Seven’s battle for high noon

In the 1980s one of the Nine Network‘s many strengths was its early afternoons. The Mike Walsh Show, which became Midday with Ray Martin, followed by US soaps Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless constantly beat anything thrown at them by rival commercial networks Seven and Ten.

When Christopher Skase took over the Seven Network in 1987, it was apparent he was prepared to spend up big to rebuild the struggling network, in particular at HSV7 in his former home town of Melbourne. HSV had essentially been gutted by the network’s previous management, with virtually all local production apart from news wiped out and having suffered the loss of the lucrative rights to football.

Revamping Seven was a battle Skase was prepared to take up on many fronts — news, sport, current affairs — but Seven also wanted to take on Nine’s afternoons with two productions to be made at Seven Melbourne.

The network had signed up TV veteran Bert Newton (pictured) to host a variety show to go up against Midday. It was to be Newton’s return to television after three years in the TV wilderness, and it was 30 years since he publicly resigned from Seven to go to Nine.

Supplementing the daily one-hour The Bert Newton Show would be a lavish new daytime soap, The Power, The Passion.  The series was to tap in to the general ’80s vibe of big business, big stories and big frocks to combat the glossy US soaps on Nine. Experienced producer Oscar Whitbread was on board and the series had been created by soap veteran Bevan Lee, whose earlier credits included Sons And Daughters and Home And Away.

The cast of The Power The Passion included the usual mix of older and younger faces. Familiar names like Kevin Miles (Dynasty, Carson’s Law), George Mallaby (Homicide, The Box, Cop Shop, Prisoner), Alan Cassell (Special Squad), Olivia Hamnett (Rush, Prisoner), Jill Forster (Motel, Number 96, The Box), Jane Clifton (Prisoner), Ian Rawlings (Sons And Daughters), Jacqui Gordon (Prisoner), Daniel Roberts (Sons And Daughters) and Lucinda Cowden (Neighbours) were being joined by newcomers including former model Julian McMahon making his acting debut.

YouTube: plainsvideo

The lead premise in the opening episode, aired Monday 20 March 1989, featured wealthy businessman Gordon Byrne (Miles) returning home after several years in the US, to be reunited with his daughters, Anna (Suzy Cato), Ellen (Hamnett) and Kathryn (Tracey Tainsh), his extended family, and to his long-time housekeeper Sarah (Forster).

The three daughters all despise their father, and it’s clear that housekeeper Sarah has a score to settle as well. What follows is the usual soapie fare of romance, corruption, betrayal, infidelity, greed, substance abuse and split personalities — all told with the long stares and the subtlety of ’80s high fashion, which alone was said to have been worth around $1.5 million over the course of a year.

YouTube: Oz TV VHS Nostalgia

Despite the big budgets and promotion, and Newton having a lighthearted chat with Nine rival Ray Martin during the TV Week Logie Awards the week before his debut, neither The Bert Newton Show nor The Power The Passion proved to be any match for Nine’s Midday. While Midday continued getting ratings at the mid-teens level, Seven’s new double was lucky to be rating twos or threes.

YouTube: oztvheritage

Seven tried to fix the poor ratings by extending The Bert Newton Show from 60 to 90 minutes, to match the length of Midday, but bumped The Power The Passion to late nights. The changes weren’t to revive either show’s fortunes and both barely saw out the end of the year.

Newton enjoyed better fortunes when he joined the Ten Network in 1992, staying there for 14 years as host of Good Morning Australia.

However, The Power The Passion proved the final nail in the coffin of Seven’s repeated attempts to get a home grown daytime soap off the ground. The Power The Passion came after earlier efforts Autumn Affair (1958-59), The Story Of Peter Grey (1961), Motel (1968) and Until Tomorrow (1975). But one of its new talents, Julian McMahon (pictured), clearly went on to much greater things.

Source: TV Week, 25 March 1989. Sunday Sun TV Extra, 19 March 1989. The Age, 20 March 1989. Aussie Soap Archive. Super Aussie Soaps.

