The Year That Was… #2: SBS makes its own news

If there can be only one constant in television land, it is change – and nobody is immune from it. In years gone by we’ve seen changes both behind and in front of the cameras at all networks with varying levels of success.

This year it was SBS‘ turn to ring in some major changes – and in doing so made plenty of headlines.

Managing director Shaun Brown came from TVNZ across the Tasman in 2003 to head Australia’s multicultural broadcaster. With Brown came news director Paul Cutler, a former colleague who had also worked for global media giant CNN.

Brown initiated a number of moves at SBS including re-working the schedule, launching some less traditional SBS fare including a dating show Desperately Seeking Shiela and a game show RockWiz. Some initiatives were more welcome than others, and in the revamp a number of long-term staffers had moved on – some voluntarily, others not necessarily so. The most notable departures from SBS were presenters David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz who had left The Movie Show which they pioneered for SBS in 1986, to start up a similar program, At The Movies, at ABC.

However Brown’s most visible change came late in 2006 with the decision to restructure commercial breaks on SBS to appear within programs, as opposed to the previous custom of only in between programs or in ‘natural program breaks’ such as half-time in football matches. The change in this structure was based on the belief that viewers switch off SBS in between programs, hence advertisers’ messages were being ignored. Running commercial breaks inside programs would therefore make them less likely to be skipped by viewers – and hence would be worth charging a higher premium to advertisers.

The change was understandably met with opposition. It is true that SBS has quite happily run commercials since 1991 without the sky falling in, though it was only allowed around five minutes per hour as opposed to the commercial networks playing anything up to fifteen minutes of ads each hour. But changing the structure of the commercial breaks it was feared would open the floodgates to more advertising per hour, and more frighteningly for SBS supporters, the broadcaster’s increasing dependence on the advertising dollar having an influence on its program content and news coverage.

It is also feared that this increase in advertising time on SBS could also set a precedent that could one day see the same change happen to ‘aunty’ ABC which takes pride in being commercial-free on its radio and TV outlets – except for high-rotation promotions for ABC merchandise.

However if the move to its commercial breaks wasn’t enough cause for concern amongst SBS loyalists, Brown had sights set on re-working another SBS landmark – World News Australia.

Since its inception in 1980, World News has been widely acclaimed for providing a global perspective on news coverage by not focussing predominantly on local stories or tabloid headlines. And no cute animal stories to end the bulletins either – World News was unashamedly serious particularly with so much conflict happening away from our shores. In the overall scheme of things World News was never going to win any ratings surveys but it maintained a loyal audience and set SBS apart from the other TV news media – particularly commercial TV.

Former Sydney radio announcer George Donikian was the first newsreader back in 1980 but in 1988 heard the call of commercial television and joined the Nine Network – even though he moved to a relatively minor role at Nine, it was perhaps a belated sign that commercial TV had finally accepted that its news presenters did not have to all be mono-cultural.

Replacing Donikian at the World News desk was a name already familiar to those at SBS – Mary Kostakidis.

Unlike the more routine TV custom of hiring news readers from the ranks of journalists, Kostakidis came from within management. Kostakidis was part of the founding management team when SBS was forming its new television channel back in 1980 – and was involved in setting up the station’s subtitling unit, as well as program purchasing, classification and policy. In 1986, Kostakidis also added acting to her resume, playing Rebekah Elmaloglou‘s mother in the mini-series Five Times Dizzy.

For almost twenty years, Kostakidis was the main face of World News – acclaimed for her delivery of the day’s news stories with class, sophistication and integrity, and for giving the the news the gravitas that it needed without sensationalism.

The situation stayed largely unchanged until 2007 – when Brown and his news chief Cutler decided to overhaul the half-hour news bulletin. The first change was to dismantle the long-running sports program World Sports which supplemented the half-hour news bulletin. World News Australia (the ‘Australia’ was added to the title in 2004) would then be expanded to a one-hour format to fill the half-hour gap left by World Sports.

The next change was for Cutler to to bring a second newsreader to the World News desk, one of his former CNN talents Stan Grant.

In hiring Grant at SBS, what Cutler possibly had not realised was that while Grant had won a number of awards for journalism both here and overseas, he did not carry that sort of credibility with the Australian viewing public.

