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WA History: from Telegram to TV – Part 1 of 5

Posted by ken On September - 30 - 2011

PART 1 (1870-1922)

This introduction deals with the origins of the telegram, telephone and wireless in Western Australia, and how at first this technology was employed for communication purposes.

The transition from horse and cart to automobile paralleled the introduction of electricity and early telecommunications services. Our growth as a nation depended on both.

The government also put in place the wireless regulations and initiated the early services, designed first to communicate with shipping. Then once voice transmission became possible it opened up the vista of so many other applications.

In Western Australia before the advent of television in 1959, the history of our state was recorded by the newspapers, books, government documents, written correspondence and historians, with the only imagery coming at first from early drawings, paintings, etchings and photographs, before the advent of motion picture technology. Before television could be realised, wireless technology had to evolve, and paralleling these developments were many changes in the lifestyle of the times.

2012 will be the centenary of wireless transmissions in Western Australia, commemorating the first transmitter installation at the former Applecross Wireless Station, then known as Perth Radio, which first began service on 30th September 1912. This was for communications purposes, and it was another 12 years before wireless was used for public entertainment broadcasts, with the launch of 6WF on Wednesday 4 June 1924. Earlier transmissions were made by experimenters who were to form the amateur radio community, an important group from which many wireless industry pioneers were drawn.


Wireless Hill Park – the former Applecross Wireless Station

Wireless communications have conveyed important messages throughout the two world wars and everything since, including the space race. The form has undergone change over time, with satellites making a big impact, as has fibre optic cables, FM and digital. Modern communications has helped shrink the world, with information travelling at the speed of light. Wireless has also been put into general use to provide news, sport, music, drama, comedy, documentaries and the many styles of amusement, to brighten up our day and provide company to the lonely.


Capital Community Radio 90.5 FM

Society as a whole has sped up with rapid developments that have taken us out of the dark ages, from candle light to incandescent, fluorescent and light emitting diodes. Illumination was also used to project moving pictures, which now travel through the air and over the internet. Everything is faster now, with automobiles, trains and aeroplanes.


All manner of electrical based inventions have altered our life too. Generations now have benefitted from these advances, but keeping the memory alive and valuing it is another thing. The now obsolete items of yesteryear are often left to the veterans and enthusiasts to ponder and play with. Only the pioneers who grew up with and operated the early technology give much thought to it. When their passion dies out, so too will the motivation for it to be remembered. Nostalgia generally relates to a fondness for things in our immediate past, and not what our ancestors lived with. Yet knowing how we arrived to where we are now can increase our appreciation of what our forefather did to give us the life we presently enjoy.


It would be a very different life if we all had to entertain ourselves, singing around a piano, with no iTunes, CD music, radio, television, cinema or the internet. We can learn whats happening on the other side of the planet in an instant, imagine if we still had to wait three months for a sailing ship to deliver news and mail.


Our history is rich with developments and events associated with wireless related technology and the joy it has given us. The vast spans of Western Australia and its isolation was a great challenge until roads, rail and communications infrastructure was built. The roads boards and councils played a big roll in providing the necessary municipal services to enable the State to expand. But it was the advent of electricity and all the inventions which evolved technologically, that helped greatly in reducing the perception of isolation.


Telegraphy was an early system for transmitting messages long distances over a wire, which was one step removed from smoke signals, and the semaphore where arms, flags or poles were positioned according to an alphabetic code. Samuel Morse and his team came up with the notion of rapid long distance messaging following his receiving news of his wife’s ill health, after her death. This gave Morse the drive to develop and commercialise the telegraph between 1837 and 1844, though the first electrical telegram was not sent in Western Australia until 1869.


Morse code became an efficient method of coding messages as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that were understood by a skilled operator.

In 1877, the Perth-Adelaide telegraph line opened, which considerably improved intracontinental communication. At this time all messages crossing colonial borders were transcribed onto paper by an operator of one State, then handed over a table to the operator of the other State, to be then retransmitted across the border.


Until Federation in 1901, Western Australian operators used one variety of morse code, whilst the South Australians used another. The exchange of messages took place at the lonely outpost of Eucla, built 20 kilometres inside the Western Australian border. The station was staffed equally by Western Australian and South Australian telegraphists with each team sitting on opposite sides of a long table, that extended north and south, the full length of the room.


The first telegram between WA and SA

In 1887, the Perth telephone exchange opens with a service introduced between Perth and Fremantle.


Early telephones had one wire for both transmitting and receiving of audio, with ground return as used in telegraphs.


Early telephone equipment on display at the Wireless Hill Telecommunications Museum

In 1888, the German physicist, Heinrich Hertz, conducts the first demonstration of the transmitting and receiving waves of energy through the air.

In 1888, electricity was introduced to Western Australia in a limited fashion by the Western Australian Electric Light and Power Company, using a small plant with a 40 horsepower portable engine and 15 kilo watt dynamo installed at the company premises next to where the current Criterion Hotel in located, in what was Howick Street (now Hay Street) Perth.

The Perth Town Hall became the first building to receive a permanent electricity supply in Western Australia on 4 December 1891. In 1892, the first electric street light was erected by the WA Electric Light and Power Company. The original Criterion Hotel was also one of the first establishments in the city to adopt to the electric light system, being lit up by electricity for the first time on Saturday night April 30, 1892. Not to be confused with the existing art deco Criterion Hotel, that was built in 1937 for the Swan Brewery Company Ltd., in an architectural style that became popular throughout Australia after the Depression, when building activity increased significantly from about 1936. In Perth, the Adelphi and Bohemia Hotels in the central city and the Raffles, Highway and Scarborough Hotels in the suburbs all featured the art deco style. The Criterion site was originally The John Bull Inn (1854), dating back to the early settlement days.


Erecting the first power poles on the corner of Hay and Barrack Streets, Perth

(Source: The History of Electricity in Western Australia, published by Western Power Corporation)

In 1894, The Perth Gas Company began operating the state’s first significant power station from Wellington Street, supplying 110 volts direct current to the Perth Town Hall, Wesley Church and Wigg & Son.

In 1896, Guglielmo Marconi conducts the first demonstration of wireless telegraphy from the Post Office in London, using Morse Telegraphy.


1900 electric wire and telegraph line visual pollution on the corner of Hay and Barrack Streets

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

By 1901, when the six Australian States decided to federate, there were 32,767 telephones in use. Each of the States had, until then, built up its own telephone services. But Federation brought all telecommunications under the control of the newly formed Commonwealth Government’s Postmaster-General (PMG), a federal Minister overseeing the Postmaster-General’s Department that took over all domestic telephone, telegraph and postal services.

In 1905 the Federal Government of Australia introduced the Wireless Telegraphy Act giving the Government complete control over wireless activity and the Postmaster General the exclusive right to transmit and receive messages by wireless and to issue wireless licences.

On 12 July 1906, representatives of Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company staged a demonstration of the new medium of wireless telegraphy across Bass Strait, between Point Lonsdale in Victoria and Devonport in Tasmania, a decade after the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) was granted a patent for ‘wireless telegraphy’. Though this helped to sell the idea of wireless, it failed to sell either the Marconi system or shares in Marconi’s companies, when the Australian Government insisted there must be an open tender for any wireless stations it decided to establish. Australia eventually purchased a national wireless network from Marconi’s competitor, Telefunken.

Marconi almost monopolised the industry worldwide with companies in Europe, the USA (later to be renamed the Radio Corporation of America – RCA – in 1919). In Australia Marconi and its main competitor Telefunken amalgamated to form Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. (AWA) in 1913.

In 1907, the first inter-capital telephone trunk line was opened between Sydney and Melbourne. It was followed by a line between Melbourne and Adelaide in 1914. Sydney and Brisbane were linked in 1923, and Perth and Adelaide in 1930.

In 1909, Telefunken established Australasian Wireless Limited to market the new technology of wireless. Telefunken is a German company that was founded in Berlin in 1903 as Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie System Telefunken (“The Company for Wireless Telegraphy Ltd.”) which soon began building broadcast transmitters and radio sets.

In 1909 the Federal Government, through the Postmaster General’s Department, tendered for the construction of two wireless stations, one to be in Perth and the other in Sydney.

In 1910, Wireless equipment starts to become more common on ships, when the first vessels equipped with wireless arrived in Australasian waters, generating a need for coastal radio Stations in Australia for wireless-equipped ships to communicate with.

There was excitement among a growing number of radio enthusiasts to experiment and learn more. So much so that groups were forming to share information and experiences. With wireless they could interact with likeminded people who were further afield. The Wireless Institute of New South Wales was formed in 1910, followed by the Amateur Wireless Society of Victoria in 1911.

In September 1911 the Australian Federal Government had completed negotiations for the purchase of the Applecross transmitter site from Bewick Moreing & Company and clearing of the site and construction of the station commenced. Foundations, earthworks, roads and buildings were constructed for the Commonwealth authorities by the Public Works Department of Western Australia under the direction of Hillson Beasley. The complex comprised a group of four cottages (three residences and single mens’ quarters) at the north end of the site and three operations buildings at the south end of the site on the crest of a ridge. This included the Operators’ House, Engine House, one small brick and tiled roof toilet at the north-east end of the site, a buggy shed and stables, a windmill and well, and circulating water tanks near the Engine Room. A 1.5 metre open picket fence was erected around Engine and Operators’ houses and the site was encircled by a 1.8 metre barbed wire fence.


(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

The supply and installation of plant was undertaken by the Australian Wireless Company. Powered by a 60hp Gardiner engine driving a 50 cycle alternator, the original wireless equipment consisted of a crystal receiver using local galena ore and a 25kw quenched-spark long-wave transmitter.

Galena is the primary ore of lead which exhibits semiconductor properties and was used in early wireless communication systems. For example, it was used as the crystal in crystal radio sets, as a point-contact diode to detect the radio signals.


The guyed aerial mast 120 metres in height

(City of Melville photo)

The transmitter was connected to a guyed aerial mast 120 metres in height, with three concrete anchor blocks, each approximately 4.6 m high, built to hold mast guy wires. The equipment was provided by the German company, Telefunken. Concrete beds for the mast and guy anchorages were constructed by the Public Works Department.


The original mast was 120 metres in height

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)


Three concrete anchor blocks, each approximately 4.6 m high, built to hold mast guy wires

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)


Concrete beds for the mast and guy anchorages were constructed by the Public Works Department

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)


Not much room to stand and no place for a fear of heights

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

Acrophobia sufferers need not apply for the job of mast maintenance, as the last thing the gent standing on top of this tower would need is to experience a panic attack in high places.


(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

Only two remnants survive of this installation. One is a fragment of the mast insulator and the other is a coil former. Photos such as these is all that’s left to remember the original equipment by.


Crew and family celebrate a job well done

(City of Melville photo)

On 30th September 1912, the Applecross station opened as Perth Radio with the callsign POP for Post Office Perth (later changed to VIP). From 1912 the callsign prefix letter V was used in many Commonwealth countries as a commemoration of the death of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Australia was allocated the prefix group VH to VK. Following an international wireless convention, which allocated prefixes on a world wide basis, the PO callsigns were changed to VI, giving Perth Radio it’s VIP.


On Duty Wireless Operator

(City of Melville photo)

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 showed the usefulness of the new technology when the ship sent distress signals over the air. It didn’t prevent the deaths of 1,517 passengers unfortunately. The primary mode of communication was morse telegraphy and primary frequency used at Applecross was 500khz.


The station was equipped with a Telefunken 25KW quenched spark transmitter

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

From 1912, the Applecross Wireless Station was used continuously until 1967, where the facilities enabled wireless communication to be carried out for the very first time between the east and west coasts of Australia, between the mainland of Australia and shipping up to 1,600km into the Indian and Southern Oceans, and between Australia and the rest of the world.


The power supply plant was first housed in the building later used for the museum

(City of Melville photo)

After the First World War and into the 1920s a major re-equipment programme was conducted. The original spark gap transmitters and crystal detectors were replaced by modern electronic valve equipment. Short-Wave (high frequency) was introduced as well as two-way radiotelephone which increased ranges considerably.

In 1913, Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia Limited is formed with the merger of Australasian Wireless Limited and Marconi Company.

In 1913, construction commenced on WA’s first major power station, the East Perth Power Station, and it initially generated 12 Mega Watts.

In 1914, during World War I, the Royal Australian Navy took control of all Australian coast radio stations and all wireless telegraphy in Australia and install a 60 kw Poulsen arc transmitter and valve operated receivers at Applecross.

The First World War marked the peak of the telegraph era with cabled military orders triggering mass mobilisation across Europe. During both world wars the telegram was used to tell family members if their husbands or sons had died or were missing in action. The arrival of the telegram messenger was greeted with dread.

In 1920, after the war, control of Perth Radio reverts back to the Postmaster General but in 1922 control of the station was transferred to Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia Limited (AWA), who were formerly the Australasian Wireless Limited. AWA installs valve transmitters.

Radio and TV veteran Ian Stimson kindly provided much of the commercial radio history information.

Additional radio content courtesy of George Chapman, who in 1970, was General Manager of 6PM and the CBS Network, then the inaugural Managing Director of 96FM (1980-1984), amongst many other roles including General Manager of TCN Channel 9 and Station Manager of 2UW Sydney.

John Cranfield kindly provided the 6IX story, which is told in detail at…

WA History: from Telegram to TV – Part 2 of 5

Posted by ken On September - 30 - 2011

PART 2 (1923-1935)

A forward thinking group of likeminded people pioneered radio in Western Australia. Wireless communications enabled motivated people to exchange knowledge and ideas for the first time, regardless of distance and isolation. Much as the Internet does today.

The people with the know how to make radio happen sprung from the early enthusiasts and experimenters, financed by local businessmen, and supported by performers from serious theatre, vaudeville and the musical fraternity. They utilised overseas inventions combined with local innovations for the betterment of all Australians. From the Royal Flying Doctor Service to radio news, information and entertainment.

In 1923, a small group of likeminded people formed the Subiaco Radio Society, which grew in influence until the wars intervened, to then resume activities once peace was restored. The capacity for two way communication by Morse code around the world, was responsible for the rapid growth in amateur radio in the US, Britain, Europe and Australia, until the security considerations caused it to be halted for military reasons during war. The Radio Society of Western Australia was formed in 1948, with its origins based in the Subiaco Radio Society.

Many of the early members of the Subiaco Radio Society became prominent figures in radio in Western Australia. Wally Coxon (VK6AG) became chief engineer and manager of 6WF, Bill Phipps (VK6WP) became the chief engineer of Whitford’s Broadcasting Network and Harry Simmons (VK6KX) became the chief engineer of West Australian Broadcasters. As 6ML and 6IX broadcast out of the same building, Harry Simmons was the chief engineer of both. Wally Coxon later became the station manager and supervising engineer of 6AM in Northam.

Prior to 1923, the radio manufacturing industry in Australia, led by George Fisk of AWA, lobbied the Government for the introduction of radio broadcasting for the public consumption. The first concept involved sealed set regulations where stations could be licensed to broadcast and the receiving device would be set to receive only that station. 2FC and opponent 2SB (later to be called 2BL) in Sydney were the first to be licensed on 1st July 1923. This proved unpopular with potential listeners, so in 1924 the Government introduced a two tiered system, the A-Class licences to be largely financed by listeners’ licence fees and were able to take limited advertising, and B-Class licences that would have to generate their own revenue through advertising.

In 1924, Western Farmers Limited (Wesfarmers) began operating radio station 6WF on an A-Class licence from the top floor of the company’s Wellington Street building. The top floor was divided into two studios, the smaller used for news broadcasting, the larger for music and entertainment. The studios were fitted with the latest equipment with the wall cavities filled with sawdust for soundproofing. The transmitter mast had two massive radio towers, each weighing 3.5 tons located on top of the building. 6WF was initially a long-wave station with 5 kilowatts of power on 1250 metres, 240 kHz, until the Australian Broadcasting Company took over five years later and it left long-wave and moved to 690 kHz on the mediumwave band on September 2, 1929. The first manager and chief engineer of 6WF was Walter Coxon, who aquired the first Experimental Broadcast License in Western Australia (6AG), after becoming interested in wireless experiments as far back as 1907. He gained his Proficiency in Radio with the North Eastern School of Wireless and continued there for some time as an instructor. The UK based school was founded in 1911 to train Radio Officers for the Merchant Marine, then affectionally known as ‘Sparks’. Radio Officers on ships not only operated the radio equipment, but also repaired and maintained it, so this was an excellent grounding for a pioneer in the new industry.


