Seven West Media to merge with Prime

The changing, challenging and shrinking media landscape has seen some significant deals in recent times.

In 2017, Network Ten was in receivership and was rescued by a takeover from American network CBS. Last year, the Nine Network completed a merger with Fairfax Media to create a giant of online and print media, radio and television.

Now it appears that the Seven Network is set to made the next big media pounce — with Seven West Media bidding to takeover its long-time regional partner Prime Media Group in a deal worth $64 million.

Prime’s board has endorsed the bid but it is still subject to a shareholder vote and regulatory approval from ACMA and ACCC.

Seven West Media controls the Seven Network stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and regional Queensland. Seven West Media also owns Pacific Magazines, The West Australian, The Sunday Times (Perth) and regional newspapers across Western Australia.

Prime Media Group operates the Prime7 regional network in Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Gold Coast, and GWN7 in Western Australia. Prime also has half shares in supplementary licences for West Digital Television (the Nine affiliate in regional WA) and Nine Mildura.

Prime, formed by Paul Ramsay in 1986 when he purchased a number of independent regional stations in New South Wales and Victoria. has been Seven’s regional affiliate partner since aggregation commenced in regional markets in 1989.

The merged entity is estimated to give Seven West Media a total potential audience of 18 million people across the mainland eastern states and Western Australia.

Seven expects that the merger will deliver $11 million in cost savings, although Seven recently-appointed CEO James Warburton has claimed that there will be no cutbacks to regional news services.

In a separate deal, Seven West Media has also sold off its Western Australia radio network Redwave to Southern Cross Austereo for $28 million. Redwave operates two radio networks, Spirit Radio and Red FM.

Source: Seven News, ABC, The Age

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TV At 60: TV comes to Perth

Perth was the third of the four cities in Stage 2 of the introduction of television in Australia. Like with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, Perth was to be covered by both the national broadcaster ABC and commercial television.

While the other cities had established two commercial channels each, Perth was ultimately allocated one commercial licence. The government agreed with the view of the two licence applicants for the Perth area that only one commercial licence should be granted.

On 13 October 1958, the licence to operate Perth’s first commercial television station was issued to TVW Limited, owned by West Australian Newspapers. The only other applicant for the licence was Western Television Services which had ties with News Limited, based in Adelaide. (News Limited was successful in gaining one of the two commercial licences for Adelaide)

The new channel call-sign was to become TVW7.

TVW made its first test transmissions from 31 August 1959 and was officially opened on Friday 16 October 1959. The station, employing 92 people at the time, was operating from studios in the suburb of Tuart Hill and from a transmitter located in Bickley.

The opening night’s line-up started with speeches from TVW general manager James Cruthers and Western Australian governor Sir Charles Gairdner, who officially declared the station open. Later in the evening, TVW7 presented the debut of its first variety show, Spotlight, featuring Rolf Harris who had returned from London to become a presenter and producer for TVW.


TVW’s opening night also included American series Leave It To Beaver, Sea Hunt, Father Knows Best, Gunsmoke and Perry Mason, and the station’s first news bulletin running for 15 minutes.

As with the introduction of TV in other cities, many of the estimated 70,000 to watch TVW’s opening night were doing so by peering into electrical store windows to watch the TVs on display.

And the introduction of TV sparked a boom in the local industry — with TV repair businesses springing up, insurance companies offering coverage on TV sets and picture tubes, furniture retailers selling TV-friendly chairs and lounge suites, and antenna installers to put antennas on rooftops. One such installer was a 19-year-old from Melbourne named Kerry Stokes. Stokes went on to much bigger things, going from installing antennas to property development, and eventually building a massive business empire which now includes the Seven Network, which includes TVW7.

When TVW7 began, the usual custom for selling advertising on television was for sponsors to buy out whole programs — which is why many early shows had brand names in their titles. For a market the size and relative isolation of Perth, this was not thought to be a sustainable model as local advertisers would not have the advertising budgets of larger eastern states companies. TVW, therefore, adopted the “spot” advertising model, where advertisers would buy specific ad slots rather than sponsor whole programs. It was a novel concept at the time but has become the norm.

Like most Australian stations at the time, a majority of TVW’s early programming was imported. But within its first six months, TVW had claimed to have just under 40 per cent of programming made up of Australian content — and just over a quarter of that was programming made at TVW itself from its single studio.

