The year 2012 marks an important milestone in Australian television’s short history – it is 50 years since people living in regional areas on the east coast of the country received television for the first time. Others had to wait a little longer; it would be another 15 years before the last of the regional stations, GTW 11 Geraldton, would open. The National Film and Sound Archive joins with the stations/regional television networks in celebrating the anniversary of what was a life-changing experience for many.
By exploring the national collection we are able to get an insight into regional television – the challenges, partnerships and stories behind bringing television to Australia’s country areas.
Keeping it local
The story begins in earnest on 30 April 1959 when Postmaster-General CW Davidson announced that the Government would be calling for applications for licences for Phase 3 of television development in the provincial areas of Canberra, Wollongong, Newcastle, Orange, Launceston, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Traralgon, Townsville, Toowoomba, Lismore and Rockhampton. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board then called for applications on 21 May 1959 and began hearing submissions from local business and community groups in the regions on 10 November 1959.
According to George Barlin, the first General Manager of CTC 7 in Canberra, in his book 25 Years of an Almost Impossible Dream (c 1987), ‘The Postmaster-General had advised that as far as practicable preference ‘would be given to applicants which are local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations’‘. The two Sydney metropolitan television stations, TCN 9 and ATN 7, presented a United States-based model.