W.E. Coxon, first Manager of Radio Station 6WF

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

He was described as “The Father of Radio in Western Australia”. Not only designing and building the station but also the ‘Mulgaphone’ radio receivers, with 1,200 being sold by 6WF. Sets in Perth were initially fixed to receive one station, but within the first month of operation the sealed set system was abandoned by the government and the Mulgaphones were re-designed, making it possible to receive stations in wavelengths within the range of 250 metres (1200 KHz) to 2000 metres (150 KHz). There were a number of models manufactured, that ranged from a simple crystal set without amplification, which required headphones, to a valve amplified version that enabled a group of listeners to monitor via a horn loudspeaker. Walter Coxon also pioneered the technical work for the Royal Flying Doctor Radio Service in Western Australia.


A ‘Mulgaphone’ radio receiver

For the first three months of 6WF’s operations only 300 licences were taken out, but after the Royal Show of 1924 they showed a considerable increase. At first sealed sets were in use, but this was soon abandoned, and the real increase in licences dated from the time when open sets came into use.


1924 – Original 6WF mast on Wesfarmers building, Wellington Street, Perth

For the next few years, 6WF provided a bridge between city and country – alongside the live theatrical performances and musical recitals was information about the weather and stock prices. Harold Wells had the distinction of being the first radio announcer in Western Australia. The listener’s annual fee was £4/4/- plus 10/- to the Postmaster-General’s Department, which was the supervising authority.


6WF Opening Night Programme

(Courtesy of Richard Ashton whose Aunt Lil (Miss Lilian Pether performed on the opening night) whilst Aunt Connie (Miss Constance Pether) performed on the second night)

6WF Opening Night Story

Outside broadcasts were a feature of 6WF with the first political speech broadcast from the Queen’s Hall, in William Street, Perth, on Friday, March 13, 1925, the first theatre broadcast was a vaudeville programme from the Luxor Theatre in Beaufort Street, Perth, on Wednesday, March 18 1925, and a harness racing event from the W.A. Trotting Association track on the perimeter of the Western Australian Cricket Association Ground on Saturday. April 11, 1925, followed by the play “Peg of My Heart” from His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth, on Wednesday, May 27, 1925.

In 1926, the Applecross Wireless Station became a feeder station for international radiograms. In addition, a short wave experimental broadcasting station run by AWA shared the facilities with the commercial radio station 6PR from 1931 and the Police radio network.

In 1927, AWA installs a short-wave ‘Beam System’, which extends the transmitting range of the station enabling, direct communication between England and Australia.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS, informally known as The Flying Doctor) began in 1928, and by 1934 was spreading nationally. The pedal radio became synonymous with the early Flying Doctor service. It was a radio powered by a pedal-driven generator, developed by Alfred Traeger in 1929, as a way of providing radio communications to remote homesteads in the Australian outback. There was no mains or generator power available at the time and batteries to provide the required power would have been too expensive. The School of the Air, which links outback students with centralised teachers, until recently used the same radio equipment as the RFDS. This has now been surpassed with the availability of internet services.


The RFDS exhibit at the Wireless Hill Telecommunications Museum

In 1929, radio station 6WF was taken over by the Australian Broadcasting Company and moved from the Wesfarmers building to the first floor of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank (E.S. & A.) building at the corner of Hay and Milligan Street, Perth. It was an an A-class radio station funded by listener licence fees.

This came about as a result of a Royal Commission in 1927, and at first only the plants were taken over, and it was then decided to reduce the long wave-length of 6WF. This was done by altering an already obsolete plant, rather than installing a new one and the result was the loss of efficiency. The next step was to call for tenders for programs and the contract fell to the Australian Broadcasting Company, which appointed Former Sydney radio 2BL announcer and sports commentator Mr. Basil Kirke as manager of 6WF. Kirke was full of energy and drive and attracted listeners with daring antics such as broadcasting from the seabed off Cottesloe and from inside Yallingup caves.


ABC’s Perth home from 1929 to1937

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

In 1928, many professional musicians, who had supported the silent movies, found themselves out of work, and under the direction of Harold Newton, formed the Perth Symphony Orchestra, with many of the concerts broadcast by radio station 6WF.

Under Basil Kirke’s direction, 6WF extended its programs and introduce new features.The value of this was shown by the rapid increase in licences, so that after three years, the company had increased the licences from 3,900 to 12,500 by 1932.

All programs went to air live in the early days. It was not until 1935 that disc recorders started being installed in ABC studios. It was the only means for recording program material until the arrival of tape in the 1950s. Drama was one of the most demanding forms of live performance with complex sound effects and mood music added. Many plays were specially adapted for radio, including the classics, for all 36 of Shakespeare’s plays were produced and broadcast from 1936 to 1938.

In 1930, Perth was connected to Adelaide (and subsequently the rest of the eastern states) by a telephone line and the first overseas calls from Australia became possible with the introduction of a radio telephone service to England, and through there to Europe and America. A similar service opened to New Zealand in the same year.

In 1930, Musgrove’s Limited opened their station 6ML (on 19th March 1930). The 6ML call sign was taken from the initial letters of the owners, Musgrove’s Limited. The transmitter, which was largely built by Harry Simmons, was housed on the top floor in a screened room, with a long wire antenna strung from the top of Musgroves limited to the top of the Post office building. The 6ML Cheerio Club gained much popularity in those early years with a membership running into thousands. It evolved from the Fox Hoyts Radio Club which conducted weekly dances at Lyric House, until that venue became too small requiring a shift to the Embassy Ballroom, where over 800 members would gather each Wednesday night. Club members also turned up in hundreds to hikes, zoo picnics and other social functions. Mr F.C. Kingston, a founder of Musgrove’s, was the station director and a director of WA Broadcasters Limited. He also was in control of the radio, record, phonograph and refrigerator departments at Musgrove’s Limited. According to the West Australian newspaper, October 20 1953, “Station 6ML volunteered its broadcasting licence to the P.M.G. Department when most of the staff left to join the armed forces during World War II.”


1920 Musgroves

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

In 1931, Radio Station 6PR begins broadcasting via the Applecross Wireless Station. 6PR was then owned by Nicholson’s Limited, with studios located on the second floor of their music shop at 86 Barrack Street, Perth.


6PR’s AWA transmitter installed at the Applecross Wireless Station in 1931

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

6PR’s original broadcast frequency was 880 kHz, which it retained until 1978 when it moved slightly up the dial to 882 kHz with the advent of 9 kHz spacing on the AM dial. The station still broadcasts on that frequency today.


Nicholson’s Broadcasting Service Pty Ltd – 6PR Studios in Barrack Street, Perth

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

6KG Kalgoorlie also commenced broadcasting in 1931 with Arthur Taylor as manager and engineer, after being a radio amateur and involved in the early Flying Doctor service in WA. Transmission hours were 8 am to 1 pm and 5 pm to 10.30 pm, broadcasting on 500 watts, 246 metres. 1,200 Kilohertz, in the centre of the main gold-producing areas of Australia. Live music was a feature of early radio stations and 6KG was no exception having its own studio orchestra made up of many solo artists, who themselves provided a great variety of programming. Gradually the commercial stations moved towards recorded music, particularly when the 1960s hit parades really took off. The ABC was the last bastion of live music, with each state having a close relationship with a symphony orchestra, until there was an organisational split and the orchestras went out on their own.


1932 Canning Highway, Applecross Wireless station mast in background

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

In 1932, the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was passed, following which The Australian Broadcasting Commission took over the premises from the Australian Broadcasting Company, and the 6WF transmitter was relocated to Wanneroo (now called Hamersley). As part of its charter, the ABC was to establish broadcast orchestras in each state with WA concerts performed initially in His Majesty’s Theatre and then later in the Capitol Theatre and Winthrop Hall. Then in 1950 the state government and Perth City Council made funds available to subsidise the orchestra, which led to the West Australian Symphony Orchestra being formalised. In 1997, the ABC divested all ABC orchestras from the Concerts department of the ABC into separate subsidiary companies, including a service company known as Symphony Australia. The West Australian Symphony was incorporated in January 1998.

From 1932 to 1936 ABC stations in each State provided news bulletins by having the duty announcer read local and foreign news items straight from the newspapers.


The official opening of Radio Station 6IX by the President of the Legislative Council Sir J. Kirwan, 30th Nov. 1933

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)


6IX Radio Studio in 1933

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

In 1933, the W.A. Broadcasters Ltd owned 6IX was officially opened on the 27th November with its first studios situated above the Musgroves shop, known as Lyric House, Murray Street, Perth. The transmitter: was located on the roof of Newspaper House in St. George’s Terrace, Perth. The service was broadcast first on a wavelength of 204 metres at 300 watts to later change wavelength to 242 metres (1240 kilohertz) at a power of 500 watts. During the evening sessions 6IX presented hourly news bulletins from the offices of the West Australian newspaper. The station was half owned by Musgrove’s and WAN.


From 1934, synthetic cricket broadcasts were broadcast by the ABC, where commentators in Sydney recreated the game as it was being played in England. It was an era when the Telex network took off, whereby teleprinters were used to send text based messages, rather than operators doing so manually with morse code. Details of the match were sent this way from the cricket ground in England, quickly read and broadcast as a simulation of a real live commentary team, complete with the sound of a wooden pencil striking the desk and sound effects of a crowd. These fake broadcasts proved to be incredibly popular. Alan McGilvray AM MBE (1909–1996) was one such person who participated in this practice and whose commentating career began in the 1930’s and spanned over 50 years.

In 1934, the ABC hired its first journalist and the first Federal News Editor was appointed in 1936 to control a national news service which was relayed to all States except Western Australia. the ABC in Perth relied heavily on the BBC news which was received by the PMG run Byford receiving station and sent by landline to the studio. Meanwhile, Dick Collins would cut up the Daily News and paste up a compilation of stories for the announcers to read in Perth.


1934 Radio & Electrical Exhibition at Government House Ballroom

Vendors at the 1934 Radio and Electrical Exhibition included Boans, Nicholson’s, Thompson’s Limited (Beall Radio), RC Pty Ltd (Astor), British General Electric Co Ltd (Sylvania Valves, Osram, Magnet and Genalex), MJ Bateman (STC Radio), Wyper Howard Ltd (Radiolla) and the Broadcaster magazine.

Radio Programs broadcast on Saturday 10 March 1934





As an alternate source of radio programs, the British expatriates could tune in to the BBC Empire Service from 1932, which was broadcast from the English town of Daventry, located 77 miles (124 km) north-northwest of London. The radio announcement of “Daventry calling” made the town well-known across the world.


Meanwhile, there have been two 6BY’s in Western Australia, the original station was at Bunbury. It was formed by a consortium of businessmen in the town as Bunbury Broadcasters. The studio and transmitter was situated in the Bedford Hall beind the Haywards Building the antenna was a long wire and this was still in place in 1960. The station 6BY went on air in 1933, power rated at 1000 watts, Clarence Serl the former Chief Engineer of 5KA Adelaide, built the equipment on site. The first woman announcer was a Miss Higgins. This station closed down in 1935.

6AM Northam commenced broadcasting on 1st June 1934, as Northam Broadcasters Limited, twenty years before the 6NM (ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt service) on 24th June 1955. The 1934 post office directory has Northam Broadcasters office located at 23 William Street, Perth. Frank Whitford was managing director, with brother Archer as chairman of directors and David White secretary. Both Whitford brothers spend their early years in the goldfields.


6AM Northam Transmitter Site in 1934

The 6AM transmitter was completely built in six months by Wally Coxon (who earlier built the first 6WF transmitter). He then became the station manager and supervising engineer.

By the 1930s country music was an established part of rural life in Australia, due in part to the widespread popularity of radio. Early stars were Tex Morton (1916 – 1983), Buddy Williams (1918-1986), Shirley Thoms (1925-1999) and Smoky Dawson (1913-2008).

In 1935, the Flying Doctor service started in W.A.


Pedal-operated generator designed by Alfred Traeger

The ABC introduced schools broadcasts by 1935, radio lessons were broadcast in all mainland States. By 1953, over 80 per cent of all Australian schools, State and private, utilised the ABC schools broadcasts as part of their weekly curriculum.

Radio and TV veteran Ian Stimson kindly provided much of the commercial radio history information.

Additional radio content courtesy of George Chapman, who in 1970, was General Manager of 6PM and the CBS Network, then the inaugural Managing Director of 96FM (1980-1984), amongst many other roles including General Manager of TCN Channel 9 and Station Manager of 2UW Sydney.

John Cranfield kindly provided the 6IX story, which is told in detail at…

WA History: from Telegram to TV – Part 3 of 5

Posted by ken On September - 30 - 2011

PART 3 (1936-1954)

Before and after World War II, radio made a big impact by not only bridging vast distances, and bringing communities closer together, but also entertaining the masses and comforting the lonely.

For the first time people could be entertained in their home with out need to buy gramophone records, own or play a musical instrument, or engage in a sing-a-long around the family piano. There was no need to venture out to a concert, theatre performance or movie screening.

Once one could afford a radio set and pay the licence fee, the joy was potentially limitless with every genre catered for from sporting events, news and information, music recitals, quiz shows, comedy performances to dramatic enactments.

The most popular radio performers became big stars, much like the Hollywood experience.

In the early years of radio in Western Australia, 6WF (as it was known then, rather than the ABC) had great popularity until the commercial stations started making inroads with programs aimed more at the common people rather than the intelligentia and elite.

Women played an important role in the early radio industry. By the mid-1930s, women were on air as announcers and working in radio production, gaining prominence as producers, directors, writers and performers. There was Miss Joan Allen (Aunt Mary) on 6ML, Miss Laurel Berryman conducted the 6ML Women’s Session, Nell Shortland-Jones (1907-1994), was a broadcaster and entertainer who appeared on 6ML as a soprano in 1930 and later as a presenter on 6PR and 6IX with television appearances on the TVW woman’s show called Today, hosted by Lloyd Lawson (Nell also travelled about with her Concert Party for the elderly and hospitalised), Miss Gladys Millar conducted the 6PR Woman’s Session, Miss Isla Hayles (Aunt Isla) on 6PR’s Children’s Session, Miss Peggy Nunn (Auntie Peggy) worked on the 6WF Children’s Session, plays and reviews before joining 6PR, Mrs Dorothy Graham (Dorothy Manning) was a performer on 6WF and wife of early 6WF evening announcer Harry Graham who later became the drama producer before Tony Turner took on this role. As staff went off to war they were replaced temporarily by women, the first ABC woman announcer appointee was Margaret Doyle, in 1940, and by 1942, there were 19 women announcers, where in WA, Phyllis Hope-Robertson was reading the News. During the war, women also became sound effects officers, technicians and journalists, Catherine King (1904-2000), the daughter of prominent Perth academic Walter Murdoch, was first to organise the ABC’s “Kindergarten of the Air” with Margaret Grayham as presenter, King then went on to refurbish the ABC’s Women’s Session in 1944 as presenter for 22 years, Irene Greenwood (1898 – 1992) also worked on the ABC Woman’s Session from 1936 to 1940 then by 1948 Greenwood was running her own women’s session for the Whitford’s 6PM-AM commercial network.

Jack Davey (1907-1959) was a New Zealand-born star of Australian commercial radio who made a big impact in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. At the same time he became the voice of Fox-Movietone newsreels, a position he held for 25 years. His radio shows were recorded before a live audience in Sydney, and distributed on disc to network stations. Though he did travel further afield to record a show on the grassed oval at the Perth zoo in the 1950s.


Jack Davey

Davey had a sharp wit, but made his mark as a radio performer rather than television, which by then he was suffering the ravages of cancer prior to his death on 14 October 1959, two days prior to TVW opening in Perth. A reported crowd of 100-150,000 people attended his funeral service at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral. He will be remembered for his charm, spontaneity and wit, which was delivered in a warm, rich voice on radio, but sadly in the late 1950s his thin, gaunt and ageing appearance failed to attract television viewers.


Bob and wife Dolly Dyer, hosting one of TV’s longest running quiz shows, BP Pick a Box, which TVW broadcast

Bob Dyer (1909-1984) was both Davey’s rival and occasional marlin fishing partner, as depicted by the cinema newsreels. Dyer was an American-born vaudeville entertainer, radio personality, and radio (1940s and 1950s) and television quiz show host (from late 1950s) who made his name in Australia with such shows as “Can You Take it?”, “It Pays to be Funny” and “Pick a Box”.

On June 30, 1936, there were 50,000 licensed listeners in WA and the 100,000 goal was reached in March, 1946.

In 1936, the W.A. Broadcasters Ltd owned 6WB Katanning was officially opened on the 26th September with its first studios situated above the Musgroves shop, known as Lyric House, Murray Street, Perth. The service was broadcast on a wavelength of 280 metres or 1070 kilohertz at a power of 2000 watts.

In 1937 the ABC moved its studios and staff to St Georges Terrace, located on the edge of the Supreme Court Gardens, next to the Government House Ballroom and behind the Department of Agriculture, where Council House now stands. The ABC building was called ‘Broadcast House’.