TVW would have Perth’s TV viewers all to itself for the next few months — as ABC’s local channel, ABW2, did not commence transmission until May 1960.

ABW2 conducted its first test transmissions from 19 April 1960, also with a transmitter in Bickley, and had its opening night on Saturday 7 May 1960.  The opening night’s proceedings included fifteen minutes of speeches from dignitaries, including ABC Chairman Sir Richard Boyer, before the Postmaster-General Charles Davidson officially opened the channel at 7.00pm.  More than 300 invited guests witnessed the opening night from ABW’s new Rosehill studios in Adelaide Terrace, Perth.

James Fisher read ABW2’s first news bulletin.  The rest of the evening featured Tales Of Wells Fargo and The Phil Silvers Show then British series Portraits Of Power and Boyd QC.  A sports review followed and then the night concluded with the prize winning documentary Growing Up With Guba, the story of the development of New Guinea, before transmission closed at 10.35pm.

With television now established in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, the next city to come was Hobart in 1960 — thus completing the introduction of television to each of the state capital cities.

Source: Eric FisherWA TV History. The West Australian, 16 October 1959, 7 May 1960, 14 October 1989, 16 October 2009. Broadcasting & Television, 14 April 1960.

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Obituary: Patrick Ward

Actor Patrick Ward, star of various Australian films and television series, has died at the age of 69.

He left school in Sydney at the age of 14 and at the age of 16 began as a dancer before joining the Independent Theatre in Sydney and trained as an actor.

He starred as lawyer Mike Parsons in early episodes of Number 96 in 1972.

He re-appeared at Number 96 in the series’ movie spin-off, released in 1974, but this time playing the part of bikie Tony Brent.

Other credits included The Spoiler, Spyforce, Matlock Police, Catch Kandy, Class Of ’74, Homicide ,The Unisexers and sitcom Up The Convicts.

He played a police officer in Cop Shop when it began in 1977, was sports shop owner Craig Carmichael in the short-lived series Arcade in 1980 and starred in the 1992 sitcom My Two Wives.

Mini-series credits included Anzacs, Fields Of Fire and Body Surfer and telemovies Kindred Spirits and Supersleuth.

He also made guest appearances in Runaway Island, Holiday Island, A Country Practice, Rafferty’s Rules, Chances, Home And Away, Over The Hill, All Saints and Farscape.

Source: TV Tonight, IMDB. TV Times, 8 February 1975.


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Obituary: Reg Watson

Reg Watson, the creator of Neighbours and many other successful soaps, has died at the age of 93.

Born in Maryborough, Queensland, in 1926, Watson’s career started as a radio actor and announcer and he had also dabbled in theatre. By the mid-1950s, he had moved to the United Kingdom and in 1956 was appointed Head of Light Entertainment for the new commercial station, ATV, being launched in Birmingham. As well as his executive role at the new channel, he also helped set up the sales department, wrote scripts for announcers and advised on presentation.

He produced various programs for ATV, including a popular daytime variety show, Lunchbox, and a game show called Hit The Limit. At ATV he offered a proposal for a new serial drama which would ultimately launch as Crossroads, starring Lunchbox presenter Noele Gordon. It was the UK’s first five-day-a-week soap, and Watson produced the series to high ratings for over 2000 episodes.

In 1973, Watson and director Alan Coleman were headhunted by Reg Grundy to help build his fledgling drama empire in Australia — although Watson had been turning down offers from Grundy for two years.

He was a director for Grundy’s first soap, Class Of ’74, and his first creation for Grundy was a Brisbane-based daytime serial, Until Tomorrow, starring Hazel Phillips, Barry Otto and Babette Stephens. Until Tomorrow was short-lived, and another proposal called Two-Way Mirror was not picked up, but Watson had far greater success in creating The Young Doctors a year later for Nine. The Young Doctors ran for six years and at the time became the longest running serial drama produced in Australia, clocking up 1396 episodes.

Watson went on to create popular dramas The Restless Years, Prisoner and Sons And Daughters for the Grundy Organisation. His next creation was a suburban-based drama in the early 1980s that had working titles like One Way Street and Living Together. It became Neighbours and debuted on the Seven Network in 1985.

