Sep 24 2017

Obituary: Melody Iliffe

Melody Iliffe, regarded as the first female newsreader on Australian television, has died.

As Melody Welsh, her career in television began working behind the scenes at Brisbane’s QTQ9. She was then plucked from obscurity to read the station’s news beside Don Seccombe.

It was the first time a female was appointed as newsreader, an achievement recognised with a special TV Week Logie Award in 1965.

She went on to marry QTQ9’s children’s host Jim Iliffe and they had three children.

Although focusing on motherhood, Iliffe continued to do part-time TV newsreading and regularly appearing in commercials.

She continued to read the news into the 1980s and in 1984 co-hosted QTQ9’s celebration of 25 years of television in Queensland.

Source: 9 News Queensland; On-Air: 25 Years Of TV In Queensland, Christopher Beck, 1984; 

YouTube: Flemishdog

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Sep 23 2017

Obituary: David Lyle

David Lyle, the Australian TV producer who became a producer and television executive in the US, has died at the age of 67.

Lyle had been battling cancer and died at his Los Angeles home.

His early career was as a geologist and high school chemistry teacher, before a shift to television, working as a writer and producer for ABC and Network Ten.

It was at Ten that Lyle also became a TV presenter, as host of the weekly Golden Years Of Television in the 1980s. The Monday late night program which presented episodes of long lost TV programs, mostly from the US but also local shows like Number 96‘s ‘bomb-blast’ episode, gained a cult following.

He later became an executive for the Nine Network and brought The Golden Years Of Television with him. At Nine he became involved in program development and acquisitions, developing local adaptations of international franchises like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Lyle then went from Australia to production company Pearson Television in the United Kingdom.

He moved to Los Angeles in 2001 as head of FremantleMedia North America and helped launch American Idol for the Fox network.

He later headed the cable channels Fox Reality and Nat Geo Wild.

He most recently served as president of Pact US, an advocacy organisation for unscripted TV producers which later merged with the Nonfiction Producers Association, forming NPACT.

David Lyle is survived by his wife Janne and three children.

Source: Variety


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Sep 19 2017

Classic TV Guides: Burst Of Summer

“How does a beautiful aboriginal girl pick up the dreary threads of her normal life after a brief but heady taste of glory as a film star?”

Such was the premise of Oriel Gray‘s play Burst Of Summer, as described in TV Times magazine in 1961. Burst Of Summer told the story of singer Peggy Dinjerra, who enjoys a brief rise to fame with a film starring role, and who later struggles to settle back to her “pre-fame” life working as a waitress.

The story was in parallel to a real-life situation affecting the indigenous stars of the hit movie Jedda, made in 1955.

Burst Of Summer was first performed in 1960 and adapted for television by ABC in August 1961, broadcast live to air from the studio of ABV2 in Melbourne.

A month later, a “telerecording” of the broadcast (before videotape became mainstream and before cities were routinely connected by technology) was aired on Perth’s ABC station, ABW2.

It was to be another month again before the same production was broadcast on ABN2 in Sydney.

The television adaptation of Burst Of Summer starred Georgia Lee (pictured) as Peggy and Robert Tudawali as solicitor’s clerk Don. Both author Gray and producer William Sterling emphasised the importance of casting indigenous actors in the key indigenous roles. “Apart from the face that we had these excellent actors available, we felt it would destroy the whole social impact of the play if we were to cast white people in their roles,” Sterling told TV Times.

This was often in contrast to other television productions where it was not unusual to cast white actors to play indigenous characters.

Also among the cast were Candy Williams, Edward Brayshaw, Joan MacDonald, Wynn Roberts, Edward Howell and Anne Charleston.

The Perth broadcast of Burst Of Summer is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides:



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Sep 09 2017

Nine News Darwin moving to Queensland

It seems it’s not just the TV Week Logie Awards that are moving to Queensland.

Last night Nine News Darwin presented its last bulletin from its Darwin studios ahead of its shift in presentation to Nine‘s Brisbane studio from Monday.

Darwin newsreader Jonathan Uptin (pictured top right) will now be based in Brisbane presenting the bulletin for Darwin viewers with Samantha Heathwood. Reporting staff remain in Darwin to file local stories.

The shift, announced by Nine back in July, comes as Nine Brisbane is launching a raft of localised bulletins for broadcast across Southern Cross‘ regional Queensland markets.

It follows a similar model adopted in Victoria and Southern NSW/ACT to extend the Nine News brand to regional markets following Nine’s switch in affiliation last year to Southern Cross.

Nine News Darwin began life as News At Seven in 1982. Before then the only north-bound microwave link available into Darwin was leased full-time to ABC, thereby preventing Nine Darwin’s predecessor NTD8 any direct connection to receive national and international news.

The bulletin later became Eight National News, then National Nine News when NTD8 became known as Nine Darwin.