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50th anniversary of Division 4

Division 4 was one of the trifecta of police dramas from Crawford Productions that came to define Australian television drama in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The series was born after Crawfords and the Nine Network were in a conundrum over what to do with its popular spy drama, Hunter. The show’s lead actor Tony Ward had resigned and producers were unclear whether to re-cast the title character or even promote Kragg (Gerard Kennedy), a former rival of Hunter, to the lead. Eventually they decided to let the show come to an end while Crawfords developed a new series for the network.

The new proposal was titled Saints And Sinners but eventually became Division 4 as a starring vehicle for Kennedy.  Division 4 centred around a police station in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Yarra Central. Kennedy led the cast as Senior Detective Frank Banner. The initial cast line-up also included Chuck Faulkner, a former policeman and a news presenter in the very early days of television, Frank Taylor, Terence Donovan, Ted Hamilton (a former TV variety star making his acting debut) and Adelaide actress Patricia Smith.

Unlike its Seven Network counterpart Homicide, Division 4 would take a broader look at crime in suburbia — including murders, assaults, prostitution, vandalism, theft, drugs, abortions, pornography and blackmail. But like Homicide, many of the stories depicted were inspired by real life cases, and Victoria Police were involved in a consultancy capacity.

Division 4 debuted on GTV9, Melbourne, on 11 March 1969, and on TCN9, Sydney, on 15 April 1969.

Reviews of early episodes were largely positive and, ironically, sometimes at the expense of the five-year-old Homicide. Paul Edwards for TV Week wrote: “Nine’s new morale-booster could very easily establish itself as the best series Australia has ever produced… much to the chagrin of the people at the rival Seven Network.”

“From the opening “teaser” — which immediately established characters and conflicts — the show never let up. We had swearing, drinking, extra-marital sex, crime, corruption, an assortment of sleazy molls and all sorts of goodies. If this standard can be continued, Division 4 looks set to move straight into division one.”

YouTube: CrawfordsAustralia

In contrast, Gordon Williams at TV Times was not so impressed after the first few episodes: “Division 4, which began effectively on GTV9, soon degenerated in too-broad scripting and a kind or amorality in a subsequent showing, a trend that, it is to be hoped, will not be followed by Homicide.”

Ratings were good, and eventually GTV9 increased the show’s output to two episodes a week. Gerard Kennedy, who won a TV Week Logie in 1969 for his role in Hunter, went on to win five Logies for his work in Division 4 — including the Gold Logie for most popular television personality for two years in a row. During much of Division 4‘s run, Kennedy was often on the cover of TV Week.

Patricia Smith won a Logie Award for Best Actress in 1972, and Division 4 won Logies for Best Drama Series in 1970 and 1972.

Despite its ongoing popularity — even after six years it was still in the top three rated programs — the Nine Network put the axe to Division 4 early in 1975. The network claimed that the series was squeezed out of the network’s $10 million production budget already taken up by new projects including The Unisexers, The Last Of The Australians, Luke’s Kingdom, Shannon’s Mob and the return of The Graham Kennedy Show.

Gerard Kennedy, who was already planning to leave the show, made his final appearance in episode 299, with John Stanton replacing him for the 300th and final episode. Stanton’s character, Detective Tom Morgan, was intended to be ongoing but the show’s axing brought that to an abrupt end.

The axing of Division 4 marked the start of an alarming trend. By the end of the year, Crawford Productions’ two other cop dramas, Homicide and Matlock Police, were also axed by their respective networks.

In 2016, Studio 10 reunited three of the show’s cast to talk about the long-running series:

YouTube: Studio 10











Source: TV Week, 29 March 1969, 12 July 1969, 24 October 1970, 14 August 1971, 26 February 1972, 4 August 1973, 25 January 1975.  TV Times, 9 April 1969, 8 February 1975. Classic Australian Television.

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Prisoner stars before Prisoner

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the debut of Prisoner.

Most of the actors from the series had come from established acting backgrounds, though for many it was Prisoner that made them household (and even international) names even though they were not necessarily strangers to television.