He was given the task to re-launch the series when Network Ten took over the series from 1986. Neighbours became one of Australia’s most successful television exports, screening in up to 50 countries at its peak and is now approaching its 35th anniversary with over 8000 episodes.

Other series credits included Glenview High, Taurus Rising, Starting Out, Waterloo Station, Possession and Richmond Hill. He also worked on Grundy’s overseas dramas Goede tijden, slechte tijden (Netherlands), Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Germany) and Dangerous Women (USA).

Watson retired in the 1990s. In 2010 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours List, “for service to the media as a pioneer in the creation and production of serial television drama”.

Source: TV Tonight, ATV Today, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. TV Times, 11 January 1975.

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Classic TV Guides: Be Our Guest

ABC‘s relaunch of its late afternoon line-up in October 1966 mostly relied on familiar titles — reruns of British legal drama Boyd QC, the return of children’s science series Why Is It So? with Professor Julius Sumner Miller, and new episodes of Doctor Who. But there were some new shows in the mix — Crackerjack, a Friday afternoon children’s variety show with Reg Livermore, Judith Roberts and Michael Boddy; a six-part science fiction series, The Interpretaris, starring Ben Gabriel, Kit Taylor and Lorraine Bayly; and a new Monday-to-Thursday series, Be Our Guest.

Be Our Guest was a curious mix of lightweight drama, pop music and “candid” interviews. It was a series set in a motel located adjacent to an airport.

The regular cast of Be Our Guest was Gordon Glenwright, Lorraine Bayly, Sean Scully, Jack Allan and Jacki Weaver. Glenwright played “Grandpa”, a retiree who has taken over running the motel. Scully and Weaver play two cousins who also work at the motel, and Allan played the motel’s chief cook, who conveniently also liked to play the piano.

Bayly, coincidentally also starring in ABC’s other new series The Interpretaris, played an air hostess whose role often entailed introducing celebrity guests to the motel who would have an impromptu chat with the motel staff and then perform “spontaneously” for us during their stay.

Be Our Guest ran four days a week on ABC and ended the year with a Christmas special featuring the regular characters in a party mood, celebrating in fancy dress as their favourite film or television characters, with guest appearances by those who had appeared in the show during its run.

The cast of Be Our Guest and fellow ABC series Crackerjack then appeared together on a Christmas Day special filmed at Sydney’s Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.

Be Our Guest was not to re-appear in 1967, being replaced in the same 5.30pm timeslot by another series with a remarkable resemblance. Something Else told the story of a family-owned Sydney hotel called The George. Like the motel in Be Our Guest, The George was frequented by pop stars and performers, with the subtle difference that in the new show they were at the hotel under the guise of “auditioning” for a TV production company that had hired a conference room at the hotel.

Something Else starred Lois Ramsey, Benita Collings, Liza Goddard, Stanley Walsh, Barbara Joss and former Be Our Guest star Jack Allan.

As for Be Our Guest, it seemed to then vanish from our collective memories, until David Lyle‘s Golden Years Of Television uncovered this gem of TV kitsch with a rare screening in the late 1980s. It is not believed to have been broadcast since, apart from some clips appearing during Rage‘s retro month in January, and some music performances from the show can be found on YouTube.

YouTube: nzoz1966

The debut of Be Our Guest is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides:


Source: TV Times, 28 September 1966, 21 December 1966, 8 February 1967. The Canberra Times, 19 December 1966.

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Obituary: Paul Cronin

Actor Paul Cronin, best known as family patriarch Dave Sullivan in The Sullivans, has died at the age of 81.

Born in South Australia, Cronin’s early career was in engineering and was far removed from showbusiness. He eventually enrolled at a drama school in Adelaide and performed in the local amateur theatre company. It was only when his engineering career took him to Melbourne that he was encouraged by his wife to audition for Crawford Productions.

At Crawfords, he gained guest roles in Homicide and Division 4 before being cast as motorcycle cop Gary Hogan in the rural crime drama Matlock Police. He starred alongside Michael Pate, Grigor Taylor, Vic Gordon and later Tom Richards.

The series continued for five years, with Cronin’s character then taking on the lead in a spin-off series, Solo One, for the Seven Network. Solo One only lasted 13 episodes and Cronin was anticipating another career change into real estate, until Crawfords cast him as Dave Sullivan in its upcoming series The Sullivans for the Nine Network.

