Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey
“Good Evening and Welcome to Television”
These were the first words spoken on Australian television on TCN9 in Sydney by Bruce Gyngell at 7 p.m. on Sunday, 16 September 1956. Viewers had earlier heard the voice of a studio announcer before handing over to Gyngell, Australia's first broadcast with him formally dressed in a dinner suit.
ATN7 commenced on Sunday, 2 December 1956, just after a massive thunderstorm swept through Sydney and brought power down across a number of suburbs — including Epping, where the new ATN studio was located. Performers and musicians doing their afternoon rehearsal had to do so in front of car headlights being beamed into the studio and with rain leaking through the roof. With the bulky cameras of the day needing around 45 minutes to warm up, the ATN executives must have been glad they scheduled a "test pattern" for 7 p.m. with the first televised program at 7.30 -
Radio station 3DB broadcaster Geoff Corke was the first person to be seen on Melbourne television in a test transmission by GTV9 on 27 September, followed by Melbourne's first "official" broadcast by HSV7 on 4 November, just 18 days before the Games opened. The A.B.C. commenced operations in Sydney the following day, its first broadcast "Beat The Clock", a quiz Show filmed at St. Peter's Hall by ABN2 with Bruce Webster, Bev Glenhill and Stuart Bennett.
Television : A Documentary
Experiments with television had begun in Australia the late 1930s but stalled with the outbreak of the Second World War. The issue was re-
Chifley lost power to the Liberal-
An Australian Broadcasting Act of 1942 passed during the first Ministry of Labor's John Curtin vested power in the Government to regulate both commercial broadcasting and to cover the national services delivered by the A.B.C. a legislative power previously invested in the Postmaster-
The phenomena building across the world could not be ignored, however, and in January, 1953, Menzies announced that existing legislating that banned the licensing of commercial television stations would be repealed and called a Royal Commission to investigate the best methods of the medium's introduction.
Commentators expected appointees with experience of the national system of the United Kingdom and the commercial broadcasting used in the U.S., but the structure of the eventual six-
The chairman appointed was Professor George (later Sir George) W. Paton, a vice-
The only representative with any contact with the emerging electronics industry was Robert G. Osborne, nominally chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but essentially a lawyer and academic -
After meandering along for fifteen months, the Commission's report was released early in May, 1954, its conclusion little more than a suggestion that television "could start in two years" and in time for the Olympics. One executive from an electronics company suggested he was planning to spend £1,000,000 developing a new factory in East Oakleigh, and that the first sets were likely to cost £150 for a basic television, or £350 for a combination of television-
Although the Commission had sat in Melbourne, the recommendation was that national television should commence in Sydney, then Melbourne and to other states "as soon as finance is available", (obviously referring to a national network); and that two commercial licences should be established in the two major cities.
In 1955, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board after a series of hearings issued the first four television licenses; to the disappointment of some concerned at the concentration of media power in existing radio and publishing companies, but perhaps predictably, were awarded to the major newspaper groups, Fairfax and Packer.
The Federal Government placed at the disposal of the Olympic Organising Committee (O.O.C.) the Australian National Overseas Information Service complete with its editorial, photographic, art, film, transport and world distribution services — in effect, a ready-
In the two years preceding the Games, the Service's film division made six films showing the progress of preparations for televising in Britain, Europe and the United States. Special versions were available for European television with international sound-
The Service also produced a Cinemascope film, "Melbourne—Olympic City", which was screened in more than 8,000 cinemas throughout the world, including 4,000 in the United States. This is believed the first film made in Australia using the technique used an anamorphic lens to create images with an aspect ratio almost twice as wide as the conventional movie and generally combined with a four-
Televising the Games
All three Melbourne stations – HSV7, ABV2 (which didn't broadcast in Melbourne until 19 November, four days before the Games Opening Ceremony), and GTV9 (which was not officially opened until 19 January, 1957) eventually covered the Olympics.
The Official Report on the Games suggests that only around 5,000 sets had been sold in Melbourne, but possibly 200,000 viewed the Opening Ceremony with friends or relatives, in hotels, at electronics stores, through shop-
As the first Games ever to be directly televised, the local Olympic Organising Committee (O.O.C.). faced some unique problems, basically in deciding what was “news”, rights to which attracted no fee, and what was “entertainment”, which did -
Another difficulty was that there was no way at the time to distribute images out of Melbourne other than as newsreels, copyright to which was lost as soon as it was shown, unless pre-
At a meeting in New York in July, 1956 between the I.O.C., mostly American newsreel interests and overseas representatives of the O.O.C., it was suggested that three minutes a day would be provided (as opposed to two in Helsinki), charges to be proportionate to the costs in erecting camera stands and pits, and shared between those institutions representing theatrical newsreels, television news, live television, a French feature-
(The latter presented another problem -
Melbourne's remoteness again came to the fore -
The O.O.C. realized that any departure from three minutes per day may set a precedent for any future Games and other sports -
The Melbourne O.O.C. some three months before the Games adopted a daring strategy -
At the time, there was virtually nothing of a film industry in Australia with the exception of two newsreel companies, their staff representing more than 50 percent of those locals involved in producing films of the Games.
The O.O.C. decided to restrict production to a 16 mm. colour plus black-
Although newsreel interests refused to reverse their stand-
The newsreels were ultimately screened in Australia in independent theatres, and after conversion to 35 mm. for theatrical and television release in Britain, Germany, Japan, America, some Latin American countries, Australia, Singapore and other European outlets.
"… an opportunity of a lifetime".
Cr. Maurice Nathan (Chairman of the Olympic Civic Committee and later Lord Mayor of Melbourne, 1961-
"We missed out badly on that ... we completely lost the opportunity to show the world what a wonderful country this is and to present to them the full magnificence of the Games ... We completely fouled up the whole TV question, we did not think big enough.
"All we thought about was pounds, shillings and pence, and not about our prestige. It was an opportunity we will never have again in our lifetime".
Local television :
If there had been a Gold Medal at the Games for the most indecipherable acronym in history, this group would have been an unbackable favourite!
"The Association for the Protection of Sporting Spectacles For Which No Protection is Already Afforded by Law" was formed in February, 1953 in the belief that unrestricted televising of sporting events in Australia would have a detrimental effect on sport.
No official statement was given after the meeting, but it later emerged that the APSSFWNPAAL (phew!) would ask the proposed Australian Broadcasting Control Board to include in any TV legislation protection for organisers of sporting meetings.
The Victoria Racing Club called the meeting; the other sporting bodies represented were the Australian National Football Council, Victorian Football League, Victorian Cricket Association, Trotting Control Board, Lawn Tennis Association, Victorian Amateur Swimming Association, Olympic Games Organising Committee, Stadiums Ltd., Victorian Rowing Association, Royal Agricultural Society, Melbourne Cricket Club, and the Phillip Island Auto Racing Co.
Rather than any of these august bodies, the issue of television rights first came to light in Australia in October, 1953 with a proposed world flyweight boxing match at the Sydney Sports Ground between the American “Pappy” Gualt and local world champion, Jimmy Carruthers. The U.S.-
By the time commercial telecasts commenced, the stations already had rights for four major British racecourses, boxing and several other sports
The Vancouver Experience
The 1954 Empire Games were held in Vancouver, and Games officials admitted they had made a serious mistake in selling Canada-
A senior official revealed that the Games Committee had sold the Canadian Broadcasting Corporatlon. a Government-
Seats for that event were sold out, but that the Games showed a loss of over $100,000 (about £44,600) as a result of the poor attendance.
The question of local broadcasts was revived just prior to opening day -
Ditto Olympic events at the Main Stadium and television companies were extended the rights to televise "at will". for all practical purposes placing the final television rights in the hands of the Melbourne stations. (Given the limited number of sets in use, this involved only a nominal payments by the local television companies to the O.O.C.).
It was to be some years before a coaxial cable allowed a somewhat blurry exchange of direct broadcasts between Melbourne and Sydney, and during the Games, coverage was provided to Sydney by a 16 mm film airlifted each night for broadcast during late-
Welcome to television" -
From the main camera position, overlooking the finishing straight, cameras record track events for documentary and television films. This and another in the scoreboard was permanently manned -
Press seats in the Main Stadium. Seats were reserved in the stand on the second floor level for 800 accredited journalists—511 of them with desks for telephones and typewriters and with ledges underneath.
Things we loved about early Oz television -
And an International Film Success???
O.K. It was never going to win an Academy Award or the like, but the Olympics also saw a movie of which large sections were shot in Melbourne.
Wee Geordie was a lightweight story of a Scottish gamekeeper to a local laird (Alistair Sim) who takes up hammer-
Initially reluctant to accept as he does not particularly care to compete against others, Geordie (Bill Travers) finally comes to Melbourne -
After several men working together are unable to lift the vehicle, Geordie steps in and manages to do it all by himself!
His feat is reported in local and international newspapers, and Georgie becomes famous, especially with Helga, a female Danish shot-
The head of the British team eventually relents, and Wee Geordie walks out last in the opening parade of British athletes in his kilt, but officialdom intervenes and instructions from home insist that he must not wear the uniform while competing.
Dispirited, Geordie fails with his first two throws, but inspired by memories of his true love Jean's support, he (of course) sets a new world record at his final attempt.
Jean hears on the radio how Helga rushes up, embraces and kisses Geordie in front of everyone in the stadium and is heartbroken.
On Geordie's return, only his mother meets him at the station, but they later meet the laird who suggests his actions have brought scandal to the glen. Surprise! Geordie then spots Jean fishing and after the almost mandatory scene where they fall in the stream and emerging soaking wet, they kiss and make up.
O.K. as we suggested, it was never going to win an Academy Award, but it certainly attracted audiences of Melburnians who were perhaps starting to realise that they (and perhaps the rest of Australia) were actually part of the sophisticated international scene.
It may. of course, helped that there was just an outside chance that their head may have popped up in a background shot somewhere in the scenes actually filmed in Melbourne!
|A City Within the Village|
|Hungary vs Russia|
|Ballarat : The Forgotten Village|
|The Official Programme of Events|
|The Games And The Players|
|The Fine Arts Festival|
|The Main Stadium Debate|
|The Playgrounds of Melbourne >>|
|And Those That Weren't >>|
|The Impossible Dream?|
|... Comes True|
|1954 : The Invitations|
|No Courses For Horses|
|Our First Equestrian Team|
|Blood In The Water|
|The Closing Ceremony|
|A Letter That Changed The Games|
|Heidelberg - The Village >>|
|... and Welcome to Television!|
|Day 1, Thursday, November 22|
|Day 2, Friday, November 23|
|Day 3, Saturday, November 24|
|Day 4, Monday, November 26|
|Day 5, Tuesday, November 27|
|Day 6, Wednesday, November 28|
|Day 7, Thursday, November 29|
|Day 8, Friday, November 30|
|Day 9, Saturday, December 1|
|Day 10, Monday, December 3|
|Day 11, Tuesday, December 4|
|Day 12, Wednesday, December 5|
|Day 13, Thursday, December 6|
|Day 14, Friday, December 7|
|Day 15, Saturday, December 8|
|The M.C.G. (Main Stadium)|
|The Olympic Park Complex|
|West Melbourne Stadium|
|The Exhibition Buildings|
|St. Kilda Town Hall|
|Port Phillip Bay|
|Oaklands Hunt Club|
|The Road Runners|
|Shooting in the West|
|The Beaurepaire Centre|
|Manningham Reserve, Parkville|
|And Others ...|
|A City Within the Village|
|Hungary vs Russia|
|Ballarat : The Forgotten Village|