Grant was a former ABC reporter who made the move across to commercial TV in 1992 to host Seven‘s new current affairs program Real Life. It was quite a leap for a reporter with a relatively low profile to suddenly be hosting a national current affairs program. The program often struggled up against Nine’s evening flagship A Current Affair, with Grant seen as lightweight up against his Nine rival, the very popular Jana Wendt, and his predecessor Derryn Hinch who had since moved to Ten. Then the current affairs satire Frontline appeared on ABC, fronted by fictional host Mike Moore (played by Rob Sitch) who it was rumoured to have been loosely based on Grant.

Grant’s credibility in Australia wasn’t helped either by his personal life, when in 2000 he left his wife for a romance with a colleague, Tracey Holmes. After being shamed by the tabloid press, the pair were sacked from Seven and went overseas where Grant ultimately ended up at CNN in China, working for Cutler.

The arrival of Grant to World News Australia, announced at the end of 2006, was reportedly not met kindly by Kostakidis, who had read the news solo for almost twenty years and was now being sidelined to sharing the role with her new colleague.

Adding salt to Kostakidis’ wounds was the re-formatting of World News Australia to incorporate the new commercial break structure, something which she had openly protested in the past, and also a perceived ‘dumbing down’ of the news service as a means of grabbing more ratings and hence more revenue, working against the traditional principles of SBS – which she was personally involved in setting up. For Kostakidis, it must have surely been a bitter pill to swallow the night that World News Australia had as its lead story the latest on celebrity socialite and jailbird Paris Hilton.

In another instance Kostakidis made a blunt on-air assessment of one celebrity news story:

The off-screen relationship between Kostakidis and Grant was reportedly less than amiable, and as a result attempts to have some sort of casual interaction on screen between news stories also fell flat.

The tension came to a head in August when Kostakidis signed off from the news bulletin as normal on the evening of Friday 10 August. She left the office and drove home, and never returned to the news room. Officially she was on sick leave, but it was apparent that there was more to it than that – and soon after came news that Kostakidis had hired a prominent Melbourne lawyer to represent her in legal action against the network – citing a breach of contract due to the significant change to her newsreading duties, and bullying by management. The case was able to be settled out of court, with details of the settlement to be kept confidential.

Kostakidis’ only statement after the settlement was “I would like SBS viewers to know that I leave with absolute goodwill towards the organisation and wish it all the best.”

And despite all the upheaval, headlines and legal negotiations – it appears to have been for nought. Ratings for World News Australia have fallen by tens of thousands since the revamped format was introduced back in January, the broadcaster has lost its long-standing newsreader, and there are now reports that Stan Grant, whose appointment appeared to be the catalyst for a lot of the uneasiness, is now considering leaving SBS to return overseas, possibly to al-Jazeera English or back to CNN.

And a year after SBS restructed itself to run commercial breaks during programs – the end result at the close of the 2007 ratings year has seen the broadcaster increase its prime-time audience share by a mere 0.1 per cent when compared to 2006. The question perhaps should be asked, has it been worth all the bother?

Permanent link to this article:

The Year That Was… #1: Nine’s The Catch-Up

Some strange programming choices came out of the Nine Network this year. One – actually, two – that was a little puzzling this year was their afternoon line-up.

In years gone by, Nine was the unbeatable leader in daytime TV – their rock-solid lineup of The Mike Walsh Show (later The Midday Show) followed by US soaps Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless, set them up for the afternoon for two decades and no matter what Seven and Ten threw at it, it seemed invincible.

Perhaps the rot started to set in when The Midday Show was packed up finally in 1998. Nine had tried to cancel, or “rest” (as is the current terminology), the show back in 1994 after Derryn Hinch‘s year as host. The show came back in mid-1995 with hosts Tracy Grimshaw (now the crusader of everything moral and decent at A Current Affair) and David Reyne (now of 9am With David & Kim fame on Ten) who put a talk focus onto what was traditionally variety TV. Tracy and David’s efforts were short-lived, and then came Kerri-Anne Kennerley who put the glam back into the show, and created a defining moment when she did the macarena with (now former) federal treasurer Peter Costello.

Fast forward almost a decade, and Nine had struggled to fill the gap left by Midday but had finally settled on US talk show Dr Phil – not as schmaltzy as Oprah but far less trashy than Jerry Springer, who were both on Ten. Then at the close of 2006, Nine decided not to increase its bid to renew its long-standing agreement with US network CBS, letting the deal go to Ten, hence losing shows including Dr Phil in the process.

