Obituary: Basia Rendall (Bonkowski)

Basia Rendall (née Bonkowski), television producer and former presenter, had died following a battle with lymphoma.

Born in Adelaide, she first became ill with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 17. The diagnosis led to her re-evaluating her interests and changed her studies from law to studying English, Literature and Drama at Flinders University.

Christmas, 1983: Basia Bonkowski with SBS newsreader George Donikian

She became a drama teacher in Adelaide and featured in a short film, Letters From Poland, with Martin Vaughan.

YouTube: aussiebeachut0

By 1980 she made the move to Sydney and became one of the first presenters on the new multicultural Channel 0/28 (now SBS), and later became host of pop music shows Rock Around The World and Continental Drift.

She then moved to the Ten Network as a host of Music Video and showbiz reporter for Good Morning Australia. She later reported for the Seven Network‘s Eleven AM before returning to SBS to host The Big Byte.

YouTube: Shadow Archive

Over the last two decades, she has worked as a television writer and producer, with credits including the long-running factual series RBT.

She has also published two books: Jesse’s World, inspired by her experiences as an adoptive parent, and Shimmer, based on her mother’s life.

In 2019 she was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from Flinders University for her significant contribution to the creative arts as a television producer and presenter, author and movie reviewer.

The lymphona she suffered as a teenager returned last year. She passed away peacefully on the weekend, surrounded by family.

Basia Rendall is survived by her husband, director Kimble Rendall, and children William and Camille.

Source: 9HoneyAustralian Screen

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Classic TV Guides: The Timeless Land

Michael Craig, Nicola Pagett

The success of Australian-produced mini-series in the late 1970s saw the genre continue into the 1980s — with period dramas like The Last Outlaw, Outbreak Of Love, Water Under The Bridge, A Town Like Alice, 1915, Women Of The Sun and Sara Dane clocking up big budgets and, in many cases, overseas sales.

ABC‘s contribution to the genre in 1980 was the eight-part series The Timeless Land, based on the trilogy of novels by Eleanor Dark. The series promised “a realistic and earthy look at the early convict days of our country, when flogging, prostitution, starvation and murder were facts of life”, during the years 1788 to 1810.

Athol Compton, Chris Haywood

The Timeless Land, which debuted nationally on Thursday 4 September 1980, starred English actors Michael Craig (later to star in the long-running ABC series GP) and Nicola Pagett, with local actors including Angela Punch McGregor (pictured right), Patrick Dickson, Peter Cousens, Chris Haywood, Ray Barrett, Robin Stewart, Vince Gil and Peter Collingwood.

The Timeless Land is said to have cost ABC around $1.5 million — a substantial sum for a production in 1980 — but the cost was off-set by an international rights deal with Paramount Pictures worth $1 million.

The premiere of The Timeless Land is among the latest additions to Classic TV Guides:


Source: TV Week, 30 August 1980

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Obituary: Vince Gil

Vince Gil, Australian film and television actor and writer, has died at the age of 83.

Although he is most remembered for his roles in films Mad Max and Stone, he was also a prolific actor on television. His earliest TV appearances included the 1965 play The Swagman — where he played an Australian-born man of Italian parents — and series You Can’t See Round Corners, Riptide, The Rovers, The Long Arm, Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police.

He had a lead role in the Seven Network series The Battlers, playing the part of an Aboriginal boxer — the character loosely inspired by real-life boxing champion Lionel Rose.

Vince Gil, Mark McManus and Carmen Duncan in The Battlers.

In 1972, he played menacing bikie Cliff Stevens, a guest character in early episodes of Number 96.

Later TV credits included Rush, The Box, Bluey, Against The Wind, The Timeless Land, Cop Shop, Prisoner, A Country Practice, Carson’s Law, Secret Valley, The Henderson Kids, Heartbreak High, City Homicide, Conspiracy 365 and The Doctor Blake Mysteries.

He also wrote episodes of Cop Shop, Special Squad, Skirts, The Flying Doctors, Home And Away and Snowy.