The Sullivans debuted in November 1976 and became a huge success for Nine in Australia, and sold well overseas. Cronin went on to win a string of Logie Awards, including the Silver Logie Most Popular Actor five times. While other cast members (including Lorraine Bayly, pictured) moved on from The Sullivans over its six year run, Cronin stayed as a constant figure. So it was big news when he announced early in 1982 that he was leaving the series after a falling out with the Nine Network. Although Nine had plans to continue the series without him, it ended up using Cronin’s exit as a means to wrap up The Sullivans after 1114 episodes.

After leaving Nine, he immediately signed up with Network Ten, returning to the studios where he had made Matlock Police, but not for a drama series. He was intending to host a variety show, Paul Cronin’s Australian Amateur Hour, a TV adaptation of the long-running radio program that was successful back in the 1950s.

Paul Cronin’s Australian Amateur Hour did not go beyond the pilot stage, and Cronin’s next venture for Ten was telemovie Matthew And Son, co-starring with Darius Perkins and Paula Duncan. Produced by Johnny Young, the telemovie was hoped to extend into a series, but was not picked up and Cronin was soon to leave Ten.

Later acting credits included The Flying Doctors, State Coroner, Frontline and the mini-series A Place To Call Home.

Cronin also had other business interests, including the partnership to launch the Brisbane Bears football club, as part of the then VFL’s extension into Queensland. He served as president of the club (now the Brisbane Lions) for two years.

He continued to appear on television in commercials and maintained regular ties with radio, in particular at radio 3AW in Melbourne, as a presenter of Remember When and Nightline, usually when one of its regular hosts, Bruce Mansfield or Philip Brady, were away.

Source: ABC, IMDB. TV Week, 9 December 1978, 27 January 1979, 9 February 1980, 15 May 1982, 13 November 1982. TV Times, 2 August 1980.

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TV At 60: TV comes to Adelaide

After Brisbane‘s official launch of its first television stations, Adelaide became the fourth city in Australia to receive television.

Like with other cities, Adelaide was to be served by national broadcaster ABC and two commercial channels.

The two successful applicants for commercial licences in October 1958 were Southern Television Corporation Ltd and Television Broadcasters Ltd.

Southern Television Corporation’s major shareholders were News Limited and Hume Broadcasters. News Limited, headed by 27-year-old Rupert Murdoch, published Adelaide’s daily afternoon newspaper The News. Hume Broadcasters controlled Adelaide radio station 5DN. The new television station was to adopt the call-sign NWS9 — deriving its name from News Limited — and marked Murdoch’s first move into television.

Television Broadcasters Ltd’s major shareholder was Advertiser Newspapers Ltd, a member of the Herald and Weekly Times group and whose media assets included The Advertiser, radio station 5AD in Adelaide and regional radio stations 5MU, 5PI and 5SE. Also investing in the new company was fellow Adelaide radio station 5KA and Associated Newspapers of London. The new television station was to become ADS7.

The race was then on to get to air — with NWS determined to be first of the three channels to commence official operation. NWS9 was building its new studio on Tynte Street, North Adelaide, across the road from 5DN. Meanwhile, ADS7 was setting up studios on Strangways Terrace, also in North Adelaide, adjacent to a historic two-storey mansion (pictured above), built in 1913, which became the station’s administration block. ABC was building its new studios for ABS2 in the suburb of Collinswood.

In choosing locations to build their stations, it was crucial that they had line-of-sight to the top of Mount Lofty to allow them to beam their signal via microwave to the TV transmitters being built on top of the mountain, to then be broadcast to Adelaide’s population of around 700,000 — representing about 77 per cent of South Australia’s population.

The local sale of TV sets commenced from Monday 4 May 1959, with ADS7 conducting test transmissions from two weeks prior, and NWS9 starting its testing on the day. The transmissions mostly consisted of test patterns and short films, not necessarily intended for mass audiences but there were crowds all around TV retailers in the city and suburbs in order to get their first glimpse at television. Retailers like Myer, Sven Kallin, Rundle’s, Ernsmiths and John Martin’s were well stocked for the rush in people buying TV sets. More than 15,000 sets were reported to ready for eager buyers across Adelaide and nearer country areas.