At around the same time Nine quietly decided not to renew its contract with Sony Pictures for The Young And The Restless – a series that had been a permanent fixture on Nine’s schedule since 1974 – hoping perhaps that nobody would notice.

To lose one part of its afternoon schedule would have been bad enough, but to let go a 30-year veteran – which still enjoyed a strong following – is unthinkable. And if Nine should have known one thing, it is not to offend your loyal housewife audience – something which Nine had done once before when it chopped out four years of episodes of both Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless to bring Australia in line with current-day storylines in the US. Despite this, as many as 200,000 were still avidly following The Young And The Restless, and as many again were watching re-runs of Dr Phil. These are not big figures by prime-time standards, but for daytime they are figures to be treasured.

Knowing that they were going to lose a two-hour chunk of their afternoon schedule, Nine must have had something gold to take its place – especially to placate the soap opera fans who had endured the indignity of losing four years of their long-time favourites, and now also having to subscribe to a premium Foxtel package to keep up with The Young And The Restless.

Enter The Catch-Up.

The Catch-Up, a product of Nine’s newly-hired “creative services director” Mia Freedman, was loosely based on the popular US talk show The View (already shown on Foxtel here) which featured a panel of females discussing issues of the day – a concept that could have had potential here, but Nine stumbled.

Whereas The View was headlined by veteran journalist Barbara Walters and more recently by comedian-actress-talkshow host Rosie O’Donnell, The Catch-Up featured three unknowns and one Libbi Gorr whose TV career hit a peak about a decade ago. The three other presenters were FM radio chick Zoe Sheridan, politician’s wife Lisa Oldfield, and Mary Moody, described by Nine as ‘adventurer, author, documentary producer, director, gardener, photographer, publisher and editor’ and a presenter on ABC‘s Gardening Australia – but yet, who is she?

Nine had a lot riding on this show – and opening episodes returned figures of over 240,000 which gave it promise but it was downhill from there. The situation was not helped by an apparent lack of any chemistry between the four presenters. As a result, viewers already disenchanted by the loss of two popular shows, even though they sampled The Catch-Up, didn’t stick with it.

Not even a slip-up by guest star, underworld figure Judy Moran, who named suspects in a pending court case on-air in the show’s opening days, raised any significant interest in the show.

As the show continued and ratings continued to slide, media reports alleged various backstage tension between the four presenters – though whether this was for real or just a case of ratings-seeking behaviour by the network – obviously keen to get some return on their expensive venture – was not known.

The program also unwittingly became a pawn in negotiations over contract renewals between Nine and regional affiliate WIN. WIN chief Bruce Gordon starting pulling Nine Network programs off his WIN schedule in protest to Nine’s intent to increase affiliation fees which Gordon deemed unjustified. The Catch Up and other off-peak programs from Nine were removed from WIN’s schedule across the country as they were seen to generate income to Nine through various product placement deals and other in-program advertorials, though this income did not filter through to WIN.

With declining audiences and largely negative feedback about the show both in content and the presenters (and also a curious self-assessment by panellist Oldfield that she was to blame for the show’s poor performance), the situation got desperate enough that reinforcements had to be called in. Enter veteran journalist, magazine editor, publisher and businesswoman Ita Buttrose to appear as a panellist on the show. The addition of a well-known, respected and credible identity like Ita, who has had ties to the Nine Network in the past and its sister company ACP as a long-standing magazine editor, to the program really highlighted that she was the sort of identity that should have been headlining the show from the very start. Though her addition to the lineup may have been too late to save it.

By mid-June, Nine had lost CEO Eddie McGuire and producer Freedman had also offered her resignation – so without its biggest supporter and its producer on board, the inevitable happened and The Catch Up was wound up – replaced by midday movies.

The Nine Network has gone to great lengths and expense to boost its fortunes in 2008 but little mention has been made as to whether this extends to their floundering afternoon schedule – being held up only by Days Of Our Lives and the kids program Hi-5.

Permanent link to this article:

Merry Christmas, ’76 style

Christmas 1976 – and Melbourne’s Sunday Observer TV magazine had it covered with Season’s Greetings from all the A-list stars of the year in TV.

On the cover (above) was GTV9 reporter Mickie de Stoop offering her best wishes for the festive season: “Christmas is for kids, and I hope yours is wonderful no matter how old a kid you are. It is my favourite time of the year because everyone smiles and is happy.”