Location of ABC Broadcast House (centre of photo)

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)


ABC Broadcast House (1937-1959)

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

Also in 1937, 6PM became Perth’s third commercial radio station (launched on April 22, 1937 on the frequency 1000 kHz) transmitting from a site in Palmyra and stayed there until they was moved to a transmitter site at Coffee Point in 1942, on the south side of the Swan River, near the South of Perth Yacht Club, after approaches to the prime minister John Curtin were made to shift to this site. The company directors were Frank Whitford, Perth (Managing) and his brother Archer Whitford, who lived in Sydney. The first studios were located at 23 William Street, Perth, which was where Whitford’s theatre advertising and photographic theatre slide making was conducted. Both 6PM and 6AM broadcast from this building until they moved to St. George’s House, 115 St Georges Terrace in 1953. Whitford Broadcasting Network came to comprise 6PM Perth, 6AM Northam, 6KG Kalgoorlie and 6GE Geraldton.

Early announcers on 6PM included John Luke, Kevin Whitby, Noreen (Margo) Leen and Nell Shortland-Jones. Other loved personalities over the years included: Brien Thirley, Graham Gooden, Alan Robertson, Graham Bowra, Keith Taylor, Tony Barber, Philip Clark, Ashton Farley, Peter Chaplin, Steven Cooper, David Ellery, Laurie Henry. Programme managers included Jack Anstey and Monty Menhennett. Betty Farrington was heard broadcasting Community Announcements.

By 1937, Family serials were very popular, such as Dad and Dave, based on Steele Rudd’s classic On Our Selection (1899), which first went to air that year.

The ABC’s second radio station in Perth, 6WN opened on October 12, 1938. The transmission mast was sited on top of the GPO in Forrest Place, where it would stay as a landmark until removed during the second world war as a potential hazard. The local ABC manager was then Conrad Charlton.

The first car radios were produced in 1938, though the valve technology made them much bulkier than the modern transistor variety.

Listening to the radio was one of the most popular means of entertainment and relaxation in the war years 1939-1945. It offered serials, comedy shows, news broadcasts, music and plays. Though from a news point of view, most information from the war front was rigidly censored.

By 1939 all Australian capital cities except Darwin were connected through a national network of ‘voice grade’ lines and 50% of services through automatic exchanges. In this same year, TVW and STW personality Lloyd Lawson began his broadcasting career at 6PM at the age of 17.

After AWA installed the equipment and six months testing at the Waterloo transmitter site (a small town in the South West region of Western Australia, located on the South Western Highway between Bunbury and Brunswick Junction), Nicholsons Ltd launched 6TZ, and in October 1939. This station went on air relaying by land line 6PR’s programming. It was not until June 1960 that Nicholsons Ltd built a one room studio in the back of their Bunbury store that local programming began fully in Bunbury 0600 – 1400, then relay 6PR until 1700, local programme from 1700 to 2230 close weekdays. On the weekend Saturday and Sunday, there was a relay of 6PR program.

Between 1939 and 1945, as a result of the outbreak of World War II, the Royal Australian Navy again took over control of the Applecross Wireless Station, along with all other coastal radio stations in the country.

Widespread use of the wire and oxide coated tape-recording devices occurred within the decades spanning from 1940 until 1960. Tape-recording was to revolutionise the industry, enabling the time shifting of programs from one time zone to another and the convenient recording of all types of program material. Up until 1950, disc lathes were used to cut gramophone recordings of important content. The early variety of disc was wax coated, but subsequently a cellulose acetate coating was used. Mischievous technicians at the ABC’s Broadcast House would make swarf bombs from the acetate cuttings. Nothing excessively dangerous, other than they would set off an incredibly pungent cloud of smoke. In hindsight the practice was most likely unhealthy if the smoke contained carcinogens. Staff used ingenuity to set them off. One method was to place fuse wire across the 12 volt terminals of a scope soldering iron, which would ignite the cuttings as it warmed up. Much hilarity ensured as staff witnessed the pandemonium generated amongst the unsuspecting victims.


Rondex disc lathe on display at the Wireless Hill Telecommunication Museum

In 1941, the newest station in town 6KY opened on 23rd October on a broadcast frequency of 1210 kHz – which was changed to 1206 kHz in 1978. 6KY was the fourth commercial station in the city and the last one to open in Perth for the next 39 years. Its regional station 6NA Narrogin opened on 1951. The stations were owned by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), the largest union in the state. Interestingly, accusations of political bias were to result from this ownership when the State president of the Liberal Party (Mr. J. L. Paton) alleged censorship of a script by Miss Battye, a member of the Liberal Party, claiming the station was owned by the Labor Party. This was reported by The Courier-Mail on August 9, 1945.

In 1941, the W.A. Broadcasters Ltd owned 6MD Merredin was officially opened on the 5th July with its first studios situated above the Musgroves shop, known as Lyric House, Murray Street, Perth. The service was broadcast on a wavelength of 273 metres or 1100 kilohertz at a power of 500 watts.


Musgroves was located between Moores and the Equity men’s wear store, which earlier had been the Empire/King’s/Melba Cinema site (1911-1914)
(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)


Occupants of Lyric House

Early in 1942, in the midst of the second world war, all ABC and commercial stations took the Australian and overseas news component from the ABC, concluding on the sound of a gong. These news bulletins were scheduled at 7.45am, 12.30pm and 7.00pm. The Commission offered this service free to those commercial stations wishing to take it. The arrangement was discontinued in 1944, but a large number of stations, particularly in the country areas, continued to take the news service. 6PM was the last commercial station in Perth to give up taking the ABC News, in 1964. 6PM’s early newsreaders were Brian Hocking (ex 6PR), Bill Gill, Peter Holland and Doug Foley. Bill Gill later became a TVW-7 newsreader whilst Peter Holland joined the ABC in 1966 and then in 1998 moved to STW-9 to read the television news until 2003. Doug Foley joined the ABC in 1975.

From 1942, the AWA experimental operation was removed from the Applecross Wireless Station and the remaining operators were all shifted into the Engine House which became the Main Transmitter Hall after the generating machinery was removed.


Perth in the 1940s when many early buildings were still standing before the 1970s mining boom and demolition of a great number of fine old structures

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

In 1943, 6ML merged into 6IX. 6ML went off the air on 30th May 1943, some say owing to an oversight in that someone forgot to pay the license. Another explanation was that the staff was depleted due to men enlisting during the war. With the manager going off to war, it may have contributed to this oversight? The 6ML studios were taken over by W A Broadcasters who then held the license for 6IX (West Australian Newspapers Ltd.). The merged operation began transmission officially on 17th August 1943.


in 1943, the Applecross Wireless Station operating staff were moved to Bassendean where they were placed in a concrete bunker for protection during the war, until 1946, when the operators returned to Applecross, and the former Operator’s Room became offices.

In 1946 the federal government acquired AWA’s shortwave broadcasting assets, which formed the basis of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC), a new statutory body created under the Postmaster-General’s control, with responsibility for the nation’s international telecommunications services. Later OTC came to have responsibility for satellite links, commencing with INTELSAT II (International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation) in 1966 and the first international satellite broadcast between Australia and the UK takes place. In 1947, OTC took over control of Perth Radio and other wireless stations from the Postmaster General. They moved the receiving equipment to Bassendean and the transmitter operators to the old Cable Station at Mosman Park.

Under 1946 amendments to the Broadcasting Act, the ABC was required to ‘secure its news for broadcasting purposes within the Commonwealth by its own staff, and abroad through such overseas news agencies and other overseas sources as it desired’, together with its own overseas staff. Then on 1st June 1947, the ABC established an independent news service with journalists and a full time News editor in the outlying States.

Also in 1947, Nicholsons launched the AWA equipped 6CI Collie, as a relay station of 6TZ Bunbury.

In 1948, Columbia Records introduced the first successful microgroove vinyl disc, the 12-inch, 33⅓ rpm Long Play (LP) high fidelity record, followed by stereo pressings a decade later, which revolutionised the music-industry until the Compact Disc (CD) became commercially available in 1982. Pop songs were released as singles on 7-inch discs at 45 rpm, whilst the same size at 33⅓ rpm were termed Extended play (EP). Not only was the better quality and longer duration an attraction, but the older 78 rpm format was brittle and relatively easily broken, both the microgroove LP 33⅓ rpm record and the 45 rpm single records were flexible and unbreakable in normal use.

Radio continued to be an important and inexpensive means of entertainment post-war. Listeners of that period fondly remember the serials and children enjoyed ‘The Argonauts Club’ (1941-1972). By 1950 there were over 50 000 Club members. Radio stars of the post war period were as popular as TV stars today.

In 1949, the first episode of Blue Hills by Gwen Meredith went to air on the ABC, which ran for 5,795 episodes until 1976. Over the years more than 1,000 actors had parts in Blue Hills, including Rod Taylor, John Meillon, June Salter, Ruth Cracknell, Gwen Plumb, Ethel Lang, Neva Carr Glyn, Amber Mae Cecil, Rupert Chance, Max Osbiston, Nellie Lamport, Joan Bruce and the series matriarch, Queenie Ashton. Blue Hills began in February 1949 as a sequel to Gwen Meredith’s earlier five year long serial, The Lawsons.

Here’s a range of popular radio shows that survived into the post-war era…

  • Australia’s Amateur Hour (1940-60)
  • The Children’s Hour – Argonauts’ Club (1941-69)
  • Tarzan (1940s & 50s)
  • The Quiz Kids (1942-early 60s)
  • The Air Adventures of Biggles (1945-60s)
  • When a Girl Marries (1946-65)
  • Pick-a-Box (1948-71)
  • Blue Hills (1948-76)
  • Dr Paul (1949-71)
  • Superman (late 1940s-late 50s)
  • The Goons (1951-60)
  • Portia Faces Life (1952-70)
  • Life with Dexter (1953-64)
  • Eric Baume’s This I Believe (1953-67)
  • Keith Smith’s Pied Piper (1954-60s)
  • The Air Adventures of Hop Harrigan (1955-60)

Here are some links to other popular shows…

In 1950, the 6PR transmitter moved from the Applecross Wireless Station site down to a new location at Alfred Cove on the Swan River, then when that site was demolished they joined 6PM on their former mast at Coffee Point, opposite the South Perth Yacht Club. Since the demolition of that transmitter site, 6PR has joined ABC radio at the Hamersley transmitter site. 6PR’s original broadcast frequency was 880 kHz – a position that it stayed at until 1978 when it moved slightly up the dial to 882 kHz with the advent of 9 kHz spacing on the AM dial. The station still broadcasts on that frequency today.


1951 6IX promotion at the Metro Theatre in William Street, Perth

In 1950, 6IX broadcast the outstanding New South Wales soprano Joan Sutherland, of Woollahra, winning the grand final of the 1950 Mobil Quest before a capacity crowd at the Melbourne Town Hall. She revealed her plans for an oversea trip to England to continue her music studies. The following year, the Metro Theatre in Perth was the venue for the third semi-final of the Vacuum Oil Company’s Mobile Quest, with the series broadcast by 6IX on Monday nights at 8.30pm.

Joan Sutherland went on to study in London at the Opera School of the Royal College of Music and become one of the most remarkable female opera singers of the 20th century, receiving many honours and awards. Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE died at her home at Les Avants in Switzerland of cardiopulmonary failure on 10 October 2010.

In 1953, the second 6BY, this time servicing Bridgetown, was launched on the 24 January 1953, many years later at Yornup (situated between Bridgetown and Manjimup) one of the country stations.

By 1953, the WA domestic radio broadcast spectrum was being occupied by the:

  • ABC: VLW, VLX (short-wave aimed at the North West), 6WF Perth, 6WN Perth, 6WA Wagin, 6GF Kalgoorlie and 6GN Geraldton.
  • Commercial: W.A. Broadcasters Limited (61X-WB-MD-BY), Whitford network (6PM-AM-KG-GE), Nicholson’s Limited (6PR-TZ-CI), Australian Workers’ Union (6KY-NA).

Radio and TV veteran Ian Stimson kindly provided much of the commercial radio history information.

Additional radio content courtesy of George Chapman, who in 1970, was General Manager of 6PM and the CBS Network, then the inaugural Managing Director of 96FM (1980-1984), amongst many other roles including General Manager of TCN Channel 9 and Station Manager of 2UW Sydney.

John Cranfield kindly provided the 6IX story, which is told in detail at…

WA History: from Telegram to TV – Part 4 of 5

Posted by ken On September - 30 - 2011

PART 4 (1955-1966)

In the mid fifties, amateur radio groups continued to play a significant role in the wireless industry. As many of their ranks became important pioneers in the early days, the younger enthusiasts continued to carry the torch and make their mark in the industry.

In this decade, the nature of radio changed to suit the culture of the day as music tastes changed and television arrived on the scene. Rather than succumb to the new visual medium, radio reinvented itself more than once to remain relevant and competitive.

In 1955 the WA VHF (Amateur Radio) Group was formed as a result of the intransigence of the Wireless Institute of Australia, which classed the holders of limited licences (Z calls) as Associates of the WIA and refused them full membership. This group then went on to play a big role in the City of Melville establishing the Wireless Hill Telecommunications Museum in 1972. A number of the members went on to staff broadcasting stations in key positions.


Top row: Cec Andrews, Warren Jacobs, Don Graham, Rolo Everingham, Dave Meadowcroft, Frank Chapman Middle row: Wally Howse, Ralph Deverell, Don Brown, Kevin Bicknell, Len Tate Front row: Syd Smith, Ron Mould, Denis Cook, Murray Meharry

International Radio Regulations prescribe that radio operators who transmit must first demonstrate an adequate knowledge of the principles of electricity and wireless. An ability to send and receive Morse code was essential in the early years. The Post Master General’s Department required candidates to pass an examination in three sections. Electrical principles, radio principles and a practical component. A variety of exams were conducted. Amateur Operator’s Certificate of Proficiency (AOCP), Broadcast Operator’s Certificate of Proficiency (BOCP) and later the Television Operator’s Certificate of Proficiency (TVOCP). Amateurs and commercial station operators were required to possess the appropriate qualification, though for a time, the ABC conducted its own training department and internal examinations, which were the equivalent of the BOCP and TVOCP. Eventually, broadcasting stations employed unqualified operators, who were then supervised by a qualified person. In more recent years, it got such that no qualified person was on the station or transmitter. Either an announcer operated alone with the transmitter unattended, to complete automation with everything under computer control. Much depended on the high reliability of modern equipment for this to evolve.

In 1956, Albany’s first commercial radio station, 6VA was launched. Albany is located on Western Australia’s south coast, approximately 390 kilometres south east of Perth. The city was founded in 1827 – two years before Perth. Harry Atkinson established and managed 6VA. Born legally blind in 1913, Harry was first licensed as a radio amateur in 1937 and was an active ham (VK6WZ) until his death in 2001. He began as a roving reporter for the Wireless News before embarking on a career in country broadcasting. Harry became the editor of “Wireless News” in 1932, then “Wireless Weekly” in 1933 and a regular contributor to the “Broadcaster” magazine. In addition, to managing 6VA, he also managed 6WB, 6KG, and 6GE, and produced numerous programs for the ABC.


Jim Atkinson at 6VA Albany

Children’s Channel Seven personality Jim Atkinson got his broadcasting started at 6VA before moving to 6PR in Perth and then joining TVW Channel 7 in 1960.


6VA Albany – announcer Michael Brock

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite. NASA’s first artificial satellite was Explorer 1 in 1958,

Radio broadcasting went through a dramatic transformation, starting with the introduction of American jukeboxes into milk bars and cafes where the teenagers gathered, leading to the phenomenon of jukebox ‘hits’ which was taken on board by the radio stations and evolved into the Top 40, as a response to the impact of television. Prior to the advent of Rock and Roll in the 1950s, the 1930s and 40s popular music was influenced by performers like Bing Crosby (1903–1977), Frank Sinatra (1915–1998) and Nat “King” Cole (1919–1965) as well as the earlier musical influences of Cole Porter (1891–1964), Irving Berlin (1888–1989), George Gershwin (1898–1937) and Ira Gershwin (1896–1983) and well-known American songwriting duos such as Richard Rogers (1902–1979) and Lorenz “Larry” Hart (1895–1943) and Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein (1895–1960). Rock and Roll caused a revolution, and even though there have been many permutations, it still remains with us today.

Invented in 1959, the NAB cartridge tape format made its widespread appearance in the 1960s and was designed for playing radio broadcasters commercials. The endless looped tapes could be loaded into the cartridges of varying lengths. The cartridge had a cue track to record stop and fast forward pulses to aid operational simplicity. It became ideal for playing jingles, promotions, news items or music. It revolutionised presentation techniques in the industry.