Source:, IMDB, Number 96 Home Page. TV Times, 31 March 1965. TV Week, 27 July 1968.

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Obituary: Olivia Newton-John

Dame Olivia Newton-John has died from cancer at the age of 73.

Born in England in 1948, she came to Australia with her family at the age of six. While still a teenager she became a regular performer on Melbourne television, appearing on shows like The Happy Show, Time For Terry and Go!! and formed a double act with Pat Carroll. She also appeared in the film Funny Things Happen Down Under.

After winning a talent contest on Johnny O’Keefe‘s Sing Sing Sing, she used the prize money to go to the United Kingdom, to be joined later by Carroll. The pair performed together until Carroll’s return to Australia, with Newton-John staying in the UK to further her solo career. With popular hits and albums, she became a regular performer on British television and represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.

Her career then took her to the US, where she became a success in country music, and then scored the leading role of Sandy in the movie version of the musical Grease, which elevated her to superstar status. She continued her successful recording career and followed up Grease with lead roles in Xanadu and Two Of A Kind. She also established the Australian-themed retail store Koala Blue in Los Angeles with former singing partner Pat Farrer (née Carroll).

Although based in the US, she continued to make regular visits to Australia, making appearances on shows including Australian Music To The World, The Don Lane Show, TV Week Logie Awards, Australia Live, The Royal Australian Bicentennial Concert and filming an HBO special, Olivia Down Under.

In the 1990s, Newton-John made a cameo appearance in the series Paradise Beach, which starred her then husband Matt Lattanzi. A passionate advocate for the environment, she went on to present her own documentary series, Wildlife With Olivia Newton-John, that ran for two years on the Nine Network.

Later TV appearances in Australia included The Man From Snowy River, Good Morning Australia, Rove Live, Enough Rope With Andrew Denton, Australian Idol, The Project and Australia Unites: The Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

She was inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2002, appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2006 and named Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2019. She was awarded a British damehood in 2020.

Her last acting role was in the Australian film The Very Excellent Mr Dundee.

She was first diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and became an advocate for breast cancer research and later the use of alternative treatments such as medical cannabis. In 2012 she opened the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne. Her cancer returned in 2013 and then again in 2017.

She died peacefully at her ranch in southern California surrounded by family and friends.

Olivia Newton-John is survived by her husband John Easterling, daughter Chloe Lattanzi, sister Sarah Newton-John, brother Toby Newton-John and extended family.

Source: ABC, IMDB.

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Obituary: John Tingle

John Tingle, former journalist and politician, has died at the age of 90.

His daughter, ABC journalist Laura Tingle, paid tribute to her father on social media:

John Tingle was born in Sydney in 1931. His career in broadcasting began at Deniliquin radio station 2QN, before a 17-year stint at ABC.

His career was predominantly in radio but he worked in television, as a presenter on Probe, Police File and Wanted for the Nine Network, Tonight With John Tingle on WIN4, Wollongong, World News Report on SBS, as well as a period as ABC’s director of TV news in Sydney.

In the 1990s, he entered NSW state politics as the founder of the Shooters Party and served as a member of the NSW Legislative Council for 11 years.

John Tingle is survived by his sister Margaret, his three children, Peter, Sally and Laura, and his two grandchildren, Tosca and Kristia


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A post shared by Laura Tingle (@laura.tingle)

Source: ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, Parliament of NSW, The Australian Women’s Weekly

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A Tale of Two Magazines

In 2002 the biggest battle in the TV landscape wasn’t on screen but was based around duelling TV magazines.

For over 20 years, TV Week had a national monopoly on the market, published by Southdown Press (later Pacific Publications) on behalf of a joint venture between it and Australian Consolidated Press (ACP). This arrangement was the outcome the 1980 shake-up of the TV magazine market, where TV Week consumed the two major rival titles TV Times and TV Guide.

