It is 50 years today since Australia’s first regional television station was officially opened.
GLV10, covering Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley in eastern Victoria, was opened on Saturday, 9 December 1961. The launch was the culmination of seven years of planning, starting when a group of influential Gippsland individuals formed Gippsland Telecasters. The group also had the support of the local print media who were keen to contribute to the proposed channel’s local news coverage.
Gippsland Telecasters then joined with other local businesses – including newspapers, theatres and drive-ins – and local churches to become shareholders in Eastern Victorian Television, the company that would submit the application for a television broadcasting licence for Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley.
The successful application then saw the appointment of the channel’s first General Manager, Gordon Lewis, who began working from temporary offices in the former Traralgon Town Hall. Construction then began on the station’s premises located on the Princes Highway just outside of Traralgon.
Launching five years after the advent of television in Sydney and Melbourne, GLV promised a modern and well-designed production facility – in a building designed specifically for a television station, unlike Melbourne channels GTV9 and HSV7 whose studios were converted from pre-existing buildings.
GLV10’s opening night’s programs started at 5.45pm with a 15-minute film, Touring Gippsland, to be followed by an introduction to the station by radio 3TR announcer Don Ewart (pictured). Unfortunately, Ewart’s opening words were never heard by anyone outside the studio as his microphone was not switched on.
Programs to follow included imports Jungle Jim, Whirlybirds and I Love Lucy before the formalities of the official opening of the station by the Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board, Mr R. G. Osborne, accompanied by General Manager Gordon Lewis. Opening night was also attended by a number of ‘national’ personalities including Horrie Dargie, Bobby Limb, Happy Hammond and Johnny Chester.
Later in the evening GLV10 crossed to Melbourne’s ABV2 for a one-hour live coverage of the day’s Federal Election results before presenting a 15-minute local news bulletin and then signing off for the night.
The new channel had a staff of 35 and was planning to broadcast initially for around 30 hours a week.
Two weeks after GLV10’s debut came the launch of regional stations GMV6 Shepparton and BCV8 Bendigo.
Like many regional channels in the early days GLV maintained a number of local productions. The channel’s first news service was a daily 15-minute bulletin presented by Don Ewart, including local news and day-old national news footage that had been sent overnight by train from Melbourne. Early local programs included children’s program GLV Teleclub, pop music program Teen Time, talent quest Battle Of The Towns, variety program Showtime, documentary series Gippsland’s Pathway Of Time, local sports coverage and Sunday afternoon programs Spotlight On Sport and Farming Today.
By 1963, GLV10 had begun the direct relay of the main evening news bulletin from GTV9 in Melbourne to supplement its own ten-minute local news bulletin. The channel was also using the relay facility for the broadcasting of programs like In Melbourne Tonight, Homicide, Sunnyside Up, daytime game shows and VFL coverage, enabling local viewers the chance to see these programs as they were going to air in Melbourne or at least shortly after.
By the mid-1970s GLV10 had partnered with Bendigo channel BCV8 with both channels providing a common schedule across their respective areas. Mildura channel STV8 then affiliated with the two channels and adopted their schedule and branding.
In 1979, GLV10 had agreed to convert its call-sign and frequency to GLV8 in January 1980 in order to allow Melbourne channel ATV0 access to convert to the channel 10 frequency.
And like many regional television stations GLV provided a training ground for some that went on to careers in the wider media industry. Journalist Malcolm Gray went on to Melbourne channels ATV0 and HSV7. A former Miss Victoria, Simone Semmens, was a local newsreader before joining the Seven Network. Keith McGowan, who went on to a 50-year career in broadcasting, hosted Teen Time in the 1960s. Richard Zachariah was a local presenter at GLV before going to the Seven Network to present Seven National News and Eleven AM, and co-host ABC’s The Home Show with then partner Maggie Tabberer. Award-winning journalist and Four Corners reporter Sally Neighbour also came from GLV8.
Showbiz veteran Denise Drysdale, a resident of the local area, presented a morning show on GLV8 during the 1980s.
GLV has endured many on-air name changes over the last few decades – from Southern Cross TV8 (1982) to Southern Cross Network (1989), SCN (1993), Ten Victoria (1994) and Southern Cross Ten (2001).
From 1992, the aggregation of regional markets in Victoria saw the Southern Cross Network of GLV and BCV expand its signal into the regions of Ballarat, Shepparton and Albury, while the incumbents from these regions in turn expanded into the areas covered by GLV and BCV.
With aggregation the Southern Cross Network affiliated with the Ten Network for the supply of programs supplemented by locally-produced programming such as maintaining local news in the Bendigo and Gippsland markets, a statewide edition of Eyewitness News with Rob Gaylard, and children’s program Surprise Surprise.
Some changes in the news format and presentation followed but the change to Ten Victoria in May 1994 saw all local production ceased and the network essentially becoming a straight relay of Network Ten’s schedule.
In 2000, GLV was forced to shutdown its Channel 8 signal in Gippsland and move to UHF Channel 37. This was to accommodate the launch of the digital signal from GTV9 in Melbourne which was to use the 8 frequency.
From its modest beginnings with two regional channels in Victoria, Southern Cross Ten as it is now covers regional markets from Portland in western Victoria right up to Cairns in the far north of Queensland and across to Broken Hill and the Spencer Gulf region in South Australia. Much of its on-air presentation is co-ordinated from centralised facilities in Canberra.
And in Gippsland, as with the rest of regional Victoria, it was the end of an era in May this year with the shutdown of all analogue television transmissions from all local broadcasters – just a few months short of today’s 50 year milestone.
Source: TV Week, 7 December 1961. The Age, 9 December 1961. The Latrobe Valley Express, 9 December 1986. Morwell Historical Society.