This page forms part of Dr Peter Harries’ first PhD thesis submission entitled: “From Local ‘Live’ Production Houses to Relay Stations: A History of Commercial Television in Perth, Western Australia 1958-1990″. This contained much additional material.
The Main Event – Round One – 1958-1970
The Contest for Supremacy in Western Australian Commercial Television TVW7 versus STW9.
The actual correlation of Local (Live) Production, Financial Returns and Survey Ratings.
Examination of the relationship between local (live) production, financial returns and audience survey ratings presented two possible main methods. These were ‘thematic’ or ‘chronologic’. I decided to use the latter method, as it made for easier comparison of the three elements, as they influenced each other during specific periods. The comprehensive record of audience survey ratings may prove valuable to future scholars, wanting to pursue other avenues in regard to the various imported (mainly American) fare which found favour with the viewers. Possibly the only complete set of Western Australian ratings survey books to survive intact were lodged with Government Archives in Sydney by the A.C. Nielsen company. The company retrieved them for my examination in September 2000.
During the five years of research for this thesis, no evidence has been uncovered that a similar investigation has taken place. The research commenced from a different starting point, adopting a new slant, in that this work is believed to be the first systematic analysis of three main factors which occurred in Western Australian commercial television, each having a deep relationship to the other. These were the actual programs, both local ‘live’ and outsourced, financial returns as shown in the Annual Reports of the Companies concerned and the regular Television Audience Ratings Surveys. Through their correlation it has been possible to trace the evolution of local ‘live’ production in Perth. This is most probably the first time that an analysis of television has moved from programming and audience to an examination of its structure as an industry. In Australia, prior published work appears in the main to have concentrated on various aspects of actual historical occurrence and theoretical sociological circumstance and in that, almost entirely to the exclusion of Western Australia.
In the first five to six years of commercial television competition in Western Australia TVW7 maintained audience domination over STW9. There was one factor that had to be overcome before competition on an equal footing could be a reality. TVW7 had secured a special place in the lives of the viewing audience. Viewers had adopted a position of local loyalty and regarded TVW7 as ‘their’ local station and they had assumed a sense of imaginative ownership. As can be seen in the first Audience Ratings Survey of 1960 the viewing community had virtually almost immediately adopted TVW7 as their property. This was a natural flow-on effect from the fact that the Station had as its main shareholder, the more than one-hundred-year-old press bastion, whose claim to localism was embodied in its main product banner The West Australian. Since its inception TVW7 have always promoted this idea of themselves, which has led to Western Australia’s Channel 7 being the only one of the entire Australian SEVEN Network stations that regularly wins in the News ratings. In other States the winner of news ratings is predominantly the Nine Network. Still trying to counter this concept, in January 2003 STW9 adopted a station promotion exercise, in which they actually call themselves ‘Your Local Station’. This was a belated attempt to attack the alternative institutionalized concept.
Initially, local ‘live’ production was regarded by management as not only being necessary for daily program content, but as integral to the obligations of holding a commercial television licence. Local production both video-taped, filmed or ‘live’ to air was considered as part of what can be termed ‘community responsibility’ and was an accepted expense, without having to show obvious monetary returns. However, as times changed, local ‘live’ production ( and its opponent in the form of imported programs) became subject to this theorem.
The substance of this and the following two chapters is a detailed comparison of the ensuing 23 year contest for superiority between the two commercial stations, as revealed by analysis of their programs (both local and imported film or video-tape), their annual reports (including financial statements) and television audience survey ratings. This shows how the fortunes of each affected the amount of money available for local production and imported programs. It also shows the financial returns to shareholders and the way in which Swan Television Limited [the rival Channel 9] eventually became a viable Western Australian operation. It reveals the general philosophy of management and how this was conveyed to shareholders and staff. It describes how TVW Limited maintained an attitude in regard to local production (which it was able to do because of financial superiority) as opposed to Swan Television Limited who, because they didn’t have the money to spend, in the early years were forced to constantly change policy on local programming It explains how the new-comer had great expectations of early equality but underestimated the powerful way in which the viewing community had assumed imaginative ownership of the station and its programming. The facts were that TVW7 had been established for almost seven years and the Western Australian viewing audience looked on them as being ‘their’ station, while STW9 could be readily characterised as an interloper. It will be shown how local production on TVW7 was, during those early years, always better received by the viewing audience than the efforts on STW9. There is suggestion that better production people were the reason, but this is a simplification In reality, many of the staff for STW9 were ‘head-hunted’ from TVW7 and were totally familiar with their method of operation in all areas. Most of STW9 local productions mirrored those at TVW7 but initially suffered from shortage of financial input.
These chapters describe how in the 1960s and 1970s, STW9 gradually caught up with its opponent and finally surpassed TVW7 at certain times in the television survey ratings, even in the sought after area of News domination. Eventually there was an observable sustained levelling between the two commercial telecasters in the ratings. It explains how some respondents thought this to be due to in-house methods of self-promotion by using saturation messages in a high-rating telecast to ‘sell’ another specific program. Others viewed the passage of time as the leveller. In the end it was very likely a combination of both. Another important consideration is that of the evolving youth audience. The ten year-old of 1965 doing what he was told was a totally different twenty year-old with his hand on the channel controller in 1975.
The chapters conclude by describing the events that led to the demise of TVW Enterprises Ltd., which disappeared from public ownership when subsumed by the corporate activities of Robert Holmes a Court. Similarly, it will be shown how in 1984 Swan Television and Radio Broadcasters was swallowed by the Bond Corporation and how the failure of both those corporate giants returned the two channels respectively to public and private ownership. Although in line with general trends towards a more global economy, these challenges to local ownership were mounted by local entrepreneurs. Following these developments there was an observable diminution of both local ‘live’ production and community responsibility.
It will be found that the earlier Annual Reports of both companies made good use of photographs to promote station personalities and the various local productions with which they were associated. Photo-copies of the original material can be examined in the Appendices to this work. The format continued till the late 1970s, after which time there was a discernable swing towards the promotion of station executives and technical equipment. In the 1980s, station ‘personalities’ all but disappeared and the ‘Logie’ presentations for ‘most popular’ thenceforth went to newsreaders, the only remaining representatives of local ‘live’ production. News was left as the last bastion of local production and indications are that this too will become ‘national’, sourced in the Eastern Sates, with a small local input.
Investigation and analysis of annual reports and balance sheets has provided much historical information and the following illustrates the progress of TVW Limited in the first seven years of their monopoly operation. The Annual Directors’ reports grew from a typical company balance sheet, to a booklet which made use of photographs to promote the activities and station personalities. The first report was written and edited by James Cruthers. They were specifically designed to impress some three hundred shareholders who were invited to attend the Annual General Meetings. They were treated to tours, entertainment and refreshments. They were always attended by the greater number of those invited.
TVW Limited First Annual Report:
The first annual report and balance sheet was delivered on Monday 7 September 1959. TVW Limited had purchased 10 acres of land on Yokine Hill and the building of the studios was proceeding. 4 acres of land was purchased at Bickley Hill and the transmitting tower was expected to be finished during September 1959. The anticipated opening date was 16 October 1959. On 13 October 1958 the company was granted Western Australia’s first commercial TV licence. Tenders for equipping the station were invited from the world’s six major suppliers; three British; one United States; one German and one Dutch. The British company Pye Limited of Cambridge was successful and most of the required equipment was on hand and being installed. The accounts covered a period of development without trading and consequently there was a reported loss of £39,405.
Although being the sole commercial outlet, the management of TVW7 supported McNair (the company who conducted ratings surveys in the Eastern States) in providing a survey service for Western Australia. The main reason for this was to be able to check the popularity of certain programs. A little known fact concerning this area of TVW7’s activities is that James Cruthers personally controlled the placement of programs and station promotions. This happened from the instigation of transmission until his resignation in 1982. The ratings surveys were a useful guide for advertisers in deciding the placement of commercial content. The first survey was conducted in June 1960, when TVW7 was the only commercial station opposed to the National Televiser ABW2. In all areas including local ‘live’ production, the commercial station was dominant. The survey produced these highlights:
The above classification of viewers was graded by the survey companies and accordingly placement of the ratings booklets in various areas. Grade AB included such suburbs Nedlands, Dalkeith, Claremont and Peppermint Grove. Grade C was headed by the new areas of Floreat Park, City Beach, Mt. Yokine and Mount Pleasant. Grade D included the older areas such as Victoria Park, Subiaco and Mt. Lawley. Grade E included the even older areas of East Perth, North Perth, parts of Fremantle and Midland Junction.
