Adelaide’s SAS Seven today turns 50. The station has a history that has spanned two networks, initially launching as SAS10 — part of the Independent Television System (what is now Network Ten).
SAS10’s arrival marked the completion of the roll-out of an additional TV station to each of the five major capital cities.
The licence for the new Adelaide station was awarded to South Australian Telecasters Ltd in February 1964. The company was one of three applicants for the licence. Shareholders included Ansett Transport Industries (owner of ATV0, Melbourne, and later part-owner of TVQ0, Brisbane), United Telecasters Limited (TEN10, Sydney), John Martin and Co Limited and Adelaide Steamship Co Limited.
The new station’s premises were being built in the suburb of Gilberton with a transmitter based on Mount Lofty. Meanwhile, management had gone on a recruiting drive and secured some high-profile appointments. NWS9 newsreader Roger Cardwell, also host of Nine’s national Country And Western Hour, was signed up to be SAS10’s newsreader and station personality, while NWS9’s production manager John Trost had joined the new station as program manager. Trost had also been producer of NWS9’s long-running variety show, Adelaide Tonight, and had earlier worked in Melbourne.
SAS had also ‘poached’ NWS9’s children’s personality Bobo The Clown. Bobo, played by theatre performer Hal Turner, had a popular following in Adelaide and was to front the new channel’s after school programs.
Paul Griffiths, formerly of RVN2 in Wagga Wagga, had joined SAS as its booth and commercial announcer.
SAS10 was originally scheduled to open on 12 July 1965 until a dispute with its eastern state network partners over bulk program purchases saw SAS have to postpone its launch. The channel instead adopted a different programming strategy centred around movie double features every night plus alternative programs sourced independently. “We refuse to be bullied into taking inferior shows to secure a few good ones,” station general manager David Hall told TV Week at the time. “Our original opening date had to be altered because of a disagreement over a program package of shows we did not want. It was a case of being offered ‘all or nothing’ and we don’t want to do business that way.”
Some of the programs withdrawn from the tentative schedule included popular US shows Bewitched, Bonanza, Gilligan’s Island, Petticoat Junction and The Ed Sullivan Show. Subsequent program listings for the channel indicate that some of these titles did eventually appear on SAS10 but others had been picked up by rival channels.
And despite SAS10’s revised plans having a heavy reliance on movie titles, it had also come to an agreement to split its allocation of 200 Paramount studio movies from the ITS network package with rival channel NWS9. “We frankly never wanted them all and we were relieved when we found out we could buy just half. We’re very happy about the way things turned out,” David Hall told TV Times.
SAS eventually did launch on Monday, 26 July 1965. Because of the uncertainty over its program line-up, very few details were published in TV magazines leading up to the launch and advance program listings included disclaimers that titles may change before airtime.
SAS10’s opening day kicked off at 4.00pm with Bobo The Clown and Penny Ramsey (daughter of actress Lois Ramsey and later an actress in her own right) hosting The Bobo Show, including The Magic Circle Club from Melbourne. Serials Sword Of Freedom and Rescue 8 led into the channel’s first news bulletin, fronted by newsreader Roger Cardwell and weather presenter Gail Spiro. The station’s official opening followed at 7.00pm during a half-hour special preview of the upcoming feature film My Fair Lady. Then followed Ten’s first movie double feature, Sabrina and Appointment With Danger, before closing transmission for the night.
The next day, SAS launched another children’s program to lead into The Bobo Show. Romper Room was a local franchise of the format developed in the US and which had also been adopted by some interstate stations. Miss Michelle (Michele Kenny, a former schoolteacher) presided over Adelaide’s Romper Room youngsters for almost a decade.
Within its first year SAS had expanded into morning television, producing a six-day-a-week breakfast show, The Today Show, while its older rivals didn’t start their days’ programming until lunchtime. The Today Show, with presenters including Noel O’Connor and Warwick Prime, continued for five years. For the show’s 1000th episode in 1969, presenters from rival channels ABC, Seven and Nine were invited to appear as special guests.
SAS10’s first birthday: Roger Cardwell, Gail Spiro, Penny Ramsey, Bobo The Clown, Michele Kenny, Paul Griffiths
Prime also hosted SAS10’s local talent quest, New Faces, and O’Connor also hosted pop music program In Time and later The Saturday Tonight Show.
By the end of the decade SAS10 had launched its long-running morning show Touch Of Elegance. Initially hosted by Jaye Walton, the weekday program continued for over 20 years with Walton later making way for Margaret Glazbrook and Pam Ellis. Meanwhile, SAS10 adopted the custom of its interstate partners in having the ghoulish Deadly Earnest hosting the late night horror movies — with actor Hedley Cullen (pictured) playing the part for Adelaide viewers for over five years.
Despite its efforts to gain an edge over the competition, SAS had accumulated losses of $830,000 over its first five years and had yet to pay investors a dividend. South Australian Telecasters then became the subject of a takeover by TVW Enterprises, owner of TVW7 in Perth.
