Following the recent announcement of the sale of Nine‘s studios in Sydney and Melbourne, and even BBC selling off its iconic Television Centre in London – another historic TV property is now on the market – the Global Television Studios in the Melbourne suburb of Nunawading.
When transport tycoon Reg Ansett secured the licence to operate ATV0, Melbourne’s third commercial television station in 1963, he purchased a 17.5 acre block of paddocks in Nunawading which was then in the eastern fringe of the Melbourne suburbia. Ansett had a vision – ‘Austarama Village’ – a state-of-the-art television facility with adjoining hotel, restaurant, swimming pool and a heliport to welcome guests arriving from Melbourne’s Essendon Airport or the city. The proposed complex would set the millionaire magnate back a mere £1,400,000.
The building for the new channel was the first purpose-built television studio in Melbourne – as rival channel HSV7 was housed in a converted newspaper warehouse in South Melbourne, and the GTV9 building in Richmond had previously been a piano factory and later a soup factory before becoming ‘Television City’ in 1956. It was probably no coincidence that at roughly the same time as ATV0’s studios were being constructed that GTV9 expanded its own premises to include a new super-sized ‘Studio 9’, custom-built specifically for Graham Kennedy‘s In Melbourne Tonight.
While it seems Reg Ansett’s initial plans for a multi-function oasis might have been a bit ambitious, the building that eventuated was completed well before ATV0’s planned launch date of 1 August 1964, and went on to win the title of Building of the Year from the Architects’ Institute of Victoria.
The studios of ATV0 (which became ATV10 in 1980) went on to host many fondly remembered programs including Go!, Uptight, The Magic Circle Club, Fredd Bear’s Breakfast A Go-Go, Matlock Police, Young Talent Time, The Box, Good Morning Melbourne, Perfect Match, Eyewitness News, The Comedy Company, The Early Bird Show and Let The Blood Run Free. The building was also where unknowns such as Jana Wendt, Jennifer Keyte and Eddie McGuire got their first break in television, and where teenagers Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue became soap opera icons.
The studios hosted about a dozen annual telethons for the Deafness Foundation of Victoria, as well as variety programs including Jimmy (Jimmy Hannan), Pot Of Gold, The Peter Couchman Show, the long-running talent quest series Showcase, and It’s Magic starring Johnny Farnham and Colleen Hewett.
In 1979, the building became a TV star in its own right as it provided the exterior setting for the fictional Wentworth Detention Centre in the popular series Prisoner. Even the fake prison bars attached to one wall of the building are still there, twenty years after the show’s demise.
While the Nunawading premises can claim some of TV’s favourite hits, it also has hosted a few turkeys along the way – such as Holiday Island, Hotel Story (axed before its first screening) and Together Tonight (an early TV venture for Greg Evans) – and while Daryl Somers and Ossie Ostrich are remembered for many successful years on Hey Hey It’s Saturday, it is easy to forget that the pair took a brief detour to Nunawading in 1978 for a game show, The Daryl & Ossie Show, that had a very short life and saw the pair return to Nine the following year.
In 1986, Network Ten had taken on the soap Neighbours from the Seven Network, with Nunawading providing the show’s home base, conveniently only a short drive away from Pin Oak Court which serves as the exterior for ‘Ramsay Street’.
By the early ’90s, Network Ten had hit financial troubles after the excesses of the ’80s. The network had been sold and ultimately ended up in the hands of receivers. By the time Canadian company CanWest took control of the network in 1992, Ten had sold off the Nunawading site to Global Television, and moved to smaller inner-city studios in trendy South Yarra. Global would continue to provide production facilities to Ten from Nunawading for programs such as Rove Live (up until 2006), Thank God You’re Here and Neighbours.
Global has since invested in other properties such as HSV7’s former South Melbourne premises and it is said that the sale of Nunawading could be worth as much as $25 million as the land is ideal for residential development.