This weekend marks yet another television station’s 50th anniversary. Brisbane’s BTQ7 was launched on 1 November 1959. It was Brisbane’s second TV channel, following QTQ9 that had launched in August of that year.
Brisbane also didn’t have to wait long to get their third TV channel, as national broadcaster ABC opened its Brisbane channel, ABQ2, on 2 November 1959.
Like QTQ9, BTQ7 was broadcasting from studios and transmission towers constructed up on Mount Coot-tha in Brisbane. ABQ2 opted instead to have its studios in the suburb of Toowong but had its transmission towers at Mount Coot-tha.
Early personalities on BTQ7 included Brian Tait, children’s presenters Nancy Knudsen and Lester Foxcroft, women’s presenter Sybil Francis and newsreader Brian Cahill.
One of BTQ7’s earliest variety shows was The Late Show with Tait. The program won the first TV Week Logie award for most popular program in Queensland. In the early ‘60s, BTQ7 launched Theatre Royal, a show that took the vaudeville style of comedy onto television, featuring comedian and The Late Show star George Wallace Jnr and a team of performers including Eddie Edwards, Dick McCann, Jackie Ellison and a young actress by the name of Rowena Wallace (no relation to George). Theatre Royal was immensely popular, screening every Friday night for six years, and was also shown interstate. It won six TV Week Logie awards as Queensland’s most popular program. The show ended after George Wallace suffered a stroke and died in 1968 at the age of 50, but his legacy continued as TV Week then initiated the George Wallace Logie for Best New Talent.
Also to come through BTQ7 in the ‘60s and ‘70s was Annette Allison, a performer on early variety and teenage shows before hosting her own daytime show, Annette. She then went to Melbourne to ATV0 to read the news and co-host the morning show Everyday (later Good Morning Melbourne). Dina Heslop was a host of the BTQ7’s children’s program Dina And Percy and was also a contributor to the national This Week Has Seven Days before becoming a producer for later shows like the Logie Award-winning Wombat. Jacki MacDonald also had a stint at BTQ7 in the ‘70s, hosting her own show, Jacki’s People. After Jacki left BTQ7, they then employed her sister, Fiona, to host a children’s program and was later a presenter on Wombat.
In the mid-‘70s, Reg Grundy produced a soap opera, Until Tomorrow, at the studios of BTQ7. The series was a rare venture into daytime drama and screened nationally on the Seven Network, featuring Babette Stephens, Ron Cadee, former TV Week Gold Logie winner Hazel Phillips and a young Barry Otto.
Other programs to have come through BTQ7 over the years included daytime show Bailey And The Birds, teenage shows National Top 40 and Teen Time, children’s shows Boris’ Breakfast Club and Seven’s Super Saturday, game show Family Feud and variety shows Top Of The Bill and Wak’s Works.
Of course, it would be remiss not to mention BTQ7’s landmark promotional jingle, ‘Love You Brisbane’, that was produced for the channel in the early ‘80s and was used by BTQ for several years. Sung by popular local performer Kim Durant, the song was even released as a single and was a top-seller. The jingle was later adapted to TVW7, as ‘Love You Perth’, and regional Queensland broadcaster Sunshine Television (now Seven Queensland) before BTQ7 and Seven Queensland reprised it a few years ago:
Newsreader Brian Cahill had two stints at BTQ7, he was the channel’s first newsreader when it launched in 1959 and, after a stint at QTQ9, was there again in the ‘70s. During the ‘60s, Cahill was joined at the news desk by former ABQ2 newsreader Ron Brady. Others to have presented news at BTQ have included Mike Higgins, Nev Roberts, Donna Meiklejohn, Janne Rayner, Ken Hose, Garry Wilkinson, Frank Warrick and present-day newsreaders Rod Young, Kay McGrath and Sharyn Ghidella.
As well as news, BTQ7 produced local current affairs with programs including Haydn Sargent’s Brisbane, State Affair, Carroll At Seven and magazine programs PM Magazine and The Great South East.
BTQ7 last week screened a special, Flashback – 50 Years Of Channel Seven, and tonight (Sunday) newsreader Brian Cahill makes a return to the Seven News desk to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his presenting the first news bulletin on opening night at BTQ.
And, by coincidence, BTQ7’s fiftieth anniversary coincides with a new era for the Seven Network as it launches its new digital channel 7TWO on the same day.
A lot of the material in this article, particularly related to the earlier years at BTQ7, is sourced by the book On-Air 25 Years Of TV In Queensland. Compiled and edited by Christopher Beck. (1984)