Saturday, 17 March 2007

Two more birthdays in regional NSW

Regional TV was growing at a great rate in NSW in 1962 - with two local commercial stations launching on 17 and 18 March respectively.

CBN8, based in Orange in the Central Tablelands region of NSW, was launched on 17 March 1962. CBN8 would later partner with CWN6 which began in 1965 in nearby Dubbo. Like many regional channels, CBN-CWN maintained a strong presence in their respective areas with local productions supplementing national or imported programs.

By the 1980s, CBN-CWN struck up a partnership with MTN9 in Griffith and the three station network was to be known as MidState Television 6-8-9 (later dropping the channel numbers from the logo). By the end of the decade, MTN9 had split from the partnership and CBN-CWN (now joined by RVN2 in Wagga Wagga) were about to enter the bold new world of aggregation as part of the newly formed Prime Television.

In March 1989, Prime expanded into the Canberra and Illawarra regions as the Seven Network affiliate. In 1990, the first year of surveys for the expanded Southern NSW market, Prime was dominant against its two new commercial rivals WIN and Capital.

Launching on 18 March 1962 was WIN4 Wollongong. WIN faced its own uphill battle in its early days, striking resistance from Sydney channels ATN7 and TCN9 when it became apparant that WIN4's signal would overlap theirs, and potentially take viewers from the Sydney channels. WIN was also faced with the dilemma of the VHF channel 4 frequency being assigned new broadcasting parameters, meaning that older TV sets had to be re-tuned to now pick up channel 4.
WIN however overcame these hurdles and maintained a strong local programming lineup and also managed to produce some off-peak programs to be syndicated to the capital city networks.


By the 1970s, Rupert Murdoch had taken control of WIN4 but sold his interests in the channel later in the decade to Bruce Gordon. Murdoch went on to gain a controlling interest in TEN10 Sydney and ATV0 Melbourne which he maintained until the late 1980s.

Under Gordon's control, WIN took on aggregation in Southern NSW expanding its signal as the Nine Network affiliate. WIN also took control of Queensland regional station RTQ7 Rockhampton, and in a deal which shook Queensland's regional TV in the lead up to aggregation, bought out RTQ7's sister station DDQ0 Toowoomba, snatched the Nine Network affiliation from Townsville-based QTV and re-badged the RTQ/DDQ network from Star Television to WIN.

The 1990s saw WIN's operations also expand to take over Nine's regional affiliates in Victoria and Tasmania as well as buying up regional stations MTN9 Griffith, SES8 Mt Gambier and RTS5A Riverland, and successfully bidding for the new second commercial licence in regional Western Australia.

From what began as a single TV station in 1962, the WIN network now covers most of regional Australia. Bruce Gordon maintains sole ownership of WIN as well as investments in other properties such as the Ten Network, Sunraysia Television, SelecTV and radio stations C91.3 in Campbelltown and I98 Wollongong.

TelevisionAU: Aggregation

External Links:
austvhistory: WIN
austvhistory: CBN
Australian TV Archive: MidState Television
Australian TV Archive: WIN4

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

"The night Australian TV lost its virginity.........."

It was thirty five years ago tonight, 13 March, that Australian TV 'lost its virginity' with the tell-all tales of life in a suburban block of flats in Sydney - Number 96.

The critics hated it, the censors constantly monitored it, and the viewers couldn't get enough of it - as Number 96 became compulsive viewing five nights a week. The novelty of Australia's first major prime-time soap, bundled with racy storylines, melodramatic cliff-hangers, comic relief, and generous amounts of flesh, helped the financially challenged 0-10 Network to its first ratings win.

The characters from Number 96 became cult heroes and also added quite a number of phrases into the language (most of which came from the prattling Dorrie Evans). Also, at a time when Australia was still in the grips of the White Australia policy, Number 96 embraced multiculturalism with various nationalities and cultures represented - perhaps not always in the most appropriate light - but was groundbreaking nevertheless.

The popularity of the series was reflected in the swag of awards it won during its five year run - including several TV Week Logie Awards for Best Drama, and also a Gold Logie for Pat McDonald in 1974 - and a movie spin-off that gave fans the chance to see their favourite apartment block in colour when TV was still in black and white.

Number 96 finally came to a halt in 1977, after a record breaking 1218 episodes but the series had proven that soap opera drama could be a viable prime time format. Though while it was a hit in Australia, America's NBC network was not so lucky when it adapted the series for US audiences in 1980, though it could be said that the Americans embraced the concept a generation later in the guise of Melrose Place.

TelevisionAU: Number 96

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Happy Birthday NBN3!

It was this day, 4 March, forty five years ago that New South Wales' first regional station NBN3 began transmission from studios in Mosbri Crescent, Newcastle, and transmitter located at Mt Sugarloaf, covering Newcastle and the Hunter Valley region.

NBN was unlike many regional stations in that it was one of the first to have to deal with competition. Most regional areas (up until aggregation) were served by only one commercial station and the non-commercial national broadcaster ABC, however it was quickly apparent that a large portion of NBN's coverage area also received fortuitous coverage of the Sydney television stations. However in 1979 it was reported that despite the competing signals from Sydney, NBN still managed a 60 per cent share of the local audience - attributed largely to NBN's emphasis on local production and supporting the local community through such ventures as their annual telethon.

In the early 1970s, NBN launched what may have been Australia's first one-hour evening news bulletin - combining local, national and international news stories - a format that continues to this day.

In 1991, the implementation of aggregation saw NBN expand its coverage area across Northern NSW and the Gold Coast - increasing its audience reach from 500,000 to over 1 million, in competition with other regional operators Prime and NRTV (now Southern Cross Ten), as well as ABC and SBS. NBN not only continues to dominate in the Newcastle/Hunter region but is also dominant across the Northern NSW market, maintaining market shares not seen in any other competitive market.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Whatever happened to .... ?

While watching the TV in the waiting room at the GP's today, i was confronted by what is known as Good Health Television.. basically a "channel" of segments discussing various health topics.

While this concept is nothing new, it has apparently been playing in doctors waiting rooms for 15 years, I was surprised to see a somewhat familiar face presenting some of the segments... former Network Ten newsreader of the 1980s, Jo Pearson.

Ms Pearson (and weatherman husband Rob Gell) made headlines when they packed up from ATV10 Melbourne to go to Nine with a rumoured $1m contract in 1987. Rob continued with Nine until only recently (and is now appearing on Seven News in Melbourne), but Jo had less success at Nine hosting ill-fated late-afternoon shows such as Live At Five and Body & Soul, before returning to ATV10 perhaps a bit wiser in 1991. After two years back at Eyewitness News, she vanished again and then re-surfaced on ABC's TVTV program.

(Picture: Nine Network, 1988 )