In 1959, TVW Channel 7 opens, providing the first television service in Western Australia. Television brought vast changes to the radio industry. The radio serial dramas, variety and quiz shows, had less appeal to listeners now that they could watch them on TV.


TVW Channel 7 studios in 1959 located at Tuart Hill (later called Dianella)

In 1960, ABC radio and the newly created ABC TV station ABW2 move to purpose built facilities in Adelaide Terrace, Perth.


ABC Adelaide Terrace frontage in 1960

The AM band ABC regional stations have since grown to include 6AL Albany, 6BE Broome, 6BR Bridgetown, 6BS Busselton (Bunbury Studios), 6CA Carnarvon, 6DB Derby, 6DL Dalwallinu, 6ED Esperance, 6GN Geraldton, 6GF Kalgoorlie, 6KP Karratha, 6KW Kununurra, 6MJ Manjimup, 6MN Newman, 6PH Port Hedland, 6PN Pannawonica, 6PU Paraburdoo, 6TP Tom Price, 6WA Wagin, 6WH Wyndham and 6XM Exmouth. The stations then multiplied with the introduction of the ABC second regional network with FM stations carrying the Radio National programs. In addition, the satellite service carries ABC Regional Radio, Radio National, Classic FM and television. Later in Perth came 6PB News Radio.

In 1960 two rhombic aerials were installed at the Applecross Wireless Station to provide communications associated with a NASA space mission. The NASA Echo satellite project happened in 1960, where the facilities were used for the NASA Space Mission communications, and the 120 metre mast was replaced with a shorter mast of 42 metres. in the same year Telstar was launched to develop satellite communications over the Atlantic Ocean. It successfully relayed through space the first television pictures, telephone calls, fax images and provided the first live transatlantic television feed.

The first Top 40 television programs began soon after the medium started in Australia, coinciding with the first national TV rock’n’roll shows, Bandstand, Six O’Clock Rock, The Johnny O’Keefe Show, Sing Sing Sing, followed later by Go, Kommotion and Countdown. TVW produced Teen Beat, which was followed by Club 7 Teen and Pad 9 on STW. During the 1960s, 6PR, 6PM and 6KY were stations that compiled and publishing their own Top 40 charts, based on record sales obtained by ringing retail stores.

The Totalisator Agency Board of Western Australia (operated by Racing and Wagering Western Australia since 2003) opened its first agency in Barrack Street, Perth in March 1961, which have now spread far and wide. Following the 1959 Gambling Royal Commission, the WA TAB was established to replace the 206 licensed off-course betting shops, legal in Western Australia since 1958. Broadcasting of races became an integral part of the gaming business with official TAB radio stations in WA first being 6IX, then 6PR and now 6TAB (AM 1206).

In 1963, NASA builds a tracking station at Carnarvon for the Gemini program, the second step for NASA to put a human on the Moon. It replaced the Muchea Tracking Station (1960-1963) and used some of the equipment from Project Mercury (1959-1963). Muchea Communications Technician Gerry O’Connor became the first Australian to speak with a space traveller on 20 February 1962, when he called John Glenn aboard Friendship 7 on its pass over the West Australian coast, with Glenn acknowledging the lights of Perth. After the conclusion of the Gemini program (1965-1966), Carnarvon Tracking Station provided extensive support for the Project Apollo missions to the Moon.

In mid 1963, the ABC began identifying each network by a number. The First Network (or Radio 1) was 6WF and all the other aligned ABC stations (2BL in Sydney, 3LO in Melbourne, 4QR in Brisbane, 5AN in Adelaide, 7ZR in Hobart, 2NC in Newcastle and 2CN in Canberra). The Second Network (or Radio 2) was 6WN and the related stations in the other states (2FC Sydney, 3AR Melbourne, 4QG Brisbane, 5CL Adelaide, 7ZL Hobart, 2NA Newcastle and 2CY Canberra), whilst the Third Network (Radio 3) was defined as the regionals. Because parliament was disrupting the schedule of serious programs on 6WF, it was decided to make its nature light and move the serious content to 6WN. The most powerful transmitter was required to carry federal parliament when it was sitting. In the late 1980s parliamentary was moved to its own frequency, which was originally the 6WN standby transmitter, and when parliament was not sitting it became a news network. 6PB provides this service for the Perth area.

6IX became wholly owned by W.A. Newspapers in 1963 and Lloyd Lawson commenced a radio version of his Tuesday afternoon “Today” show once a week on the station, with Johnny Fryer making appearances. TVW newsreader Eric Walters started hosting the 6IX Saturday Night Show.


6KYs Jolly Jokers George Chapman, Norm Manners, Lionel Lewis, Eric Fisher and Buddy Clarke in 1965



Johnny Young on 6KY in 1965

The 6PR Good Guys (a US radio inspired format subsequently copied by Australian stations) made the Perth radio station number #1 in mid 1960’s, during the exciting days of 24-hour pop music and Top 40 radio. The Good Guys varied over time, though Garry Meadows, Keith McGowan, Graham Bowra, Eric Fisher, Peter Newman, Tom Payne, Keith Taylor, Bob O’Brien, Bill Rule and John McPhee come to mind.


6PR program rundown in 1964

Added to this, Garry Meadows was the first in Perth to embrace Talkback Radio on 6PR in 1965, when it was a “fast, punchy and slick” station. Garry was a busy chap in those days working 4pm to 7pm on radio, hosting Bairds commercials on TV, hosting Spellbound and Miss West Coast on TVW Channel 7, and hosting the floorshows at the Nan King nightclub, late into the night.


In 1965, STW Channel 9 in Perth begins transmissions.


Aerial photograph of the STW Channel 9 studios, Dianella, 24 April 1972

(Photo © State Library of Western Australia)

In 1966, the USA builds a Navel Communications Station at North West Cape, 6 kilometres (4 miles) north of the town of Exmouth.

Radio and TV veteran Ian Stimson kindly provided much of the commercial radio history information.

Additional radio content courtesy of George Chapman, who in 1970, was General Manager of 6PM and the CBS Network, then the inaugural Managing Director of 96FM (1980-1984), amongst many other roles including General Manager of TCN Channel 9 and Station Manager of 2UW Sydney.

John Cranfield kindly provided the 6IX story, which is told in detail at…

WA History: from Telegram to TV – Part 5 of 5

Posted by ken On September - 30 - 2011

PART 5 (1967-2011)

Radio talkback programs introduced more public participation and debate to the air-waves and many changes in station ownerships were to follow from the mid sixties. Frequency modulated (FM) stereo broadcasting begins and makes a big impact as listeners support the better sound quality option. More recent times sees the spread of narrowcasting and community radio and we consider what the future has to offer.

Dont Touch That Dial

WA TV History
Veteran Radio executive George Chapman looks through Wayne Mac’s book “Don’t Touch That Dial : Hits ‘n Memories of Australian Radio”

Radio talkback shows became popular in the 1960s. At first it was illegal to broadcast material via the telephone, but this was changed in 1967. Telephone interfaces were designed with a seven second delay to enable any profanities to be detected and censored before broadcast.

In 1967 Perth Radio’s operations ceased at the Applecross site and the OTC began vacating the site. The wireless facility was then decommissioned and the mast dismantled. On 14th October 1979 the Wireless Hill Telecommunications Museum officially opened on the Applecross site and in 1994 the Institution of Engineers, Australia, erected a plaque on the site in recognition of the heritage significance of the former wireless station and the contribution of engineers in the history and development of Australia.

The closure of the Applecross site in 1967 was the result of a transfer of the stations operations to Bassandean. The station was then officially decommissioned and the site was vested in the City of Melville in August 1969 for the purposes of developing it as an urban bushland reserve, and was named Wireless Hill Park in February 1971. The Wireless Hill Telecommunications Museum was officially opened in 1979. Together with the bushland reserve it is listed on the Register of the National Estate, West Australian Heritage list and City of Melville Municipal Inventory.

At the time Perth Radio’s operations ceased, the bushland, was slowly regenerating open woodlands of Banksia (Banksia spp), Jarrah (Eucalyptus spp) and Marri (Corymbia spp). The land was vested in the City of Melville in August 1969 for the purposes of developing it as an urban bushland reserve, and was named Wireless Hill Park in February 1971.

In 1967, BTW Channel 3 in Bunbury opened.

In 1968, GSW Channel 9 (servicing Albany and Great Southern) opened.


Dennis Cometti got his start with 6KY in 1968

Dennis Cometti is best known as a sports commentator, his dry wit has made him a legend, though his oldest fans will remember his start in the media as a top 40 disc jockey at radio station 6KY in 1968, one year after his league debut for West Perth as a 17 year old.

On November 5th, 1968, Morse telegraphy was last used in Australia between Roebourne and Wittenoom Gorge in the north-west of Western Australia, just eight months short of 100 years after the transmitting of the first telegram.

In 1969, following protracted negotiations, the Applecross Wireless site passed to the City of Melville for community purposes in August 1969.

6PM was sold to Sir Frank Packer and the Whitford Broadcasting Network was renamed Consolidated Broadcasting System (CBS).


In 1969, The Herald and Weekly Times took over W.A. Newspapers and of course 6IX with its country radio stations, known as WACN (The WA Country Network). Stations in this group were 6WB Katanning, 6MD Merredin and 6BY Bridgetown. But owing to Government media ownership laws, the 6IX Radio Network was then sold to TVW Limited in July 1970.


John Fryer and Peter Dean “Can We Help You?” at the new 6IX studios co-located with TVW Channel 7

In 1971, VEW Channel 8 in Kalgoorlie and VEW Channel 3 in Kambalda opened.


ABC Perth Announcers 1971-72 (Studio 621)
(Back row)
Jim Bale, Michael Palmer, John Harper-Nelson, Eoin Cameron, David Hawkes, Murray Jennings, George Manning, Peter Holland, Ron Morey, Greg Pearce
(Middle row)
Ramsay McLean, John Juan, Phyllis Hope-Robertson, David Guy, Pat Newman (secretary), Peter Harrison, Earl Reeve
(Front row)
Tony Clough, David Ellery, Don Gresham and Peter Newman


Lionel York at 6PM in 1972

In 1973, STW-9 purchased radio stations 6KY and 6NA for the sum of $1,101,018 and moved out to join Channel 9 at their Dianella site.

In 1974, GSW Channel 10 (servicing Albany blind spot) opened.

In 1975, the Australian Telecommunications Commission was established, trading as Telecom Australia – separating the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. This was also the year colour broadcasts were introduced to Australian television.


Radio 6PM announcers, Marty (Barry Martin) and Wattsy (John K. Watts) at Trigg Beach in 1976

In 1977, GTW Channel 11 in Geraldton opened.

In 1978 the Perth Radio VIP operations move once again, this time to Gnangara, a few kilometres to the North of Perth.

In 1979, debris from the USA space station Skylab falls in WA’s south west.

ABC radio avoided broadcasting the same level of contemporary popular music as the commercial stations until the Seventies. 6WFs successful format was to present different themes each night. Country, Folk, Golden Oldies, Nostalgic Rock and Jazz, each provided by a knowledgeable presenter who spoke authoritatively on the subject. When forced to follow the less successful format used in Sydney, the station’s popularity immediately declined.

In 1980, 96FM gained the distinction of being Perth, Western Australia’s first commercial FM radio station, being launched on 8th August 1980 by Brian Treasure with the financial support of Kerry Stokes and Jack Bendat.

In 1985, the ABC renamed “Radio 2″ as “Radio National” so 6WN changed its call sign to 6RN. Prior to the Radio National concept, Radio 2 was predominantly classical music interspersed with talks, religion, The Country Hour, Blue Hills and educational programs. Radio National now broadcasts national programming in areas that include news and current affairs, the arts, social issues, science, drama and comedy. ABC FM took on the classical music role, whilst 6WF became 720 Perth, the metropolitan local emphasis Perth ABC radio station, with a degree of networked programs. Triple J was created to cater for the youth. 6PB carries federal parliament when in session and news when not.

96fm Stereo Perth opening August 1980

96fm began broadcasting on 96.1 MHz on August 8, 1980 as Perth’s first commercial FM radio station. Here is the station opening which contains a series of historic sound recordings.


In 1987, the Friends of Wireless Hill Park is formed with the aim to revegetate and rehabilitate the bushland and maintain its biodiversity values.

In 1987, the TAB in liaison with the racing, pacing and greyhound codes purchased 6PR to secure the future of race broadcasts in Western Australia with races broadcast during the station’s popular talkback programs. During the early nineties the station’s current affairs/talkback programs were hosted by Howard Sattler, Bob Maumill, Graham Mabury, Peter Newman, Gary Carvolth and Rob Broadfield.

In 1987, 6IX was sold to the Austereo Radio Network who assigned the station a new call-sign 6GL, with the station was branded on-air as The Eagle 1080 AM. When Austereo failed to obtain one of the AM-FM conversions on auction and subsequently sold the radio station to regional operator Radio West who re-instated the original 6IX call-sign.

The Frequency Modulated (FM) stations had an edge in quality, being both high fidelity and stereo. Eventually the listeners migrated to the new band and the former top-rating AM pop stations began to suffer in the ratings.

On 31 December 1990, 6PM was the first AM radio station in Perth to convert to the FM band. The new station was branded 6PMFM (call-sign 6PPM) on the frequency 92.9 MHz. Now known as 92.9FM.

Radio 6PM Perth TV Commercial 1987

Australian television and radio personality John Burgess was the breakfast announcer on 6PM in 1987. John worked for 6PM from 1978 to 1988. He is best known to Australian television audiences for his hosting duties on Wheel of Fortune on the Seven Network, from 1984 to 1996. He later hosted the Australian version of Catch Phrase, shown on the Nine Network.

In 1991, the Jack Bendat owned 6KY was the second AM radio station in Perth to go FM, initially being identified on-air as 94.5 KY FM, later to be known as Mix 94.5.

In 1992, Telecom and the Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (OTC) are merged to become the Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation. The traffic then started to decline on the radio circuits following the introduction of satellite technologies.

In 1993, Telecom changes its trading name for trading overseas to Telstra Corporation Limited, and then in 1995, Telecom changes it’s trading name to Telstra for domestic trading.

In August 1993, 94.5FM purchased PMFM (now 92.9) from Kerry Packer.


In 1993, the Triple M network in the eastern states, bought 96FM and renamed the station Triple M.

In 1994, 6PR was purchased by Southern Cross Broadcasting and the TAB secured a special narrowcast broadcast license for Racing Radio. Racing Radio in WA is not a commercial broadcaster, unlike its counterparts in other States, it is a service provided by the statutory body, Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA), which is the controlling body of the racing industry in WA and the licensee of the Perth High-Power Open Narrowcast (HPON) service in Perth operating on 1206 kHz, and several other HPONs and Low-Power Open Narrowcasts (LPON) across the state to promote racing in country areas. RWWA was also formed to take control of the off-course betting activities of the Totalisator Agency Board (WA TAB).

Also in 1994, the Triple M network, owned by Hoyts Media, was in financial difficulties and sold to Village Roadshow, who then sold the network to Austereo, in return for a controlling share of Austereo.

In 1997, Village Roadshow subsidiary Austereo purchased radio stations 92.9FM (former 6PM) and 94.5FM (former 6KY) from Jack Bendat, but Australian media ownership laws required the divestiture of Triple M (former 96FM), so Village Roadshow sold it to Southern Cross Broadcasting (a division of Fairfax Media from 2007), which also owned AM radio station 6PR. Southern Cross then returned the station back to its original ‘96FM’ branding.

Perth’s Gnangara radio station was the main Radiotelegraphy station until the closure of morse code services in February 1999.

On 30th June 2002, services from Perth Radio VIP ceased along with all the other Australian coast radio stations.

92.9FM (former 6PM) and sister station Mix 94.5 (former 6KY) was part of the Austereo Radio Network, then on 6 April 2011, Southern Cross Media purchased a majority of the Austereo Radio Network and they were merged to form Southern Cross Austereo in July 2011.

Radio West is part of Southern Cross Austereo (formerly known as Macquarie Southern Cross Media and then Southern Cross Media) and operates a long list of commercial regional radio stations, including: 6VA Albany, 6TZ Bunbury, 6BY Bridgetown, 6CI Collie, 6SE Esperence, 6KG Kalgoorlie, 6MD Merredin, 6NA Narrogin and 6AM Northam.

People – Radio 6PM Reunion

More than fifty existing and former staff members of former Perth AM Radio station 6PM (now 92.9 Perth’s Hit Music Station) got together on 21st April 2010 at the Paddington Ale House, Mount Hawthorn to relive “the spirit of the good ole days of radio”. Special thanks to Simone, Marty and Gary who arranged the event. Video courtesy of George Chapman.