SAS10’s new partnership to TVW7 led to some program initiatives being shared between both channels. TVW7 children’s character Fat Cat was adopted by SAS10, initially joined by Veronica Overton, also from Perth, appearing on shows like Earlybirds and Children’s Channel Ten. Fat Cat would also go on to bid goodnight to junior viewers every night at 7.30pm for many years.
The news service, which had been discontinued a couple of years earlier, was reinstated with former TVW newsreader Terry Willesee, and TVW supplied the channel with an outside broadcast van. Helen Cutting (pictured) became the station weathergirl. She was seen but never heard as the newsreader would read out the forecast while Cutting, usually in a short skirt, would be subject to some less than subtle camerawork as she wrote the temperatures on a large map of Australia. She was later replaced by model Peta Peter — but times had changed, for Peter was allowed to speak and even gained a diploma in meteorology so she could know what she was talking about.
The Seventies saw SAS10 launch its annual Christmas Appeal telethon, raising funds for children’s medical research. The telethon, hosted for many years by Garry Meadows, featured personalities from around Australia (including Number 96 stars Bunney Brooke and Pat McDonald, pictured with a young performer at the 1976 telethon) as well as from SAS10’s local rival channels.
South Australian premier Don Dunstan was called in to flick the switch to official colour transmission in 1975. In the same year the Birdman Rally made its first appearance. The following year, SAS10 and TVW7 presented a joint outside broadcast from the South Australia-Western Australia border. In Eucla Tonight commemorated the completion of the sealed highway linking Adelaide and Perth.
Fat Cat was elevated to national status with Fat Cat And Friends, co-hosted by Jane Reilly. The show continued for 15 years. Young viewers were also catered for with Junior Jury, The New Earlybirds and Crackerjack.
The Eighties saw Adelaide’s perennial favourite Anne Wills join SAS10 as host of Movie Scene, which ran for 17 years, and later became weather presenter. “Willsy”, who continued her winning streak of Logies for popularity with local viewers, would present the weather for over a decade and later co-hosted the station’s new morning show AM Adelaide with Steve Whitham.
Local productions during the decade also included game show You Don’t Say, music shows Trax and Simulrock and children’s program 10 Out Of 10.
SAS10 celebrating its 15th birthday in 1980
In January 1982, SAS10’s Eyewitness News, with newsreader Tony Dickinson and Jane Reilly (both pictured), had expanded to a one-hour bulletin, though at that stage was still only a Monday to Friday service. It would be the mid-1980s before a half-hour weekend bulletin was added. Dickinson was later succeeded by others including Graeme Goodings, Guy Blackmore and current weekday newsreaders Jane Doyle (who has been with the station since 1989) and John Riddell.
SAS10 and rival station ADS7 created a piece of TV history in 1987, brought about by the circus of media takeovers and regulatory changes that had occurred over the 12 months beforehand. ADS7 had come under the control of Kerry Stokes, who had interests connected to the Ten Network, while SAS10 continued to be owned by TVW7, which had firmed ties with the Seven Network. The decision was made to switch the channel frequencies and network affiliations between SAS and ADS to match them up to their interstate partners. So from 27 December 1987, SAS10 became SAS7 and joined the Seven Network. The technical transition was relatively straightforward as both channels 7 and 10 broadcast from the same tower, so it was almost literally a case of swapping SAS’ connection to the 7 transmitter and ADS to the 10 transmitter in the early hours of the morning.
The changeover to Seven however sparked almost a complete rework of the channel’s program inventory, now sourced via the Seven Network, and on-air presentation. Local program Touch Of Elegance continued but now would be seen on Seven, and local presenters associated with Ten previously had suddenly “moved” to Seven. The change also saw SAS’ Gilberton studios adopt production of the game show Wheel Of Fortune, previously taped at ADS, for the Seven Network.
Fat Cat And Friends was consigned to history after a government committee reviewing children’s television deemed the Fat Cat character unsuitable for young children. The show was replaced by The Book Place, produced for many years from SAS7.
The Adelaide version of Today Tonight began from SAS7 in 1995 and is still going today even though eastern states versions of the program have been long gone.
The Gilberton studios which had housed SAS since its inception in 1965 ceased production in 2007. The station now operates from new premises (pictured) in the inner suburb of Hindmarsh.
As well as Seven News and Today Tonight, SAS also produces local coverage of SANFL, magazine shows SA Life and Out Of The Blue plus the broadcast of the annual charity football match, Slowdown, and other one-off specials and events. The station has recently announced that it will be broadcasting the SANFL Magarey Medal and South Australian Football Hall Of Fame presentation later this year.
SAS has been celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of special reports last week on Today Tonight, while tonight (Sunday) it presents Flashback: 50 Years Of Channel Seven at 5.30pm (also relayed through South Australian regionals WIN7 and Southern Cross GTS/BKN).
Source: The Sun, 28 February 1964. The Canberra Times, 28 February 1964. TV Radio Guide, 7 February 1965. TV Radio Guide, 9 May 1965. TV Week, 17 July 1965. TV Week, 24 July 1965. TV Times, 28 July 1965. The Canberra Times, 10 September 1970. TV Guide, 20 November 1976. TV Radio Extra, 16 August 1980. TV Radio Extra, 16 January 1982. Adelaide Remember When. WA TV History