One retailer attracted crowds by having a TV camera onsite to capture people’s reactions and have the pictures displayed on a closed-circuit television, allowing budding viewers to see themselves on TV. It was a feature popular with children, especially those pulling faces on camera!

Another store had a mini-studio set up on its second floor so that interviews could be conducted with people selected from the crowd outside and the interviews displayed for those watching TVs through store windows on the ground floor.

Some store windows with TVs on display still attracted crowds of keen viewers even when there was no TV pictures being transmitted and the screens were just flickering or showing static.

NWS9’s ambitions of being the first station to open were almost dashed when a fire tore through part of its newly-constructed studio complex one night in June. The fire destroyed a small presentation studio, props area and carpenter’s store and part of the building’s roof structure was warped from the heat. The fire was estimated to have caused £10,000 in damage. No electrical equipment was reported damaged, but a significant amount of cabling was damaged and had to be re-installed as the affected areas were re-built.

The small studio was intended to host NWS9’s first live production to be conducted during its test transmission phase. Nine’s search for a TV hostess was to culminate in the finalists being announced in a special program, Clarkson’s TV Hostess Quest. With the intended studio out of action, Nine had to find another means to present the program. It was eventually found that the only room fit to broadcast the show was the women’s dressing room. The small room had to accommodate host Kevin Crease, the four finalists, a cameraman and a bulky studio camera, with a set backdrop hurriedly built at the last minute. The winner of the quest was housewife Joan Peake.

NWS9 made its official debut on Saturday 5 September 1959. Programming started at 2.30pm with cartoons, short films and a Western starring Roy Rogers. There was no gala opening ceremony or large scale special to welcome the channel, apart from a half-hour documentary tracing the building of the new station and a short speech to viewers by South Australian Premier Sir Thomas Playford.

The rest of the night’s line-up consisted of overseas programs — The Lilli Palmer Show, State Trooper, This Is Fred Astaire, The Webb and the film Wild Blue Yonder — before a news update and the epilogue closed the night’s transmission at 11.00pm.

Nine did have a more lavish affair when it launched its new variety show Adelaide Tonight, with a proud Murdoch in the studio audience along with invited government dignitaries and station sponsors. The show made its debut at 9.30pm on Saturday 17 October with host Lionel Williams and fellow NWS personalities Kevin Crease and Leona Gay. Performers in the first show included American comedian Oscar Cartier, local singer Paula Kitson, comedian Hal Turner and a 24-year-old Malaysian student by the name of Kamahl making his television debut. Music was provided by Nine’s own orchestra, directed by Walter Lund.

A week after Adelaide Tonight‘s debut, on 24 October the city’s second channel, ADS7, was officially opened. Seven’s opening night commenced with an official opening ceremony by South Australian Governor Sir Robert George at 7.30pm, followed by a short film, This Is TV, and preview scenes of upcoming ADS7 programs.

At 8.15pm, Sydney performer and TV host Michael Cole comperes the one-hour Variety Spectacular, featuring interstate guest artists Buster Fiddess, Bobby Limb, Heather Horwood and local performers Eric Smart and Murray McKechnie, with the Channel 7 Ballet and Channel 7 Orchestra. After the one-hour special were imported programs Deadline For Action and Bachelor Father, followed by news headlines and then Reverend Erwin Vogt introduced ADS7’s religious programs before the channel shut down for the night.

The following night’s lineup included the launch of new locally-produced programs Stairway To The Stars, Meet The Press, quiz show Noughts And Crosses and religious discussion I Challenge The Minister. Filmed programs on the second night included the debut of Disneyland and the Fred Astaire movie Top Hat.

It was March 1960 before ABC launched its Adelaide TV station ABS2 from its Collinswood studios, although it was presenting test programs from mid-February. Opening night on Friday 11 March started at 7.00pm with a 20-minute introduction featuring speeches from Postmaster-General Charles Davidson, South Australian Premier Sir Thomas Playford and Opposition Leader Michael O’Halloran. This was followed by the first ABC news bulletin then US sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, a documentary on Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Western series Tales Of Wells Fargo, British drama Boyd QC, a local documentary on Adelaide and a live music program before the documentary Growing Up With Guba. It was a program line-up that had much in common with Brisbane’s ABC station ABQ2 when it debuted four months earlier.