YouTube: aussiebeachut0

YouTube: Media and Transport Channel

Source: NT News


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Sep 08 2017

TV Week Logies are going to Queensland

Following news earlier this week that Melbourne was pulling out of hosting the TV Week Logie Awards, Queensland has now emerged as the new home of the awards for the next four years.

The move is part of a deal between TV Week publisher Bauer Media and the Queensland Government with Tourism And Events Queensland. It will be the first time since 1986 that the awards will not be hosted in Melbourne.

Jayne Ferguson, General Manager, Women’s Lifestyle & Entertainment at Bauer, said in a statement: “The Logies have enjoyed considerable support over the many years they have been held in Melbourne. But it’s the right time, as we celebrate our 60th year, for us to share that excitement with another great Australian city. We look forward to the Gold Coast hosting television’s night of nights in 2018 and beyond.”

In another major break with tradition, next year’s TV Week Logie Awards will be held in July, as opposed to the usual April-May time frame to coincide with the resumption of ratings after the Easter break.

Given that the awards will be in recognition of the 2017 television year it seems to be a long time to wait for the party, but the postponement is likely because the Gold Coast will be hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games in April.

The awards will be held at The Star Gold Coast and once again (for the 23rd year in a row) will be telecast on the Nine Network.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has welcomed the announcement: “My Government’s commitment to the TV Week Logies is a great investment in Queensland. Queensland has rightfully earned a reputation as the powerhouse of Australia’s film industry, but increasingly we’re taking that role in television as well, for both domestic and international productions. We look forward to bringing Australia’s greatest television performers to the Gold Coast, showcasing both the strength of our industry and the appeal of Queensland.”

The Logies have been a long time coming to Queensland. The state had first made a push to gain the TV Week Logie Awards back in 2008 — but the awards actually do have a historical link to Queensland. When TV Week initiated the Best New Talent category in 1969, the award was named the George Wallace Memorial Logie for Best New Talent — after comedian and Brisbane TV personality George Wallace Jnr, who had passed away the previous year.



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Sep 08 2017

Obituary: Peter Luck

Peter Luck, journalist, author, producer and presenter, has passed away at the age of 73.

He died following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease

Luck’s career started in the 1960s, as a reporter for ABC‘s This Day Tonight and later for Four Corners.

In 1979 he co-wrote and hosted the documentary series This Fabulous Century. The series, which was two years in the making and screened over 36 weeks, was billed at the time as the most expensive documentary series ever produced in Australia. Screening on the Seven Network, This Fabulous Century documented the various aspects of Australian life since federation, tapping into the resources of Cinesound, Movietone and the National Film and Sound Archive. It won a TV Week Logie Award in 1980 for Best Documentary Series.

Luck then followed This Fabulous Century with the single documentary Who Are We?, delving into Australia’s multicultural identity. Who Are We? was the first program to go to air on opening night on the network that is now SBS.

Later documentaries included the series The Australians, 50 Fabulous Years and Bicentennial Minutes: A Time To Remember.

Luck was also a frequent presenter on current affairs. He often popped up as a guest host on Hinch At Seven and Today Tonight and also presented the Australian version of Inside Edition for Network Ten. For two years he was executive producer of the Nine Network‘s Sunday.

In the late 1990s he created and hosted Where Are They Now? for the Seven Network and was a columnist for Sydney’s Sun Herald newspaper.

In 2006 he wrote a book, 50 Years Of Australian Television, documenting his own perspective and experiences in the history of television.

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has paid tribute to Luck in a statement: “Peter Luck was a trailblazing journalist who became a role model to generations of reporters and was also loved and respected by audiences. He made a huge contribution to the ABC in his early career and remains forever part of the fabric of the national broadcaster. All ABC staff join me in paying our respects to Peter and passing on our deepest sympathies to his family.”

Source: The Age, SBS, Peter Luck




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Sep 04 2017

Obituary: Alan Cassell

Alan Cassell, actor on Australian stage, film and television, died last week at the age of 85.

Born in the United Kingdom, his acting career began in Western Australia. His work was mainly as a stage actor but he did have a lead role in a locally-produced series, The Drifter — one of the few Australian television dramas to be made in Western Australia.

Later television acting credits included Division 4, Matlock Police, The Newman Shame, Sara Dane, Vietnam and Touch The Sun.

He had leading roles in the Nine Network series Taurus Rising, the Ten Network cop drama Special Squad and Seven‘s The Power The Passion. He later had an ongoing role in the popular ABC series Seachange.

Guest roles included appearances in Neighbours, Mission Impossible, The Flying Doctors, Bony, Janus, Blue Heelers, Halifax fp, Stingers and MDA.

Film credits included Money Movers, Cathy’s Child, Breaker Morant, The Club, Puberty Blues and Squizzy Taylor.

