Another half-century celebration for regional television this week with Launceston-based TNT9 having commenced official transmission on Saturday, 26 May 1962 for viewers across north and north-western Tasmania. It was Tasmania’s second commercial television station, two years after TVT6 launched in Hobart.
The licence to operate the new channel was granted in 1960 to Northern Television Limited, a company owned by W. R. Rolph and Sons, owners of local newspaper The Examiner and radio station 7EX.
New studio premises were constructed at Watchorn Street, South Launceston that would ultimately house both TNT9 and 7EX, and TNT9’s transmitter was built atop Mount Barrow.
TNT9 was officially opened by Governor Lord Rowallan (pictured) on the night of Saturday, 26 May 1962, accompanied by his wife Lady Rowallan, station general manager Arthur Evans and Edmund Rouse, the managing director of W. R. Rolph and Sons.
At the time of TNT9’s official opening the station employed around 30 staff.
|TNT9, Saturday, 26 May 1962:
2pm Test Pattern
6pm The Mickey Mouse Club
6.45 TNT News
7pm Official Opening TNT9: Governor Lord Rowallan
7.30 The Flintstones
8pm BP Super Show
9pm The Dave Brubeck Show
9.30 Movie: Two Guys From Milwaukee
11pm News; Close
Source: The Mercury, 26 May 1962
TNT9’s early line-up consisted largely of American imports but did include Australian shows from the mainland, including BP Pick A Box, Bandstand, The Mobil-Limb Show, Sunnyside Up, It Could Be You and Whiplash – while local programs included Hunter’s Tele-Quiz, Sports Club, Children’s Time, Easy Beat, Quiz Quest, Talk Of The Town and At Home With Nine as well as the nightly 15-minute news service produced in association with The Examiner.
Presenters at TNT9 during the 1960s included Rod Thurling, Joy Swain, newsreader Bruce Farrar, sports presenter David McQuestin and a young radio announcer from Victoria – Mal Walden.
During the 1970s local programs included the Logie-winning Saturday Night Show with Jim Cox and Graeme Goodings (now a newsreader for Seven News in Adelaide), talent quest New Faces and the Northern Lights telethon (pictured) which attracted stars from the mainland. Ray James took over from David McQuestin as the main sports presenter and 7EX radio announcer Paul Murphy became TNT9’s newsreader and later news editor. Some of Murphy’s successors at the news desk have included Tim Lester (now with Nine News), Diane Massey, Kaye Wilkinson, Steve Titmus, Kim Millar and current news presenter Jo Palmer.
The 1980s were a turbulent time in Tasmanian television, with TNT9’s parent company ENT Limited (formed in the 1960s with the merger of Northern Television Limited and Examiner Newspaper Pty Ltd) successfully taking over Hobart’s TVT6. The takeover eventually led to TNT9 and TVT6 adopting a single on-air brand – TAS TV – and a uniform program schedule across the state.
By the end of the 1980s aggregation was on the horizon for Tasmania and Edmund Rouse, chairman of ENT Limited, told The Examiner in 1987 that competition would not be in the best interest of Tasmanian viewers:
“I do not necessarily believe that Tasmanian viewers will be better served under the proposed new system. Firstly, we run 18 of the top 20 TV programs in Australia. The two we don’t run have no relevance to Tasmania. Secondly, inevitably the number of repeats will be substantially increased as any visitor to the mainland capitals would know occurs there.”
Nevertheless, ENT complied with the government’s aggregation policy and sold TNT9 to Tricom Corporation for $40 million in 1988 while retaining TVT6 (TAS TV), thus forming the basis for two statewide television networks, one based in Hobart and one in Launceston.
Tricom (a predecessor to what is now Southern Cross Austereo) also owned Victorian regional stations BCV8 Bendigo and GLV8 Gippsland and in March 1989 branded all three channels as Southern Cross Network.
In April 1994 aggregation was implemented in Tasmania with Southern Cross Network (TNT) and TAS TV (TVT) now broadcasting in competition with each other across the whole of Tasmania. TAS TV (now a branch of the WIN network) had an affiliation with the Nine Network for the supply of programs, while Southern Cross formed ties with both the Seven and Ten networks for its program schedule – and since 1998 Southern Cross has dominated the ratings across the Tasmanian market.
Digital television had arrived in the early 2000s and on 1 January 2004 Southern Cross and WIN launched a joint venture, a digital-only channel Tasmanian Digital Television (TDT) offering primarily a Network Ten schedule enabling Southern Cross to gradually move towards an exclusive Seven Network line-up. The channel was the first of its kind in Australia, giving Tasmanian viewers a third commercial channel operated by the owners of the two existing networks – a concept that would later expand to Mildura and Darwin. The introduction of the digital-only commercial channel led to the Tasmanian market having one of the fastest conversion rates to digital television in Australia. According to the latest Digital Tracker survey, 86 per cent of Tasmanian households have converted at least their main television set to digital compared to the national average of 82 per cent.
Southern Cross Television in Tasmania has since expanded into the multi-channel environment with the network relaying the Seven Network’s digital channels 7TWO and 7mate to the Tasmanian market. But the advent of competition, digital television and multi-channels have largely come at the cost of local production, although Southern Cross does continue to produce its own news service, Southern Cross News, seven nights a week. Local production also includes a fishing program, Hook Line And Sinker, which is shown across Australia via 7mate, and coverage of the annual Targa Tasmania event.
Southern Cross Television won the 2011 ratings year in Tasmania with a prime-time market share of 39.8 per cent (comprised of 30.3% for Southern Cross, 6.7% for 7TWO and 2.7% for 7mate), well ahead of WIN (23.0%), ABC (18.5%), TDT (13.5%) and SBS (5.2%).