Almost all television sets were manufactured in Australia and other major brands were AWA (which were also sold as Westinghouse) and Astor.
Leading programs Sunday Theatre (TVW7); Leave It To Beaver; Sea Hunt
As TVW7 had the air-waves to themselves until 5.15 pm and considering the short time that television had existed, their management was pleased with the viewing audience for the women’s program Televisit and highly delighted with the figures for what was considered to be the children’s hour. ABW2 had a hosted program with a ‘live’ audience segment but suffered badly in comparison.
As in other areas, the commercial station dominated in similar types of sporting programs. The ‘old’ perception of the ABC being for a particular type of listener persisted with the introduction of the visual medium.
The ABW2 program Six O’Clock Rock starring Johnny O’Keefe was very popular in Eastern States, but was out-rated by a factor of four by the locally produced ‘live’-to-air Teenbeat. This program was variously hosted by various station employees including David Farr, Gary Meadows and Gary Carvolth. The program featured local bands and performers. Both programs were similar in content with an audience ‘jiving’ and being featured on-camera. It produced such well known Australian artists as Johnny Young and Jeff Phillips.
In 1960 the second Directors’ Report, TVW7 recorded a loss of £65,221 including £36,265 provided for depreciation. The cumulative loss was therefore £104,626 and the total revenue was £305,489.
This was for 8.5 months which was the length of time that the station had been on air for the financial year. In January or February 1960 the Board of TVW7 seriously considered ‘handing back the licence’ due to these adverse results. It was reported that technical equipment and plant (which consumed a large amount of investment capital before transmissions began) at both the studios and transmitter had ‘…proved to be both adequate and functional.’ There was no comment on studio activities and TVW7 was content to let their ratings speak for themselves. The ratings indicated that no matter what the commercial station put to air, the public watched and accepted it without question. Even commercial content (much of it ‘live’ from TVW7’s studios) was viewed with enjoyment.
In 1961 the Directors were ‘pleased’ to announce a net operating profit of £22,384, subject to the deduction of a 5% interim dividend to shareholders on 21 June 1961 of £18,749 and a final dividend of the same amount. This left £84,886 to be applied to accumulated losses, reducing them to £19,740. It was reported that before television started in Western Australia the projection of numbers of sets in operation after 2 years was 50,000. However, within that time frame 70,000 sets were licensed and more than half of metropolitan homes had television. It was necessary to purchase a licence from the Post Master General’s Department to legally view television of any kind and the cost for this privilege was £5. Hire Purchase had become increasingly popular with the advent of television and sets ranged from about £180 upwards. With average weekly wages at about £22, nine weeks pay translates into current (2003) terms of more than four thousand dollars for a black and white television set. Television in Western Australia was proving to be more than a status symbol. It was a necessity for most of the population.
The first acknowledgement of the importance of local ‘live’ production was the last page of the TVW7 1961 report, a black and white photograph of Station Presenter Lloyd Lawson in Studio 3. As with the rest of the Annual Reports content, the photographs were chosen by James Cruthers. This was the first pictorial evidence of station self-promotion and chosen because of its interesting and ‘glamourous’ appeal. There was always a ‘stand-by’ personality in a special studio, ready to ‘go to air’ immediately in the event of a film breaking or other technical fault. Such presenters would refer to programs still to come for that day or evening; possibly read some News items or give out a weather forecast. When the emergency was rectified it was a simple case of ‘We now return you to our normal program.’
In 1962 TVW7 had a net profit of £120,868 after income tax and working expenses. It wrote off the previous carried forward loss of £19,740 and an intangible asset (preliminary expenses) of £5,648. An interim dividend of 6% was paid on 5 March 1962 being £32,276, and £48,414 was appropriated for a final dividend of 9%. The shareholders would have been more than pleased with their return of 15% per annum. This was at a time when bank savings interest rates were at about 3.5% and W.A. Newspapers Limited were returning about 8% to shareholders. It was noted that the influence of the ‘…national economic situation…’ had had a negative effect but business was improving. Nationally there had been a slight rise in inflation and there were Government concerns expressed about increases in unemployment.
During the year it had been announced by the Commonwealth Government that a public hearing would be held in Perth in late 1962, to consider applications for a second Commercial Television Station. At TVW7 plans were being formed to counter this contingency.
The TVW7 contribution to daily local ‘live’ production in the form of Childrens Channel Seven continued to attract good ratings figures. The Annual Report’s back page was a photograph of compere Carolyn Noble talking to children in a studio setting. The picture was carefully composed to show her remarkable face which reflected the expressions of adulation so evident on the countenances of the entranced children in a studio audience. The careful placement of a large television camera provided an element of glamour and excitement. James Cruthers recalled choosing that particular photograph because it embodied all of the wonder of ‘live’ television production.
In 1963 the fifth Directors’ Report of TVW7 showed that during the year the hours of transmission were increased from 60 to 68 hours. About one quarter of all TVW7’s programs came from their own studios. This was a major contribution to low-cost program content and also the policy of management to promote the station as being first and foremost as being Western Australian in character. A further 27% was Australian content from the Eastern States and this was claimed to be one of the highest percentages in all of Australia. The biggest project for the year was the successful ‘…coverage of the 7th British Empire & Commonwealth Games.’ For the first time TVW7 conducted an Outside Broadcast of a major sporting event. The signal was transmitted from the purpose built stadium at Floreat Park back to the station at Tuart Hill. The Games were recorded on kinescope film, processed and edited at TVW7 studios for overseas dissemination.
According to Howson, Hudson, Noble and others (and to my personal knowledge) in Western Australia, the general promotion of particular ‘personalities’ was considered by management of both commercial stations to be undesirable. Such people had shown in the Eastern States that they could wield power (through their fans and celebrity status) leading to demands for higher remuneration and conditions. It had been accepted in Sydney and Melbourne in particular as a ‘Star’ thing in terms of its local audience and the creation of local allegiances through the identification with station personalities. Eastern States management saw this as similar to Hollywood and as being good for the particular station’s public image. Perhaps it was part of the observable overall conservatism of Western Australia that a different view of personalities was taken. While making very good use of these ‘on-camera’ employees for their own station promotion, the ‘Star’ concept was usually discouraged. Coincidentally, the back-page photograph this year was of technicians in the Telecine Department. The use of this photograph was intended to convey to the shareholders that TVW7 was constantly upgrading its technical facilities and the picture of a ‘huge film projection unit’ was meant to impress the beholder with this fact.
Net profit for the year had increased to £173,439 plus profit brought forward of £14,790 and overprovision for tax 61/62 of P£5,426. An interim dividend of 7.5% was paid on 6 March 1963, £50,000 was retained for General Reserve and the balance of £79,733 was appropriated for a final dividend of 12.5%, an annual return to shareholders of 20%. This was an excellent dividend for those who bought the original shares at their par value of ten shillings but it should be looked at in the light of TVW7 shares being valued at 34/- on the Stock Exchange. At that time the Commercial Bank of Australasia was offering 4.25% interest on money invested for 19 to 24 months. The Western Australian finance firm Norman L Payton was offering 8% at 7 days call. Such good results ensured that there was fiscal provision for televised content which contributed to the wider community. .