For the sake of equality, the Sunday Observer sought out Christmas wishes from two personalities from each TV channel:

Bert Newton (Nine) “For nearly 2000 years the message of Christmas has been the same – peace on earth to men of goodwill. Lots of laughter and happiness, but remember that Christmas is still the celebration of a birth that is the hope of mankind.”

Jeanne Little (Seven) “Darlings.. I just want to wish you all a simply su-per Christmas, and an utterly fantastic new year. I’m hoping Santa brings me some new eyelashes.”

Christine Broadway (ATV0 weather presenter) “Joyeux Noel – Happy Christmas to everybody! I also wish that we get nice weather on Christmas Day.”

Peter Regan (Quest, ABC) “I wish everyone a happy and enjoyable holiday season – especially the talented young people I’ve enjoyed meeting during our Quest television series.”

Geoff Raymond (ABC newsreader) “With the passage of time it becomes increasingly difficult to express a fresh wish to my television friends, so I’ll have to fall back on one which I’ve used with a certain amount of success for the past 20 years. And that’s Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Brian Naylor (Seven newsreader) “Christmas is traditionally a family time. I’ll be spending my Christmas with my family, and I trust your celebrations will be as full of warmth and happiness as I’m sure mine will be.”

Ken James (The Box, ATV0) “Christmas is a time for happiness and joy around the world. Remember to be careful on the roads – don’t drink and drive. But above all, have a bloody good time.”

Source: Sunday Observer, 19 December 1976



Permanent link to this article:

Seven wins ’07

The Seven Network has won the ratings year 2007. No real surprise in that as Seven has had an outstanding ratings year, taking out 38 out of the 40 survey weeks. Nine won the other two.

The survey year ended with Seven on 29.1%, Nine 26.9%, Ten 21.9%, ABC 16.7% and SBS 5.5%.

It was a year where Seven could do little wrong, and where Nine continued to stumble but with new CEO David Gyngell at the helm, Nine is set to aggressively challenge Seven’s lead in 2008.

Seven enjoyed continued success this year with its stand-out hit Dancing With The Stars as well as It Takes Two and the new shows Australia’s Got Talent and The Rich List earlier in the year. Another hit for Seven was Kath & Kim which came across from ABC. The foxy morons delivered the highest average of any series this year, regularly passing the 2 million mark, a rare feat in this era of declining free-to-air audiences. Even repeats of the first ABC series, dating back to 2002, gave Seven great results.

Reality shows also did well for Seven with Border Security and The Force, but Nine also had good results in the genre with RPA Where Are They Now and Missing Persons Unit.

In drama, Home And Away continued to deliver strong figures going into its 20th anniversary but the 7.00pm timeslot was a tight contest with Temptation and ABC News also getting their share of strong results. Seven’s other drama stalwart All Saints also had a great year on the back of the Dancing With The Stars/It Takes Two lead-in.

The new Melbourne drama City Homicide also paid good dividends for Seven with consistently high audience figures. Nine launched Sea Patrol during the year that started with strong results but suffered a drop as the series progressed, but will be back next year. Nine’s other major drama McLeod’s Daughters also suffered a decline, and will now finish up next year.

News and current affairs, traditionally Nine’s domain, was Seven’s strength this year with Sunrise continuing to trounce Today, Weekend Sunrise ahead of Sunday, Seven News ahead of National Nine News, and Today Tonight ahead of A Current Affair. Although in Melbourne, it was a much closer battle between the two networks as Today dominated in the southern capital, and both Seven News and National Nine News fought it out with not much between them. Nationally, Nine’s 60 Minutes also held up well in the competitive Sunday 7.30pm timeslot.

The news year also ended well for Seven with its Sunrise-slanted federal election coverage Your Call 07, “without the boring bits”, seeing Nine’s coverage headed by Ray Martin beaten by the movie re-run The Empire Strikes Back on Ten. However, ABC’s election night coverage with Kerry O’Brien beat them all.

Deal Or No Deal continued to dominate the 5.30pm timeslot, seen as crucial by Seven and Nine as the lead-in timeslot to the news, at the expense of Nine’s Bert’s Family Feud which was cancelled during the year. Nine replaced Bert with a cheap UK import Antiques Roadshow which has surprisingly given strong competition to Deal Or No Deal. However despite Seven and Nine fighting it out in the timeslot, Ten wins the hour with Ten News.

