.”

Source: Cricket Australia, Sydney Morning Herald


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When female newsreaders were “the good news”

The novelty of ABC‘s first female TV newsreader 40 years ago showed that attitudes to women on television were very different to now.

“Australia’s newest sex symbol is not a naughty nurse from The Young Doctors. She’s not even a titillating teacher from Glenview High, or a passionate policewoman from Cop Shop. Believe it or not, she’s an ABC newsreader” — so declared Melbourne’s Scene newspaper in April 1978.

“Long-legged Margaret Throsby began on Sydney’s ABN2 only last week.”

Scene, 1 April 1978

Female newsreaders or journalists on television were still a rarity even by the late 1970s, although there had been some trailblazer reporters including Tanya Halesworth, Mickie de Stoop, Anne Deveson, Kate Ballieu and Brisbane newsreader Melody Iliffe.

Throsby, however, wasn’t falling for the sexist adoration and denied that sex appeal had anything to with her TV role. “If that’s the only reason they picked me for the job I’ll quit straight away,” she told Scene. “There are lots of women doctors and lawyers around now — did they get where they are because they looked sexy?”

Throsby was no newcomer to the media. She had been an announcer at ABC radio since the 1960s, including as one of its first female newsreaders since World War II. After Throsby began reading TV news for ABC, the commercial sector showed a greater interest in employing female newsreaders.

Since the sensationalist media attention of 40 years ago, Throsby continued an esteemed career at ABC, including hosting long-running programs for radio 2BL (now ABC Radio Sydney) and ABC Classic FM, the latter for which she still presents concert events, and acts as a mentor to ABC’s next generation of broadcasters. She has also worked as a presenter for SBS and was a panellist on Beauty And The Beast for the Ten Network in the 1980s.

Source: Scene, 1 April 1978. ABC Classic FM.

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Nine signs $300m tennis deal

The Nine Network has announced it has signed a five-year deal with Tennis Australia.

The $300 million deal, effective from 2020, will include broadcast, streaming, mobile, digital and social platforms for premier tennis events including the Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart Internationals, the Hopman Cup in Perth and the Australian Open in Melbourne.

In a press statement issued earlier today, Hugh Marks, CEO of Nine, said: “We are thrilled to have secured the rights to premium Australian tennis, particularly the Australian Open. The timing of tennis and the audience demographics it delivers are a perfect fit for Nine and its advertisers. We share Tennis Australia’s passion to grow its events, particularly the Australian Open, and expand its broadcast proposition in this country. To say we are excited to be part of that future is an understatement.”

The new deal brings an end to a decades old connection between the Seven Network and Tennis Australia, in particular the Australian Open. Since the 1970s Seven has anchored its summer schedule around saturation tennis coverage, with the Australian Open a ratings giant that Seven has used to pump up its new season shows with heavy cross promotion.

The new tennis deal potentially bumps cricket from prominence in Nine’s summer schedule, although Nine is still reported to be offering a joint bid with the Ten Network for the upcoming Cricket Australia rights deal.


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Southern Cross News gets a refresh

Last week Tasmania’s Southern Cross News received a much needed and long awaited refresh in shifting to a new, more modern studio.

The news had been presented from a set that dates back to the Nineties and a studio that dates back to when the station debuted as TNT9 in 1962.

At the close of the bulletin last Tuesday, Southern Cross News presented a tribute to over 50 years of news production from the old studio, with a new-look bulletin launching the next night:

YouTube: Southern Cross News Tasmania

Although Southern Cross is aligned to the Nine Network on the mainland, it is an affiliate of the Seven Network in Tasmania. Southern Cross News is consistently among Tasmania’s most popular programs.

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Obituary: Nigel Dick

Nigel Dick AM, one of Australia’s first and widely experienced TV executives, has died at the age of 89.

Born in the UK in 1928, he came to Australia in the 1940s and by the early 1950s was working in sales for Frank Packer‘s Consolidated Press.

When Packer, who owned TCN9 in Sydney, bought Melbourne’s GTV9 in 1960, creating Australia’s first commercial “network” between the two cities, Dick was GTV’s general manager and later CEO.

He was instrumental in expanding the company’s presence in radio, leading the purchase of 3AK in Melbourne and later a network of 6PM Perth and regional stations in Western Australia.