In 1964 the staid look of the Directors’ Report was changed to show a photograph of ‘TVW produces a Hootenanny’, and on the second page the ‘TVW News prepares for an assignment’ and ‘Art Linkletter and Lloyd Lawson’ photographs. Linkletter was a high-profile American television personality and one of his shows Kids Say The Darndest Things was shown on TVW7. He had extensive investments in the agricultural development at Esperance and visited Western Australia several times. A one-hour live production entitled Invitation to The Dance was sold to Melbourne and Sydney. The Station’s News Department won the Television Society Award for its ‘…on the spot coverage of the events surrounding the Robinson murder case.’ The Channel introduced a claimed first in electing a female newsreader to present a lunch-time news session. There were two pages of photographs at the back of the report. ‘Miss Googie Withers and Keith Michell talk with Hew Roberts; Captain Jim aboard his “ship” ’; ‘Carolyn talks with the children’; ‘Newsreader Pam Leuba awaits her cue’; ‘Crane camera shot during Invitation To The Dance’ and ‘Scene from dream sequence in Nutcracker Suite’. Sir James Cruthers explained that the advent of a new commercial station in 1965 may have been an impetus to increased local production, but he was more inclined to think that the very good financial results being enjoyed by the station were responsible for pursuing the policy of ‘giving back to the community.’ TVW7 management already saw the importance and benefits of stressing their ‘local’ identity by promoting the local ‘live’ productions but not intentionally as vehicles for station ‘personalities’.
Directing money towards production did not pose any problem when the station showed a total profit for the year of £188,009, which provided another 20% return to investors and £54,873 transferred to General Reserve. In February it was announced by the Postmaster General that
Swan Television Limited had gained the second licence and would begin transmitting in June 1965. By now there were 110,000 television sets operating in roughly 75% of houses covered by transmissions. TVW7 was still telecasting 68 hours and the Anderson Analysis showed that they had 83.6% of the viewing audience.
There is a gap in the survey records until June 1964 but there was little change in results. By then the format had changed. A sampling of programs showed:
Ratings surveys showed that the TVW7 local ‘live’ program for women Televisit, shown mid-afternoon, attracted a modest viewing audience but it was considered to be a necessary service and part of community responsibility. It must be remembered that at that time there were not great numbers of women in the work-force. The provision of a television program which informed women in matters of education, health and family care, as well as general entertainment segments was reckoned to be part of the duty of a telecast licence holder. It would not have been a popular time-slot for advertising. The children’s ‘live’ which followed boosted the percentage of sets in operation by a factor of four, which would also have boosted revenue. Likewise, the late night Football Preview showed good viewing figures and there would have been no trouble in finding a willing main advertiser. For many years that sponsor was Walsh’s Clothing Stores. The dominance of parochialism (as contained in the viewing audience’s sense of proprietorship) demonstrated by Teenbeat the TVW7 local ‘live’ program for teenagers, which continued to attract four times as many viewers as its counterpart, the Sydney produced Six O’Clock Rock on ABC Television. The longevity of both programs is notable. In the case of the ABC program, Six O’Clock Rock survived locally in Western Australia because of national programming. With Teenbeat it was a simple matter of popularity. The performers were available to the local audience by way of concert performances and appearances in hotels. The legal drinking age was still 21 but acceptance and acknowledgement of this law was under threat. Younger viewers were part of the world-wide emancipation of teenagers, although it occurred a few years later in Western Australia than in the rest of the western world. TVW7 News, Weather and Sport were absolutely dominant over ABW2 and contained the maximum permissible amount of advertising.
With the prospect of competition in 1965, TVW7 maintained its self-promotion. ‘TVW invites Mavis Bramston to Perth’ was the picture on the front of this year’s report. The Mavis Branston Show was a Sydney program produced by Channel Ten. It contained satirical and risqué comment in sketches and songs, aimed at government and society in general. The ‘stars’ were Gordon Chater, June Salter, Carol Raye and Barry Creighton. The inside cover had three more photographs with the captions ‘This large set was built in Studio 1 for the TVW production THE GOOD OIL’ which was a musical play based on the discovery of that commodity at North-West Cape in 1953. It was written and produced by Coralie Condon TVW7’s un-named original Production Manager.‘Back in Perth on Holiday, Rolf Harris appears on TVW’ and ‘At a dinner in TVW’s Studio 1, Eric McKenzie talks with his son, Sportsman of The Year Graham McKenzie, in the West Indies’. Rolf Harris had enjoyed continued success on his return to London and Graham McKenzie was an international cricketer of high repute. Both were pioneers in the promotion of Western Australia on the world stage. The back page showed photographs entitled ‘Eartha Kitt appears on VIEWPOINT’ [a regular local feature with highly respected journalist, the late Syd Donovan as moderator] and ‘Bonanza star Lorne Greene visits Channel 7’. Both of these big stars had been visiting the Eastern States as part of promotional tours. TVW7 paid for them to make short trips to Perth. There was also a drawing of ‘TVW’s newest personality – Uncle Otto’, a cartoon character based on a television vacuum tube.
For their last year as a monopoly the Board reported a net profit of £231,197 and once again paid a total dividend for the year of 20%. By comparison Home Building Society was offering 4.25% interest on pass-book deposits; The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s rate for 12 months fixed deposit was the same amount; Industrial Acceptance Corporation was advertising 5.75% for 12 months; Rural and Industries Bank’s rate was 4.5% for the same period and Esanda was offering 6% for a three year investment. On the Stock Market the shares of TVW7 were quoted at thirty shillings, while W.A. Newspapers Limited were thirty-three shillings and eight pence. £87,874 was transferred to general reserve. In November 1964 the Postmaster-General indicated that licences for two country areas would become available and TVW7 intended to make application for the one covering the Central Agricultural Area. The number of licensed sets had now risen to 120,000. A Staff Pension Scheme was inaugurated and an amount of £18,400 was contributed by the Company. Returns to the shareholders were described as being ‘more than satisfactory’ and whilst the Directors did not draw attention to the fact, the era of the monopoly was past.
In 1966, TVW7 was telecasting about 80 hours per week and more than 50% of programs were made in Australia. This appears to be at variance with the Eastern States experience, as Turner said, ‘In prime time up to 1963, virtually all program material was of foreign origin, of which 83 per cent was American and the rest British.’
Unfortunately, no breakdown of local ‘live’ production was given although the established pattern was evident by photographic representation of various activities in that field. The inside cover this year showed photographs of ‘Famous cricketers make a TVW Viewpoint From left: Mike Smith, Billy Griffiths, Richie Benaud and Sir Donald Bradman’; ‘Coles $6000 Quiz personalities Roland Strong and Beverley Robbins at TVW’ reflected the high ratings of this ‘imported’ production and ‘Billy Walker gets his 1965 Sandover Medal at TVW Studios’ Inside the back cover were two more photographs. One was ‘The Stock Exchange of Perth conducts a dummy decimal call at TVW7’s studios’ and the other ‘TVW’s new one-camera outside broadcast unit’. All of the photographs had an emphasis on local [Western Australian] production. An innovation of note was the provision of an Outside-Broadcast Van fitted with a portable videotape unit, ‘to be used for on-the-spot programmes and commercials.’ This was again an encouraging development for local ‘live’ production and a worthwhile investment. TVW7 ratings were excellent and there was plenty of money to spend without depriving the shareholders.
After one full year of competition the Channel 7 directors reported a net profit after tax of £300,928 plus £22,097 over-provision for taxation 1964-65. Once again they were in the position to pay a dividend of 20% and transfer £53,032 to general reserve. Comparative interest rates being offered were Mercantile Credits, 6.5% for twelve months. Treasury Notes for three months were paying 4.58%. On the Stock Exchange TVW Limited shares were $2.57 and W.A. Newspapers Limited were $3.22. The sound financial situation ensured a continuance of expenditure on local ‘live’ production. It was reported that although some income had been lost to STW9, this had been made up in part by a reduction in operating costs. The licence application for the central agricultural area was withdrawn as research had indicated that the potential income would not cover the costs. The number of licensed television sets was up by 30,000 for the year to 150,000, which meant that about 83% of homes in the TVW7 viewing area were so equipped. That meant that on any typical night of viewing approximately 76,500 Western Australian households would be watching TVW7. On 29 April 1966 the Board appointed Mr. J.W. Cruthers managing director of the company and Mr. B.S. Treasure was appointed General Manager. The latter was also proposed to be elected as a director of the company. By this time both men had built up substantial share-holdings. Cruthers was the absolute ‘boss’ and Treasure continued in his role controlling the area of advertising and outside expansion into various fields of private enterprise.
As noted by Tunstall every television station has an audience goal, which stressed raising the sales of total attending audience size. In the case of TVW7, as there was no commercial opposition for almost six years the audience did not have to be wooed nor won. However, the original commercial station had adopted the role of the caring parent, with a continuing policy of looking after their audience. It worked and the community responded by considering TVW7 to be then (and still in 2003 in the case of TVW7 News) ‘our station’.