So what were some of the Prisoner cast doing before they became indelibly associated with Wentworth Detention Centre. Here’s just a few from the archives. Some you may be familiar with, others less so:

Elspeth Ballantyne (Meg Morris/Jackson) had a long running role in the serial Bellbird, but before then she had a guest role, playing the part of a showgirl, in a 1964 episode of Homicide (pictured with Frances McDonald)

Sheila Florance (Lizzie Birdsworth) played the part of a motel owner in Homicide in 1971, pictured with John Ewart and Noni Wood. In the same year she played the part of wealthy country town matriarch Grace Falconer in the drama series Matlock Police.

Betty Bobbitt (Judy Bryant) was an air hostess in the ABC play Flight Into Danger (pictured above with Ray Taylor) in September 1966.

Maggie Millar (Marie Winter) and Tommy Dysart (Jock Stewart) played husband and wife in an episode of Homicide. Millar, who was also known for an ongoing role in Bellbird as a doctor, won a TV Week Logie Award in 1976 for her performance in Homicide.

Patsy King (Erica Davidson) making a guest appearance in an early episode of Homicide. She played the wife of a convicted killer. Ironically, a number of her scenes feature her visiting her husband (played by Leonard Teale) in prison. The following year, King was appointed one of the presenters for the new ABC children’s show Play School.

Gerda Nicolson (Ann Reynolds) played Fiona Davies in Bellbird, pictured with her on-screen husband Dennis Miller, who at the time was married in real time to Elspeth Ballantyne. Before Prisoner, Nicolson had also played a police officer in the Seven Network series Bluey.

Colette Mann (Doreen Anderson Burns) played trainer and fiancée to John Jarratt in the ABC play The Champion.

Anne Phelan (Myra Desmond) and Ian Smith (Ted Douglas) played husband and wife Russell and Kate Ashwood in Bellbird.

Phelan also starred in the ABC’s musical production of The Sentimental Bloke in 1976 (pictured with Jon Finlayson and Laine Lamont)

Ernie Bourne (Mervin Pringle) about to clobber Maurie Fields (Len Murphy and others) in a 1975 episode of Homicide. Bourne was earlier a cast member in the children’s series Adventure Island, while showbiz veteran Fields also featured in variety shows like Sunnyside Up and had an ongoing role in Bellbird.

Joy Westmore (Joyce Barry) as Cleopatra in a comedy sketch with Ernie Sigley on The Ernie Sigley Show in 1974. Westmore was also a regular on shows like The Graham Kennedy Show and featured in The Sentimental Bloke.

Amongst some prior credits for other Prisoner stars: Peta (then Peita) Toppano (Karen Travers) had starred in Alvin Purple and The Young Doctors; Kerry Armstrong (Lynn Warner) had been a weather presenter (pictured) for GTV9 in Melbourne; Jackie Woodburne (Julie Egbert) had starred in Outbreak Of Love, Cop Shop and 1915; and Sigrid Thornton (Roslyn Coulson) had appeared in Homicide, Matlock Police, Bobby Dazzler and Father Dear Father In Australia.

Source: TV Times, 13 July 1966, 14 September 1966, 22 February 1975, 7 June 1975, 19 July 1975, 10 January 1976, 10 July 1976. TV Week, 13 April 1974. Listener In-TV, 20 February 1971

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Obituary: Mike Willesee

Veteran journalist and producer Mike Willesee has died at the age of 76.

He been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2016.

Perth-born Willesee was the son of politician Don Willesee. His TV career started as a reporter and presenter of Four Corners and This Day Tonight for the ABC back in the 1960s (pictured), and was the first host of the original A Current Affair when it debuted on Nine in November 1971. Although serious current affairs had been done on commercial TV before it was still largely seen as the domain of the ABC, though Willesee and A Current Affair in its original form did much to change that perception.

A Current Affair also made a star of Paul Hogan, then a rigger on the Sydney Harbour Bridge who offered humourous commentary on the news and went on to much greater things.

Willesee later left Nine after a disagreement with management and had a stint as news and current affairs director at the 0-10 Network, where he assembled a team for a new current affairs show, 24 Hours, and also presented a weekly interview program, The Willesee Show.

He joined the Seven Network in 1975 to host the first Australian series of This Is Your Life and then the long-running nightly current affairs program Willesee At Seven. The program claimed victory over A Current Affair in the 7.00pm current affairs battle when ACA was axed in 1978.