He later become chairman of HSV7, Melbourne, and a director of its parent company, The Herald And Weekly Times Ltd. This was in 1969, when the Seven Network was taking an aggressive strategy to topple Nine’s ratings dominance with the “Seven Revolution” campaign and programming revamp.

He then returned to the Packer group, heading its television and radio interests, before a subsequent parting of ways. He declined Reg Ansett‘s offer for the role of CEO of Austarama Television (ATV0) and instead joined the regional Victorian Broadcasting Network.

The company’s assets included BCV8 Bendigo and GLV10 Gippsland, and it was Dick that instigated the company changing its name to Southern Cross Communications — a name and company that still exists today as part the national television and radio group Southern Cross Austereo.

Dick was later Chief Executive of the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand (BCNZ), overseeing two television networks and various radio networks.

At the age of 83, Dick applied to do a doctorate through the University of Melbourne. He decided to make the 1953-54 Royal Commission into the introduction of television in Australia the subject of his thesis, arguing that the government’s granting of multiple commercial licences to relatively small markets stifled the quality and vitality of Australian television.

As well as his extensive media career, he had also served as chairman of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) and founding director and chairman of Odyssey House in Victoria.

In 2010 he was announced as Senior Australian of the Year (Victoria).

Nigel Dick is survived by wife Beverley, three children and their families.

Source: The Age, Radioinfo, The Citizen, Odyssey House Victoria, Australian Of The Year



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The Mike Walsh Show goes online

In the early 1970s Mike Walsh sought to prove that housewives and retirees, who made up the majority of daytime TV audiences, deserved better content in daytime TV than re-runs, cheap game shows and segments on housekeeping. For over 2000 episodes, The Mike Walsh Show not only brought variety and the showbiz elite to afternoons but also frank and open discussion about all manner of social topics, including everything from politics to sex to immigration.

Among its stable of regulars were Jeanne Little, John Michael Howson, Dr James Wright and music director Geoff Harvey. Its success — first on the 0-10 Network before going across to Nine in 1977 — saw it earn the type of ratings at midday that many prime time shows would have envied. The show scored many TV Week Logies including Gold Logies for Little in 1977 and Walsh in 1980.

In 2006, the National Film and Sound Archive acquired a collection of around 1500 episodes of The Mike Walsh Show. It has now published a selection of clips from the show as a tribute to the show that dominated daytime TV for over a decade.

Source: National Film and Sound Archive. TV Week, 26 December 1981. Woman’s Day/TV Day, 22 June 1982. 

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Southern Cross GTS-BKN turns 50

This week has marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of South Australian regional station GTS4.

Spencer Gulf Telecasters was awarded a licence to operate the commercial channel for the Spencer Gulf North region in 1967 — providing a local competitor to national broadcaster ABC, which had been in the area for two years already.

Among the shareholders in Spencer Gulf Telecasters were BHP Nominees, Southern Television Corporation (NWS9, Adelaide) and Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA).

GTS4 commenced operation on 1 March 1968. Its coverage was later expanded with the addition of relay stations in Cowell (GTS8) and Port Lincoln (GTS5) and, in 1974, Spencer Gulf Telecasters completed a takeover of Broken Hill station BKN7. Since then both GTS and BKN have broadcast a common schedule. In the early-’90s, both stations became part of the Central Television Network sales alliance, with other South Australian regional stations and Alice Springs-based Imparja.

YouTube: d0nkeyshines

By the turn of the century, Central GTS-BKN, as it became known, featured predominantly a Seven Network schedule with some contributions from the other networks. In 2003, GTS-BKN which by then was owned by the Southern Cross Broadcasting group, was assigned a secondary television licence, permitting it to operate a second signal in its local coverage areas. It chose to align GTS-BKN as a solely Seven-fed outlet, and launched its second service as a Ten Network relay, Southern Cross Ten. The advent of digital television then saw an extra channel launch as a Nine Network outlet as a digital-only service.

Analogue television signals were switched off in 2010.

The original GTS-BKN stations are now Southern Cross GTS-BKN and continue to this day in their respective coverage areas as the only commercial TV operator. The channels provide local relays of all three capital city networks and associated multi-channels — providing its coverage area of around 131,000 viewers with a total of nine commercial channels.

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The station still produces a local news service, Southern Cross News, with reporters based locally and presented from the network’s centralised production facility in Canberra.

GTS4/BKN7 Program Guide, 1988

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