More can be found on the 6PM reunion at:

In 2004, there were six aspirant community radio groups in the Perth area. These were Capital Community Radio (over 55’s format), Western Sports Media (sports format), WA Portuguese Club (Portuguese format), Hits Radio Ltd (general format), Lycourgos Inc (Greek format), and Mr Marwin Naji (Arabic format). The WA Portuguese Club withdrawn its application for a future Temporary Community Broadcasting Licence (TCBL) and no fresh applications from three other previously known groups were received. Capital Community Radio (CCR) and Western Sports Media remained very active and time shared the available frequency of 90.5 MHz until March 2006.

On 1 July 2005, the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) were amalgamated to form the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

When the Applecross Wireless Station was opened in 1912, the population was only about 117,000, now the Perth metropolitan area has an estimated population of almost 1,700,000 making this city the fourth most populous city in Australia. In 1870, when the telegram service in Perth was one year old, the population was only 8,220, but then during the gold rush it grew from 16,694 in 1891 to 67,431 by Federation in 1901, with the population increasing by about 100,000 inhabitants every decade since then.

In 2012 the Wireless Hill Park will celebrate its 100th anniversary and community plans are well underway to mark this historic occasion. Sadly though it seems the museum collection will soon be without a home as the City of Melville moves away from commemorating our telecommunications and broadcasting heritage to concentrating on the indigenous history, the wildflowers, the birdlife and the history of the buildings.

Its sad to learn that the City of Melville no longer values our broadcasting history and is planning to dispose of the collection at Wireless Hill, which suggests there must be a better custodian for this heritage material who is prepared to keep the collection together and display it in a more fitting place? A new location where the events and efforts of all associated with this industry can be commemorated.

Hopefully this article will revive the names of a few unsung heros who engineered much of early wireless in Western Australia. People who were often without a high public profile. As such this story is only scratching the surface, as theres layer upon layer of personnel who made it all happen. As each decade passes it becomes harder to keep the memory alive and sadly not all value this heritage as we have seen many architectural landmarks disappear from Perth’s skyline, and even more difficult to keep the less tangible items, which do not have monuments to mark their existence. Too often the smaller items are thrown on the scrap heap, leaving little trace of the important role they once played.

In the words of Granny Bishop, in the last episode of the 27 year running Blue Hills, number 5795. Granny told listeners, somewhat sternly that,

“People never really died until nobody wanted to remember them anymore.”

That sentiment applies equally today if we want to remember our broadcasting history.

The Future

Community radio offers some refreshing alternatives to the established formulas. Meanwhile, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) can offer more radio programs over a specific spectrum than analogue FM radio. DAB also has a data capacity that enables a station to supply a program guide and real-time information such as song titles, music genre and news or traffic updates. This concept may make an impact once sufficient people own receivers. Then Internet radio gives listeners the opportunity to monitor stations world wide. All these additional choices present the possibility of fragmenting the listening audience, which may impact on the profitability of the long established commercial stations.

Radio has an advantage over TV in being able to convey the latest news, weather, traffic and sport reports for people on the move, without the need for highly expensive infrastructure, though new forms of media is getting the edge in breaking news by involving the users in Twitter, Social Networking and self publishing on the World Wide Web and YouTube, all of which can be done from a smartphone that doubles as a mini media centre, computer, games console, and camera (still or video). A world full of users can report extraordinary events faster than traditional news gatherers, as there is sure to be someone somewhere with a smartphone who can report. Being programable, the low cost downloadable applications means that smartphone users may do what ever the imagination of innovative software writers devise.

The other advantage of radio is that people can put their minds in neutral and simply enjoy the entertainment, regardless of where they are and what they are doing.

Younger generations are exploring new ways to interest themselves, hence traditional media does not hold the same sway over them. New concepts are evolving at a rapid rate, of which some will rise to prominence, then may gradually fade as the next fad comes along. The media is in a constant state of flux, with entrepreneurs continually looking for new opportunities to make money. The old media moguls have not been the recent high technology innovators, though whilst their influence still exists, will attempt to find ways of staying in the game. Hence the long term survival of current media empires is not guaranteed.

New search technologies, which come with the web, enable people to locate interesting information, otherwise we would get lost in a maze of content, which is a long way removed from the old days of buying a printed program guide in a newspaper or magazine and restricted to only a handful of station choices.

There is a trend for modern media to supply content on demand, and for there to be an infinite source of content.


  • ABC News Radio (6PB) – Perth WA news (AM 585)
  • Rete Italia – Perth WA community,narrowcast Italian (AM 657
  • ABC Perth (6WF) – Perth WA (AM 720)
  • ABC Radio National (6RN) – Perth WA talk (AM 810)
  • 6PR Perth – WA talk (AM 882)
  • RPH Print Radio (6RPH) – Perth WA Print Handicapped (AM 990)
  • Good Time Oldies (6IX) – Perth WA oldies (AM 1080)
  • 6TAB – Perth WA sports-horse racing narrowcast (AM 1206)


  • Vision Radio Network – Perth WA religious, narrowcast (multiple transmitters FM 87.6)
  • Magic FM – Perth WA jazz, narrowcast (multiple transmitters FM 87.8)
  • Twin Cities FM (6TCR) – Wanneroo WA community (FM 89.7)
  • Capital Community Radio (6SEN) – Perth WA community (seniors) (FM 101.7)
  • Cockburn Sound FM (6PCR) – Perth WA community (FM 91.3)
  • RTR FM (6RTR) – Perth WA acoustic/folk/world music (FM 92.1)
  • 92.9 FM (6PPM) – Perth WA Commercial (FM 92.9)
  • Nova 93.7 (6PER) – Perth WA Commercial (FM 93.7)
  • Mix 94.5 (6MIX) – Perth WA Commercial (FM 94.5)
  • World Radio (6EBA) – Perth WA community (FM 95.3)
  • 96 FM (6NOW) – Perth WA Commercial (FM 96.1)
  • Class 96.5 (6CLA) – Mandurah WA standards,narrowcast (FM 96.5)
  • SBS Radio (6SBSFM) – Perth WA ethnic (FM 96.9)
  • Coast FM (6CST) – Mandurah Commercial (FM 97.3)
  • ABC Classic FM (6ABCFM) – Perth WA classical (FM 97.7)
  • Sonshine FM (6SON) – Perth WA Christian (FM 98.5)
  • ABC Triple J (6JJJ) – Perth WA Youth (FM 99.3)
  • WAFM (6FMS) – Lancelin & Gingin WA pop/rock (FM 102.3)
  • Kalamunda Community Radio (6KCR) – Kalamunda WA community (FM 102.5)
  • Spirit Radio Network (6SAT/T) – Lancelin & Gingin WA (FM 103.9)
  • Queer Hunter Radio – Perth (north) WA variety (gay/lesbian), narrowcast (FM 104.9)
  • Jukebox Radio (6TJR) – Toodyay WA community (FM 105.3)
  • Good Time Oldies (6IX) – Wanneroo WA Commercial oldies (FM 105.7)
  • Heritage FM (6HFM) – Armadale WA community (FM 107.3)
  • Radio Fremantle (6CCR) – Fremantle WA community (FM 107.9)

All stations Digital Radio breakfast – Preview

WA TV History
Aust commercial radio and the public service broadcasters are putting competition aside on 6th August 2009 when more than 40 different radio stations hold a simultaneous outside broadcast in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.


  • 6PR Radio – Perth WA talk
  • The Buckle – Country music
  • Hot Country – Country music
  • 92.9 FM – Top 40
  • 96 FM – Mainstream rock
  • ABC Classic FM – Classical
  • ABC News Radio – News
  • ABC Perth
  • ABC Radio National – Talk
  • ABC Triple J – Youth
  • Good Time Oldies – Oldies
  • Mix 94.5 – Modern adult contemporary (No rap, no hard rock)
  • My Perth Digital – Hot adult contemporary
  • 6IX – Classic hits
  • Barry – Comedy
  • The Main Stage – Touring artists music
  • Radar Radio – Indie music
  • Nova 93.7 – Top 40
  • NovaNation – Dance music
  • 990 6RPH Information Radio – Community
  • RTRFM Public Radio and Music & Arts Community – Community
  • 98.5 Sonshine FM – Christian Community Radio
  • Curtin FM – University Community Radio (Music, Talk, News)
  • Capital 101.7FM – Seniors community
  • Noongar Radio 100.9 – Indigenous
  • 6EBA Ethnic radio – Community
  • SBS National – Ethnic


For those with a computer and Internet access, there are more than 6,000 free Internet radio stations available that offer about 300 genres of music from over 150 countries.

Though radio is no longer the only way to discover music, with alternate services such as iTunes making it easy to sample a vast range before buying at a very affordable price for instant download.

The transistor radio is likely to retain its place in the car, home, workplace or on the hop. The radio airwaves are free whereas the Internet chews up bandwidth, and for the foreseeable future there will be a cost, even with unlimited accounts. In addition, smartphone battery life is currently less than the batteries in a transistor radio.

Radio and TV veteran Ian Stimson kindly provided much of the commercial radio history information.

Additional radio content courtesy of George Chapman, who in 1970, was General Manager of 6PM and the CBS Network, then the inaugural Managing Director of 96FM (1980-1984), amongst many other roles including General Manager of TCN Channel 9 and Station Manager of 2UW Sydney.

John Cranfield kindly provided the 6IX story, which is told in detail at…

The plight of ABC produced programs and staff

Posted by ken On August - 29 - 2011

Senate Inquiry.jpg

This is an examination of current issues facing the ABC. Fulfilling the ABC charter, program cuts, outsourcing, centralisation, technological change and job losses. As to be expected, there are a number of points of view, which this article will endeavour to report accurately in a fair and balanced manner. They are very contentious issues, which have been evolving over many years as broadcasting facilities, techniques and management styles change, from the previous bureaucratic, slow moving public service structure to one more aware of modern business philosophies, and capable of great innovation. The earlier days were more labour intensive when Perth was an isolated outpost, separated from the rest of the country by not only distance and poor roads, but also primitive communications.

The history of change gave witness to a variety of predicaments as our ancestors approached the industrial age. Change manifests itself in different forms over time, and even though the circumstances vary, there is still an impact as people try to cope with a new age.

As our ancestors went from the horse and cart to the steam age and electricity. The older readers will remember trams, trolley buses, gramophone records, early radio serials and black and white TV. Many trades that existed in our grandparents era, no longer exist now.

Evolution of Man.jpg

We’ve gone from typewriters to punch cards to computers, from pulse to tone dial to mobile to smart-phones. Products come and go as do the methods of production. When television began in 1956 in the east and 1959 here, there were no outside TV program production facilities of great note, as all Australian programming was produced in-house by the respective stations, other than film makers producing commercials. Gradually companies such as Crawford and Grundy appeared on the scene, making the transition from radio to TV production.

Everything has been transformed since then, and the transition is ongoing.

More recently, production houses have changed ownership with overseas companies playing a role, such as Endemol Southern Star producing world wide formats for Australia. Other companies include FremantleMedia, Beyond International Limited, Working Dog, Roving Enterprises, activeTV, Screentime Pty Ltd, The Wiggles, WTFN Entertainment and many more, who mainly service the commercial stations.

Interestingly, some of the people involved in these production houses were spawned by the ABC.

When the ABC axed “Towards 2000″ it became “Beyond 2000″ and moved to the Seven Network, then later the TEN Network. The faces who were familiar on the ABC then became household names on the commercials. The production company Beyond was formed in 1985 to produce the science and technology series. Carmel Travers was a journalist with the ABC, and foreign correspondent based in East Africa, before appearing in Perth based current affairs, and becoming a presenter on “Towards 2000″. After the axing, Carmel produced and presented “Beyond 2000″, which screened to audiences in more than a hundred countries around the world.

Since then, she has produced hundreds of hours of television and documentaries, most of which have been internationally broadcast. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her work.

In recent years Carmel has become known as a successful businesswoman, having initiated and developed into successful enterprises two major Australian production companies – Beyond International and Energee Entertainment.

Production house involvement has now become a part of the ABC, as the following sample of shows will indicate:

Enough Rope with Andrew Denton (Crackerjack Productions & Zapruder’s Other Films)

  • Crackerjack Productions has also been involved with “Australia’s Got Talent”, “The Biggest Loser”, “CNNNN: Chaser Non-Stop News Network” and many more.
  • Zapruder’s Other Films has also been involved with “Can of Worms”, “The Gruen Transfer”, “The TV Week Logie Awards”, “Hungry Beast” and many more.

Paper Giants (Screen NSW & Southern Star)

  • Southern Star has also been involved with “Rescue Special Ops”, “Bed of Roses”, “Rush”, “All Saints”, “City Homicide”, “Blue Heelers”, “Love My Way”, “Home and Away”, “Water Rats” and many more.

Rake (Essential Media and Entertainment)

  • Essential has produced projects covering a range of genres for the world’s premier broadcasters, including BBC, National Geographic, PBS, Discovery Channels, Sundance Channel, ABC, SBS, History Channel, CBC and Arte.

Laid (Porchlight Films)

  • Porchlight Films has produced “Animal Kingdom”, “Prime Mover”, “Little Fish” and many more.

Angry Boys (co-production between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and US cable channel HBO)

Crownies (Screentime)

  • Screentime has also produced “Underbelly”, “The Informant”, “Jessica”, “Popstars” and many more.

What is unique with ABC productions is becoming harder to define as the same production houses often produce shows for the commercial channels too.

The issues of maintaining a healthy in-house ABC production role not only concerns the affected staff but has become of interest to the parliamentarians, where a Senate Hearing is being conducted with a submission deadline of September 9th.

Now is an opportunity to tell the hearing what you think.

An urgent response is needed if members of the public and ABC staff wish to have input.

For further information, contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3526
Fax: +61 2 6277 5818

More details are provided below.

Here is some background to this matter:

The ABC has dropped a number of programs, of which some were part of a regional funding initiative back in 2004, where for a period of years funds were diverted from the Sydney and Melbourne production units, which financed the making of shows such as George Negus Tonight, before the money was distributed among the other states.

In late October 2004, the ABC issued a media release, titled “Good news for regional Australia”. The ABC has announced that new programming will be created in West Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. Gardening Australia was then moved from Tasmania, to replace production work lost in Melbourne as the result of George Negus Tonight finishing in November 2004. Negus then went on to join Dateline on SBS, before moving to TEN.

By 2008, things were looking rosy as ABC TV reported that 2008 had been its most successful ratings year ever.

A long list of ABC TV’s home-made favourite programs achieved their highest audience ever that year, including Media Watch, Gardening Australia, Collectors, Can We Help and At The Movies.

One of the best growth areas had been the Monday to Friday 6.30pm slot – with an average growth in audience of 52% in this timeslot since 2005. The Cook and the Chef, had the biggest growth with an 81% increase in audience since 2005.

Kim Dalton, the ABC’s Director of Television said that, “…our audience has clearly demonstrated their love of Australian programming, with 7 of the top 10 programs on ABC1 being locally made.” Shows that included, Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, Spicks and Specks, ABC News, Australian Story, and The Gruen Transfer.

Director of ABC TV Kim Dalton.jpg
Director of TV – Kim Dalton

Mr Dalton has been with the corporation for five years, having joined in January 2006. He was previously Chief Executive of the Australian Film Commission. Other roles included Manager of Acquisitions and Development for Beyond International Limited, General Manager of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, Investment Manager for the Australian Film Finance Corporation and principal of his own production company, Warner Dalton Pty Ltd. In June 2007, he was awarded an OAM for service to the film and television industry.

It has also been under Mr Dalton’s watch, that many shows produced in-house have been cancelled, including Talking Heads, Can We Help?, The Einstein Factor, Sunday Arts, The Cook and the Chef and for a while, Spicks and Specks.

Staff sources said that other in-house shows such as New Inventors had suffered from an under-resourcing that had seen its quality diminish. Others say that, “the issue is not that programs are dumped (because some of them were mediocre) but rather that nothing will replace them”, which relates to under-utilised state built ABC facilities.

Mr Dalton has a stated strategy of outsourcing ABC TV to the private sector, and outlined his preference in a speech to the independent sector in 2005. He maintains outsourcing is a cheaper option and enables him to stretch the ABC budget further.

On August 2nd, 2011, ABC executives handed redundancy notices to dozens of staff across the country as it axed arts programming in Melbourne and production units in Adelaide and Perth.

Art Nation.jpg

Production has been cancelled on the Melbourne-based Art Nation and on all the internally-produced arts documentaries which air under the Artscape banner. The Sunday arts block used to go all afternoon, and in recent years it has grown shorter in time, to now have the key arts program removed. Mr Dalton explained that the audience for Art Nation had fallen by “about 30-odd per cent over the past few years”, he said, and the remaining audience was not enough to justify keeping it.