In 1980, Willesee partnered up with Graham Kennedy and John Laws to launch Sydney’s new commercial FM station, 2DAY FM.

Willesee At Seven was later to become Willesee ‘81 and Willesee ‘82, then he produced documentaries for the network. One of his star interviewees was Quentin Kenihan, the young boy with bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta and a cheeky wit that outsmarted Willesee. The pair reunited 30 years later in 2012:

YouTube: Alex Garipoli

Kenihan died in October 2018.

After Seven, Willesee returned to Nine in 1984 to revisit the nightly current affairs genre with Willesee as well as producing specials for the network, winning a TV Week Logie for Most Popular Documentary in 1986.

Willesee was the predecessor to the revival of the A Current Affair brand when Jana Wendt took over as host in 1988 – with Willesee later returning as a guest host on occasions before being appointed Wendt’s successor in 1993. His interview with then Liberal Party leader John Hewson is said to have lost the Liberal Party the upcoming federal election by highlighting the confusion over the party’s proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST).

He created public outrage when conducting a live phone interview on air in 1993 with two children who were being held hostage by their father.

He also created controversy while appearing to be intoxicated one night when hosting the show.

He has twice hosted the TV Week Logie Awards, first for the Ten Network in 1983  (pictured with Priscilla Presley) and then for Nine in 1986. In 2002 he was inducted into the TV Week Logie Awards’ Hall of Fame for his contribution to television news and current affairs.

He returned to the Seven Network, reporting for Sunday Night, in 2012. His first interview for the program was with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

In 2017 he was inducted into The Australian Media Hall of Fame and was the subject of a two-part episode of Australian Story.

YouTube: Melbourne Press Club

Source: The Age,

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Ita Buttrose appointed as ABC Chair

Media icon and former Australian Of The Year Ita Buttrose has been announced as the incoming Chair of ABC.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced earlier today that the Government will recommend Buttrose’s appointment to the Governor-General.

She is only the second woman in the history of ABC to be appointed Chair. The first was Dame Leonie Kramer in the early 1980s.

“The ABC is one of the most important cultural and information organisations in Australia and I am honoured to be given the opportunity to lead it,” Buttrose said today.

Acting ABC Managing Director David Anderson said, “I join with all ABC employees in welcoming Ita Buttrose to this important role. Ms Buttrose is an eminent Australian with vast experience as an editor and media executive. Her leadership of the ABC, a highly valued and trusted cultural institution, is welcomed.

“In an era of globalised commercial media, a strong independent ABC is vital. We remain committed to outstanding news and current affairs, hosting conversations that inform the public, and delivering compelling content that is distinctive, high-quality and Australian.

Dr Kirstin Ferguson, who had been Acting Chair while the selection process for Chair was taking place, will continue as Deputy Chair.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Kirstin Ferguson for her strong commitment to an independent ABC and the ongoing leadership and governance she has provided during her tenure as Acting Chair,” Anderson said.

Buttrose’s name first appeared in media speculation earlier this week despite her not being on the original short list of candidates.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison was said to have expressed disappointment that there were no female candidates short listed. “There’s been few people more than Ita that I think have lifted the standards of journalism in this country, and I think that says a lot about her character and her abilities,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed that it was further evidence of political interference at the broadcaster.

Buttrose’s media career began when she was a teenager, working as a copy girl at The Australian Women’s Weekly and then becoming a cadet reporter for The Daily Telegraph, writing her first piece in 1959.

She then worked overseas and later returned to Australia to become women’s editor at The Daily Telegraph. This then led to her creating women’s magazine Cleo with Kerry Packer in 1972 — the event depicted in the ABC mini-series Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo — before being appointed editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly in 1975.

She then became the first woman to edit a major Australian newspaper when she took over running The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers for Rupert Murdoch in the early 1980s.

Buttrose also became a television identity, appearing as a presenter on the Nine Network and then Network Ten. By the end of the decade she had set up her own publishing venture with a self-titled women’s magazine, Ita.

She continued to work across the media, including radio, while also the chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on AIDS (NACAIDS) in the 1980s.