Source: The 11th Annual Report Of The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, 1958-59. Miracle On Tynte Street — The Channel Nine Story, Rex Heading & Trevor Jones, 1996. The Advertiser, 4 May 1959, 5 May 1959, 5 September 1959, 7 September 1959, 17 October 1959, 23 October 1959, 24 October 1959, 26 October 1959, 11 March 1960.

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Obituary: Ben Unwin

Former Home And Away star Ben Unwin has died, a day before his 42nd birthday.

NSW Police has said in a statement: “Police attended Minyon Falls, Whian Whian, responding to a concern for welfare. The body of a 41-year-old man was located. The death has not been treated as suspicious.”

Unwin went into Home And Away straight out of high school. He had auditioned for another role but producers ended up creating a new role of Jesse McGregor specially for him.

He starred in Home And Away from 1996 to 2000, being nominated for Most Popular New Male Talent at the TV Week Logie Awards in 1997.

He took a break from the series to travel overseas and completed computer studies, before producers offered him his old job back. He stayed in the series again for another three years.

He also appeared in ABC series GP and Eggshells.

He later quit showbusiness and completed a law degree and worked as a solicitor.

Source:, Who Weekly, IMDB. What’s On Weekly, 17 August 2002.

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TV At 60: TV comes to Brisbane

Although Brisbane was the site of some of Australia’s earliest experimental television transmissions in the 1930s, television in Australia was officially launched in 1956 in the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

In September 1957, the Postmaster-General announced plans for the second stage in the introduction of television in Australia — covering Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.

ABC would provide the national television service, and applications were invited for an unspecified number of commercial television licences for Brisbane. Three applications were received: Queensland Television Ltd, Brisbane TV Ltd and Australian Consolidated Press.

In October 1958, the Government had announced Queensland Television Ltd and Brisbane TV Ltd as the successful applicants for what would become QTQ9 and BTQ7.

Although a majority of the investment in Queensland Television Ltd was through local shareholders, investors also included Amalgamated Television Services (ATN7, Sydney), General Television Corporation (GTV9, Melbourne), NBC International in the United States and Associated Television from the United Kingdom.

Brisbane TV’s largest shareholder was Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd, with other investors including regional newspaper publishers from Queensland and northern New South Wales, AWA, Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation (radio station 4BC, Brisbane), the Herald and Weekly Times (HSV7, Melbourne)  and Associated Newspapers (London).

Australian Consolidated Press’ application was rejected as although it was deemed to have capacity to operate a commercial television service, as it was already doing in Sydney, most of its share register was based in Sydney, with very little representation from Queensland — while the other two applicants both had a majority of investment from within Queensland.

Both QTQ9 and BTQ7 set up studios and transmission towers on Mt Coot-tha, west of the Brisbane CBD, while ABC’s ABQ2 was also to broadcast from a tower on Mt Coot-tha, but with its studios based in the suburb of Toowong.

BTQ7’s studios were billed as the largest of the three new channels, with the complete station construction reported to have cost £600,000.

QTQ9 commenced test pattern broadcasts from 1 July 1959 — the same day that the moratorium on the local retail of TV sets was lifted. The station was officially launched on Sunday 16 August 1959 with a four-hour schedule. The first face seen from the channel was Hugh Cornish, who would go on to become QTQ9’s chief on-air personality and general manager.  He also presented QTQ9’s first news service, a 15-minute bulletin later that night.

The Postmaster-General, Charles Davidson, officially opened the channel and there were also speeches from Queensland Premier Frank Nicklin, Lord Mayor Reg Groom and QTQ chairman Douglas Wadley, and a message of congratulations from Prime Minister Robert Menzies.

The speeches followed a 15-minute film documenting the construction of QTQ9’s studios and featuring various aerial shots of Brisbane.

But with Brisbane’s major newspaper The Courier-Mail being owned in common with upcoming rival channel BTQ7, its coverage of QTQ9’s official opening was decidedly brief — with a single article of a few paragraphs and no pictures, buried deep in the next day’s newspaper.

BTQ7 was to open on Sunday 1 November 1959. At 6.00pm, the chimes from Brisbane’s City Hall were broadcast to thousands of south east Queensland viewers, leading into a station identification announcement by station presenter Brian Tait before handing over to program manager Wilson Irving. The station was soon officially opened by Deputy Governor and Chief Justice of Queensland, Sir Alan Mansfield.

There were more speeches to round out the 15-minute opening ceremony, before BTQ7 crossed to its first news bulletin, read by Brian Cahill and with weather presented by Nancy Knudsen.

After the 15-minute news bulletin was the Brisbane debut of Disneyland and Robin Hood, before the station’s first movie, Casablanca. This was followed by the first edition of interview program Meet The Press before PME Playhouse featured Malaya Incident, starring Richard Egan and Ann Sheridan.

Ending the night’s transmission was a news update from Brian Tait, a weather forecast with Sybil Francis and the epilogue from the Council of Churches.

The next night was ABC’s turn, with more than 300 people attending the official celebration of the opening of ABQ2 at Middenbury House, adjacent to the ABQ studios. ABC radio announcer Russ Tyson was the first face to be seen on the channel, introducing ABC chairman Sir Richard Boyer to welcome viewers to the new channel. ABQ2 was then declared open by Postmaster-General Charles Davidson before a welcome message from the BBC. Ron Brady presented ABQ2’s first news bulletin, which was followed by US sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, a documentary of Princess Alexandra’s Queensland visit, drama series Wells Fargo, documentary Growing Up With Guba, British drama Boyd QC, a live studio recital from Queensland musicians and vocalists, then a documentary on Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

The transmission closed with a televised unveiling of a plaque installed at the entrance to the ABQ building.

With three channels now on the air, it then became a battle for the attention of viewers. With the advent of competition from two new channels, QTQ9 instantly expanded its schedule to commence at 5.00pm each weekday afternoon.

While most filmed programs such as dramas, serials and movies came from the United States or, in the case of ABC, the United Kingdom, the three channels fought it out with their own live shows — including children’s shows in the afternoons, the evening news and then local variety and quiz shows.

But keen viewers in Brisbane’s CBD may have also noticed a fourth TV “channel” on their TV set. The electrical trades section of Brisbane’s Technical College in George Street had been granted a special experimental licence to broadcast a low-power signal on Channel 10. The special channel was intended to aid the school in training new TV servicemen and any signal emanating from Channel 10 was likely to only be receivable from within the immediate area around the college.

The college had invested more than £75,000 in setting up its TV training facility.

Source: The Courier Mail, 1 July 1959, 17 August 1959, 2 November 1959, 3 November 1959. TV Week, 11 August 1984. The 11th Annual Report Of The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, 1958-59.


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Obituary: Bruce Webster

Bruce Webster, veteran broadcaster and newsman for ABC and the Seven Network, has died at the age of 92.

Born in Melbourne and having had “average schooling”, Webster got his first job at ABC as a messenger boy in 1947. A year later he was invited to fill in for a radio announcer who had called in sick.

Webster went on to work across ABC radio and television for 17 years. His involvement at ABC television dates back to before its launch in 1956, presenting test shows like Beat The Clock that were made as a training exercise for the new medium.

Over his years at ABC, he covered various special and momentous events, including Royal and Papal tours and Olympic and Commonwealth Games. He also served as a trainer and mentor to other broadcasting staff.

After leaving ABC, Webster worked as a publicity officer for an Australian airline before joining ATN7, Sydney, as co-host of its new breakfast show, Sydney Today, launched in January 1969. Hosting with Pat LovellGeoff Stone and Alan Wilkie, Sydney Today later expanded to Melbourne to become Today, Seven’s first “network” breakfast news program.

Webster also covered the Apollo 11 moon landing at Cape Canaveral for Seven.

Today wound up in 1974. Webster then moved into NSW state politics, serving as member for Pittwater for three years.

He later returned to ABC, working on radio in Canberra and hosting a weekly Parliamentary review, The House, for ABC television. He went on to host ABC’s radio coverage of federal parliament for the network that is now ABC News radio.

He retired in 1992.

Just days before his passing, Website spoke to ABC Central Coast radio for the 50th anniversary of his coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The funeral for Bruce Webster will be held on the NSW central coast on 5 August.

Source: TV Tonight, Radio Info, ABC . TV Week, 11 March 1972. Forty Years Of Television: The Story Of ATN7, 1996.



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