But by 2002, ACP felt that TV Week was “languishing” under Pacific’s control. Circulation of the title had peaked in the 800,000s in the mid-1980s but, with increasing competition from freebie TV magazines and inserts in newspapers, had fallen to below 300,000 by 2002. A spokesperson for ACP told The Australian at the time: “The frustration we’ve had is that we haven’t had operational control of the magazine. Which is why we moved to… determine its ownership. We believe we can do a much superior job.”

Pacific Publications’ team from What’s On Weekly: (clockwise from top left) Helen Boothby, Georgie Charlish, Jane Menton and editor Katie Ekberg

Pacific chief executive Ian Meikle said that Pacific was held back from taking risks with the magazine. “You’re somewhat restricted in what you can do because you are constrained always to providing them (ACP) with a dividend cheque, and there is an expectation of the size of that. So it wasn’t ours to take risks with. TV Week’s as much a victim of their (ACP) lack of interest in it as anything else.”

ACP’s concern towards TV Week was also exacerbated when Pacific was purchased by Kerry StokesSeven Network, while ACP had the Nine Network as one of its sister companies.

ACP then decided to exercise a long-standing contractual clause, known as a Savoy clause, which gave it the right to offer to sell its half share of TV Week to Pacific at any time. If its asking price was rejected by Pacific then it was obliged to acquire Pacific’s half share for the same amount. In this instance, ACP offered $60 million to Pacific, which was declined. ACP then had to pay $60 million to buy out Pacific’s half share and effectively take full control of TV Week. The transaction essentially included only the TV Week trademark. The magazine’s editorial staff and associated computer software and templates were kept at Pacific.

The final TV Week from Pacific Publications

Pacific, now down one weekly magazine but with $60 million added to the bank, decided to redeploy its TV Week workforce to form a new magazine — What’s On Weekly (WOW) — to take on TV Week, and it had to do so at barely three week’s notice to coincide with TV Week’s sale to ACP being completed.

ACP, with only the TV Week masthead purchased, also had the task of also essentially creating a new magazine and templates from scratch and having to ensure that TV Week did not have a break in publication. It conceded, however, that it would not be able to offer any significant changes to the familiar TV Week product for the first few months as it established itself.

There were also concerns that having the two magazine titles tied to each of the top-rating networks might slant coverage towards their respective networks. “Sure there will be Nine celebrities in TV Week, but it’s not going to be exclusively a Nine product,” a spokesperson for ACP told The Australian. Meanwhile, Pacific’s Meikle said: “There’s no future for (WOW’s) credibility in being solely a cipher for Seven. It will have a natural interest in, say, Seven’s dramas and their stars, but not at the exclusion of the other networks.”

The sole commercial network left out of the magazine equation, Ten, was also hopeful that its shows and personalities would still be granted coverage in both magazines. “I’d like to think that’s how they’d work,” Ten publicity manager Beverley May told The Australian.

The first TV Week from ACP

The battle began on 29 July 2002 when the debut edition of WOW and the first ACP-led TV Week hit the newsstands. ACP’s first TV Week cover featured Claudia Karvan and Samuel Johnson from Ten’s Secret Life Of Us. Meanwhile, WOW’s debut cover featured Georgie Parker from Seven’s All Saints.

There was not a lot to differentiate the two magazines in terms of content or layout, or anything to offer a genuine point of difference between them other than the price tag — TV Week’s $2.95 to WOW’s $2.75. Both had the usual spread of gossip pages and pictures, previews of the week’s TV shows and soapie storylines, horoscopes and puzzles, computers, music, new cinema and DVD releases and virtually identical TV listings. Although there was some variation in articles, both magazines featured prominent stories around former Blue Heelers star Lisa McCune’s return to TV in an upcoming new Seven series, Marshall Law.

The first What’s On Weekly

The new TV Week launched a competition for readers to win a home entertainment package of a 106cm plasma TV (valued at $13,189), a DVD player and 20 movies. Second prize was a 76cm Panasonic flat-screen TV valued at $3849.

