The address of 22 Bendigo Street, Richmond, has been one of Australian TV’s most famous and iconic addresses.
The century-old building has for more than 50 years been home to GTV9 – a channel that began test broadcasts, covering the Melbourne Olympic Games, in 1956 before launching proper operation early in 1957.
The building was initially a piano factory when it was built in 1908 and was later converted to a Heinz factory in the 1930s before it became home to one of Melbourne’s first two commercial TV stations.
Governor Sir Dallas Brookes (pictured) was chauffeur-driven into the studios, live-to-air, before officially opening GTV9 on 19 January 1957. Less than four months later the channel launched its new nightly variety show, In Melbourne Tonight, featuring a young radio announcer, Graham Kennedy. Two years later Kennedy would be joined by a former HSV7 rival, Bert Newton, and the pair became an unbeatable double act.
With daytime productions, including quiz shows and children’s programs, and IMT’s nightly cavalcade of singers, dancers and performers, the building that was known as Television City became Melbourne’s own “Hollywood on the Yarra”. In 1964 the channel expanded the premises to include a new state-of-the-art studio, Studio 9, specifically for IMT. The new studio opened up the possibilities of large-scale variety performances and productions – hopefully to fend off competition from newcomer ATV0 which had launched from modern studios in suburban Nunawading in the same year.
Kennedy resigned from IMT at the end of 1969, but the legacy of IMT saw decades of variety and tonight shows from the same studio – including The Ernie Sigley Show, The Graham Kennedy Show, The Don Lane Show, New Faces, Tonight With Bert Newton, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, The Footy Show and, to bring the list to full circle, a ‘90s revival of In Melbourne Tonight.
Radio DJ Mike Walsh hosted a 1960s version of the breakfast program, Today, while Eric Pearce read the evening Television City News from GTV9 before handing over to Brian Naylor at the end of 1978, who in turn handed over to Peter Hitchener twenty years later.
Game show Family Feud moved its production from TVW7 Perth to GTV9 in the late-‘70s. Host Tony Barber then moved on to Sale Of The Century (pictured, with hostess Victoria Nicolls) from the same studios in 1980, continuing for over 20 years and more recently revived as Temptation. Daryl Somers hosted a revival of Blankety Blanks in 1985, and, a decade later, Tim Ferguson hosted Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. Other game shows from the studios included Supermarket Sweep, Crossfire and two versions of The Price Is Right. Eddie McGuire hosted Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and it’s current spin-off, Hot Seat. In 2006, twenty years after he was suddenly axed from Nine, Bert Newton was back at Studio 9 hosting a game show, Bert’s Family Feud.
Also to come out of 22 Bendigo Street were dramas including Emergency (one of the first TV dramas ever made in Melbourne), Hunter, Division 4, The Sullivans, Starting Out, The Flying Doctors, All The Way and Chances.
A young comedian called Rove McManus came to GTV9 to present a late-night comedy show for ten weeks in 1999. Former D Generation cast member Mick Molloy also had a stab at a weekly show in the same year. Neither show would see in the new millennium, though McManus took his act across to rival Network Ten.
Not content with just being “Television City”, 22 Bendigo Street was also home to radio station 3AK for nearly 30 years – after GTV9 bought the station in the early ‘60s – with its ‘Good Guys’ and ‘No Wrinklys’ pop music line-ups in the 1960s and the more relaxed ‘Beautiful Music’ in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Two years ago the building was expected to be sold for $10 million but the sale was aborted amidst the global financial crisis. This week it was announced that the three-hectare site occupied by GTV9 has been bought by developers Lend Lease, with plans to redevelop the site into residential complex expected to be worth $400 million.
GTV9 is expected to move over the next 12 months to smaller, high-tech premises in the inner-city Docklands precinct, mirroring similar moves by rival HSV7, to the Docklands, almost a decade ago, and ATV10, to inner suburban South Yarra in the early ‘90s . Larger studio productions are expected to be outsourced to the nearby Central City Studios.