She continued to appear on television, including the 1990s version of the panel show Beauty And The Beast, and in 2013 was appointed one of the founding panel members on the Network Ten morning show Studio 10, where she stayed until 2018.

She was named Australian Of The Year in 2013 and is currently an ambassador for Alzheimer’s Australia.

In taking over as Chair of ABC, 77-year-old Buttrose replaces Justin Milne, who stood down from the role last year after it was revealed he sought to have ABC journalists sacked in response to political pressure.

She will serve a five-year term as Chair of ABC.

Source: ABC, ABC

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Obituary: Billy J Smith

Billy J Smith, the sports commentator best known as co-host of It’s A Knockout in the 1980s, has died at the age of 73.

Smith suffered head injuries following a fall on Tuesday after being at lunch with friends but never regained consciousness. His family made the decision to turn off his life support on Wednesday.

Smith made his TV debut in the 1960s as a host of a local game show, The Numbers Game, but he became more famous as a rugby league commentator in the years to follow.

He worked at Brisbane radio stations including 4IP and 4BK during the 1970s, and on television as a rugby commentator and sports presenter at BTQ7 and TVQ0 (later Ten) in Brisbane.

He became a national celebrity as co-host of the game show It’s A Knockout (with Fiona MacDonald, pictured) in the mid-1980s and was a commentator on Ten’s Olympic Games coverage.

Later he hosted a local version of The Footy Show for QTQ9 and wrote a weekly column for the Queensland edition of TV Week.

He hosted Sports Today on Brisbane radio station 4BC and retired from broadcasting ten years ago but continued to work as a corporate host and guest speaker.

YouTube: Australian TV Fan

Source: 9 News, Brisbane Times. TV Guide, 5 January 1980. TV Star, 28 December 1984. 

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40 years of Prisoner

It is 40 years ago this week that Prisoner first graced our screens, and a thankful 0-10 Network was relieved to have a ratings hit. In an era where it was almost mandatory for a commercial network to have two hit soaps on the go, the struggling network had teen drama The Restless Years and not much else. Attempts at drama like Hotel Story and Chopper Squad did little to boost its fortunes. A proposed series set at a talkback radio station didn’t get past the development stage, neither did a planned drama called The Wool Kings, set in the late 19th century.

A production from the Reg Grundy Organisation, Prisoner had the original working title Women In Prison and was commissioned for 16 episodes in 1978. Production took place at what was then the studios of ATV0 (later Ten) in Melbourne.

When the network viewed the first completed episodes they instantly saw the potential and extended the commission to 42 episodes. The show’s title was changed to Prisoner and although the series’ debut is often documented as 27 February 1979 in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, it actually first appeared the day before in Sydney.

The original cast included Val Lehman (pictured) as ‘top dog’ inmate Bea Smith, Sheila Florance, Carol Burns, Colette Mann, Patsy King, Elspeth Ballantyne, Fiona Spence, Peta Toppano, Kerry Armstrong, Mary Ward, Margaret Laurence, Richard Moir, Barry Quin and Amanda Muggleton. Former Homicide cop Don Barker played a prison counsellor but the character was brutally stabbed to death in a prison riot by episode three.

After a generation of cop shows, Prisoner showed viewers what goes on once the offenders are locked behind bars at the fictional Wentworth Detention Centre, based on research at a number of real-life prisons.

The inmates and prisoner officers were depicted as a mix of heroes and villains. It showed that there could be as much drama, power struggles, isolation and complex human relationships among the prison staff as there is within the cell blocks.

The series was not the first to have a major focus on female characters (ABC‘s Certain Women pre-dated it by several years) or to have strong female roles but it did mark a significant shift in providing opportunities for female actors on prime time television. The series didn’t shy away from topics like domestic violence, corruption, homosexuality, sexual assault, drug abuse, rehabilitation and terrorism.

In true soap tradition there was also a fair share of cliffhangers, including a fire that tore through the prison and killed two characters at the end of the 1982 season, and more fanciful fare, such as the prison inmates performing a pantomime which was to serve as a decoy while a number of inmates attempted an escape.

