Much has been written in the press and online about Ten‘s expensive new morning TV ventures Wake Up (pictured) and Studio 10. Huge amounts have been spent on infrastructure, particularly for Wake Up‘s custom-built studio in Manly, and big names like Ita Buttrose.
Interesting to note, however, that this is far from the first time that a TV station has got the cheque book out for a breakfast audience.
In the middle of 1968, Melbourne’s GTV9 splashed out to launch Today — not the first breakfast program on Australian TV but probably one of the first to come at a considerable investment.
First up was the selection of host — Mike Walsh — a popular radio personality in both Sydney and Melbourne who had earlier appeared on TV variety shows Ten On The Town and 66 And All That for the 0-10 Network.
His appointment to host Today for GTV9 was for the reported sum of $500-a-week, in 1968 dollars. The station was also said to be splashing out on a lavish caravan to be stationed on the grounds of GTV for its new morning host.
Nine scoured the country for behind-the-scenes talent, including recruiting news executives from the rival Seven Network.
Presenters contributing to the program included Kevin Sanders, Tony Charlton, Maurie and Wayne Kirby and a cast of reporters including Peter Landy.
Model Bobo Faulkner (real name Ann) was hired to add a “woman’s touch” to the show. Although she was promised to conduct interviews with Walsh her main contribution to the program was to present fashion and fitness segments.
As well as regular news and weather reports Today promised traffic updates, plane schedules and overnight news and sports scores from overseas — pretty much the sort of stuff taken for granted on present-day breakfast TV but a novel concept for Melbourne TV viewers at that time.
And although Wake Up has launched into a crowded market of existing breakfast shows, the June 1968 launch of Today, screening from 7 to 9am, was literally up against no TV competition. ABV2 started its broadcast day with schools programs and Play School after 9.00am, while HSV7 and ATV0 were not on air until 10.00am each weekday.
By January 1969, Today‘s coverage expanded with the program relayed across regional Victoria. But just as rival ATV0 had launched its own breakfast show, the lighthearted Fredd Bear’s Breakfast A-Go-Go, Mike Walsh was ‘dumped’ by GTV in favour of Tony Charlton whose more serious approach to news was preferred by GTV bosses. It was a move believed to be triggered by GTV’s sister station, TCN9 in Sydney, starting a serious news program in the mornings and the two stations planned to link the two cities’ programs together.
The new ‘national’ Today program, fronted by Charlton (pictured, far right) in Melbourne with Diana Ward (pictured) in Sydney, launched in May 1969. Local news updates were presented in Melbourne by Craig Campbell (pictured, near right) and in Sydney by Brian Bury.
The move appeared to have been less than successful. Regional stations started pulling out of the relay of the program before Nine cancelled Today in October 1969. Mike Walsh, in the meantime, went across to HSV7 to host a prime time variety series, The Mike Walsh Show, the predecessor to the long-running daytime show that would follow in the 1970s and ’80s.
The Today name soon re-emerged on the Seven Network, as ATN7 in Sydney had launched Sydney Today in January 1969. The program shortened its name to Today when it extended its broadcast to HSV7 Melbourne in 1971.
TCN9 and GTV9 then filled their breakfast slot with cartoons and the long-running children’s show The Super Flying Fun Show.
Source: TV Week, 1 June 1968. TV Times, 29 May 1968. TV Times, 1 January 1969. TV Times, 23 April 1969. TV Times, 15 October 1969.
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