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Brian Treasure Tribute

Posted by ken On April - 7 - 2009

Brian Treasure died in 1992. The following obituary was published across the Community Newspapers. It was written by Darcy Farrell, who, at the time, was an editor with the Community group.

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Page 6 – News Chronicle August 26, 1992

When Brian Treasure was in hospital, his mind was as electric as ever. He was questioning things, the same as he did at the height of his powers in the 1960s and 1970s. “Can’t understand why that programme is on,” he growled as he flicked the remote control on his TV set. His body might have been wracked, but his mind was sparkling. He was quick, alert, observant, firing like the BT of old.

On Wednesday, Brian went home to Cottesloe, five months after becoming Perth’s first liver transplant patient. The operation was successful, but there were serious complications. He died with his family around him.

So ended the career of the most-talked-about personality Western Australian television has produced. BT was a big thinker… uncompromising, brilliant, difficult, dominating. He was a man of amazing contradictions. He could be as hard as nails yet as soft as a kitten. At his business peak, he could meet almost anyone head-on and crush them. Few could win the war of wills with this extraordinary man. BT was an awesome presence.

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In the helter-skelter of the early years of television, BT barked off orders like a machine-gun chattering on the battlefield. He was TVW’s man for all seasons. He was the general sales manager who was ultimately to become the joint managing director. He wasn’t a television producer, but he learnt enough about it to take charge of production. He had an uncanny ability, and a pragmatism, to take the right action at the right time. He was a trouble shooter.

Some 33 years prior, almost to the day, television came to W.A. Brian Treasure, then 30, was to become synonymous with the industry. Perth was like a big country town, but out north at Tuart Hill there was a hothouse of activity. TVW 7 was an incubator of imagination and frenetic action. This was the birthplace of West Australian television.

Brian Treasure was destined to combine with then general manager Jim Cruthers in a formidable team which was to influence television not just in Perth, but across Australia. As personalities they were opposites, almost poles apart. Together they set standards which have never been equalled in the WA electronic media.

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Sir James Cruthers
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Brian Treasure

Television brought a new excitement. People didn’t understand cathode ray tubes, but seeing was believing. They would clamour into the city to cluster around retailers’ shops just to see television. These were the days when stores owned by Bill Lucas, Bill Cobb and Rowley Goonan were stacked high with TV sets. Viewers could just about describe every frame of their favourite shows like Leave it o Beaver, the Mickey Mouse Club, Gunsmoke and Father Knows Best.

Treasure was the son of a Gallipoli veteran, a Bayswater boy who didn’t make it through high school. As a teenager towards the end of the war, he was in the navy. He excelled in badminton, squash, tennis and cricket.

Treasure made rapid progress at WA Newspapers, which he joined in 1949. He became assistant advertising manager of the Weekend Mail, where Cruthers was editor. Cruthers successfully led the application for Perth’s first television company and then, with a close-knit group, set about establishing TVW. Treasure was one of the first picked. From then on, he and Cruthers weaved their magic. They scoured the world for programmes, secured the services of Rolf Harris and scored many a coup.

Treasure was a brilliant negotiator and gained an industry-wide reputation for his ability to out-manouevre some of the best programme sellers in the world. This is where his indomitable, demanding and never-say-die attitude was at its best. When most programme managers were in awe in the presence of the Hollywood and New York “jungle fighters”, BT beat them in the war of attrition and cut them back to size. He was a clear-thinker who left no doubt as to where he stood. He coaxed the BBC into giving TVW rights for the FA Cup final, long before the ABC or other Australian commercial networks even sniffed at the idea. He got TVW into professional golf.

One year, BT sent TVW’s outside broadcast unit to Melbourne to cover the last Sheffield Shield match of the season. WA wasn’t playing, but our shield chances hinged on the result. Our viewers watched an exclusive coverage as a tense struggle developed between Victoria and South Australia. Treasure’s love of cricket also gave him a significant role in the plans to get Perth’s first test match. To his office came many celebrities, ranging from Australian captain Richie Benaud to David Frost, Graham Kennedy to Eartha Kitt.

TVW had a huge following and led the ratings for 16 years before Channel 9 got within striking distance. In a bid to break the stranglehold, Nine went for a new image. It called itself Big Chief Channel 9. Treasure blew this concept out of the water. He had WA’s finest cartoonist Paul Rigby draw a cartoon depicting lots of red indians being routed by Channel 7 troopers. Even the people at Nine had a laugh. The caption read: “How the West was won”.

Cruthers and Treasure were both family men and family entertainment was the yardstick by which the station could be judged. Although everything being beamed out on the airwaves was precision plus, inside the executive suite not all was well. There was growing disenchantment between the leaders.

When Treasure went to the Channel 7-Edgley Entertainment Centre, another brilliant initiative, the gulf between he and Jim Cruthers widened. BT was now the entrepreneur. He convinced the Walt Disney organisation to bring Disney on Parade to Perth. It was the first of many great arena shows Treasure obtained for Perth. But the job was taking its toll. He produced a show based on the American follies. It did all right but not enough.

Eventually, TV’s durable and dynamic partnership came to an end. Cruthers, already chairman, saw TVW Enterprises to many more major successes. He was knighted for his services to television and became Rupert Murdoch’s right-hand man in New York. Treasure went back to his home in Tuart Hill to contemplate his future. Like many outstanding man before him, he was to go through a bleak streak. BT still had the skills, but he couldn’t get the runs on the board.

He marked time with a toy shop opposite the Entertainment Centre at which he had done so much. His move into World Series Cricket foundered, But his indestructible spirit couldn’t be kept down. His big comeback was his application for FM radio in this state. With the financial help of Kerry Stokes, Jack Bendat and his old friend Michael Edgley he set up 96FM. “All I now know I owe to Brian,” Jack Bendat said recently. With Kerry Stokes, BT went on to head up the successful application for Channel 10.

To capture what Brian Treasure has done is almost too hard. It is suffice to say that all who worked with him will never forget him. To witness a verbal clash between the oft-volatile, but affable, matinee idol Lloyd Lawson and BT, nostrils steaming, ready for the fight, was like watching the Thriller in Manila (to coin a line from Muhammad Ali). To witness the uncomplicated BT trying to cope with the irascible TV presenter Garry Meadows, who had failed to show up for the News, also was memorable. To see him make the American programme men squirm (including a Rhodes Scholar who became president of Disney) was awesome.

Brian Treasure did it his way. He strode the media stage with overpowering influence. He was objectionable and loving, strong and kind. We agreed and disagreed, argued and laughed and disagreed some more. Brian Treasure added spice to all our lives. In the end, there is a great loss to those who knew Brian Sydney (Harbour Bridge) Treasure.

2 Responses to “Brian Treasure Tribute”

  1. Dear Darcy and Ken,
    that was such a nice piece to read, thankyou so much,
    Dad wasn’t the type that yearned acknowledgement, but everyone who was there knew who the real champion in Perth entertainment was,
    its so sad that nothing now is created in WA
    I miss Dad so much, all his projects were spectacular, he gave spark to life and made things electric
    Im grateful to your appreciation of him.
    Again I learnt a little bit more about his achievements.
    Today is his death anniversary, so I will drink a beer for him

    all the best to you

  2. Brian Treasure says:

    Wow. What an incredible article about an incredible man. I hope that I can leave even a fraction of such an outstanding mark on society and history.

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