WOW launched with a competition to win a Las Vegas experience, including a five-night stay at the MGM Grand, and $10,000 cash.

Both magazines also happened to run for 88 pages.

But as soon as the public battle started, it appeared that both publishers had overlooked nailing down TV Week’s pride and joy, the Logie Awards, with both ACP and Pacific claiming ownership. Pacific claimed that the sale of the TV Week trademark to ACP did not include the Logie Awards and that they would remain a product linked Pacific and to the WOW masthead. ACP, on the other hand, argued that the Logies were property intrinsincly linked to TV Week and should be included with the purchase of TV Week. It was a battle that headed to court which eventually judged in favour of ACP that the awards were vested to the TV Week brand. But by then it was a moot point, anyway, as WOW had already run its race. With circulation reported to only hit arund 60,000 — well short of the targetted 100,000 — WOW was quietly put to rest by the end of 2002.

TV Week, now part of Are Media — a successor to the former ACP Magazines, is now in its 65th year of publication.

A revamp to What’s On Weekly failed to boost its fortunes

Source: The Age

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Farewell to Neighbours

Tonight marks the end of an era — after 37 years and 8903 episodes, Neighbours comes to an end. The longest running Australian television drama series. It survived changes of broadcasters in both Australia and the United Kingdom, created international stars, provided a rite of passage for many in the industry, boosted tourism and migration to Australia and maintained a loyal community of fans, particularly in the UK.

As we farewell the show, here’s a quick look at some of the faces, events, celebrations, shocks and cliffhangers that have graced the covers of magazines over those years.

Neighbours: The Final Episodes. Tonight, 28 July, 7.30pm. Ten,10 Peach, 10 Play.

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Classic TV Guides: Nothing on TV!

Back in the day, electricity restrictions triggered by industrial action were an occasional feature of life in Victoria. Various measures were applied to domestic, business and industrial premises to stem the widespread use of electricity to ensure the demand did not exceed the instantly limited supply.

Among the measures applied to cut back household power usage was to force TV stations to limit their program hours and dictate that household televisions were only to be used in certain hours.

In July 1981, when power industry workers in the Latrobe Valley called a snap strike, Victoria’s television stations were restricted to a maximum two hours of programming between 6.00pm and 8.00pm. The strike happened to coincide with other industrial action affecting the state’s milk supplies and which also threatened to escalate to include petrol deliveries. Not a fun day for Victorians!

The day there really was nothing on TV is one of the latest additions to Classic TV Guides:



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The Late Show at 30

It is 30 years since ABC‘s The Late Show made late Saturday night TV worth watching with its mix of live and pre-recorded sketches as it mocked politics, TV, films, advertising, sport, pop culture and some of our social mores.

Debuting on 18 July 1992, The Late Show featured many cast members from the D-Generation‘s comedy series from ABC and specials on Seven and from Melbourne breakfast radio — including Tony Martin, Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Mick Molloy, Jane Kennedy and Jason Stephens. Comedian Judith Lucy was added to the line-up in the show’s second series in 1993.

In amongst the mix of on-location skits and live studio segments, the team comically re-voiced scenes from classic TV dramas Bluey and Rush and made them into Bargearse and The Olden Days — comedy classics in their own right. They created comedy gold with their musical mixups — where unlikely guest artists would perform songs made famous by others with similar names: such as actor Norman Yemm performing Losing My Religion by REM,  former Victorian premier Joan Kirner performing I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett, Pete Smith‘s Dude (Looks Like A Lady) from Aerosmith, Jimmy Hannan‘s Working Class Man (Jimmy Barnes) and Al Grassby, Lucky Grills, Christopher Truswell (“Nudge” from Hey Dad) and Gwen Plumb (pictured) performing Teach Your Children from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Pissweak World, a series of commercials sending up suburban fun parks and tourist traps, led to Charlie The Wonderdog — a series parodying animal-themed adventure dramas and featuring veteran actor Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell. Commercial Crimestoppers exposed some dodgy television advertising, and Countdown Classics took us back to the pop music icon of the ’70s and ’80s.