Prisoner also achieved a rare feat by cracking the competitive US market, not as a local remake but by showing the Australian original episodes (re-titled Prisoner Cell Block H). The series developed a cult following when shown across various independent  stations. Its fame then extended to the United Kingdom, already accustomed to seeing Aussie soaps, and was also shown in various European countries and in other countries including Canada (where it became Caged Women)

Prisoner ended up going for 692 episodes over eight years, just shy of The Young Doctors‘ then record-breaking 698 hours (1396 half-hour episodes). The final episode provided the perfect dramatic climax as prison offer Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (Maggie Kirkpatrick) finally gets her comeuppance after four years of terrorising the inmates and ongoing hostility with fellow staff.

Over the course of its run, Prisoner employed over 6000 actors — with females making up most of that number — but the unsung star of the show was the studio premises of ATV10, with its exteriors decorated with fake signage, prison bars and windows to resemble the outside of the fictional prison.

More than thirty years after the show’s demise, Prisoner still commands a loyal fan base in Australia and the United Kingdom — where the series was even re-made as a stage musical. The series has also been released in its entirety on DVD — at the time the biggest DVD release ever undertaken in Australia and setting a precedent for selected other classic Australian dramas to follow.

An attempt by Grundy and the Ten Network in 1980 to make a male prison drama, titled Punishment, failed to gain traction. Likewise, a number of planned reinventions of Prisoner were talked about at Ten during the 1990s and even as recently as 2010, but it was Foxtel that was to run with a modern version of Prisoner, under the title Wentworth, from 2013. Wentworth has recently finished its sixth season.

As a gentle nod to Prisoner‘s 40th anniversary, some former cast members of the series are being reunited in guest roles on Neighbours — which is produced at the same studio , the same production company and same network as Prisoner was — to go to air on 27 February on 10 Peach. Jane Clifton, Betty Bobbitt, Jentah Sobott and Jenny Lovell will join former Prisoner stars and current Neighbours regulars Jackie Woodburne and Colette Mann as members of a neighbourhood book club — a setting that is somewhat more genteel than the harsh cells in Wentworth!

In recent years Neighbours has also featured a number of Prisoner alumni in guest roles including Val Lehman and Kerry Armstrong.

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Nationwide running towards the ’80s

The Nationwide team in 1979: Mark Colvin, Bill Nicol, Paul Griffiths, Clive Hale, Paul Murphy, Richard Carleton
(Picture: TV Times, 1979)

Nineteen Seventy-Nine marked something of a shift in current affairs on television. The Eighties was approaching and something different was going to be needed to help us keep up with the modern decade.

Both ABC and Nine had just axed their long-running nightly current affairs programs This Day Tonight and A Current Affair respectively.

The new year brought a shift with Nine launching its multi-million dollar investment 60 Minutes as its new flagship current affairs brand, and ABC replacing TDT with a new program, Nationwide.

Nationwide began around Australia on 19 February 1979. Unlike TDT which ran five nights a week, Nationwide initially ran as four nights a week, Monday to Thursday.

Nationwide also was given a later timeslot, 9.30pm compared to TDT‘s 7.30pm. The later timeslot would allow a more in depth analysis of the day’s news and events and a slightly longer running time of 40 minutes.

YouTube: kurvapicsa

The new show was also unique in that it comprised a national segment, hosted by Clive Hale in Sydney, with the second half of the show devoted to local coverage presented by hosts in each state. The format allowed enough flexibility so that if there was a big national story on the day that it could take precedence over the local segments if required.

Among Nationwide‘s reporting team were Paul Murphy, Mark Colvin, Paul Griffiths, Bill Nicol and Andrew Olle, with Richard Carleton returning from working at BBC to be Nationwide‘s political reporter in Canberra.

Some of the names to report or present for the show over the following years included Sonia Humphrey, Mary Delahunty, Geraldine Doogue, Richard Morecroft and Peter Couchman.

YouTube: ABC News (Australia)

Criticism that the 9.30pm timeslot was too late to be digesting the heavy news of the day led to ABC in 1981 shifting the show’s timeslot to around 8.30pm — although given the fluidity of ABC’s schedule, some nights it might appear as early as 8.10pm or other nights as late at 9pm, which probably did it very few favours.

