The launch of the channel on Friday 20 May 1988 marked the end of a twenty-three year wait for Perth to follow its interstate counterparts in gaining a third commercial TV station, and the culmination of a lengthy battle which saw incumbent stations TVW7 and STW9 try to fight its arrival.
The licence for Perth’s third commercial channel was first mooted by the then Hawke government in 1984, almost twenty years after the last channel to enter the city’s airwaves, STW9, began transmission.
Following its inception in 1965, STW9 and its older rival TVW7 had kept away from forming ties to the networks over in the eastern states. Instead the two channels opted to form their own joint venture for purchasing national programs from interstate so that the networks could not force the two channels into a competitive situation which would see costs spiraling. Programs bought by the joint venture were then shared between the two channels and essentially distributed between them, decided by a coin toss. Even though STW9 later chose to affiliate with the Nine Network in the late-’70s, the channel still had access to programs bought by the local joint venture – although TVW7 was developing stronger ties with the Seven Network and also had ties to the Ten Network as it owned the network’s Adelaide channel SAS10.
With the government’s call for applications for a third channel in 1984, TVW7 and STW9 both argued that the market was not large enough to sustain three competing channels – even though Adelaide, a city similar in size to Perth, has had three commercial channels since the 1960s.
The two Perth channels also argued that the cost of program distribution from the eastern states to the west would be prohibitive for a third operator – an argument that carried little weight given that Australia’s communications satellite Aussat was about to be launched and, in technical terms, would bring Perth a lot closer to the eastern states.
But despite the protests, the third channel was to become a reality and the channel, given the appropriate call-sign NEW10, made its official launch at 6.00pm on Friday 20 May 1988. The launch of the new channel effectively saw Perth adopt the three network television structure of the eastern states, with NEW10 joining Network Ten and TVW7 formally joining the then Australian Television Network (Seven).
Following a half-hour introduction, NEW10’s first program was its participation in Network Ten’s 26-hour national telethon to raise funds for the Australian Olympic team.
The NEW10 licence was initially owned by Perth businessman Kerry Stokes who also owned ADS10 Adelaide and the Ten Network affiliate in Canberra, Capital Seven — but a change in government policy led to Stokes selling his television interests to Frank Lowy‘s Northern Star Holdings, owner of the Ten stations in Sydney and Melbourne, before NEW10 even made its debut.
In launching Perth’s first commercial channel in over twenty years, NEW10 embarked on some unusual programming tactics to gain a point of difference to its older rivals. After launching in the traditional 6.00pm timeslot, Eyewitness News was soon to shift to the earlier 5.30pm timeslot, giving it a half-hour lead on its older rival news services.
NEW10’s first newsreaders were Alan Hynd (later replaced by weekend newsreader Greg Pearce) and Gina Pickering (later replaced by Christina Morrissey). Pearce (pictured) was a familiar identity to Perth viewers who had returned to Perth in 1988 after a year reading Seven National News in Melbourne — though inadvertently at the expense of veteran local lad Mal Walden whose high-profile sacking saw Seven’s news ratings plummet to zero with Pearce’s arrival.
As well as its alternative news timeslot, NEW10 also found itself with a backlog of episodes of the popular soap Neighbours, and to bring it up to date with the east coast decided to screen double episodes of the series each weeknight — a tactic that didn’t entirely work given that Perth viewers had already adopted Seven’s new soap Home And Away in overwhelming numbers, often ranking it as the city’s highest-rating program each week.
In its early years, NEW10 maintained a small band of locally-made programs including the daytime program Our Town and children’s program Kids’ Company as well as the local Eyewitness News and contribution to sports coverage including the network’s coverage of NBL in the early ’90s.
But just as NEW10 was trying to get a hold on the Perth market against its older rivals, the Ten Network was experiencing falling ratings and finances. In 1989, NEW10 and its Adelaide and Canberra counterparts were sold to businessman Charles Curran. The network was re-badged 10 TV Australia following a revamp by American TV executive Bob Shanks, led by cheap-format game shows which ultimately did nothing to boost the network’s fortunes. Ten had more success in the early-’90s by adopting a programming strategy aimed at younger viewers, those aged 16 to 39, as opposed to the more broader demographics traditionally targeted by commercial networks.
Digital television began broadcasting in capital cities in 2001, and at that time Ten made the controversial decision to base its Perth news services in its studios in Sydney, citing the cost of converting facilities to digital as a main reason for the move and making better use of the facilities that had been converted. Greg Pearce made the move to Sydney to read the news to Ten’s Perth audience, as did Christina Morrissey.
Pearce later returned to Western Australia, where he is now a newsreader for National Nine News in Perth. Morrissey was later replaced by Celina Edmonds, and then Charmaine Dragun (pictured). Tragedy followed late last year when Dragun committed suicide in Sydney after a battle with depression.
Earlier this year, Ten announced that it will re-instate production of its Perth-based evening news to its Perth studios, coinciding with the channel’s twentieth anniversary. The station has appointed Narelda Jacobs, a reporter at NEW10 since 2000, to read Ten News when it returns to the Perth studios.