With an estimate that there would be 50,000 sets in use after two years, the actual number was 70,000 and by 1965 when the second Western Australian commercial station went on-air the number had risen to 120,000. Prior to the introduction of STW9 the Anderson Analysis showed the TVW7 audience to be 83.6 % of the viewing public. Before the start of transmission by STW9 the feeling at that station was that the audience would begin to equalize after the new station had gained an advantage through novelty value. However this did not occur when STW Channel 9 went on air, 12 June 1965. One month later, ratings survey results were devastating for the new station. Despite the competition TVW7 maintained its commanding position.
Two months later the next survey from 8 – 21 September offered no more encouragement to the fledgling station, especially in the critical News area. The leading program was TVW7 News on Monday night, which attracted 50,000 viewers, 54% of the available audience.
Monday Average 13 & 20 Sept.
These results had an immediate effect upon local ‘live’ production at STW9. As a direct result of these ratings the Saturday afternoon teenage show Pad 9 hosted by Jeff Newman was cancelled, as was the adult satirical program All My Eye and Betty Martin Too, hosted by Buddy Clarke. Under The Coolabah Tree, a live production for children with a studio audience hosted by Peter Harries was struggling, but as production costs were minimal the weekly program survived.
Permanent staff ‘casualties’ included Margaret Hammond (Children’s and All My Eye cast); Bill Barber (floor manager) whose duties were allocated to the set-maker and painter Chaz Broughton; Walter Pym (live presenter and All My Eye cast member), Graham Bowra (live presenter)and George Manning (live presenter). Former administration secretary said that her worst experience was ‘Having to stay back on Friday nights to make out redundancy cheques for sacked TV personal, and the shock to their systems, as no warning was given.’ The rostered ‘on-air’ duties of these last three were then shared by the station’s news-reader Alan Graham, Jeff Newman and Peter Harries; The Production Manager Geoffrey Stephenson and his secretary Colleen McDougall were both dismissed as well as three cameramen. In all the staff of STW9 was reduced by about thirty to about eighty-five persons.
The first ‘operating year’ Annual report of Swan Television Limited in 1966 was a glossy quarto booklet featuring on the front cover a photograph of the daily Channel Niners Club. Wednesday being ‘dress-up’ day for the cast and the sixty children who comprised the studio audience, they were dressed in Japanese costume. The participants were musician Peter Piccini, Veronica Overton, Station News-reader Alan Graham (Useless Eustace) host Peter Harries, Pixie Hale and RonBlaskett with ventriloquist doll Gerry Gee. Cameramen Bob Finkle and Kevin Mohen were also in the photo with Floor Manager Chaz Broughton. The back cover had three photographs. ‘Jeff Newman – Star of the “Jeff Newman Show”, Ron Blaskett and Gerry Gee in “The Channel Niners” and “Peter Harries Channel Niners Compere and Veronica Overton in a scene from the pantomime “The Golden Hind” ’. In 1966 STW9 became BIG CHIEF CHANNEL NINE. All logos were adorned with a feathered head-dress. It was a bit of fun, but after a particularly bad Ratings Survey for STW9, TVW7 Management took out a full-page advertisement that stated HOW THE WEST WAS WON! It showed dozens of ‘dead’ 9s complete with feathers, pierced with ‘7’ shaped arrows. The head-dress disappeared!
Despite claims that STW9 was operating in a ‘loss’ situation, in this period the station Manager Bob Mercer was optimistic that there would be a sudden turn-around in rating survey results. He had a liking for ‘show business’ and on many occasions I was summoned to the Boardroom to participate in some liquid refreshment and entertain the ‘boss’ and his guests, playing the piano and singing. In the early days Mercer was at times keen to promote its local personalities and ‘live’ productions. In 1965 TV Times said that ‘Peter Harries was working under the watchful eye of his personal manager Bob Mercer and could be the next international star to emerge from Western Australia’, but at a later time he distanced himself from any such intentions or likelihood. In 1967 there was talk of a special ‘personal’ caravan for Jeff Newman and once again promised ‘stardom’ akin to that experienced by Melbourne’s Graham Kennedy. It remained as only talk! ‘Stars’ of television, or ‘personalities’ as they were known, were at the time more than ‘celebrities’, ‘…the objects of an interest over which they have no control.’ In 1969 I had enough self-control to remove myself from a sphere which had, because of public pressure, become intolerable. Few others did!
The result for the twelve months for STW9 was a loss of $327,200 after providing $139,182 for depreciation. Company shares with a par value of one dollar were quoted on the Stock Market at $1.20. The Annual Report said that the directors considered ‘this result to be satisfactory for the first year of telecasting’ and that ‘the Station’s share of the estimated State Television Revenue increased significantly during the year. The Industry revenue growth rate in Western Australia was also most encouraging and it is anticipated that this trend will continue during the current financial year.’ The Chairman (Dennis M. Cullity) recorded his appreciation for the enthusiasm and interest shown by ‘…the General Manager, Mr. R.J. Mercer, and Staff,…’ It was noted that of a ‘…total of 2,000 shareholders, 1962 resided in Western Australia, 34 in the Eastern States and 8 overseas.’ Despite the shaky start, there was a general air of enthusiasm and optimism throughout the whole station building and there was a strong sense that it would be only a short time before the viewing public realised what a great alternative the new station was offering. This view was strongly expressed in the Chairman’s 1966 report,
Channel Nine continues to provide a comprehensive range of programme material. Favourable comment on the programmes has been received from many viewers while
growing support is being registered by the younger age groups for the children’s programmes and teenage series. The Station is currently transmitting an average of 78 hours per week and an increasing proportion of the Station’s telecasting consists of Australian programmes. It is considered that the increase of approximately 15% in licensed sets in Western Australia during the year is largely attributable to the advent of Channel Nine and the wider choice of programmes now available to viewers.
The 1966 STW9 Balance Sheet showed:
The first Anderson Analysis of 1966 showed that the Top Ten rating programs were all on TVW7.
[The variance in percentages to people depended upon total audience]
Apart from News these were all imported programs and predominantly sourced from the United States of America.
In 1966 (having existed in the Eastern States since 1957) there were two systems of ratings in Australia. They were the Anderson Analysis and McNair TV Audience Surveys Pty. Ltd., of 40 Miller Street North Sydney. The latter produced a list of the leading twenty programs which was at variance with the Anderson Analysis which examined ten programs.
All programs not designated were those of TVW7. The highest rating show was BP Pick A Box produced in Sydney and headed by ex-American comic Bob Dyer who had made the successful transition from radio to television. A situation-comedy produced in Sydney, My Name’s McGooley starring Gordon Chater and John Meillon provided a welcome representation for the struggling STW9. Showcase was still doing well and the new station had success with a Sunday movie and a new American series in the James Bond genre, The Man From Uncle.
STW9 Rating Success for Local Production:
One surprise at No 20, was a local production featuring the folk-singing group ‘The Twilighters’, female folk-singer Patsie Biscoe and Peter Harries compering as Entertainment Host. [I still use that appellation thirty-seven years later.] This program was the only example of local ‘live’ to get into the Top Twenty. The success of this particular program illustrates that the viewing public was not unaware of the programs offered by STW9. The press advertising and station promotion resulted in the ratings support. Because ‘The Twilighters’ were Western Australian with a big following, the same phenomenon which successfully rated Showcase was evident. In this case the television viewing community recognised that the program was local content. The viewer would not be able to differentiate between ‘live’ and ‘taped’. The figures showed that in a majority of instances, after choosing to view certain specific programs, the audience returned to TVW7 offerings.
TVW7 still mounted a daily Childrens Channel Seven ‘live’ show with Captain Jim Atkinson, Taffy the Lion and Seaman O’Dougherty. They had a daily studio audience of about 60 children as did STW9.
Children’s Channel Seven: Cartoons and Films with live links and studio
Peter Harries Presents: Live linking of Cartoons and Films with The Channel Niners Club and studio audience 19,19,19,21,21,21,21,21,18,22,20,16,16,-17,18,16,19
This survey showed an improvement of the figures for STW9’s afternoon programs. The above figures represent quarter hour breakdowns with closely contested first and third hours. However, whereas the STW9 results remain constant for about three hours for no apparent reason, the second and fourth hours both showed big increases in TVW7’s viewing audience.