With news audiences for ABC going into decline, an overall review of ABC’s news and current affairs output in mid-1984 ultimately put an end to the long-running Weekend Magazine, the locally-based 7.00pm ABC News, regional news bulletins across the country and Nationwide. Nationwide presented its final edition on 7 December 1984.

Replacing ABC News and Nationwide the following year was The National, a combined news and current affairs program that did little to arrest the decline in ABC’s news ratings.

Source: TV Times, 17 February 1979, 24 March 1979. TV Radio Guide, 17 February 1979. The Canberra Times, 7 December 1984. Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2nd Annual Report 1984-1985, ABC.

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TV Week sets June date for Logies

TV Week has announced that the 61st annual TV Week Logie Awards will take place on Sunday 30 June.

The awards will again be held at The Star Gold Coast and for the 24th consecutive year will be broadcast on the Nine Network.

TV Week has this year announced the return of two popular vote categories — Most Popular Panel Or Current Affairs Program and Most Outstanding Entertainment Program — and will introduce a new award, Most Outstanding Reality Program.

Earlier this year TV Week announced plans to also introduce a Most Popular Commercial category.

Public voting for this year’s Logies will be open from Monday 4 March to Sunday 31 March at the Logie Awards website:

Nominees will then be announced on 26 May.

This year the Logies will again have live voting open for the most popular category nominees from Monday 24 June through to the end of the TV Week  Logie Awards red-carpet telecast on 30 June. This includes Most Popular Actor, Most Popular Actress and the TV Week Gold Logie Award For Most Popular Personality On Australian TV.

Source: TV Week



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ABC documentary Birth

Last week the Seven Network presented Operation: Live, a televised account of a Cesarean section birth — claimed by host Melissa Doyle as a first for Australian television, although the “live” component was taking some artistic licence as the actual procedure took place well before airtime.

Seven’s claim of “first” is not strictly true as there was an ABC documentary made back in 1965 that documented the birth of the daughter of an ABC producer.

Jim White (pictured) had been working for ABC for 10 years, and six of those producing documentaries and outside broadcasts for television. He had already put together a program for ABC radio about the birth of his eldest daughter. It was his wife, Mahdi, that suggested recording the birth of their second child for television.

“I thought it was too much of an important subject to allow the documentary to only go halfway,” she told TV Week at the time. “I knew that my husband had full control over the editing and presentation of the film, so that the result would be in good taste and offend no one.”

In preparation, Jim White spent three weeks at a Melbourne hospital watching babies being born. His film crew of six had been shown medical films dealing with childbirth and were on standby 24 hours a day as Mahdi was approaching delivery.

The film covered the full process from when contractions started and followed Mrs White’s journey to the hospital as she was in the first stages of labour. The film crew then followed her as she was taken to the delivery room in a Melbourne hospital and the whole of the actual birth of Hilary White is filmed.

The film was made with the co-operation of the Department of Obstetrics at Monash University and the Australian Medical Association. The program included discussions by practising pediatricians from Sydney and Melbourne.

“Filming the birth of my daughter was a wonderful, moving experience,” Jim told TV Times after the event. “It can cause no embarrassment to anyone. The film crew knew exactly what I wanted, and camera angles were well planned before we started. Everything went so smoothly that I did not find it necessary to cut anything from the original film.” White also presented commentary on the film.

The 37-minute film, simply titled Birth, went to air on ABC in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT in June 1965. It was scheduled to air on a Wednesday night after 10.00pm, with ABC suggesting that “children under 12 or adolescents who have not had childbirth explained to them should not see the program”. The program was then planned for transmission in other states.

Before it had even gone to air, Birth had attracted interest by TV stations overseas and had received a special mention for story treatment at the 1965 Australian Film Industry Awards.

In 1966, Birth won a TV Week Logie Award for Best Documentary.

The below video is a brief excerpt from the program, featured in the 1996 special 40 Years In The Making: ABC TV Melbourne:

YouTube: TelevisionAU

Source: TV Week, 13 March 1965. TV Times, 26 May 1965. 40 Years In The Making: ABC TV Melbourne, ABV2, Melbourne, 19 November 1996.


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