Source: The Age, Wikipedia, IMDB, Screen Space


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Sep 04 2017

TV Week Logie Awards to exit Melbourne

Melbourne is set to lose the TV Week Logie Awards, following the Victorian Government’s decision to withdraw its bid for the city to host the annual event next year.

Herald Sun reports that Tourism and Events Minister John Eren has said “We’re proud to have been home to the Logies for more than 30 years, but it’s time to pass on the baton”.

He added: “No matter where the Logies go next, Victoria will remain the cultural and events capital of Australia.”

Since 1997 the awards have been held at the Crown Casino complex.

The TV Week Logie Awards, first announced in 1958 as simply the TV Week Awards, will celebrate its 60th presentation next year. For all but a handful of its 59 years to date, it has been hosted in Melbourne, which used to be TV Week‘s home base. The magazine has long been published by Bauer Media in Sydney but has maintained the awards’ historical ties to Melbourne.

The last time the awards were held outside of Melbourne — at Sydney’s State Theatre in 1986Hey Hey It’s Saturday‘s Daryl Somers won the Gold Logie, A Country Practice was voted the most popular drama series, Perfect Match was the most popular light entertainment program, and the mini-series Anzacs won three awards.

The Herald Sun indicates that the Logies are likely to head to Queensland. As far back as 2008 the state was hopeful to gain TV’s “night of nights”.

Source: Herald Sun



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Aug 28 2017

US media giant CBS buys Ten

CBS Corporation, owner of the CBS television network in the US, has announced its agreement to buy the business and assets of Ten Network Holdings.

The deal, which includes CBS taking over Ten, Tenplay and supplementary channels One and Eleven, follows a competitive sales process that was also reported to include a rival bid by Lachlan Murdoch and WIN owner Bruce Gordon — both significant shareholders in Ten prior to the network going into receivership.

The CBS transaction is still subject to approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board and of creditors, but CBS has committed to providing immediate financial support to maintain continuity of operations ahead of the upcoming meeting of creditors.

Ten CEO Paul Anderson said in a statement, “CBS and Ten have had a strong relationship for a number of years; we are very excited about further developing that relationship with CBS as an owner and strength that they will provide to the Company at this critical time”.

CBS has been a significant content supplier to Ten and owns a third share of the network’s multi-channel Eleven. It was earlier reported that Ten owed CBS as much as $843 million in programming rights fees.

Armando Nuñez, President and CEO of CBS Studios International, commented, “CBS recognises the significance of Ten in the Australian broadcasting community. We are committed to the efficient, reliable and successful turnaround, operation and development of Ten to support continued growth in Australian media”.

CBS will also launch its subscription video on demand service CBS All Access in Australia.

The Ten-CBS deal promises financial and management stability for the network from one of the world’s strongest media brands and represents a significant new entrant into the Australian media landscape. It will come as a blow to Murdoch, as executive co-chairman of News Corporation he would have seen some synergies in linking properties such as Sky News, Fox Sports and Foxtel to the Ten brand, and Gordon, whose WIN is the Ten affiliate partner through much of regional Australia.

Source: The Age, Korda Mentha (via ASX), The Age



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Aug 28 2017

Back to Bellbird

YouTube: Conniptions886

One of the most successful radio serials in Australia was ABC‘s Blue Hills. The daily 15-minute depiction of life in the fictitious country town of Tanimbla had an incredibly loyal following from the time it debuted in 1949.

With television starting in 1956, it was only a matter of time before a similar concept was to be adopted by the new medium. It was to happen in 1967, when ABC announced plans to produce its first television serial, Bellbird.

It was Australia’s first prime time soap — following some short-lived attempts at daytime serials from the Seven Network.

ABC had hired Sydney author Barbara Vernon (pictured) to write the scripts for the show’s four 15-minute pilot episodes, which went into production in March 1967. “We won’t be emphasising the seamy side of life,” she told TV Times. “But neither will we be frightened of using human situations which always have that element of shock. We have tried not to make Bellbird too sentimental or melodramatic but have continually striven for reality. There has never been a TV series based on a rural Australian town so we were starting from scratch.”

Vernon was later joined by Alan Hopgood, Jeff Underhill and Michael Wright. Hopgood, an accomplished playwright, was to eventually also star in the series.

The series was based around the fictional country town of Bellbird. Early location filming to set the scene for Bellbird was conducted in the real-life town of Daylesford and at Eltham in Melbourne’s outer north, with an old house in the beach side Melbourne suburb of Brighton also used for outdoor filming.