In terms of photographic station promotion in the Ninth Directors’ Report TVW7 1967
the majority of attention was still focussed on local ‘live’ production. The front and inside cover depicted a close-up of TVW7 News Cameraman Dave Gordon, ‘Tommy Hanlon takes part in TVW’s seventh anniversary programme’, ‘Miss Claire, compere of TVW’s kindergarten programme Romper Room’ and ‘Beauty and The Beast panellist Maggie Tabberer receives a warm welcome at Perth Airport.’ Sometimes ‘Bad Boy’ Bon Maguire, the advertising ‘face’ of Tom the Cheap Grocer , [who dressed as a convict character, much the same as the present day W.A. Salvage character Luigi Savadamony.] met her but was not named in the caption. The back cover had photographs of ‘Children’s Channel 7 compere Taffy The Lion with several small Taffys.’ and ‘cameras close in on a performer during production of TVW’s teenage programme Club Seventeen’
Shareholders would have been elated to learn that the net profit for the year after providing for income tax and working expenses was $452,061 plus $2,143 for over-provision of 1965/66 tax. Of this amount the Directors paid a dividend of 20% after providing $10,000 for long service leave and placing an amount of $174,211 into General Reserve. At that time Custom Credit was offering 7.5% for a five year investment; Industrial Acceptance Corporation 6% for twelve months; Payton Finance was still offering 8% at 7 days call; Home Building Society 6.5% for 24 months and Perth Building Society 5.5% for 12 Months. TVW Limited shares were $3.90 and W.A. Newspapers Limited shares were $3.52. Bearing in mind that the parent company shares had a par value of $2, the television venture was showing a superior return.
There was an important development in October 1966 when TVW7 proposed to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that it be permitted to establish commercial package stations at Kalgoorlie and Geraldton on the basis that neither would constitute a second licence under the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act. The Control Board would not accept that provision and the proposal was allowed to lapse. The motivation for the application came from West Australian Newspapers Limited boss James Macartney. He was interested in providing the television services because of traditional attitudes to looking after country Western Australia. Fear of the ‘new’ commercial station was not a consideration. The number of TV sets licensed in Western Australia had increased to 158,000 and the first country station BTW3 had started up in Bunbury in 1967 under the direction of ex-American business entrepreneur Jack Bendat. This did not cause TVW7 Directors any concern as ‘…about 145,000 of the sets licensed in WA can receive TVW7.’ TVW7 was telecasting for 90 hours per week and acknowledged a 60/40 split of the commercial viewing audience in that station’s favour. One respondent alleged that Cruthers had said that he would be happy with such a result and strove to maintain that imbalance for many years. Cruthers himself said that his intention was always to remain ahead by the greatest possible margin.
This Report contained a current breakdown of Company assets. These figures are of course based on methods of accounting for taxation purposes. Whereas full benefits for depreciation had been claimed, in actuality the investment in both building and equipment remained as tangible assets.
The third Annual Directors’ Report STW9 Limited 1967 reported that the station was transmitting an average of 85 hour per week and was fulfilling its obligations to Australian content. STW9 had continued to provide opportunities for local ‘live’ programming with beneficial results to local artists and sponsors had been supportive. Although not supported by ratings surveys it was stated that [STW] ‘News Service has continued to receive favourable comment.’ There was no qualification of this statement and it might have come from a remark made in the Press or just been concocted. News-readers Lloyd Lawson and Peter Dean at the News-desk graced the cover. Photographs of Station personalities were used to illustrate the inner pages including ‘Keith Smith and Perth Friend in “the Pied Piper” and ‘Lloyd Lawson and Veronica Overton meet a contestant in “The Money Machine”. A photo of the STW9 News-van in operation at Perth Airport adorned the back cover. An acknowledgement was given to Station Graphic Artist George Liddle and Station Photographer Michael Goodall for their work in compiling the report. This can be interpreted as gratuitous reward – acceptable, but easy to bestow as it costs nothing.
The Chairman announced STW9’s first profit of $12,783 after providing $144,093 for depreciation. There was still no dividend and the Company shares were selling for $1.60. Although the close-knit circle of owner/investors would have preferred a return on their investments, there was now confidence that the company’s financial situation would continue to improve. It was noted that there was difficulty in procuring suitable programs and there was an upward trend of expenses. Licensed TV sets were up 11% to 159,000. This was in no small way attributable to the introduction of ‘choice’ which came with the second commercial station.
The third ratings of 1967 produce a slightly better result for STW9 when the Showcase ’67 program, produced in Melbourne by Crawford Productions [Producer Natalie Raine] appeared at No. 5. Another Crawford production, Homicide [ a cops and robbers series] on TVW7 was No. 1.
Showcase went to air at 7.30 p.m. on Monday evenings against Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on TVW7 which rated 27-28 and The Magic of Music or Eric Sykes on ABW2 which rated 14-15. This indicated that the public was totally aware of the newcomer but as soon as Showcase had ended, many switched back to TVW7. By the next ratings period Showcase had risen to No.4 with 41% of the audience at 164,000. STW9 now had two programs with The Andy Griffith Show at No.10 with 37% audience. Once again the other nine programs were all on TVW7. The final ratings for 1967 showed that STW9’s Showcase was No.1 with 46%. It was a particularly well produced show with the best that Australia had to offer by way of singers, dancers and novelty acts and always had one act from Western Australia. This essence of representing ‘localism’ contributed to the program’s popularity. However, STW9 management could not work out why the viewers did not stay tuned for following programs. The McNair Television Audience Survey of 1967 showed the twenty top programs as being,
With In Perth Tonight rating very well and appearing in the Top Twenty, STW9 ventured into world of local ‘live’ studio production with a ‘Tonight’ styled variety program, The Jeff Newman Show. It was aired at 9.30 p.m. on Thursdays for about four months. It featured pianist/arranger Peter Piccini with a four piece band, ‘advertainment’ segments, local guest artists and studio audience participation. The show made great use of station personalities Veronica Overton, Lloyd Lawson and Peter Dean who appeared in situation sketches produced by Denzil Howson. The notable exception was myself, as I ‘spat the dummy’ refusing to appear, considering that I should have been the co-host of an extended version of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax, the afternoon program which I had formerly been conducting with Newman. The Anderson Analysis for 9-29 August showed the quarter hour breakdown of the Jeff Newman Show to be 17,16,13,12,9,7 against movies on TVW7 which showed figures of 30,29,25,24,24,16. One of the movies was The Old Man of The Sea with Spencer Tracey. ABW2 showed My Brother Jack for a rating of 7,6 and Z-Cars for 5,5,3,1. A ‘running sheet’ of The Jeff Newman Show is included in the Appendices. The Jeff Newman Show was produced by Ron Blaskett and amounted to being not much more than an evening version of The Channel Niners Club. The budget was restricted to $800 per show. A kinescope copy of the Jeff Newman Show indicates that after about three months there was only one sponsor, Tom the Cheap Grocer. Lack of advertising income forced the cancellation of the program after about four months.
Early in August 1967, the Production Manager at STW9 Denzil Howson instructed me to produce and host a ‘pilot’ program not to exceed $500 in costs, to be aired at 9.30 p.m. on Tuesday nights. The budget included provision for studio crew wages, lighting costs, musicians, guests, design and construction of sets. I employed three friends in pianist Terry Ingram, bass-player Brian Bursey and drummer Bill Tattersall at minimal cost; ‘conned’ other entertainment associates into performing with promises of ‘stardom’ and greater things to come; ‘scrounged’ prizes for competitions from potential advertisers and with the aid of other STW9 personalities including Jeff Newman (to do voice-over announcements) announcer Peter Dean and News Editor Terry Spence (panellists on a ‘Who Am I?’ segment, to find out by twenty questions the identity of a visiting celebrity). Sunday Times journalist Peter Finn provided an ironic comment on three items of public interest. He later went on to become a leading News reporter for TVW7. On 17 August 1967 the ‘pilot’ was video-taped. It was accepted for transmission, but then along with the Jeff Newman Show, the program was ‘canned’. The reason was given as ‘financial losses’ but the next Annual Report does not support this as the station made a profit. It is more likely that the concept of Community Responsibility in providing local ‘live’ productions was beaten by the Ratings Survey evidence recorded above, that cheaper to buy, older American films would rate just as well.