Ratings Week 32 0f 2011.jpg

The old perception was that the ABC does not have to concern itself with ratings, in the belief that it exists to provide diversity, education, and quality programs for a range of viewers, as stipulated in the ABC Charter, for even minorities such as those who enjoy the arts, and do not care for sport, yet want to follow trends and developments across all aspects of the arts and culture.

However, Mr Dalton said the ABC remained committed to arts programming on Sunday afternoons, but it will be mostly overseas programming because it’s much cheaper to buy. Meanwhile critics say that overseas arts programs are not a substitute for the local product, “We already know more about international artists than we do about the very talented artists in our own backyard. “Others consider that, “…the magazine arts shows for the last fifteen years, and possibly longer, have been boring to the point of having a brain aneurism.” Isn’t that then an argument to lift the game for the benefit of the arts viewing public, rather than abandon them?

It is understood 15 staff from Art Nation, presented by Fenella Kernebone, will be made redundant in Melbourne, as well as 13 in Adelaide and Perth.

The Artscape program will be outsourced.

New Inventors.jpg

The Sydney-based New Inventors ceased to exist after its grand final was broadcast on August 17, the Tasmanian-based Collectors will be “rested” – its staff will be redeployed on a new show, Auctions – and staff will be cut from the production pool in South Australia and West Australia as a result of two new series in each state being commissioned from outside production houses.


There will also be redundancies in the Northern Territory.

The Perth-based Can We Help? was a factual Australian television series hosted by Peter Rowsthorn. It was in its sixth season in 2011, being broadcast on ABC1 at 6.00pm on Saturdays. The farewell episode was aired on Saturday June 25, 2011. The program was driven by viewer questions and requests for help in regards to a wide range of subjects and specialised in reuniting families and loved ones and granting simple wishes to those in need. Over the years it introduced other segments which had a strong sense of history.

Can We Help.jpg

Another state based show was lost in late 2010, when the ABC decided against commissioning a further series of Talking Heads, after six series totalling 238 half hour episodes, with 3 years based in Brisbane and 3 in Adelaide. Talking Heads was a show that brought the stories of notable Australians to ABC viewers.

These were the shows that first began as part of the initiative in regional funding, a policy which seems to now be experiencing a 180 degrees about face.

ABC Director of Television Kim Dalton issued a statement saying…

“Television is not a static business. Planning is ongoing around programming, the production slate and the management of resources. Programs may be cancelled such as Talking Heads or Can We Help?. Key talent may decide not to proceed with ongoing series such as Maggie Beer and The Cook And The Chef or Adam Hills and Spicks and Specks,” he said

Mr Dalton sent a memo to staff confirming the circulating rumours. He Cited “falling audiences”, “increasing financial pressures on ABC TV” and a “strategic commitment to focus its limited financial resources on prime-time programming.”

Federal Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Senator Conroy has challenged the claim of financial pressure, saying he was “surprised” by Mr Dalton’s statement. He now wants answers from ABC managing director Mark Scott over the national broadcaster’s decision to axe television programs The New Inventors and Art Nation.

“I would say they haven’t had any cuts in funds; these are programs that have been going a long time,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

“I will be seeking information from Mark Scott and the management of the ABC around their statements that financial issues led to the closing of these programs.”

“They had a three-year funding package put in place. It’s coming up for a new round of funding into next year but as far as I’m aware there’s been absolutely no cuts in funding at all from the government to the ABC.”

(Left to right) Retiring ABC Chairman Donald McDonald, Paul Newton and Australian Prime Minister John Howard unveiling portrait sketch at the Chairman's Farewell dinner.jpg
(Left to right) Retiring ABC Chairman Donald McDonald, Paul Newton and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard unveiling portrait sketch at the Chairman’s Farewell dinner

Mr Donald McDonald, chairman from 1996 to 2006, chides ABC management for citing funding problems to justify the cuts to staff and programs after launching television channel News 24.

“The claim that ABC 24 could be established and operated with existing funding was not entirely credible and the case for having a 24-hour news channel has never been made convincingly,” he says.

“News is probably bleeding all other programming.”


ABC managing director Mark Scott has addressed staff on his recent cuts to programs and jobs, telling them he understands their disappointment.

“In television, we have announced the end of New Inventors and Art Nation for the 2012 calendar year, made some adjustments to sports programming and are looking at other elements of the schedule as part of our commitment to deliver, later in the year, a television production strategy for the next three to five years,” Mr Scott said.

“There are a number of reasons why the ABC does co-productions. In particular, it allows us to deliver more programming by making a smaller financial contribution to the shows we air than if we funded 100 per cent of the budgets,” he said. “Importantly, in commissioning co-productions, we exercise strong editorial oversight to ensure these productions meet our Charter and conform to ABC editorial standards.”

Mr Scott said many of the corporation’s most popular and distinctive programs on television were co-productions including The Gruen Transfer and Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight, Paper Giants, Rake, Angry Boys and Laid.

Although the ABC insists it is committed to a mixed-production model, the only shows not to be outsourced are: news and current affairs, religion (Compass), science (Catalyst), indigenous (Message Stick), education (Behind The News), pre-school (Play School), literature (First Tuesday Book Club), food (Poh’s Kitchen), film (Margaret and David) and Gardening Australia.

The Union speaks out

The ABC union has warned that the national broadcaster’s decision to cut programs including Art Nation and the New Inventors, sack staff and further outsource production, is a breach of its Charter and may jeopardise its ongoing funding.

The union is calling for an immediate audit of all TV production costings, both outsourced and in-house, to ensure taxpayers are getting value for money. Graeme Thomson, ABC Section Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union said: “Taxpayer have the right to be outraged by the dismantling of their ABC.

“This announcement raises serious questions about whether the ABC is delivering against its legislative Charter, Parliament’s justification for the ABC’s one billion budget.

“ABC staff have been gutted by this decision. They are personally committed to delivering the quality content that has made the ABC one of Australia’s most important and respected cultural institutions.

“The cutting of Art Nation, the ABC’s only remaining TV arts program, is an act of cultural vandalism. “The ABC is at its best when it broadcasts the best international and domestically produced material available. This has meant maintaining a balance between in-house and private sector production. “Under Head of Television Kim Dalton ideologically driven approach, this balance has been lost. The ABC TV has been reduced to a mere transmission tower broadcasting the same material from the same production houses used by commercial channels. This threatens the ABC’s distinctiveness, rationale and ultimately, its funding.

“The national broadcaster is required to provide quality programs that reflect the diversity of Australia, its cultures and regional perspectives. The announcement that regional TV producers are to be sacked destroys this important arm of the ABC Charter. The union has also criticised Managing Director Mark Scott, claiming he has overseen the destruction of the ABC’s television production.

“Mr Scott claims he supports a ‘mixed model’ of internal and external production. But on his watch we have seen more outsourcing than under Jonathan Shier,” Mr Thomson said.

“What angers ABC staff is that they have been set up for failure. The internal programs have been starved of funds and promotion budgets, while external productions have had funds lavished on them and have been heavily marketed by the ABC.

“ABC program-makers, eager to rebuild in-house production have been repeatedly told by Mr Dalton to leave the ABC and pitch the program ideas from outside because he is not interested in producing them inside. Australian taxpayers are entitled to be angered at this arrogance and waste,” Mr Thomson said.

Perth staff are concerned over a continued scaling back of television program production in WA. ‘Rollercoaster’ was de-commissioned in 2009, ‘The Hopman Cup’ in 2010 and ‘Can We Help?’ as of June this year. The number of operational TV staff are likely to decrease further this year and next year. If WAFL is cancelled – which is expected – even more TV staff will be gone. There’ll be a few folk left to crew News and that’ll be it. The branch is very depleted. A recent sentiment expressed by those who built the new facilities in WA is that, “…the cost and blood sweat and tears that went in to the provision of studio 61 will be completely wasted by its lack of use.”

A Senate committee will undertake an inquiry into the ABC’s recently announced decision to scale down internally-produced programming and lay off employees.

The probe will examine several issues raised by the broadcaster’s cuts, including the impact on the ABC’s in-house production capabilities – with particular reference to Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart – and the broader implications for the quality and diversity of Australian film and television production.

Other issues to be explored by the environment and communications references committee include the ABC’s previous decision to replace the internally-produced Bananas in Pyjamas with an externally-produced animated series.

The inquiry was proposed by the independent senator Nick Xenophon and approved by the chamber on Wednesday August 17, 2011.

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Senator Nick Xenophon

Senator Xenophon wants the committee to examine “the decision by the television management of the ABC to significantly cut the number and amount of ABC-produced programs, jobs (including through forced redundancies) and potentially affect resources, as announced on August 2, 2011.”

The environment and communications committee is due to report on its findings by October 12 this year.

Inquiry into recent ABC programming decisions

Terms of Reference

That the following matter be referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by 12 October 2011:

The decision by the television management of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to significantly cut the number and amount of ABC-produced programs, jobs (including through forced redundancies) and potentially affect resources, as announced on August 2, 2011, with particular reference to:

  • the implications of this decision on the ABC’s ability to create, produce and own its television content, particularly in the capital cities of Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart;
  • the implications of this decision on Australian film and television production in general and potential impact on quality and diversity of programs; whether a reduction in ABC-produced programs is contrary to the aims of the National Regional Program Initiative;
  • the implications of these cuts on content ownership and intellectual property;
  • the impact of the ABC’s decision to end internal production of Bananas in Pyjamas and to outsource the making of a ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’ animation series to Southern Star Endemol Proprietary Limited; and
  • the future potential implications of these cuts on ABC television’s capacity to broadcast state league football and rugby;
  • and any other related matters.

Submission deadline is September 9th, 2011.

For further information, contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3526
Fax: +61 2 6277 5818

The national broadcaster, in spirit and at law, is meant to be independent of government. Its charter, contained in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983, outlines in broad terms the functions of the ABC.

ABC Charter – Section 6 of the ABC Act – Functions of the Corporation

ABC Charter.jpg

Though the charter makes reference to broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and that inform, entertain and educate, whilst reflecting the cultural diversity of our community, its only a notion that cannot be enforced as, “Nothing in this section shall be taken to impose on the Corporation a duty that is enforceable by proceedings in a court.”

The charter makes reference to transmitting programs and less about making them, though under the Powers and duties of the Corporation, the ABC has the right to produce and present programs and provide facilities and engage persons to perform services for this purpose, or deal with a bona fide producer, whom one assumes is external to the ABC.

Special attention is given to News independent services, where an adequate number of persons, both within and outside Australia be engaged to gather news and information.

The word ‘may’ is used rather than ‘must’ when it comes to the provision of broadcasting facilities and staff for the purpose of providing a broadcasting service. This implies that this part of the operation may be outsourced, as in the case of the MediaHub, which is a joint venture between the ABC and the commercial broadcaster WIN.

The rapid transition to digital computer based technology in the delivery of programs, rather than the traditional forms of film, videotape and analogue equipment, has created a shift in the type of skills now needed in the industry. In addition, the life cycle of equipment is shortening at an ever increasing rate. Thus making people who have not retrained as obsolete as the legacy equipment that has been phased out.

A former ABC staff member considered that,

“Staff who couldn’t or preferred not to get across the change to digital technology left years ago. Remaining staff, and newer mostly younger staff, have all received training in new technologies as they’ve been introduced.”

Though with ABC TV presentation now centralised in a south western suburb of Sydney, where MediaHub is located, there have been redundancies in this area. Another issue is still in a state of flux regarding technical services staff where a central hotline contact is envisaged, which too can impact on staff in the field, with further expected redundancies.

In the case of ABC program makers, many will be replaced by outsiders regardless of the ABC staff member’s skills or worth, unless they become outsiders too.

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Paul Lockyer, Gary Ticehurst and John Bean

Valued journalists provide an important service that is often underestimated, for too often the foot in the door populist gossip monger has masqueraded as the face of the media.

In contrast, there are the responsible reporters who keep us informed on matters of importance, rather than deal in unnecessary hype to attract the attention of the gullible public.

Dedicated documenters requires more than just wordsmiths, but also a sense of occasion. Being there on the spot to accurately witness first hand events as they unfold. This often involves risks, traveling to far away places to get a unique glimpse of something we can never otherwise share sitting in our easy chairs.

Too often we overlook the many efforts made on our behalf bringing the stories and imagery to our lounge rooms. It then takes a team to capture this to the fullest and at its best.

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Three of the ABC’s finest

Sadly, a wonderful team consisting of three of the finest in their field were lost to us when ABC reporter Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst were killed in a helicopter crash on Thursday August 18th, 2011, in a remote area 140km north east of William Creek and Marree on the eastern side of Lake Eyre in South Australia, whilst engaged in a project of love. Doing what they do best, conveying life in our wilderness, showing an otherwise arid area which has now blossomed in the vast Lake Eyre Basin, located in the deserts of central Australia. For heavy rain this and last year filled the southern end of the lake, and water continued to inflow from local creeks to transform an otherwise dry salt pan. They were revisiting the area to give us an update on the metamorphosis taking place as nature evolved and wildlife prospered in what had been a harsh environment.

This was one of many stories these gentlemen have engaged in, their efforts resulted in some wonderful coverage of topics, revealing great scope from important human interest events, to sporting spectaculars, to natural disasters, to the consequences of war. All usually involving some element of risk capturing the story.

Tribute to Esteemed ABC Team Killed in Helicopter Crash

WA TV History
Colleagues and friends pay tribute to three of the ABC’s most experienced and respected newsmen – journalist Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst – who have been killed in a helicopter crash.

In an award-winning career spanning more than 40 years, ABC journalist Paul Lockyer has been described as a true gentleman and a great storyteller. Born in Corrigin, 250km east of Perth, and educated at Aquinas College, he started at the ABC’s Perth office in 1969 before moving to Sydney and then to Canberra in 1976, where he covered the fallout from the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

Paul Lockyer began his career in the Perth ABC Newsroom

From 1979, he spent the next nine years as a foreign correspondent in Jakarta, Bangkok and Washington and as the ABC’s Asia Correspondent based in Singapore.

He became one of the first journalists to report on the full extent of the Khmer Rouge atrocities of 1975 to 1979 in Cambodia and the flight of boat people from Vietnam. He spent much time in the early 1980s covering the troubles in Central America. His career took him to Washington, and then back to Australia in 1988, this time with the Nine Network, where amongst other things in 1994 he reported on a drought in eastern Australia for A Current Affair and was credited for inspiring the Farmhand Appeal, then by 1999 he was back at the ABC.

Paul Lockyer has done everything from working as a foreign and political correspondent to covering the Sydney Olympic Games, which earned him a Logie award as the Most Outstanding TV News Reporter in 2000. His rural reporting earned him a Centenary Medal in 2003 and he was twice awarded the NSW Farmers Mackellar Media prize for coverage of rural issues. He later led the ABC TV News coverage of the Athens Olympics in 2004 and reported on the Beijing Olympics in 2008, for The 7.30 Report. In between, he presented the Western Australian 7pm ABC TV news in 2005, before returning to Sydney to fulfil a number of presentation and reporting roles for ABC TV News and Current Affairs, including the dramatic 2006 rescue of two miners from Tasmania’s Beaconsfield gold mine.

Paul Lockyer presented the WA edition of the nightly ABC TV News in 2005

Paul Lockyer’s rural origins and zeal made him a great bush reporter, for it was not only his excellent journalistic skills, but most importantly his empathy and manner that put country people at ease and inspired their trust. Covering the extremes nature would throw at the rural community from heart breaking drought to the devastating Queensland floods.

In 2011 he and his crew were the first media to fly into the town of Grantham, by helicopter, the morning after it had been all but destroyed by the massive floods that swept down the Lockyer Valley. They documented harrowing stories of loss and amazing stories of bravery and survival.

Former NSW premier John Fahey said Lockyer always showed respect.

“I always felt there was a friendly professional on the other side of the camera who was interested in getting the story, rather than interested in creating some news by creating conflict.”

Lockyer, who was 61, is survived by his wife Maria and two sons.

All three men were passionate about their work, finding great stories from all over Australia to bring to the public.

John Bean, 48, who was based in Queensland, worked for the ABC as a cameraman for more than 22 years on programs including the 7.30 Report, News 24, Landline, Australian Story, Catalyst, The New Inventors, Gardening Australia, Art Nation and for the Australia Network. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh pointed out that there was barely a place in Queensland where he has not been and on every story, in every place and at every time he was always caring for the people, wanting to portray their account to the absolute best of his abilities. We will now miss his photography highlighting the outback springing back to life as floodwaters continue to flow into Lake Eyre for the second year running, as the cinematographer for the documentaries ‘Return To Lake Eyre’ and ‘After The Deluge’.

John Bean.jpg
John Bean

During the past two years, John Bean spent several stints overseas, in particular in the Pacific. He also worked in the ABC News Washington bureau during 2009. John also mentored young film students at Griffith University in Queensland.

John’s widow is Pip Courtney, a reporter for the ABC’s Landline program, who described John as,

“the most wonderful husband a girl could wish for”.

John was the cameraman on her first shoot when she moved from Tasmania to Canberra in 1993. On returning from the shoot she told one of her friends that,

“I think I’ve just met the nicest man in the whole world.”

The helicopter that crashed was being flown by Gary Ticehurst, the founder and principal of Film Helicopters Australia, who has been contracted to fly ABC staff since 1980. He was the ABC’s lead helicopter pilot and one of the most experienced media pilots in Australia. He commenced flying in the Australian Army in 1973 and had logged more than 16,000 hours of flying time as a chopper pilot. He left the army to join the NSW Police Air Wing in March 1979 as one of the wing’s original helicopter pilots, before leaving to pursue his interest in film and television operations at the company he founded in late 1980, Film Helicopters Australia.

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Gary Ticehurst

He was highly experienced in low level film and television helicopter operations, with an impressive history of aerial services provided to feature films, such as The Matrix, Mission Impossible II, Superman Returns and Anna and the King, television productions such as The Amazing Race, Who Dares Wins and many more, TV commercials and numerous sporting events.

This Sydney helicopter pilot was one of the heroes of the tragic 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, where he played a major role in helping locate and rescue sailors missing at sea. A total of 55 crew were rescued in the wake of the storm which also claimed the lives of six sailors in the worst weather in the history of the world famous race.


Gary Ticehurst potentially helped save the lives of 20 plus sailors by hovering over their stricken vessels throughout the day in horrendous conditions, answering their Mayday calls and passing crucial information on to search and rescue officials.

Ticehurst had covered more than 29 Sydney to Hobarts from the air, making him one of the most experienced pilots in world sailing. Every year he brought stunning pictures to the ABC’s TV audience and enabled radio reporters to close in on the action.


Cinematographer Andy Taylor ACS describes how valuable his flying skills were to a shoot,

“With little more than a nod and a wink to the cameraman, he would manoeuvre into position, then literally ‘fly the shot’ like some kind of magical camera platform. Beautiful creative shots that usually developed into breathtaking and picturesque reveals, sometimes tracking around the subject at very low levels. He would occasionally cue the cameraman to slowly zoom as he slowed the chopper to a hover, but generally all we needed to do was hold the camera as steady as possible, watch the horizon and hit the record button.”

Fellow chopper pilot Dick Smith knew Ticehurst well and said the crash had shocked the tightly knit helicopter community.

“He was a lovely bloke; we’re going to miss him greatly.”

Gary Ticehurst, 60, is survived by his wife Therese.

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Saving our Cinema and Television Heritage

Posted by ken On August - 20 - 2011

It could be asked what priority does society give to preserving our heritage? For if it wasn’t for the advances in the past, there would be no building blocks for the future.

Some one had to be the pioneers, to accept the challenges and forge ahead so that we now can benefit. How sad it would be if no one remembered and no one commemorated their achievements.

Sad also if not only is the memory wiped clean, but all the artefacts destroyed or left to decay through neglect.

This is in fact happening all the time. How often do descendants throw away items that were cherished by their ancestors?

The British are surrounded by their history, which goes back many centuries, yet our nation has only existed for a fraction of that time, though over the decades we have consistently demolished Perth’s old architecture, theatres and icons, despite the calls of those who wish to preserve.

The Ambassadors Theatre Proscenium – Perth, WA

A prime example of this is the former Ambassadors theatre in Hay Street Perth, which was based on a grand, spanish style atmospheric theatre in America, the Riveria in Omaha, Nebraska, which opened in 1927, one year before the Ambassadors, and is now preserved as the Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Theatre.

Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Theatre.jpg
Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Theatre (Riveria) – USA

The Riviera was also the model for The Capitol Theatre in Sydney, which opened on the 7th of April, 1928, with the Ambassadors opening on the 29th of September, that year. The Capitol has been restored to magnificence as a live theatre in that state.

Capitol Theatre – Sydney, NSW

Hundreds of atmospheric theatres were built in the US between 1924 and 1932, but only a few in Australia — of which the Capitol is the last remaining.

Additional venetian and roman elements were incorporated in the design of the Ambassadors, and the Sydney Capitol, with the theatre interior designed to evoke a romantic courtyard, with a ceiling lit to imitate a star studded night sky, as if the audience were seated in an open-air garden, surrounded by exotic plants and birds.

The theatre also featured a Wurlitzer organ, which would rise from the floor to entertain moviegoers, before the screening commenced. A band also performed from the orchestra pit, and there were stage shows.

The orchestra was dispensed with in 1931 and the exterior redesigned in “moderne” style in 1938, a late type of the Art Deco design.

The organ was replaced in 1946, by a white grand piano that had a decorative role.

The Ambassadors closed on 4 February, 1972, and was demolished soon afterwards.

Ambassadors a Lost Cinema Heritage

WA TV History
The black and white footage shown here was taken by the late Ken Alexander (former projectionist, cine cameraman and TVW film editor). The film was provided courtesy of Barry Goldman, a friend and colleague of Ken Alexander. The narrator is former TVW and ABW host and reporter John Hudson. The colour photos come from the collection of cinema pioneer, the late Ron Tutt.

Our heritage goes well beyond mere bricks and mortar, as there is our culture too, which includes the many arts and crafts that have entertained us. The story telling, the songs and dances, contained within the many fine shows made over the decades which were a reflection of the times.

If one asks to see our early WA made television programming, its unlikely that much can be found from the 1960’s. Unless it is on film. ABW veteran and AMMPT member Derrick Wright points out that when the ABC in Perth got videotape facilities in 1962, they were only allocated one machine and a handful of tapes. Tapes that had to be erased after broadcast, to accommodate new recordings. There was no thought, or capacity for archiving the hundreds of local ABC television productions emanating from the studios in Terrace Road Perth. All this content has been lost, and there’s only a few people remaining who can remembers the many shows that were made.

TV Veterans at 2010 ABW Reunion

In 1962 TVW acquired two videotape machines and a larger quantity of tapes. Formal and informal efforts were made to keep material, so by the time Seven was Seven there was enough highlights to feature in the seventh anniversary special. This included VIP guests who appeared over the years and big events such as the 1962 Perth Commonwealth and Empire Games, where TVW and ABW hosted the television broadcasting, for the rest of the world.

During the 1960’s, In Perth Tonight featured many local artists and the Channel Seven Ballet, which in turn resulted in a seven week “Best of IPT” to cover the Christmas break. During the Sir James Cruthers era, conservation was a matter of pride for the station. There was the Seven Museum with everything from a steam train, trolley bus, vintage vehicles and aircraft, farming machinery, and much more on display. There was also an extensive collection of heritage television equipment kept.

TV Veterans at 2009 TVW Reunion

All this changed when the ownership changed in 1982. The museum artefacts were spread far and wide as the rich assets were stripped. A destructive attempt was made to regain the silver content from the historic 16mm black and white film, and much of the 1960’s videotape archives were thrown out.

If it was not for the quick thinking of devoted staff, who took evasive action, much more would have been lost.

Despite this, Seven Perth’s videotape, film and photographic archives are still something to be proud of, for the vast resources that still remain. A great credit to all who participated in preserving this material.

The problem now is that equipment used to replay much of this content is now obsolete, and very little remains in service. Fortunately the Australian Museum of Motion Picture and Television’s (AMMPT) members have collected a good cross section of film, telecine and videotape equipment, which represents each era. Thats not to say that all of it is in good working condition.

With these thoughts in mind, we should reflect on AMMPT’s latest initiative in wanting to insure that vital content is no longer lost.

Please read the following Media Release for more details.

The Evolution of Television News and Presentation

Posted by ken On August - 14 - 2011

Television technology and techniques have changed much since Western Australia’s first commercial station TVW Channel 7 opened on Friday October 16th, 1959.

Soon to be joined by the government owned national broadcaster ABW Channel 2 on Saturday 7th May, 1960.

It was another five years before Perth got its second commercial television station when STW Channel 9 opened on Saturday 12 June 1965.

Another 23 years were to elapse before Perth got its third commercial television station when NEW Channel 10 opened on Friday May 20, 1988.

Different Camera Eras

News presentation has changed much over the decades. In the earlier years, newsreaders were employed with a trained voice and more of a British speaking style than an Australian accent. The newsreader carried most of the bulletin, reading not only the story links, but most often the voice over silent film, accompanied by music played from a selection of 78 rpm gramophone records to suit the mood. The occasional sound on film or double system carried reporters conducting brief interviews. Eventually the reporter would carry most of the story with commentary and interviews, losing the unfashionable gramophone music.

News cameramen also experienced a transition from shooting news on film to the use of videotape, with the introduction of the Sony Betacam in 1982. The integrated professional video camera/recorder led to electronic news gathering (ENG). There were various generations over the years from analogue to digital tape recording, until the current solid state camera/recorders. Each change brought with it new editing techniques from film and tape editors to reporter desktop editing.

Former ABC newsreaders and announcers John Harper Nelson, Michael Palmer and David Hawkes

TVW-7 News readers over the decades

Geoff Walker, David Farr, Lloyd Lawson and Phillip Edgely

David Farr, Lloyd Lawson, Gary Carvolth, Garry Meadows, Pam Leuba, Eric Walters, John Chalton, Bill Gill, Brien Thirley, Marcus Hale, David Low and Terry Willesee

Peter Waltham, Neil Watson, Russell Goodrick, Greg Pearce, David Ellery, Peter Newman, Rick Ardon and Terry Willesee

Rick Ardon, Susannah Carr, Jeff Newman, Yvette Mooney, Steve Taylor, Dick Tombs, Paula Voce, Reece Whitby and Jeff Newman

Rick Ardon, Susannah Carr and Yvette Mooney

Rick Ardon, Susannah Carr, Yvette Mooney, Sally Bowrey, Emmy Kubainski and Samantha Jolly

ABW-2 News readers over the decades

James Fisher, Ian Beatty, Earl Reeve, Clive Hale, Peter Harrison, Jeff Jeffery, Michael Palmer, John Harper-Nelson and George Manning

Earl Reeve, David Hawkes, Peter Harrison, John Harper-Nelson, Peter Holland, Dave Ellery, Peter Newman, George Manning, Eion Cameron, Murray Jennings and Greg Pearce

David Hawkes, Peter Holland, Anne Conti, Greg Pearce, Robyn Johnson and Ruth Walker

Peter Holland, Deborah Knight and Deborah Kennedy

Deborah Kennedy, Tom Baddeley, Paul Lockyer, Alicia Gorey, Craig Smart and Karina Carvalho

STW-9 News readers over the decades

Walter Pym (Opening Night), Alan Graham, Jeff Newman, Lloyd Lawson, Peter Dean and Trevor Sutton

Peter Barlow, Neil Watson, and Russell Goodrick

Greg Pearce, Russell Goodrick, Valerie Davies, Anne Conti and Peter Waltham

Peter Waltham, Christine Parker, Liam Bartlett, Mikayla Turner, Tina Altieri, Terry Willesee, Peter Holland and Tina Altieri

Peter Holland, Dixie Marshall, Sonia Vinci, Greg Pearce and Dixie Marshall

NEW-10 News readers over the decades

Greg Pearce and Gina Pickering

Greg Pearce, Claudia Saenz, Rachel McNally, Mikayla Turner and Christina Morrissey

Greg Pearce and Christina Morrissey, Celina Edmonds, Ron Wilson, Tim Webster and Charmaine Dragun
(via Sydney)

Narelda Jacobs
(moved back to Perth)

Craig Smart and Narelda Jacobs

WA Television News Origins and Evolution

WA TV History
Television equipment has changed considerably since TV began in Western Australia.

In 1959, when TVW launched television in Western Australia, the station was fitted predominantly with the British PYE Electronics equipment. Valve driven equipment that would be considered primitive today. The operational components were distributed in the control rooms and nearby telecine area. The vision mixing unit (VMU) and the audio mixing unit (AMU) were where presentation was being coordinated, though the VMU was a remote control console for the real switching that took place in the Master Control racks downstairs. All production went through one small studio, which had associated with it an announce booth for simple voice over 35mm slide, 16mm film, the station clock or caption cards. Station presentation used the studio control room, unless a rehearsal was taking place in the studio, for either a program or live commercials. Presentation was then coordinated from Master Control. Everything was live in those day, except the content shot on film.

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TVW Black & White PYE Telecine area in 1960’s

On station opening, there were only two telecine chains consisting of Philips projectors and a slide projector, sharing one vidicon camera per chain. Similar telecine equipment was employed in Perth by the ABC when the government owned broadcaster opened 6 months later. Seven also used a small postcard sized caption scanner that could hold either the test pattern, station clock or caption cards for promotional or advertising purposes. Later both Seven and ABW would use a more sophisticated PYE manufactured scanner that enabled not only a collection of larger caption cards but also the clock and a crawl for long credits to roll through.

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RCA TRT-IB Videotape machines introduced by Seven in 1962

RCA Videotape facilities did not arrive at Seven until 1962, though AMPEX came up with the two inch quadraplex format in 1956, equipment which ABW Channel Two would employ. STW Channel Nine opened in 1965 with the more compact transistorised RCA videotape machines. Both Seven and STW Channel Nine used PYE black and white studio cameras, whilst the ABC started with EMI. As the years progressed, all stations employed a much wider range of equipment, from many different suppliers.

Television News and program presentation has changed much over the years, and so has the tools that made it happen. At the beginning of TV in Western Australia, equipment was large and expensive. It was also primitive by today’s standards and required more effort to keep aligned and functional. Valve technology was still dominant, with its inherent unreliability. Valves were more fragile and took up more real estate on a chassis. They also generated more heat and in the process used more power. Vacuum tube equipment also needed constant attention as alignment would drift from day to day, and particularly with temperature and tube age. Transistors began the movement to miniaturisation. All tubes, including the old image orthicon, vidicon, staticon and plumbicon camera tubes became obsolete, superseded by the charge-coupled device (CCD). Bulky components were replaced by compact printed circuit boards and then tiny integrated circuits in a chip. Recording mechanisms also shrank from videotape machines populating up to five racks each, down to the present hard drives and solid state memory cards, that can reside in a camera.

Meanwhile, switching and mixing facilities have become more sophisticated and complex. Artists using paint, ink, pencil, pen, brush and paper or card has been replaced by computer graphics. The cumbersome hot press has gone the same way as the Linotype typesetting machine, hot metal and letterpress printing. Not only has colour been added, but also a plethora of clever special effects. Film has long been replaced by electronic news gathering which now uses computer editing. In each step new skills have been required. Film processing has long gone as has cut and splicing, videotape, audiotape, cartridges and vinyl recordings. Everything has been modernised, including the design of studio lights. Items are now played out from a hard drive with an instant start replay, rather than early film projectors or videotape, which required a count down to stabilise.

Much has changed, as the following video will illustrate. It also provides insight into both the ABC and Seven’s news presentation styles in Perth, Western Australia. It shows both the ABC and Seven use of traditional control room configurations, though the ABC has now gone one step further on the automation route, which will be explained shortly.

Insight into ABC and Seven Perth News Presentation

WA TV History
This video provides some insight into both the ABC and Seven’s news presentations in Perth, Western Australia.

Firstly, the ABC’s Kim Lord explains the intricacies of mixing sound for ABC nature programs and dramas. Kim is a perfectionist and the ABC is dedicated to getting the many facets of sound production right. A glimpse is shown of how the ABC TV news control room staff operated a few years back, before significant automation advances were made in this field.

The video also touches on the different approaches of the two stations. Seven has kept their cameramen and team, using a traditional approach.

Channel Nine in Perth also uses the traditional approach, though they use a virtual set rather than a real one. The set is actually a graphic generated by a computer, which adjusts the perspective according to the camera angle.

STW Channel 9 Station Tour in 2008

WA TV History
STW is owned by WIN Corporation and affiliated to the Nine Network. The call sign STW stands for Swan Television, Western Australia.

STW-9 commenced broadcasting on 12 June 1965 and was the second commercial television station in Perth.

It became the first station in Perth to broadcast 24 hours a day on 17 April 1984.

STW-9 broadcasts from a transmitter mast located in Walliston in the Perth Hills beyond Kalamunda. Its operational base and studios are located at 9 Gay Street, Dianella, across the road from Seven’s studios.

Nine News Perth is produced and broadcast live from STW’s news studios every night at 6pm (repeated week nights at 11.30pm) across Perth and regional Western Australia.

In 2008, when this video was recorded, there were approximately 150 staff working at the station. Presentation was then emanating from the Dianella studios, before this was centralised – resulting in staff redundancies.