The popularity of Sunrise in the breakfast timeslot saw Seven expand the formula with The Morning Show. The new show became an immediate hit at the expense of Nine’s Mornings With Kerri Anne and Ten’s 9am With David And Kim.

But the year didn’t always go Seven’s way. A few ratings mishaps were felt with some of its choices of prime-time movies, and also some of their US imports suffered ratings drops. Ugly Betty started on a high but soon fell to average results. Las Vegas and Bionic Woman also failed to get a significant result here. The late-year launch of National Bingo Night started off with strong figures, but quickly fell after a repeated smear campaign by Nine’s A Current Affair. And in the interesting battle of Jamie Durie (on Seven) versus Jamie Durie (on Nine), there were mixed results with Seven’s new series Australia’s Best Backyards having a neck-and-neck battle with two-year-old episodes of Nine’s Backyard Blitz. Nine also got good results with Don Burke‘s return to television with a one-off special, and top ratings for its telecast of the TV Week Logie Awards, movies Shrek and Shrek 2, and cricket and rugby telecasts. The NRL Grand Final recording 2.4 million viewers nationally.

Nine launched 1 vs 100 in January with Eddie McGuire but despite a promising launch, it suffered a ratings fall and was cancelled mid-year. Outgoing CEO McGuire did return to host a relaunched Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – going live-to-air on Monday nights – but struggled to reach the popularity of previous years. Not even the return of McGuire to the screen was enough to save Nine’s new US series Viva Laughlin featuring Hugh Jackman, debuting on the same night. The show’s fate seemed to be sealed when a US critic labelled it “the worst show in the history of TV” and suffered dismal ratings on its premiere. The US network CBS canned it after two episodes, and Nine consequently cancelled it after just the one.

But the ratings battle isn’t just between Seven and Nine. Network Ten had another successful series of Thank God You’re Here and also US import House. Rove McManus returned to TV in April after a prolonged break, with Rove making the risky move to Sunday nights and increasing on last year’s figures. McManus also hosted Ten’s new game show Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? which delivered strong figures.

Ten had little else to rave about apart from good ratings performances from AFL including the Grand Final which got the highest figure of any program this year – 2.563 million in the five capital cities.

Ten’s big name formats Big Brother and Australian Idol suffered falling ratings this year compared to last year. The former suffering from playing it safe this year in the wake of last year’s “turkey slap” incident, and the latter being hit by Kath & Kim, though still maintained a decent following. The second series of the Australian The Biggest Loser performed well, managing over 2 million viewers for its series final. The US series So You Think You Can Dance gave Ten great ratings on Thursday nights, boding well for the Australian version to launch next year.

Soapie veteran Neighbours declined in ratings this year, prompting Ten to wheel out a two-month teaser campaign to promote a relaunch in July – promising fresh storylines, new characters and better production values. Figures spiked when the relaunch happened, but soon fell back to their usual level.

The national broadcaster ABC had success this year with their midweek comedies The Chaser’s War On Everything, Summer Heights High and The Librarians. The game show Spicks And Specks also continued to achieve fantastic figures. ABC also recorded high figures for British dramas Midsomer Murders and New Tricks.

SBS had a controversial year – headlined by their decision to structure commercial breaks inside programs rather than between them. Twelve months on, the change appears to have had negligible effect as the network recorded a 0.1 per cent increase on its prime time rating compared to 2006.

The network recorded its better figures on Monday nights due to the popular Mythbusters and Top Gear and comedies including South Park, Pizza and Wilfred. Saturday night regular RockWiz was also a strong performer for the network.

Permanent link to this article:

The balls are back in town

Since the passing of Kerry Packer on Boxing Day 2005, his pride and joy the Nine Network has been in a state of uncertainty as the network that he so confidently steered to top of the ratings for thirty years was suddenly out of control. His son James did not appear to possess the same passion for the medium as his late father had done and the chiefs running the network were seemingly grappling with the task of taking the ‘old school’ network into the 21st century.

It was clear that a new direction had to be taken post-KP and with that, in January 2006, the most visible component of the Nine Network – its logo of 35+ years – was shuffled off the air and replaced with a similarly shaped ‘9’ but missing the trademark ‘balls’ that had identified the network so succinctly.