In 1967, Swan Television recorded the status of assets as:
In the Tenth Directors’ Report TVW7 1968 the importance of local ‘live’ was again acknowledged in photographs. The cover depicted the studios of TVW7 much the same as they are today and within the booklet pictures of ‘Humphrey B. Bear and Taffy the Lion visit the South Perth Zoo’ and ‘During a Perth visit, Ena Sharples [British Actress] calls at another Coronation Street’. Back cover pictures were ‘Walsh’s Miss West Coast 1968 finalists parading through the city’, ‘Caltex Sports Star of the Year award winner, Miss Lynne Watson, at Channel 7’s studios.’ And ‘Rothman’s State Manager, E.Burgoyne presents a TVW film of last year’s football grand final to WANFL President K. Miller’.
The Company had another good financial year and paid another two dividends totalling 20% to the shareholders as well as retaining $5,000 for long service leave and $169,191 for General Reserve. Comparative investment rates were Perth Building Society 6% for 12 months; Home Building Society 5% for pass-book savings and The W.A. Building Society was paying 4.5%.TVW Limited shares had risen to $6.10 and W.A. Newspapers Limited were $4.30. Although expenditure rose, so did profit to $498,183. During the year the studio buildings were enlarged to provide a separate studio for news telecasts, a new master control area, additional outside broadcast equipment storage and a larger staff cafeteria. ‘Technical facilities have been improved by the installation of telecine, videotape and switching equipment designed for semi-automated operation. Transmitter remote control equipment is being installed to release operational staff for other duties.’ Continued expansion meant that there were requirements for additional studio staff and advances in technology had not yet led to redundancy.
The company offered to purchase all of the issued shares in the Whitford Broadcasting Network which included 6PM Perth, 6AM Northam, 6KG Kalgoorlie and a controlling interest in 6GE Geraldton. The deal was pending approval from the Postmaster-General. Licensed sets were now 170,000 and it was estimated that 89% of homes in the TVW7 viewing area had T.V. The transmission time was 90 hours per week and they claimed a 50% Australian content.
Local ‘live’ production was ignored in a more frugal edition of the Fourth Annual Directors’ Report STW9 Limited 1968. Restriction of expenditure on local ‘live’ became more evident with a reduction in the content of local product, although Children’s and Women’s areas survived. Expenditure had been reigned in and it was disclosed that the result for the year was ‘pleasing’. This pleasure would have been mainly enjoyed by the shareholders as the Production staff had become more pessimistic regarding the future. The station’s graphic artist saw more opportunity for advancement and resigned to take a position at the ABC station ABW2.
In the third year of operation the STW9 had made a net profit of $327,200 after providing $139,182 for depreciation. The Station’s share of the estimated State Television Revenue increased significantly during the year and ‘Industry revenue growth was expected to continue to grow in the following year, reflecting the generally buoyant conditions of the State.’ Swan TV shares were now priced at $2.23.
The claim was that STW9’s share of the market was improving and an independent survey in April/May showed that ‘…91.2% of all television families in the viewing area saw one or more programmes on Channel 9.’ This claim was arrived at by a detailed examination of the ratings figures which gave the individual percentage of viewers (by station designation) for each time zone and program. STW9 was transmitting for an average of 87 hours per week and claimed to be using 50% Australian content including “Showcase”, “Skippy”, “Pied Piper”, “Blind Date” and “Hunter”. Unfortunately these programmes were all produced in the Eastern States.
The prospect of colour television was already occupying the thoughts of management and it was recorded that the Post-Master General had implied that plenty of warning would be given for that change-over. The Station was making contingency plans for this happening. This was by way of overseas investigation of equipment and operational procedures, as well as budgetary considerations.
The McNair TV Audience Survey Perth No.1 May 1968 saw Children’s Channel Seven still leading The Channel Niner’s Club 19,19 to 7,8, with ABW2 Cartoons and Adventure Island matching the latter with ratings of 7,8. In the 5.30 p.m. spot STW9’s Sydney produced game show Blind Date with Graham Webb was showing 20,19 to Sword of Freedom on TVW7 with 20,19. Hey! Presto It’s Rolf on ABW2 was performing creditably with 10,19. On some nights the latter program was dominant with 23. On Saturday afternoons from 2-6 p.m. the figures showed:
These figures were almost disastrous for the future of STW9 and certainly meant that apart from maintaining a presence in the children’s afternoon time-spots, there would be no money available for other local ‘live’ programming. The most unusual outcome of this survey was that ABW2 had No.1 on the Top Twenty with the British comedy Till Death Us Do Part on Monday night scoring 43% of TV Homes,
The acceptance of local ‘live’ programs which appeared on TVW7 was again demonstrated when the Coralie Condon produced talent quest Reach For The Stars was equal Number 13 reaching a high percentage of the advertising-ratings public. The executives at STW9 could only scratch their heads and wonder why? Once again the reason appeared to be that TVW7 was widely accepted as ‘our local station’. In the 4 p.m. timeslot Peter Harries Presents was showing 18 against Children’s Channel Seven with 25. Superman on TVW7 with 30 was beating Blind Date with 21.
Despite STW9 having eight of the Top Twenty in the McNair survey, the advertisers favoured the results produced by the Anderson Survey and this anomaly is discussed in Chapter Nine. By June 1968, the Anderson Survey showed that Showcase was once again the only STW9 program in the Top Ten. It was running No.7 with 35% and 128,000 viewers. By survey No.4 it had disappeared from the Top Ten. leaving the field to TVW7. Survey No.5 saw the return of STW9’s Mission Impossible to No.5 with 35% and 132,000 viewers.
Local ‘live’ was still of paramount interest at TVW7 as evidenced by the Eleventh Directors’ Report TVW7. For the first time the front cover bore a full-page colour photograph. This was a foretaste of things to come, when Australian television would change from monochrome to colour in 1975. The photograph was of the first Telethon with presenter Gary Meadows at the anchor-desk. The inside cover depicted ‘Car No 12, the TVW-Daily News entry, which finished 11th in the London-Sydney car rally’; Garry Meadows with Miss West Coast 1969 finalists.’ and ‘A high camera pictures some of the 10,000 people who attended a charity day at the TVW studios in March.’ The back inside cover showed a picture of rock-star Johnny O’Keefe in the Telethon phone-room and another of the State Premier Sir David Brand, who was Telethon Patron, on-camera with O’Keefe, Graham Kennedy, Bobby Limb and Stuart Wagstaff. These photographs once again subtly (albeit very strongly) conveyed the impression that TVW7 was a supporter of events which openly displayed their commitment to Community Responsibility. The back cover showed American golfer Arnold Palmer ‘swinging’ at the TVW7 sponsored Australian Open Golf Championship at Karrinyup. It was recorded that this was the first time that this sponsorship had occurred. There were two photographs of the new master control and central technical area in Tuart Hill and the operating centre at Mount Goldsworthy. Compere Jeff Newman was shown with the St. Louis School team which won the first series of It’s Academic.
A major advance in ‘outside broadcasting’ occurred in June 1969 when TVW7 was commissioned to produce a record of the official opening of the $200 million iron ore development at Mt. Whaleback near the township of Mt. Newman. Chief Engineer John Quicke took a ten-man Outside Broadcast crew to the Pilbara and the project was recorded by director Keith McKenzie on videotape. The finished product was air freighted to Adelaide for transmission to Sydney by landline then sent to London, New York and Tokyo by satellite. In a rare display of joint co-operation between STW9 and TVW7, a local ‘wired’ television service was provided to the townspeople of Mount Goldsworthy. The content was provided on videotape by both stations for viewing throughout the company town. This was done at the request of the iron-ore mining company who paid for the infrastructure. It was the first example of ‘cable’ television in Australia.
Net profit was $499,506 after realisation of some investments for $64,679 and providing for income tax and working expenses. Shares prices were down a little on last year to $5.56. TVW7 transmission time was now up to 120 hours per week and there were 179,000 licensed TV sets in operation.
The Fifth Annual Directors’ Report STW9 Limited 1969 showed that there had been a return to local ‘live’ production, mainly through an association by Station Manager Bob Mercer with N.L.T. Productions from Sydney and the newly imported ‘personalities’ were given prominence. The back cover of the Annual Report was entitled 9’s “Live” Highlights and were photographs of ‘Don Spencer – from the “Tonight” show.’, “Bruce Allan doing his famous mime act’, ‘Veronica Overton and Tim Connor – “Today” and “Anything Goes” shows’, and ‘A winner with the compere and panel from “Spotlight” ’. A further analysis of these programs is given following the Ratings Survey results for this period.
Although a net profit of $170,186 came from the fourth year after depreciating $164,069 (up only $34,023 on 1968) the directors held back on a dividend until the accumulated loss had been wiped out. Swan TV shares were recorded as Last Sale 54cents. Lack of returns meant an unwillingness by investors to support the Company.
In 1969 the Program Manager Tom Warne and the Chief Engineer Tom Provan were sent on an investigative trip overseas to investigate colour television. It was noted the Commonwealth Government considered that the enormous expense of conversion ‘…should not be imposed on the Australian economy.’ At that time the executive make-up of STW9 was,
By April 1969 the McNair Survey Top Twenty was,
This was a bad result for STW9 with rating Showcase badly and only one other program represented in the Top Twenty. Local ‘live’ production was still doing well at TVW7 with talent quest Perth’s New Faces at Number 5 and It’s Academic at Number 6.
In 1969 during a three week tour of India I filmed (in black and white, colour being too expensive) enough material to produce a one-hour studio recorded program called Magic Carpet which I scripted, produced, narrated and presented. Although it received very good newspaper critiques, station management could not see their way clear to finance a series of such programs. They were of the opinion that it was too much like the James Fitzpatrick cinema travelogues. Today of course, such programs are featured on all commercial channels but are mainly produced in the Eastern States. It was a case of ‘Experimental programming, when it exists, is relegated to educational departments which we know are little regarded by general management.’ As a result of this decision (and being co-opted to NLT Productions to help produce the Tonight programs) I terminated my full-time employment with STW9 but continued to appear in various local ‘live’ productions thereafter, including a Welcome to 1970 filmed in La Tenda Nightclub, Victoria Park.
The 1969 Anderson results for STW9 were much the same, with only one of their programs appearing in the Top Ten.
As noted earlier, a galling part of these figures for STW9 was the fact that New Faces, a local talent search program at 5.30 p.m. on Sundays was being produced by Jeff Newman who resigned from STW9 in September after being replaced as host of his own show by Peter Dean. To make things worse, he was the presenter of the new high ranking High School Quiz Program It’s Academic on TVW7.
In an attempt to change their fortunes, STW9 General Manager Bob Mercer invited the Sydney production firm N.L.T., to produce two Tonight shows and a talent show with the generic name Spotlight on a weekly contract basis. The Executive Producer was Peter Benardos, who returned to Sydney and three years later produced ‘Cash-Harmon’s ‘sex serial’ Number 96 made for Ten in 1972’ The first of these rated (on a quarter hour basis) 17,18,18,17,16,13 against TVW7’s Ragtrade 29,20 and Close-Up 15,10,6,5; ABW2 showed Review and F.A. Cup for 14,13,9,7,6,6. The following week saw Tonight with 26,26,24,24,23,24, pitted against The Academy Awards on TVW7 with 42,441,42,45,33,31,31. TVW7’s local talent quest Reach For The Stars rated 29 in its early Thursday evening spot. Spotlight which went to air on Sunday evenings rated 20 as compared to TVW7’s Perth’s New Faces at 38.
The following survey saw STW9 un-represented in the Top Ten. TVW7 had another huge winner in the locally produced (by Max Bostock) Spellbound starring Western Australian born stage hypnotist Martin St. James. With a studio audience and some willing participants, it rated No.2 with 48% and 175,000 viewers. Perth’s New Faces with 41 and It’s Academic with 37 were still strong at Nos.4 and 9 and 200,000 and 159,00 viewers. Spotlight was performing creditably with 29,29,27,27. STW9 tried a 7 a.m. breakfast program called Today (compered by Tim Connor, an Irish comedian) which did best figures of 5,6 against Earlybirds, a hosted cartoon parade aimed at children with 9,10. By the following survey in Sept/Oct., these programs were only being shown on Saturday mornings and Earlybirds was supreme at 8,10 against Today’s 1,1. In the afternoon slots for children TVW7 were showing Broken Arrow, 11,12, Bugs Bunny 14,17, Superman 18,21 and McHale’s Navy 21 repeats against STW9’s Bomba the Jungle Boy, 6,6, Top Cat, 5,7, Blind Date (a game show from Sydney) 12,13. ABW2 had Adventure Island and Playschool 4,5, Kimba the White Lion, and Forest Rangers 5,5.
By the first survey of 1970, daily studio production of both Children’s Channel Seven and The Channel Niner’s Club had stopped although the session still carried those designations. This was caused because, for the first time, it cost more to produce local ‘live’ than it did to purchase from interstate and overseas. As well, the ratings demonstrated that children were choosing to watch the imported programs. This can be seen as a greater degree of sophistication amongst viewers, produced by them having had five years of choice and exposure to programs that were previously ‘put to air’ during adult viewing times. TVW7 News at 6.30 p.m., was still leading with top figures of 33 against STW9’s 27 at 6 p.m. ABW2 was doing 23 at 7 p.m., followed by This Day Tonight (locally produced) at 7.30 p.m., with figures of 22,21. The McNair Television Audience Survey was still being conducted and their comparative leading programs list numbered twenty. If anything, in this period it consolidated the accuracy of the Anderson Survey.
It was a case of ‘no contest’ when STW9’s new Spotlight rated 24,24,23,23 against TVW7’s Disneyland with 54,54,53,54. It was not that Perth audiences didn’t like talent quests, as the program before Disneyland was local ‘live’ Perth’s New Faces which rated 46,47. TVW7’s self-claimed position of being the Local Station was still proving to be un-assailable. However, the same survey conducted for July/August 1969 threw up some anomalies, particularly regarding ABW2 with their This Day Tonight and News. Coming in at Number 11 and watched by 32% of available homes it surprised the commercial station managements.
In the following survey, the hypnotism phenomenon Spellbound rated 58,59,58,57,40 against Tonight with 12,14,13,12,12,14. The next McNair Survey for Feb/March 1970 still showed ABW2 News at No.8 with 31% of TV Homes watching. This Day Tonight was also strong with 26%. STW9 Sunday Movie was No.9 with 28%, Showcase was No.16 with 25% and Julia on TVW7 was No.18 with 23%.
STW9 and ABW2 both had only one representation. However, the previous Anderson Analysis 6-26 May and 3-9 June 1970 showed a clean sweep of the Top Ten by TVW7, and 14 Oct-10 Nov. period was no different.
The Twelfth Directors’ Report TVW7 1970 recorded the ‘birth’ of a new Station mascot. With the ‘retirement’ of Taffy the Lion, James Cruthers ordered a new ‘animal’ to be created. He stipulated that it must not talk and its face had to be part of the costume. This was to obviate the degree of leverage that a ‘live’ faced animal could exert in regard to continuity of employment. James Cruthers said that Taffy the Lion was the only ‘personality’ who ever gave him any trouble. The character had adopted the attitude that he was indispensable and would be not removable due to his high public profile. This demeanour and demands for greater remuneration brought about his demise. The new ‘animal’ was Fat Cat and it was soon joined by Percy Penguin, originally played by dancer Kevan Johnston. Fat Cat’s photograph with a large TVW7 pedestal camera occupied a full page, whilst the back cover advertised ‘DEPARTMENTS star Peter Wyngarde at the studios with Peta Maitland, Miss Australian Beach Girl for 1970.’, ‘Garry Meadows looks on apprehensively as Graham Kennedy judges PERTH’S NEW FACES’ and ‘Maggie Tabberer with Channel 7 compere Jeff Newman’. Rolf Harris who was the original producer and compere of Children’s Channel Seven revisited the studios and his photograph appeared on the page which recorded the directors and executives of the Station as being,
The Directors reported a net profit of $841,024 (including realisation of investments and all working expenses) and subsequently contributed $11,000 to the TVW Staff Benefit Fund. A transfer from General Reserve saw the Station sitting on $1,255,991 out of which they paid a 20% dividend and transferred to Capital Reserve $900,000 and provided a further $5,000 for long service leave entitlements. At that time both Perth Building Society and W.A. Building Society were both offering 7% on cash deposits at call. The Bank of NSW was at 5% and Finance Corporation of Australia 8.5% for a 4 year investment. TVW Limited shares were quoted at $4.90 on the Stock Market.
The acquisition of all of the issued ordinary capital of West Australian Newspapers Limited by The Herald and Weekly Times Limited made it necessary for West Australian Newspapers Limited to substantially reduce its shareholding in TVW7 Limited in order to avoid contravening the ownership and control provision of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Herald and Weekly Times had a controlling interest in HSV7 in Melbourne. With the influence of James Macartney removed, this meant that the position of James Cruthers as ‘El Supremo’ of TVW7 was absolute. With the 45% holding formerly maintained by West Australian Newspapers spread throughout the shareholders of TVW Limited, this great local company was now totally independent of direction by any major shareholder.
A big event was the purchase of the licenses of 6IX, 6WB, 6MD and 6BY as of 1 July 1970 and that 6IX was to be moved to Tuart Hill. It was also noted that TVW7 had extended its activities during the year to other matters associated with entertainment. They were involved in theatrical productions, outdoor entertainment and sporting events, which all added to the Company’s income. The number of licensed TV sets was at 179,000. The appropriate persons were studying an eventual transition to colour but it was not considered imminent. The Channel was now transmitting for 104 hours per week with Australian content at 50% and the claim was made that Channel Seven News and Weather at 6.30 p.m. ranked fourth among all programmes and was a clear leader over its opposition.
In the Sixth Annual Directors’ Report STW9 Limited 1970, once again pictorial content stressed the station’s involvement in local ‘live’ production. The back cover pictures were ‘Tony Howes, Jenny Clemesha and Kingsley Koala [STW9’s answer to Fat Cat] at Princess Margaret Hospital’; ‘Clive Robertson’; ‘Barry Crocker being interviewed on Woman’s World by Jenny and John’; ‘Recording ‘Spotlight’ Studio ‘C’; ‘Graham Webb Compere of Spotlight’ and ‘Ray Victor and Renee Piazza’, an American couple originally brought to Perth at my instigation for La Tenda Night Club.
This report brought some joy with a ‘maiden’ dividend for STW9 Shareholders:
Profit for the year was $142,751 (170,186) after providing $179,619 (164,069) for depreciation. Excess provision for cost of $30,492 from previous years was written back making $173,243 available for appropriation. Allowing $128,000 for dividend, the balance of $45,243 has been used to reduce the accumulated loss to $19,329. No provision for income tax was necessary…Your directors recommend the payment of a maiden dividend of 8% to $128,000 payable on 16th October.
Swan Television Limited shares were quoted on the Stock Market at $1.96. Sales revenues had increased but higher costs offset this. Major items of equipment purchased included a microwave link system and another videotape machine, capable of handling transition to colour. In February the General Manager Bob Mercer was given the sack although the report said that ‘… [he] resigned and went into business on his own account.’
L.J. Kiernan was appointed Chief Executive and the Board was very complimentary of Mercer’s ‘untiring efforts on behalf of the Company during a vital stage of its development.’ Laurie Kiernan was the head of a very successful transport business and had taken shares in STW9 at the request of Dennis Cullity. They had been individually the Head Prefects of Guildford Grammar School and Aquinas College at the same time. With the fortunes of STW9 still not rising enough for the satisfaction of the Board of Directors, Cullity asked Kiernan to take a job riding shot-gun as Resident Director. Eventually Bob Mercer was replaced by Kiernan as Executive Director a title which he did not like and changed it to Managing Director and Chief Executive.
When questioned regarding the state of STW9 when the changeover happened, Kiernan said,
Peter it was a mess! I don’t want to go into details but financially it was a disaster! And I’d never been associated with anything that lost money. But, you know, in January you could lose a hundred to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars and as I say, I’d never been associated with a company that hadn’t made money.
Kiernan said that the arrangement with N.L.T. Productions was a disappointment ‘…as they didn’t deliver the people that they said they would and I had to terminate that…anyway I finished Neery up because it wasn’t working and we were paying a lot of money’ By his own admission Kiernan knew nothing about television generally, let alone local ‘live’ production. His intention was to make money and his special talent was in delegating authority. One such example was former General Manager of STW9 Bill Bowen who commenced his television career as a cameraman with ABN2 Sydney in 1956. He became Production Manager of NBN3 Newcastle. He had also done work for N.L.T. Productions in Sydney, producing The Don Lane Show, At Home With Hazel [Philips] and Dita Cobb. He was hired from there to be STW9 Production Manager at the beginning of 1969. One of his conditions was that he alone would hire and fire the Production Staff. Bowen’s first meeting with his new boss was embarrassing.
…so in waltzes Bob [Mercer] one day with this other guy in tow and says ‘I’d like you to meet Laurie Kiernan who’s our new director.’ And I said, ‘You can un-direct him Bob ’cause I told you I will hire the directors and you can un-hire him! You hired him and I told you not to and you can un-hire him!’ and Laurie sort of pulled himself up to his full six foot two and said, ‘Director of the Board!’ I said, ‘Oh! That’s different!’
The first McNair Survey for 1970 by total numbers of persons viewing gave TVW7 the first seven of the Top Twenty. Homicide was still on top with 156,000 viewers and a newcomer Greenacres was No.2 with 139,000 STW9’s Sunday Movie was at No.8 with 117,000 viewers, ABW2 News was at No.12 with 111,000 viewers. The Sydney produced Skippy was No.19 for STW9 with 91,000 viewers.
The McNair Survey of August 1970 credited only two programs to STW9. Skippy No.9 with 134,000 viewers and Hogan’s Heroes at No.18 with 117,000. The British comedy Steptoe and Son was holding No.13 with 122,000 viewers. The afternoons 4-6 p.m. showed some evenness.
For the first time, TVW7’s dominance in the children’s area was threatened. The time-slot 4.30 to 5.30 p.m. showed TVW7’s Children’s Channel Seven live studio production of Starnight trailing 12,13,13,14 to STW9’s Flipper at 11,12 and Land of The Giants 16,18 encroaching on the TVW7’s previous stranglehold. In 1970/71 children under the age of 15 years represented 30.28% of the population in W.A. They were selecting the imported American shows against the local ‘live’ programs, indicating that the entrenched position of TVW7 was starting to break down due to the passage of time. ABW2 trailed with Playschool, Adventure Island and Space Patrol all rated 2. A precursor to eventual change was that the STW9 News was now rating well with 24,25 against TVW7’s The Rifleman at 21,23. This provided a good springboard for the programs which followed, I Dream of Jeannie with 20,21 and H.R. Puff’n’Stuff with 24,25. However, they were eclipsed by TVW7 News 34,34 and Pick-a Box with 34,33.
This chapter has provided the framework for comparison of the correlation of programs (both local ‘live’ and imported) with audience acceptance through the ratings system and financial returns to the two television companies. It has shown that STW9 had high hopes of immediate success, which did not happen. They had to overcome the engendered acceptance of TVW7 as being the ‘local’ station. By the end of 1970 this handicap was starting to weaken.
During the period 1958 to 1970, TVW7 was successfully established by management’s careful attention to promoting a community feeling that this television outlet was indeed ‘their’ station. One of the most important aspects of this policy was the instigation of a highly successful annual Telethon which management cleverly tied to the future fortunes of the State’s specialising Children’s Hospital.
In 1965 STW9 established competition, but endured several years of financial loss and although they enjoyed some individual successes, they failed to catch up on TVW7 in the Audience Ratings Surveys. During the first few years at STW9, financial structures brought about regular cutting to the Production Department and local ‘live’ programs. In 1968, the first indications of a change-over to colour television were recorded by Station Management. A major change during this period ending in 1970 was the cessation of both daily ‘live’ children’s shows with studio audiences and regular studio produced women’s programs. It was not until that year that STW9 returned a dividend to shareholders.
Peter Harries March 2004
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