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TV Guide Australia

Television in Australia began experimentally as early as 1929 in Melbourne with radio stations 3DB and 3UZ, and 2UE in Sydney, using the Radiovision system by Gilbert Miles and Donald McDonald,[1][2][3] and later from other locations, such as Brisbane in 1934.

Mainstream television was launched on 16 September 1956 in Willoughby, New South Wales with Nine Network station TCN-9-Sydney. The new medium was introduced by advertising executive Bruce Gyngell with the words "Good evening, and welcome to television",[6] and has since seen the transition to colour and digital television.[7]

Local programs, over the years, have included a broad range of comedy, sport, and in particular drama series, in addition to news and current affairs. The industry is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, through various legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice, which also regulates radio and in recent years has attempted to regulate the Internet.

Historia

Origins: Early transmission trials

In 1885, Henry Sutton developed a Telephane for closed circuit transmission of pictures via telegraph wires, based on the Nipkow spinning disk system, so that the Melbourne Cup could be seen in Ballarat. Reports differ on whether the Telephane was successfully implemented.[8][9][10][11]

The first television broadcast in Australia took place on 30 September 1929 at the Menzies Hotel in Melbourne, using the electro-mechanical Radiovision system.[12] Other transmissions took place in the city over the next few weeks. Also in 1929, the Baird system was used on 3DB, 3UZ and 2UE.[5][13]

After 18 months of test transmissions, regular broadcasts began in Brisbane on 6 May 1934 using a 30-line system, to an estimated 18 receivers around Brisbane. The test transmissions, which were of 1 hour duration each day, were made by Thomas M. B. Elliott and Dr Val McDowall from the Wickham Terrace Observatory Tower.[14][15][16] The programs included news headlines, still pictures and silent movies such as the temperance film Horrors of Drink. The Commonwealth Government granted a special licence and permission to conduct experimental television by VK4CM, in July 1934. By 1935, it expanded to 180 lines.[14][17][18][19][20][21] Other experimental transmissions followed in other cities.

Early demonstrations

El marco jurídico en aquellos primeros años atribuía la gestión del ente a la Dirección General de Radiodifusión y Televisión, dentro del mencionado Ministerio de Información y Turismo. El Decreto 2460/1960, de 29 de diciembre, es la primera norma que contempla específicamente el nuevo medio. Concretamente, se indicaba en su artículo 1 que «corresponde a la Dirección General de Radiodifusión y Televisión la misión de estructurar, organizar y cuidar el funcionamiento del servicio público de radiodifusión de sonidos e imágenes, en todos sus aspectos por medio de la dirección y gestión de instalaciones propias y de la regulación, fomento y fiscalización de las actividades de las restantes, así como de los medios técnicos transmisores y receptores, y ejecutar las Órdenes que el Ministerio dicte en materia de radiodifusión para el mejor desarrollo y perfeccionamiento de los servicios existentes o de cualquiera otros que los progresos económicos permitan».15​

In June 1948, the Australian Labor Government under Ben Chifley, opted to follow the British model, on the advice from the Postmaster-General's Department. It decided to establish a government-controlled TV station in each capital city and called for tenders for the building of the six TV transmitters.

The Broadcasting Act 1948 specifically prohibited the granting of commercial TV licences, a decision that the Liberal-Country Party opposition criticised as "authoritarian and socialistic".

his policy was never put into practice, however, because the Labor government did not have the opportunity to establish the TV network before it was defeated in December 1949.

The incoming Robert Menzies-led Liberal-Country Party coalition, which was to hold power for the next 23 years, changed the industry structure by also permitting the establishment of American-style commercial stations.

The economic situation at the time that TV was established in Australia exerted a pivotal influence on the foundation and subsequent history of the industry. When the decision was made to go ahead with granting the first licences for broadcast TV in the early 1950s, Australia was in a recession,[23] with severe shortages of labour and materials and an underdeveloped heavy industrial base, and in this context TV was seen as a drain away from more fundamental projects.[

The Menzies government was concerned about the long-term viability of the new industry and worried that it might be called on to bail out struggling stations and networks if the economy deteriorated.

Consequently, it decided to grant the initial commercial TV licences to established print media proprietors, with the expectation that these companies would, if necessary, be able to subsidize the new TV stations from their existing (and highly profitable) press operations.

Meanwhile, in 1949, the first large-scale public demonstrations of the medium took place when the Shell company sponsored a series of closed-circuit broadcasts in capital cities produced by Frank Cave.

These broadcasts were elaborate, usually opened by a local politician, and featured many people appearing on camera – singing, playing instruments, and giving demonstrations of cooking, sport, and magic tricks.

Buoyed by the success of these tests, in March 1950, the Astor Radio Corporation embarked upon a tour of 200 regional towns with a mobile broadcast unit, giving a series of 45 minute demonstration programs, allowing local performers and members of the public to appear on camera.

In January 1953, in response to increasing pressure from the commercial lobby, the Menzies government amended the Broadcasting Act 1948 to allow for the granting of commercial licences, thus providing the legislative framework for a dual system of TV ownership.

This structure was directly modeled on the long-established two-tiered structure of Australian broadcast radio—one tier being the stations in a new national, government-funded TV network run by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), and the other tier being privately owned commercial stations that drew their income from advertising revenue.

Commercial TV licences were nominally overseen by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB), a government agency responsible for the regulation of broadcasting standards and practices, while technical standards (such as broadcast frequencies) were administered by the Postmaster-General's Department.

The ABC, as an independent government authority, was not subject to the regulation of the ABCB and instead answered directly to the Postmaster-General and ultimately to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (a situation that provoked bitter complaints from commercial radio in the mid-1970s when the ABC established its controversial youth station Double Jay).

In 1954, the Menzies Government formally announced the introduction of the new two-tiered TV system—a government-funded service run by the ABC, and two commercial services in Sydney and Melbourne, with the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne being a major driving force behind the introduction of television to Australia.

TCN-9 Sydney began test transmissions on 16 September 1956, and officially commenced broadcasting on 27 October.[28] HSV7 Melbourne became the first television station to broadcast to viewers in Melbourne on 4 November, soon followed by ABV-2 then GTV9 on 19 January 1957. Sydney station ABN-2 also started broadcasting in November.

All of these stations were operational in time for the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics opening ceremony, on 22 November 1956.

An interview with Mrs Edna Everage (a comic creation of performing artist Barry Humphries) was one of the programmes screened on HSV-7's first day of programming in 1956. The character went on to great success in the United Kingdom and later, the United States.

Videotape technology was still in its infancy when Australian television was launched in 1956 and video recorders did not become widely available to Australian TV stations until the 1960s.

For the first few years, the only available method for capturing TV programs was the kinescope process, in which a fixed movie camera filmed broadcasts screened on a specially adjusted TV monitor.

Similarly, the playback of pre-recorded programs to air was only possible at this stage through the telecine process, in which films or kinescoped TV recordings were played back on a movie screen which was monitored by a TV camera.

Because of these limitations, it was relatively difficult and expensive to record and distribute local programming, so the majority of locally produced content was broadcast live-to-air.

Very little local programming from these first few years of Australian TV broadcasting was recorded and in the intervening years the majority of that material has since been lost or destroyed.

Even the footage of the 'first' Australian TV broadcast with Bruce Gyngell on Channel 9, Sydney (see image above) is a fabrication—according to Gerald Stone the kinescope film of the actual Sep.

1956 broadcast was lost and the footage that exists today is a considerably more polished re-enactment, made a year later.

Most programs in this early period were based on popular radio formats—musical variety and quiz formats were the most popular.

In the first decade after the first TV licences were granted, the federal government and the ABCB did not act to enforce local content quotas, and such measures were resisted by the commercial sector.

As a result, Australian TV was soon dominated by material imported from the United States and (to a far smaller extent) Great Britain.

In this period nearly every TV drama screened in Australia came from the US and the few programs that were made locally were almost all produced by the ABC.

In other formats, the few locally produced programs made by or for commercial stations were typically low-cost copies of proven American talk/variety or quiz show formats.

By the early 1960s at least 80% of all Australian TV content was sourced from the US and not surprisingly American programs consistently topped the ratings.

These changes led to a significant concentration of cross-media ownership.

By 1960, the Packer family's Consolidated Press group controlled Channels 9 in Melbourne and Sydney (the flagship stations that formed the basis of the Nine Network), Melbourne's Herald and Weekly Times group owned HSV-7, and the Fairfax newspaper group controlled ATN-7 in Sydney.

In the view of some media historians, these arrangements established a pattern of "high-level political allegiances between commercial broadcasters and Liberal-National Party governments" and that, as a result, the ABCB "was left very weak and uncertain in its capacity to control broadcaster conduct and exhibited strong symptoms of regulatory capture, or over-identification with the industry it regulated"

In 1963 the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, chaired by Senator Victor Vincent (known as the Vincent Committee) presented its report to federal parliament and its findings painted a bleak picture for local producers—the Committee found that 97% per cent of all television drama shown on Australian TV between 1956 and 1963 was imported from the United States, and it criticised the ABCB for failing to use its powers to enforce local content standards on television broadcasters, particularly the commercial stations.

The Vincent Report recommended a sweeping program of reforms but none were implemented by the Menzies Government at that time.

The advent of TV effectively destroyed Australia's once thriving radio production industry within a few years, and the absence of local production quotas for TV in this formative period compounded the problem.

Faced with almost unbeatable competition from American-made programming, local technical and creative professionals in radio were unable to make the transition to the new medium, as many of their American and British counterparts had done when TV was introduced there.

Those Australian producers who did try to break into TV faced almost insurmountable challenges.

Imported American and British programs benefited from high budgets, an international talent pool and huge economies of scale, thanks to their very large domestic markets (relative to Australia), established worldwide distribution networks; additionally, since most American production houses and networks were based in Los Angeles, they had access to resources and expertise built up over decades by the Hollywood movie studios.

These disadvantages were further exacerbated by the fact that American producers and networks offered Australian channels significant discount rates on bundled programming.

Taken as a whole, these factors meant that local producers were faced with a relative production-cost ratio on the order of 10:1 or more in favour of the imported product.

Some sense of the scale of this "resource gap" can be gained by comparing the budgets of contemporary American and Australian TV programs.

The pilot of the 1967 satirical sketch comedy series Laugh-In reportedly cost about US$200,000.

At the top end of the scale, in 1966 Desilu Studios spent almost US$1 million on the two pilot episodes for the renowned science fiction series Star Trek – the first pilot "The Cage" (which was rejected by NBC) cost more than US$600,000 and the set for the bridge of the Enterprise alone reportedly cost US$60,000; the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" cost around US$300,000.

By comparison, the budget for the pilot episode of the 1964 Australian topical revue series The Mavis Bramston Show was just AU£1500.

Adjusted for inflation, this was around A$3500 in 1967 figures; given that US-Australian dollar exchange rate in 1967 was A$1.00 = US$1.12, this still would have only equated to around US$4000–50 times less than Laugh-In.

Although by the end of the 1950s television had expanded to also include Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, it was estimated that less than 5% of the residents in Melbourne, and fewer than 1% in Sydney owned a television set, which at the time cost, on average, six to ten weeks' wages.

During these early years broadcast days were very short—all stations including the ABC only broadcast programs for a few hours each day and broadcast the test pattern for the rest of the time they were on air.

Broadcast times were gradually increased over succeeding decades, although the ABC did not commence 24-hour broadcasting until 1993.

By the early 1960s at least 80% of all Australian TV content was sourced from the US and not surprisingly American programs consistently topped the ratings.

These changes led to a significant concentration of cross-media ownership.

By 1960, the Packer family's Consolidated Press group controlled Channels 9 in Melbourne and Sydney (the flagship stations that formed the basis of the Nine Network), Melbourne's Herald and Weekly Times group owned HSV-7, and the Fairfax newspaper group controlled ATN-7 in Sydney.

In the view of some media historians, these arrangements established a pattern of "high-level political allegiances between commercial broadcasters and Liberal-National Party governments" and that, as a result, the ABCB "was left very weak and uncertain in its capacity to control broadcaster conduct and exhibited strong symptoms of regulatory capture, or over-identification with the industry it regulated"

In 1963 the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, chaired by Senator Victor Vincent (known as the Vincent Committee) presented its report to federal parliament and its findings painted a bleak picture for local producers—the Committee found that 97% per cent of all television drama shown on Australian TV between 1956 and 1963 was imported from the United States, and it criticised the ABCB for failing to use its powers to enforce local content standards on television broadcasters, particularly the commercial stations.

The Vincent Report recommended a sweeping program of reforms but none were implemented by the Menzies Government at that time.

The advent of TV effectively destroyed Australia's once thriving radio production industry within a few years, and the absence of local production quotas for TV in this formative period compounded the problem.

Faced with almost unbeatable competition from American-made programming, local technical and creative professionals in radio were unable to make the transition to the new medium, as many of their American and British counterparts had done when TV was introduced there.

Those Australian producers who did try to break into TV faced almost insurmountable challenges.

Imported American and British programs benefited from high budgets, an international talent pool and huge economies of scale, thanks to their very large domestic markets (relative to Australia), established worldwide distribution networks; additionally, since most American production houses and networks were based in Los Angeles, they had access to resources and expertise built up over decades by the Hollywood movie studios.

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