The changing of the logo also coincided with the changing of the guard as caretaker CEO Sam Chisholm had handed over the role to Eddie McGuire, the former journalist turned TV presenter and Collingwood Football Club president – and hence began a turbulent time in Nine’s history, though not necessarily of McGuire’s doing as some of Nine’s problems were evident or mapped out prior to his arrival or were driven by other forces within the network, which has been well documented in the media and in books such as Who Killed Channel Nine? by former Sixty Minutes producer Gerald Stone.

The turmoil that dogged the network in 2006 continued this year with the realisation that Nine was going to lose the ratings crown to arch rival Seven for the first time in living memory. Changes had to be made, and following McGuire resigning from the CEO role came the announcement that one of his predecessors, David Gyngell, had been lured back to the network. Gyngell had resigned from the CEO position in 2005 citing interference from senior management at Nine’s parent company PBL – but now the network was effectively under new ownership as James Packer had sold PBL’s controlling interest in Nine to investment company CVC.

Upon his return, Gyngell has been seen as having a passion for television, and for Nine in particular. Hardly surprising, given that his father, the late Bruce Gyngell, was a senior figure at Nine for many years and his ties with the Packer family obviously impressed on his son.

Gyngell’s return marked a well-needed boost to morale for Nine’s troops after two years of upheaval. Gyngell immediately set out to turn the tide at Nine – and in doing so has reinstated the iconic balls to Nine’s identity as part of its relaunch into 2008, although hints of the 9 balls being returned were evident in station promotions during 2007 and Nine also used the revisited logo in its press promotion of its Federal Election coverage last week.

Changing the logo does tend to send out a mixed message however – as it serves as a reminder of the “old” Nine at a time when it perhaps should be looking to a “future” Nine, but it also sends out the message that the “loser” Nine that the 2006-07 logo represented, is now no longer and that the network is looking to fight back to being “still the one” again.

Permanent link to this article:

TenHD takes off

Three months after it was announced – and with enticing promotion in the meantime – Network Ten‘s high-definition channel is ready to launch and has unveiled its first week’s programming.

The new channel TenHD will offer a combination of time-shifted content from the main Ten channel as well as its own HD-only programming that won’t be seen on either of Ten’s analogue or standard definition channels. The channel has reportedly been in the planning for most of the year, and Ten’s announcement of the new venture back in September has since seen a flurry of activity in the HD arena with rival Seven rushing its new channel 7HD to air in October, and Nine initially promising an HD channel launch in November but this has now been postponed to sometime in the new year.

TenHD’s schedule for its first day – Sunday 16 December – is giving little away about what will be its first ‘breakaway’ program, the elusive ‘To be advised’. This will be followed by a time-shifted Ten News at 5.30pm and Sports Tonight at 6.00pm. TenHD has Ten News scheduled at 5.30pm across the week, following a time-shifted The Bold And The Beautiful at 5.00pm, which at only a 30-minute “shift” from the main channel does not really offer a significant incentive for viewers to tune in. An increased time-shift delay may be more likely to entice an alternative audience to the channel, but this is only early days so presumably a lot of tweaking of the schedule will occur between now and the launch of the 2008 ratings season in February.

Sci-fi fans may be more enthusiastic about TenHD with the schedule including Battlestar Galactica, The 4400, Torchwood and Smallville – all programs that had modest but loyal followings which is usually at odds with mainstream commercial network programming. Programming initiatives such as this will be helpful in bringing people to the new ‘breakaway’ channels.

TenHD’s ‘breakaway’ program guide for the week commencing Sunday 16 December:

Sunday 16: 5pm To be advised, 5.30 Ten News, 6pm Sports Tonight, 6.30 return to main channel simulcast, 8.30 Movie: Black Hawk Down, 11.30 Concert: to be advised, 1.30am return to main channel.

Monday 17: Main channel simulcast to 3pm. 3pm Ocean Adventures, 4pm Amazing Planet, 5pm The Bold & The Beautiful, 5.30 TEN News, 6.30 return to main channel, 10.30 The Shield, 11.30 Movie: Snatch, 1.20am return to main channel.

Tuesday 18: Main channel simulcast to 3pm. 3pm Ocean Adventures, 4pm Amazing Planet, 5pm The Bold & The Beautiful, 5.30 TEN News, 6.30 return to main channel, 10.30 Veronica Mars, 11.30 Movie: The Patriot, 2.30am return to main channel

Wednesday 19: Main channel simulcast to 3pm. 3pm Ocean Adventures, 4pm Amazing Planet, 5pm The Bold & The Beautiful, 5.30 TEN News, 6.30 return to main channel, 10.30 Over There, 11.30 Movie: Love and a Bullet, 1.10am return to main channel.

