The opening night of ABC‘s Melbourne station ABV2 went ahead without anywhere near the problems encountered by its Sydney sister two weeks earlier.
The station was officially opened by Minister for Labour and National Service Harold Holt shortly after 7.00pm on Monday, 19 November 1956.
Other speakers during the half-hour ceremony included Leader of the Opposition H V Evatt, Postmaster-General Charles Davidson, Director of Posts and Telegraphs Sir Giles Chippendall, ABC General Manager Charles Moses and the vice-chairman of the ABC, Edgar Dawes.
The program was compered by ABC announcer John Royle and also included sports broadcaster Ray MacDonald interviewing Olympic athletes Chris Chataway and Shirley Strickland.
A filmed performance by visiting French violinist Christian Ferras — the same film that went to air sans audio on ABN2’s opening two weeks earlier — was played to Melbourne viewers without incident.
The first program was American variety series The Frankie Laine Show. This was followed by British police series Fabian Of Scotland Yard.
The film This Is The ABC, same as the one shown on ABN2’s opening night, took Melbourne viewers through the various operations of the national broadcaster, largely focusing on radio.
YouTube: NFSA Films
Variety show Seeing Stars featured Australian performer Peggy Brooks, recently returned from overseas, and Kenric Hudson‘s comedy sketch, ‘Types of Televiewers’.
The final program for the night was the first episode of the BBC documentary series War In The Air.
With construction of ABV2’s Ripponlea premises still in progress in 1956, the station had to make use of temporary accommodation across various sites in Melbourne, including a makeshift studio at Broadcast House, the ABC’s radio studios in the CBD.
Just three days after its official opening, ABV2 was off to the Melbourne Olympic Games, providing as much as eight hours a day of live coverage via a single outside broadcast van over the course of competition. Filmed coverage was then flown up to Sydney for broadcast on ABN2.
Some programs were able to be made from the still incomplete Ripponlea studios, including drama plays produced early in 1957.
It was May 1958 before ABV formally opened at Ripponlea. The new building included two large studios, both measuring 400 square metres, and on opening night the main studio produced the television debut of the play Captain Carvello, starring Mary Ward, Syd Conabere, Neil Fitzpatrick, Brian Moll and Frank Gatliff.
The Ripponlea studios continued to house ABC production in Melbourne for decades to follow — making programs such as Bellbird, Adventure Island, Countdown, Power Without Glory, The Saturday Show (pictured), Australia – You’re Standing In It, The Factory, Countdown Revolution, The Big Gig, Frontline, The Late Show, Phoenix, Seachange, Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, Spicks And Specks, schools programs and thousands of ABC News bulletins.
With the redevelopment and expansion of ABC’s radio and television complex in inner city Southbank, the Ripponlea studios will soon be decommissioned — ending 60 years of production from that site.
Source: The Listener In-TV, 17 November 1956. TV Week, 15 May 1958. The Age, 19 November 1956, 20 November 1956, 22 November 1956, 21 May 1958. The Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 November 1963. Aunty’s Jubilee: Celebrating 50 Years Of ABCTV, ABC Books, 2006. The ABV2 Page.