In 1983, the station came under the ownership of Bond Media, controlled by businessman Alan Bond, and became a Nine Network owned and operated station when Bond purchased the network. In 1989 Bond Media sold the station to Sunraysia Television for A$95 million. The Eva Presser controlled Sunraysia TV owned around 55% of the company, whilst WIN Television owned 40% of the company.

In 2007, WIN Corporation brought the station for A$163.1 million.

Now in an Australian television industry first, the Wollongong, New South Wales based commercial television network owned by the WIN Corporation and the public owned national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have formed a joint venture MediaHub. This is a digital playout facility designed to further centralise operations for both organisations with the intent of cutting costs.

MediaHub Australia is a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facility in Ingleburn in Sydney’s South West which will be the central location for broadcasting both WIN and ABC content to all of Australia.

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MediaHub site before purchase

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MediaHub site after transformation

Considerable savings are made by having a shared plant that can lead to further staff trimming by centralising each broadcaster’s presentation and Master Control Room (MCR) facilities, to enable increased efficiency.

The chief executive of MediaHub is Andrew Hogg, formerly of Omnilab Media.

On opening the facility, the ABC Chairman Maurice Newman AC said; “For the first time, MediaHub will give the ABC the capacity to deliver unique content, be it programs, promotions or announcements, to each of the fifteen capital city, state and territory broadcast areas. This will be especially important in times of emergency where the ABC will have the flexibility to broadcast local information to affected communities in times of need.”

WIN Executive Chairman Andrew Gordon, said “This is the first time Australian broadcasters have worked together to invest in common infrastructure to realise significant efficiency gains.

Construction on MediaHub commenced in September 2009 and the centre was officially opened in June 2010.

ABC chief operating officer David Pendleton is the centre’s architect and he argued it was needed to replace ageing technology in each city.

Here’s how it all came about after a decade of technology evolution…

In 2001 the ABC began its conversion from analogue to digital TV with a move to digital tape based News and Production cameras, standard definition digital production studios and digital Outside Broadcast vans. Non-linear editing system (NLE) was introduced for News and TV production, as was a digital archive system for video and audio “assets and the conversion of 60,000 hrs of video and audio.

This became a big learning exercise for the ABC as the technologies were still evolving, especially computer based hard drive facilities, for at that time operations were still tape based. For not only was equipment rapidly evolving but it also made new demands on staff, who required new skills and significant work practice changes.

By 2007 the first generation of digital technology had reached end of life, so the ABC decided to centralise TV presentation and introduce automated news studios. They acquired file based Electronic News Gathering cameras, such as the Panasonic P2, which use a solid-state memory storage media format, that departs from the older method of recording video onto video tape.

From 2008, the ABC was committed to giving journalists a news editing capability from desktop workstations, assisted by the file based syndication of news content. This employed the Apple Xsan cluster file system, which enabled them to consolidate storage resources and provide multiple computers with concurrent file-level read/write access for use with Apple’s suite of professional applications, including Final Cut Pro® HD.

Also in 2008, the ABC introduced studio automation to all ABC News studios by choosing the Grass valley ““Ignite”” system. In doing so, the traditional TV News control rooms, which required up to 7 staff, were downsized to one studio director, assisted by automation.

The Grass Valley Ignite is a “station-in-a-box” production system that includes a digital video switcher, audio board, router, digital video cameras, and automation control software.

ABC News One Person Operation

WA TV History
There is increasingly less dependance on people in the ABC News studio control room, where there is only one operator. Its now dependant on the news gatherers to take it one step further in feeding their fodder into the system.

News footage is shot in the field and recorded on solid-state memory cards within the cameras. Once the video files are ingested into the nonlinear editing workstations back at the studio, editors can immediately begin cutting segments. Finished stories are then loaded into the News rundown using the Ignite system’s graphical user interface.

Its important that the News department staff integrate their stories into the system in the right way to avoid glitches, and this discipline makes them meet deadlines better than they ever did before.

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Grass Valley Ignite™ integrated production solutions (IPS) system

The production staff have had to adjust their way of working as well, as proper planning results in fewer technical errors, by adjusting rundowns and developing an even flow or overall theme from among the various news segments.

The Ignite system also holds everyone involved with the news production and broadcast process more accountable for what they do.

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In 2009, WIN TV and the ABC announced the formation of MediaHub Australia, a joint venture to collocate presentation services.

The 24,300 square foot facility is housed in a refurbished sheet metal factory in Ingleburn, a south western suburb of Sydney, NSW.

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MediaHub was built to centralise each broadcaster’s presentation and Master Control Room (MCR) facilities. This means content from each of the broadcasters can be switched and routed from studios, outside broadcast vans, overseas news feeds and to external providers.

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Both broadcasters send their schedules to the facility, where Snell Morpheus systems generate ingest lists for the Grass Valley ContentShare2 (CS2) workflow and media asset management system, which serves as the interface between the playout center and its multiple clients’ individual production centers. Content is delivered to nearline storage, and the Morpheus systems move media to the playout server and automate playout for programming across 130 channels. This model gives centrally located operators the ability to manage multiple live content streams and variations in playout schedules for multiple time zones.

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Grass Valley ContentShare2 (CS2)

The systems are designed to transform the media industry towards a model of “packaging and publishing.” A key challenge for the state-of-the-art facilities is to manage rich media (video, audio, and graphics) as well as its associated metadata, the set of data that describes and gives information about other data, such as timecode information. The challenge is incorporating new Information technology (IT) within a legacy infrastructure. Grass Valley’s CS2 is a scalable workflow and media asset management software solution that provides interfaces to broadcast specific devices, such as video servers, and interfaces to IT-based storage systems. It also interfaces to business systems (i.e., scheduling systems) and the technical infrastructure.

However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for MediaHub, with the facility being blamed for a series of technical glitches and broadcast delays that occurred earlier in its life. The ABC has demonstrated that it is willing to endure short term pain for long term gain. They have taken the risk of introducing new technology, and often developing it, over many decades to gain an economic advantage, often out of necessity as government funds have been reduced.

The ABC developed early time delay machines to reduce staff costs when greater networking was introduced. The D-Cart digital recording facilities were another in-house development. Localisation was another initiative that enabled more to be done with less, whilst maintaining the impression that national fed programs had a local presentation feel. Each had teething problems, which will by now be long forgotten, except by those given the task to make it happen.

Now MediaHub brings about a major change in the TV presentation and master control functions, by outsourcing them rather than continue to use the traditional in-house operations.

Many thanks to Seven, Nine, ABC, Darcy Farrell, Derrick Wright, June Holmes, Dr Peter Harries and Chris Gore for photos and input for this story.

Postscript to Fat Cat

Posted by ken On August - 6 - 2011

Children’s television in Perth has had many memorable local presenters from Rolf Harris to Fat Cat. Even though the Cat was mute, he had plenty of character and was immensely popular.

Some of the TVW children’s presenters over the years that come to mind include: Rolf Harris, Carolyn Noble, Gary Carvolth, Jan Bedford, Jim Atkinson, Colm O’Doherty, Taffy the Lion (John Cousins), Trina Brown, Sandy Baker, Marie Van Maaren, Judy Thompson, Keith Geary, Debbie Allanson, Alison Carroll, Gabrielle Hammond, Keith McDonald and Sharon Dale. With many of them being the side kick to Fat Cat.

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Yvette Mooney, Trina Williams (Brown), Percy Penguin, Simon Reeve, Sandy Baker (Palmer), Fat Cat and Carolyn Tannock (Noble) celebrating TVW’s 50th Anniversary

In later years, political correctness seemed to have an impact on children’s TV, with people questioning Fat Cat’s gender, or lack of one, and also objecting to Humphrey B. Bear not wearing trousers. Enid Blyton’s Noddy even came under the hammer, over matters which would never enter a young person’s mind. The Three Stooges, Tom and Jerry and the Coyote and the Roadrunner were deemed too violent, despite a legend of fans dating back decades, and in some cases, generations. Yesteryear’s sensibilities became this year’s hidden agenda of racism, sexism and extremism. Noddy and Big Ears were perceived as a case of pedophilia, the Golliwog was considered derogatory and the slapstick comedy of the silent movie, vaudeville and early animated cartoons became viewed as harmful rather than humorous. The new attitudes caused content of this nature to be culled from the kids viewing schedule, but it didn’t stop at that, as the station mascots got a going over too.

Very memorable was the cheeky rapport between Agro (Jamie Dunn) and Anne-Maree Biggar on Agro’s Cartoon Connection. Not only did they entertain the kids but they entertained the parents too. Not only were they political incorrect but the show was laced with considerable innuendo. It got such that the show consistently out rated Steve Liebmann and Elizabeth Hayes presenting the Today show. It also won 7 consecutive Logie Awards for Most Popular Children’s Program from 1991 to 1997.

Anne Marie Biggar and Agro

WA TV History
The cheeky rapport between Agro (Jamie Dunn) and Anne-Maree Biggar on Agro’s Cartoon Connection.

Now Entertainment is apparently not enough, as the government demands that children’s shows be educational as well. Not that this was not the case, as from the earliest days Children’s Channel Seven included segments on pets, hobbies, nature studies and much more… and that was before there were rules dictating this.

The Children’s Television Standards 2009 (CTS) require commercial television licensees to broadcast a variety of quality television programs made specifically for them, including Australian drama and non-drama programs, and to provide for the protection of children from possible harmful effects of television.

Doubt that anyone in their wildest dreams would accuse Fat Cat of being in anyway harmful to children, yet he was a casualty of many of the changes that have taken place.

Fortunately, Fat Cat still appears on Perth television screens as the mascot of Seven Perth’s highly successful Telethon fundraising, and regularly says goodnight to children on television at 7.30pm each evening.

Parents over the years have relied on Fat Cat to get their children to bed and different segments were made for different occasions, such as Fat Cat putting his gifts under the Christmas tree, and so on. Its become an institution in Western Australia, as the popular character still goes to bed at that time.

Fat Cat says Goodnight

WA TV History
Fat Cat still appears on Perth television screens where he regularly says goodnight to children on at 7.30pm each evening, as Sandy Baker (Palmer) Fat Cat’s first on-air companion explains.

Well known TV personalities Sandy Baker and Keith Geary provided a wonderful insight into the life of Fat Cat at his animators funeral on Thursday July 4th, 2011. As sad as the occasion was for family, friends and colleagues, it was very much a celebration of Reg Whiteman’s life.


Here is a transcript of Keith Geary’s Eulogy, which not only brought a smile to the face but also a tear to the eyes…

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Keith Geary

I just want to go to Mount Buffalo, it’s a winter playground all covered with snow. They are the words to a song Macca (Keith McDonald) actually wrote, many years ago after a trip that we did to the Victorian alps. Now Reg was always up for anything, but we were under time constraints, so it was decided that someone else would have to do the Fat Cat skiing. But the real thing in it for me was that after we got down from the mountain, he came up to me and he had a smile on his face, as wide as his grin, and he said, ‘Wasn’t Fat Cat Good’. Because for him, what it was all about, and why he was able to live in the shadows for twenty years, was for him and for us, Fat Cat was a real person, he was an entity in his own right. So for Reggie, it was all about making sure that Fat Cat was absolutely 100 per cent spot on the whole time.

He was the star, and he was the hero, and we were the second bananas, and happy to do so.

To say he was up for everything at times was just nuts. I had an idea once that we would hitch Fat Cat underneath the helicopter and fly it around town as Super Cat. And Reggie said to me, ‘Would I have to hang on or would I have a harness.’ I said that it would probably be a good idea just to put the suit up there instead. But he was game, there’s no question about it.

Not only that, but in one case we went water skiing, because out at Bonney’s, out at Baldavis they had a punt where you could put a bar out outside of the boat, and we made some special shoes that went over the skis, and what ever age he was then, Fat cat went skiing. He was absolutely fantastic. 

His boat driving skills were not that terrific I would have to say. We were in the Katherine River of the Northern Territory and he was driving the tour boat and he hit a tree and I went overboard into the crocodile infested river.

I mentioned a story while I was talking to Russell Woolf on the radio the other day, but I would like to repeat it because it shows his tenacity and his flair, no one could wear the suit quite like Reggie. You could see him from 100 metres away, and I just saw Sandy laughing, and its absolutely true, he wore it in a way that no body else could and as no body else has ever done since, or ever will I don’t think.

So he decided to go paragliding. You’ve seen them down at the Narrows, and they put you in the harness, and they drag you around the river around the boat. Oh the good old days before occupational health and safety. I don’t know if we caused accidents on the freeway, but when you’ve got a six foot cat wearing size 29 shoes, being dragged around the river next to a major road, it could have been an issue. But what we forgot to tell him was to lift his toes up, when you’re coming in, and you didn’t, and he just went splat into the river and there was an enormous sort of splash, and we’re running into the river and it was a bit deeper than Cat. So we dragged him out, and there’s nothing like standing on the side of the freeway wringing out a soaking wet pussy, trying to get him back to life. It was a very Mrs Slocum moment.

But he was tough, you know. He was a very, very tough guy. And you had to be to be in that suit.

Sandy and Shaz would know, as well Macca would, and everyone who performed with him. In days in Western Australia where it was 40 plus, and he’s in a suit. Now it was hard enough for us, I don’t know how he did it. I could never have done it, and in my entire time, and I worked with him full time for ten years, and first performed with him in 1977 down at the Royal Show, I never actually put the head on, as I couldn’t even do that, let alone the body suit, the balaclava, the full fur suit and go out and do it. At the end of his career, he wasn’t a young man, he was older that I am now, and he was still going out and doing it and still dancing.

There’s two things I want to talk about to illustrate, in defence of Fat Cat. 

We went to Clontarf, and once a year the Jockey’s and Trainer’s Association used to do a fund raiser at Clontarf. It was held on the lawn out the back near the river and there’s all the marquees, and its stinking, its 42, and Channel Seven has generously supplied us, free of charge for the gig. So we go out there and go around all the stores and we’re about 45 minutes into this and I know I’m drenched and I know the Cat’s hot, so I said, look mate we’ve been here a fair bit so lets duck out between this row of tents, I can see stairs going up to the main building, lets do a runner. So we duck through the pony rides, and as we came through there’s a young chap who looks about 14 or 15, and he’s obviously too big to be a jockey, and he walks up to Fat Cat with an odd look on his face and says, ‘I don’t like you Fat Cat’, and he punches him in the head. Well that’s his first mistake. The head is made out of fibreglass, so the kid has suddenly got a fist that is not quite the same shape as it was. We both reacted, as if by instinct and I stood on the young man’s foot, so he couldn’t step backwards, and honestly Reggie delivered a short sharp right, that Danny Green would be proud of, and it connected with the kid. So his day is not going well. At that very precise moment of contact, a very large man comes around the corner on a horse, who bears a striking resemblance to the kid. We’re going Arrh Arrhh Arrhhh, and words like that. He walks up and smacks the kid around the back of the head, and says, ‘Don’t hit Fat Cat’, and says to Fat Cat, ‘You have a nice day Fat Cat’, and we bolted. I swear to God that it was the only time I heard Fat Cat laugh out loud.

On one other occasion, which signifies his complete dedication to the job, we used to do the Entertainment Centre every year for his birthday party, and it was enormous. It was the closest thing I ever got to being a rock star. It was a phenomenal amount of fun with more than 16 thousand people would come to Fat Cat’s birthday party. One year it was decided that we would always have a feature number for Reggie, a dance for Reggie to do because really he was the best dancer. So I don’t know if you ever saw a Robert Redford movie The Electric Horseman? In that film he’s in a suit on his horse, and they are both illuminated, dancing in the centre of the arena. So this is Fat Cat’s solo entry, dim the lights, in a pool of light dancing. In order to achieve this, in the days before LEDs (Light-emitting diodes), so we had a special battery pack made to run fairy lights. His big top hat is lit up, his cane was lit up and he looked fantastic, the dance went well and he come off to thunderous applause. I’m in the wings waiting for him because we’ve got a turn around, and get him back out on the stage, and on with the show. But as he gets into the wings, the head comes off, the suit comes down and a big cloud of smoke comes out from under the suit. The cats on fire. So I said to someone very quickly, ‘Somebody put the cat out’, then I went out on stage, thinking, ‘What happens now?’ If he doesn’t come back on, this show, which is only in the first half, has got a very serious problem. So I start busking with the audience, and furiously thinking whilst I can’t see anything thats happening. The stage manager is sitting on the front with a thousand mile stare, going, ‘Well I don’t know’. About a minute and a half later there’s a big cheer and out he walks on stage and the show goes on. He did that show, and the repeat performance, with second degree burns on his chest, because it was Fat Cat’s birthday party, and it was going to go on. He was going to go on.

Short Sighted Seymour, Thomas the Turtle, Monty Meany, Sunny Sandgroper, Percy and Fat Cat’s Mum, and all of us presenters, we all got to work with Reggie, and this is my last appearance with him and I thank him.