Thursday 20: Main channel simulcast to 3pm. 3pm Ocean Adventures, 4pm Wolfman, 5pm The Bold & The Beautiful, 5.30 TEN News, 6.30 return to main channel, 7.30 Smallville, 8.30 Battlestar Galactica, 9.30 Torchwood, 10.30 The 4400, 11.30 Movie: Bugs, 1.10am return to main channel

Friday 21: Main channel simulcast to 3pm. 3pm Edge of Existence, 4pm Monster Crocs, 5pm The Bold & The Beautiful, 5.30 TEN News, 6.30 return to main channel, 10.30 Movie: Bloody Sunday, 12.30am return to main channel

Saturday 22: Main channel simulcast to 5pm. 5pm To be advised, 5.30 TEN News, 6pm Sports Tonight, 6.30 return to main channel.

Source: Network Ten, TV Tonight

Meanwhile, 7HD is now into its second month but still offering only late-night and Saturday afternoon programming as separate to the main Seven schedule. A full-scale launch of 7HD is promised ‘soon’.

Permanent link to this article:

Happy 50th TV Week!

TV Week this week celebrates 50 years of publication with a special commemorative edition – showing some of the highlights, celebrities and events that the magazine has covered in the last half-century.

A history of Australia’s sole surviving national television magazine is at TelevisionAU

Permanent link to this article:

For Sale! Another TV icon

Following the recent announcement of the sale of Nine‘s studios in Sydney and Melbourne, and even BBC selling off its iconic Television Centre in London – another historic TV property is now on the market – the Global Television Studios in the Melbourne suburb of Nunawading.

When transport tycoon Reg Ansett secured the licence to operate ATV0, Melbourne’s third commercial television station in 1963, he purchased a 17.5 acre block of paddocks in Nunawading which was then in the eastern fringe of the Melbourne suburbia. Ansett had a vision – ‘Austarama Village’ – a state-of-the-art television facility with adjoining hotel, restaurant, swimming pool and a heliport to welcome guests arriving from Melbourne’s Essendon Airport or the city. The proposed complex would set the millionaire magnate back a mere £1,400,000.

The building for the new channel was the first purpose-built television studio in Melbourne – as rival channel HSV7 was housed in a converted newspaper warehouse in South Melbourne, and the GTV9 building in Richmond had previously been a piano factory and later a soup factory before becoming ‘Television City’ in 1956. It was probably no coincidence that at roughly the same time as ATV0’s studios were being constructed that GTV9 expanded its own premises to include a new super-sized ‘Studio 9’, custom-built specifically for Graham Kennedy‘s In Melbourne Tonight.

While it seems Reg Ansett’s initial plans for a multi-function oasis might have been a bit ambitious, the building that eventuated was completed well before ATV0’s planned launch date of 1 August 1964, and went on to win the title of Building of the Year from the Architects’ Institute of Victoria.

The studios of ATV0 (which became ATV10 in 1980) went on to host many fondly remembered programs including Go!, Uptight, The Magic Circle Club, Fredd Bear’s Breakfast A Go-Go, Matlock Police, Young Talent Time, The Box, Good Morning Melbourne, Perfect Match, Eyewitness News, The Comedy Company, The Early Bird Show and Let The Blood Run Free. The building was also where unknowns such as Jana Wendt, Jennifer Keyte and Eddie McGuire got their first break in television, and where teenagers Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue became soap opera icons.

The studios hosted about a dozen annual telethons for the Deafness Foundation of Victoria, as well as variety programs including Jimmy (Jimmy Hannan), Pot Of Gold, The Peter Couchman Show, the long-running talent quest series Showcase, and It’s Magic starring Johnny Farnham and Colleen Hewett.

In 1979, the building became a TV star in its own right as it provided the exterior setting for the fictional Wentworth Detention Centre in the popular series Prisoner. Even the fake prison bars attached to one wall of the building are still there, twenty years after the show’s demise.

While the Nunawading premises can claim some of TV’s favourite hits, it also has hosted a few turkeys along the way – such as Holiday Island, Hotel Story (axed before its first screening) and Together Tonight (an early TV venture for Greg Evans) – and while Daryl Somers and Ossie Ostrich are remembered for many successful years on Hey Hey It’s Saturday, it is easy to forget that the pair took a brief detour to Nunawading in 1978 for a game show, The Daryl & Ossie Show, that had a very short life and saw the pair return to Nine the following year.