Despite its Victorian backdrop, Bellbird was not intended to depict any particular state. “We chose the name Bellbird because we understood that there was a town called Bellbird in every State in Australia,” Vernon told TV Times. “We were also very conscious about keeping the setting neutral. We made a great effort to keep State references out. For instance, we always referred to “the city”, rather than to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. However, production began in the ABC studios in Melbourne. This was because they happened to be available. Sydney had a full schedule. So when there were cars they had Victorian registration, the trains were obviously Victorian, and it pretty soon became obvious that Bellbird was a Victorian town. This hadn’t been intended.”

Among Bellbird‘s original cast were Bruce Barry (then appearing on stage in the production of Funny Girl and also featuring in a series of cigarette commercials), Elspeth Ballantyne, Robin Ramsay and his American wife Barbara, Brigid Lenihan (who had to withdraw from the series after making the pilot), Lynette Curran, Anne Lucas, Raymond Westwell, Clive Winmill, Sydney Conabere and Joan McArthur.

Bellbird made its debut at 6.40pm on Monday 28 August 1967. The opening episode featured city schoolteacher Michael Foley (Barry) taking up a posting in Bellbird. Foley’s arrival prompts gossip when it becomes known that he is to board with the town librarian, the young and single Lori Chandler (Ballantyne).

Less than two months into Bellbird‘s second season, the character of real estate agent Charles Cousens (Robin Ramsay, pictured) was to be written out. Ramsay had accepted an offer to play Fagin in a Japanese stage production of the musical Oliver!

While news of Cousens’ tragic accident was to be a guarded secret, Ramsay accidentally let it slip when talking to a reporter upon his arrival in Japan — not expecting the news to get back to Australia. Because the news was now out, TV Times ended up running a “spoiler” that Cousens was to meet an untimely end, but gave no indication as to how.

The following week fans watched in horror as Cousens fell to his death from atop a wheat silo. The tragic exit sparked an incredible reaction from viewers — with ABC switchboards inundated with phone calls and letters from upset fans. One Perth viewer threatened to come to Melbourne, where the show is made, to “do something about it”.

Lynette Curran, who played Rhoda in the series, found that a storekeeper refused to offer her service in protest at the shock exit of Cousens.

The death of Charles Cousens was to be the one single storyline that would come to be the show’s most memorable.

YouTube: TelevisionAU

Bellbird continued in its 15-minute episode format for most of its run — although viewers constantly bemoaned the limited airtime. Its unusual timeslot, 6.40pm, made it a difficult sell to capital city viewers, but in the country it was a popular ritual to watch Bellbird leading up to the ABC news at 7.00pm.

By the end of 1975, Bellbird was reported to be on its last legs. Writers had simply run out of storylines for the close knit community, apparently.

Despite the rumours, ABC kept the show going into 1976 but in a new format — one 60-minute episode a week instead of the traditional four 15-minute episodes. This was not well received by fans and by the end of the year ABC decided to expand the series to three half-hour episodes a week.

This expansion to the show’s output was seen as a positive investment in the series by the broadcaster but it was to be short-lived. The radio serial Blue Hills had come to an end in 1976. As past and present cast of Bellbird were celebrating their show’s 10th anniversary in September 1977, they were to learn that ABC had dropped the series. Production was to wind up in November with the last episodes going to air before the end of the year. Cast members who only 12 months earlier had spoken lovingly of Bellbird for providing them a level of job security were suddenly about to be unemployed.

To its credit, at the time no other serial drama in Australia had managed the longevity of Bellbird. Commercial network success stories such as Number 96 and The Box coincidentally were also coming to an end during 1977 after six and four years respectively,.

“Ten years is a good run for a show and I suppose we have got to cop it sweet,” Maurie Fields, who played town nasty John Quinney in the series for much of its run, told TV Times at the time. “They claim it didn’t rate in the city but I’ve just returned from Proserpine, where about 90 percent of people are Bellbird fans and I can say it’s still as strong as ever in the country.”

With Bellbird finished up by the end of 1977, ABC had announced a range of new titles for the year ahead: Twenty Good Years, the story of a Melbourne family spanning two decades from 1956; All The Green Year, based on the novel by author Don Charlwood; a children’s series, Nargun And The Stars; and The Truckies, starring Michael Aitken, John Wood, Colleen Hewett and Michael Carman.

Bellbird remains to this day the ABC’s longest-running drama series, having clocked up almost 1700 episodes over a ten year run. James Davern, a former Bellbird producer who ironically was later part of the ABC management that axed the show, years later went on to develop and produce Australia’s next successful rural-based soap, A Country Practice, that ran for 12 years across the Seven and Ten networks.

Source: TV Times, 1 March 1967, 15 March 1967, 5 April 1967. 5 July 1967, 23 August 1967, 10 February 1968, 30 March 1968, 22 May 1968, 12 June 1968, 22 April 1970, 11 December 1976. 24 September 1977, 1 October 1977. TV Week, 30 August 1969, 14 November 1970, 5 May 1973. Listener In-TV, 11 October 1975.



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