The regular Toilet Break segment featured dated performances from the archives of the 1970s variety show The Saturday Show and the 1987 talent quest Pot Luck — the latter including some of the scorching comments to the contestants from judge Bernard King.

YouTube: rrbroadway

Graham and the Colonel (pictured) gave us comical sports commentary and weary anecdotes, and Shirty The Slightly Aggressive Bear showed a dark side to the cute and cuddly characters of children’s television.

The show made a special episode from Sydney following the announcement of the city as host of the 2000 Olympic Games and featured cameos by Jeanne Little, Geoff Harvey, Les Murray, Ian Maurice, Paul Clitheroe, ABC general manager David Hill and Don Burke.

Although The Late Show only ran for 40 episodes over two years, its legacy to Australian television continues to this day. The team of Kennedy, Gleisner, Cilauro and Sitch went on to form Working Dog Productions, which produced the acclaimed current affairs satire Frontline and other television projects including Funky Squad, The Panel, All Aussie Adventures, A River Somewhere, Thank God You’re Here, The Hollowmen, Audrey’s Kitchen, Have You Been Paying Attention and The Cheap Seats.

Martin and Molloy went on to a popular syndicated radio show, Martin/Molloy, and produced films including Crackerjack, Bad Eggs and BoyTown. Stephens went on to a career in production, including dramas The King, Killing Time, Devil’s Dust, Better Man, Wake In Fright and The Secrets She Keeps. Lucy has continued a successful comedy career including her own series Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey and Judith Lucy Is All Woman and appearances in Kath And Kim, How To Stay Married, The Weekly With Charlie Pickering and Spicks And Specks.

YouTube: l00pes

The Late Show won two TV Week Logie Awards in 1994: Most Popular Comedy Program and Most Outstanding Achievement In Comedy.

The Late Show tribute website Champagne Comedy has an excellent account of The Late Show on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.

Images above sourced from the DVD The Best Bits Of The Late Show (2007).

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TV At 60: TV comes to regional Queensland

As Stage Three of the rollout of television in Australia continues in the early 1960s, Queensland’s Darling Downs region became the state’s first to get a local station.

DDQ10, operating from studios in Toowoomba and transmitting from Mount Mowbullan, made its debut on Friday 13 July 1962. Shareholders in the channel, owned by Darling Downs TV Ltd, included theatre operators Birch, Carroll and Coyle and Hoyts Theatres, Toowoomba Newspaper Co. and radio station 4GR.

The new channel debuted with a schedule of around 30 hours of programming a week, of which 30 per cent was of Australian origin.

Next station to launch was TNQ7, Townsville, on Thursday 1 November 1962. Telecasters North Queensland Limited, similar to DDQ, had shareholders with interests in newspapers, radio and theatre.

TNQ7’s studios and transmitter were initially based on Mount Stuart, on the outskirts of Townsville.

The last commercial station in Stage Three in Queensland was RTQ7, Rockhampton, which debuted on Saturday 7 September 1963. The station launched with a schedule of 31.5 hours of programming a week, with the schedule expanded to 35.5 hours by the end of the year.

The national broadcaster ABC also expanded to regional Queensland under Stage Three — with ABDQ3, Darling Downs, debuted on 16 December 1963; ABRQ3, Rockhampton, a few days later on 21 December 1963; and ABTQ3, Townsville, on 21 September 1964. ABC also built studio facilities at both Rockhampton and Townsville sites — the only regional ABC stations in Australia to have functioning studios and which originated their own programming. Other ABC regional stations had their programming sourced via a relay facility from their respective capital cities.

With regional ABC and commercial stations now in operation in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and in Canberra, the completion of Stage Three in Queensland marked the culmination of the national Stage Three rollout. Stage Four, commencing in mid-1964, would see a further round of ABC and commercial stations launched in smaller regional centres in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the first regional stations in South Australia and Western Australia.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Control Board Annual Reports, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65.

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