In 1986, Network Ten had taken on the soap Neighbours from the Seven Network, with Nunawading providing the show’s home base, conveniently only a short drive away from Pin Oak Court which serves as the exterior for ‘Ramsay Street’.

By the early ’90s, Network Ten had hit financial troubles after the excesses of the ’80s. The network had been sold and ultimately ended up in the hands of receivers. By the time Canadian company CanWest took control of the network in 1992, Ten had sold off the Nunawading site to Global Television, and moved to smaller inner-city studios in trendy South Yarra. Global would continue to provide production facilities to Ten from Nunawading for programs such as Rove Live (up until 2006), Thank God You’re Here and Neighbours.

Global has since invested in other properties such as HSV7’s former South Melbourne premises and it is said that the sale of Nunawading could be worth as much as $25 million as the land is ideal for residential development.

Permanent link to this article:

Nine now recruits The Young Doctors

Two weeks ago, the word around town was that Network Ten was ready to revive the ’70s soap opera drama The Young Doctors – with Australian Idol judge, and cast member of the original Young Doctors series Mark Holden ready to sign up to the revived series.

However, the story has changed somewhat since then. Reports this weekend have said that it will be the Nine Network that takes up The Young Doctors and instead of the stripped weeknight format that Ten was reportedly considering, it appears that Nine will give it a mid-evening timeslot.

Mark Fennessey, CEO of Fremantle Media which will make the series for Nine, says that the series remake will not rely on the stereotypical soap-opera tales of the original but will lie somewhere between prime time dramas Grey’s Anatomy and The Secret Life Of Us, which puts it in the same league as other prime-time dramas that aren’t strictly soap but most notably will lead to comparisons to Seven‘s long-running hospital drama All Saints which could be said has a very similar theme to what Nine is proposing now.

It will be interesting to see how this new series unfolds but in any case with this and other upcoming titles like Underbelly and Canal Road, it looks like Nine is hoping for a drama-led recovery in 2008 to regain the #1 ranking it has lost to Seven this year.


Permanent link to this article:

Ten’s not-so-Young Doctors

One of Australia’s first long-running soaps The Young Doctors, could be making a comeback twenty-five years after the last patient checked out of the mythical Alfred Memorial Hospital.

Network Ten is believed to be in negotiation with FremantleMedia, whose predecessor Reg Grundy Productions was responsible for the original The Young Doctors, about putting together a remake. If it goes ahead, the new series could go to air Monday to Friday nights at 6.00 – as lead-in to the recently revamped Neighbours – ending The Simpsons‘ long-running grip on the timeslot.

And one Network Ten identity is ready to queue up to be involved – Australian Idol judge Mark Holden.

Seventies pop star Holden (pictured, above) appeared in the original The Young Doctors as a 21-year-old, playing Dr Greg Mason, and is said to be keen to get back into character.

The Young Doctors originally launched in November 1976 on the Nine Network. The series was axed after only a few weeks on-air but outrage over the cancellation saw the show reinstated and became a long-running ratings success for Nine. However while the show had support of viewers both locally and overseas, it wasn’t known for its great production values, being produced on a shoestring budget (clearly not afforded the lavishness of the network’s other drama The Sullivans) and despite its long run it carries the dubious honour of failing to receive even a single award for either popularity or industry acclaim.

And in a far cry from current-day medical dramas such as All Saints, the medicos at Alfred Memorial seemed to spend very little time attending to patients but rather were more concerned about romancing co-workers and doing the hustle at Bunny’s disco.

But The Young Doctors did however create some soap icons – Gwen Plumb as gossiping kiosk operator Ada Simmons who survived the entire series, and Cornelia Frances who became famous as the nasty Sister Grace Scott and became a soapie stalwart with later long-running roles in Sons And Daughters and Home And Away – and more recently being the officious host of the Australian version of the game show The Weakest Link.

In June 1982, The Young Doctors became Australia’s longest running soap opera drama when it beat Number 96‘s previous record of 1218 episodes – though that record has now been dwarfed by current day soaps Neighbours and Home And Away.

The Young Doctors continued until March 1983, clocking up 1396 episodes. It was left to Ada Simmons to switch off the lights at the close of the final episode.


Permanent link to this article: