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8-10 December 2005

History of Australian TV conference GUIDE

Graeme Blundell Ted Thomas and more…. Proudly brought to you by:

The National Film and Sound Archive

History of Australian Television Conference Abstracts


Ted Thomas Keynote speaker December 8 Graeme Blundell Keynote speaker December 9 Ien Ang (UWS) and Gay Hawkins (UNSW) Inventing SBS 4 Stephen Atkinson (University of SA) A rumble in the Great Australian Silence: Whiplash and the telling of the Australian frontier Rozzi Bazzani (freelance and Herald Sun Melbourne) "TV cops take the running" Frances Bonner (UQ) A familiar face: the consequences of a long career on-screen Wendy Borchers (ABC archivist) The evolution of ABC arts & entertainment: the first ten years Robert Crawford (Monash University) Changing the face of advertising: Australia’s advertising industry in the Early days of television John Hartley, Joshua Green and Jean Burgess (QUT) 'Laughs and Legends,' or the furniture that glows? Television as History Chris Healy (University of Melbourne) Alcheringa: invisible Aborigines on TV Nick Herd (UTS) The historical analysis of commercial television as a cultural industry: the case of the third licence in Sydney and Melbourne 1964-72 Jason Jacobs (Griffith University) The ABC's early television drama Chris Lawe-Davies (UQ) and Jason Sternberg (QUT) The spaces and places of audience research in commercial and public service television Alan McKee and Andrew King (QUT) The secret life of Indigenous sex on Australian television drama 4 5 6 8

8 9 10

11 11 12


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Ailsa McPherson (freelance researcher) A view of times past in Australian television drama Barbara Masel (freelance writer and film maker) Television and memory Tom O’Regan (UQ) Too much television? Television’s middle period 1966-1986 Sue Turnbull and Felicity Collins (La Trobe University) ABC television comedy and the life of the nation

13 13 15 16

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Ien Ang (UWS) and Gay Hawkins (UNSW) Inventing SBS While SBS Radio drew on community radio as a reference point, SBS television had no examples to work with. It had to be invented on the run without a clear philosophy of what multicultural television might be. Rather than trace the series of policies and events that led to the first SBS television broadcast in October 1980, this paper investigates two programming choices made in the earliest days of the service and their significant impacts. In deciding to use subtitles rather than dubbing SBS television became the first place in Australian TV where languages other than English were heard extensively on air. In deciding to build a news service using mainly international material from foreign feeds Worldwide News, as it was then called, presented an immediate challenge to the parochialism of other TV news services. These two decisions had important repercussions that signalled the significance of television in enhancing cultural democracy. Subtitles and foreign news not only extended the density of public culture but also pluralist and cosmopolitan imaginations – not just in audiences but in other media. The Project Team: Associate Professor Gay Hawkins, Professor Ien Ang, Lamia Dabboussy Stephen Atkinson ( University of SA) A rumble in the Great Australian Silence: Whiplash and the telling of the Australian frontier Whiplash (first screened 1961), a co-production of Australia’s Artransa Park Studios and Britain’s ATV, is now largely forgotten but it was Australia’s first western and the first series to portray the contact zone between settlers and Aborigines along the frontier. Although set in 1850s Australia, the casting of American actor Peter Graves in the starring role and the involvement of American crews and writers prompted many to dismiss it as a ‘westernisation’ of Australian history and evidence of Australia’s political and cultural dependency. Yet the gun smoke, tumble weed and familiar narrative conventions of the western also contributed to a defamiliarised view of colonial history that had ramifications for the national psyche of late Menzies era

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Australia. This paper looks more closely at the political and cultural context of the early 1960s, and compares this with Whiplash’s often ambiguous rendering of Aboriginality and the processes of settlement, assimilation and dispossession. Rozzi Bazzani "TV cops take the running" Hector Crawford towers over TV in Australia like no other figure. How television upstaged cinema in showing Australians to themselves is a fascinating story. It’s Crawford’s story. And without it, would have been fifty very different years of Australian television. When Homicide, a black and white police drama filmed on the streets of Melbourne was shown on TV in 1964, it stormed the ratings. Australians saw themselves for the first time in an art form that had not hitherto existed. It marked the beginning of a new era in Australian screen history. In a uniquely Australian take on the purpose of television vis a vis nationalistic traditions in cinema, Crawford produced action drama starting with Homicide, grabbed a new audience of urban Australians and gave visual meaning to the term "Australian way of life." Crawford characters didn’t inhabit the cinematic outback world of Ned Kelly, The Light Horseman or Jedda, they lived in gritty suburban cities. Crawford dramas didn’t treat TV as an advertising eye in people’s lounge rooms, they found a way to reflect ordinary people. It took Hector Crawford 7 years to convince HSV7 to commission Homicide. It was 7 years of tenacious lobbying and steadfast belief in the unifying effect of an Australian voice on TV. My paper will focus on the society that allowed Crawford to exist. What conditions led to a champion of TV. How Crawford broke through with drama. How the success

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of TV drama informed debates over Australian content and resuscitated Australian film.
Rozzi Bazzani was born in Bendigo Victoria, and was a successful singer for many years before the lure of writing led her back to complete a BA at Melbourne University. A weekly arts program on Melbourne commercial radio was followed by two years writing a regular feature for the Herald Sun, where she is still a contributor. Rozzi hosted 200 episodes of a TV program Time of Your Life for RTV. She is currently writing a biography of Hector Crawford.

Frances Bonner (UQ) A familiar face: the consequences of a long career on-screen This paper uses the career of Maggie Tabberer to explore the role of the presenter in Australian television, looking especially at presenters who have maintained a substantial career in the medium. It is a multi-pronged investigation which also calls on three other female presenters, Denise Drysdale, Noni Hazelhurst and Keri Anne Kennerley to elucidate particular aspects and provide a better basis for arguing the general rather than the individual case. The first dimension considers the double articulation of the sociability of television. Presenters are the most significant locus of this as they display sociability in their interactions with others on screen, but are also important in the off-screen exhibitions of televisually-based sociability as viewers use material gleaned from television, and from other media discussing television, in their sociable interactions with one another. When presenters have long careers, the amount of information (including opinions and gossip) about them in the public domain becomes considerable. The second dimension is that of celebrity. Given that Maggie Tabberer’s career on television started in the 1964, she provides a valuable case study of changes in the operation of celebrity over most of the time that television has operated in Australia. The third dimension concerns demographic characteristics and the way in which presenters facilitate a range of discussions about identity. Gender, age and class are all significant here. Given the absence of a racially marked presenter with a long career, this aspect will not be able to be investigated all that much, although whiteness will

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be able to be interrogated, especially through the significance at the time of Tabberer’s second husband Ettore Prossimo being Italian. Denise Drysdale has a television career at least as long as Tabberer’s and like her has two Gold Logies. Unlike Tabberer’s unwavering middle-classness, Drysdale has consistently deployed a working class persona. She also had minimal if any celebrity status in the early years of her career. Kerri-Anne Kennerley is somewhat younger and has a shorter career, but provides a valuable comparison in terms of the critical reception of a presenter (there has never been a time when it was culturally acceptable for a middle class or an educated audience to admire her work or her persona). Noni Hazelhursts importance for this study is primarily because she, like Tabberer, presented a lifestyle program with her husband, in the course or following which both the professional and personal partnerships broke up. Such events provide highly valuable opportunities to investigate the extent of the collapse of public/private distinctions for presenters. It is a convention of television criticism that female faces are only valued on television while they are young. There is considerable evidence in support of this, but that makes it all the more valuable to investigate instances when it appears less evident (while noting Drysdale and Hazelhurst are not currently appearing, and Tabberer herself is seen very occasionally). How has it been possible in the more recent period for them to delay their departure? In case it needs to be discussed why the focus here is on women presenters, it is a matter of redress or starting to fill the larger gap. Inasmuch as there is a history of Australian television presenters, it is of male figures and celebratory rather than critical. The women who appear in the current story of television’s past are frequently adjuncts (usually wives), rendered more minor by the passage of time. The power relations in all of these public marriages endorsed male dominance.

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Wendy Borchers (ABC Archivist) The evolution of ABC arts & entertainment: the first ten years The first words on ABC television were “Good evening, ladies, gentlemen and children, welcome to ABN Channel 2”, uttered by the inimitable Michael Charlton (later a pioneer of 4 Corners), on opening night, November 5, 1956! In the studio on this formal, glittering occasion, were such luminaries as the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, the Postmaster General, Senator McKenna, ABC Chairman, Richard Boyer and ABC Manager, Charles Moses. Mr Boyer prepared to make his introductory remarks, only to have his screen image fade slowly to black. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not say anything at all and James Dibble could be seen, but not heard, breaking the news about the Suez Canal crisis! Michael Charlton, however, did manage to whet individual and collective appetites by introducing ABC entertainers as a taste of things to come. The first ten years of studio-based entertainment programs struggled to find an Australian identity, as so many were crosses between a vaudeville show and an American comedy western. Today I will attempt to show you how our identity gradually did evolve, climaxing in The Restless Years, which, in one hour of song and verse, tells the story of the first 60 years of European settlement in Australia and wins a coveted Golden Harp Award for Excellence into the bargain. Robert Crawford (Monash University) Changing the face of advertising: Australia’s advertising industry in the early days of television During the 1950s, Australia’s advertising industry eagerly awaited the arrival of television. Long before the first broadcasts in 1956, advertising agencies and advertisers had been preparing themselves for what they believed would be the greatest ever selling medium. The creation of a new outlet for advertisements was not the industry’s sole cause for excitement. Having exerted its dominance over commercial radio, the advertising industry excitedly looked forward to extending its

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influence into the sphere of television. The industry’s dreams, however, were only partially fulfilled. While the advent of commercial television enabled the industry to broadcast its commercial messages in a more effective way, legislation specifically prevented it from controlling television in the way that it had with radio. This decision would have a significant impact on the relationship between the two industries. By examining the impact that it had on the advertising industry, this paper will demonstrate that the advent of television not only had a dramatic impact on the face of advertising, it also caused a fundamental change in the structure and operation of Australia’s advertising industry. John Hartley, Joshua Green and Jean Burgess (QUT) 'Laughs and Legends,' or the furniture that glows? Television as history This paper investigates the memorialization of television itself as an object of historical interest. The focus is on Australian TV, but the paper will survey international trends. It looks at site-specific installations and archives that turn TV into history, for example:        museum exhibitions (e.g. TV Times, the inaugural MCA exhibition in 1991), archives (e.g. ScreenSound Australia), private and university collections; anniversary specials for both shows and stations, one-off events (e.g. Graham Kennedy’s funeral), channel IDs and routine historicising programming, physical memorabilia, real and screened (e.g. on antique shows).

and at television’s own account of itself as history, e.g.

The paper will also comment on examples of “forgetting” TV as history:    on TV, “historic” shows are dumped (Burke/Nine; Negus/ABC), in formal learning, a history of neglect and failure to honour pioneers, in museums and galleries, television’s troublesome “unworthy” status

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The paper will attempt to identify themes and theories underlying these formal and “vernacular” presentations of television as history. Of particular interest is the image of the audience in such representations. Finally, in the run-up to its 50th anniversary (16 September 2006), the paper asks: what is the future of TV as history? Chris Healy Alcheringa: invisible Aborigines on TV In the second half of the 1960s during school holiday at my Melbourne school, Manningham Primary, I used to watch film screenings, presumably to keep us off the street in those brief respites from formal instruction. The format, as I remember it, included a feature like Born Free-a film which never failed to bring forth a flood of tears-preceded by a short. More than once, that short came from the TV series Alcheringa. This prize-winning 1962 ABC television program was a twelve part series, initially broadcast weekly, each episode being 13 minutes long. The series was written and directed by Frank Few, and compared by the late Bill Onus, a Yorta Yorta man. It was perhaps the first television series broadcast in Australia to substantive feature Aboriginal people. The series re-created, romantically and anthropologically, an imagined world of everyday indigenous practices 'before the coming of the white man'. This paper explores how Alcheringa deploys and relies on characterisations of indigenous people that are primitivist, condescending and disrespectful; how it understands Aboriginal people as colonised; and how, in some ways, it is a relatively open and complex television series that produces Aboriginality as a postcolonial space of exchange and, in effect, looks forward to more recent examples of television. Chris Healy's books include: The Lifeblood of Footscray: working lives at the Angliss Meatworks (ed), Beasts of Suburbia (co-ed), and From the Ruins of Colonialism: History as Social Memory. He is currently co-editor of Cultural Studies Review and director of the Cultural Studies Program at the University of Melbourne.

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Nick Herd (UTS) The historical analysis of commercial television as a cultural industry: the case of the third licence in Sydney and Melbourne 1964-72 This paper presents aspects of an historical analysis of commercial television as a cultural industry with particular reference to the introduction of the third licences in Sydney and Melbourne between 1964 and 1972. The paper places the introduction of ATV 0 and TEN 10 in the context of commercial television development to 1964. Since programming flow is the structuring logic of television as a cultural industry the main part of the paper looks at the programming strategies used by the stations to differentiate them from and compete with the other commercial stations. I will do this with reference to particular Australian programs scheduled by the stations. My argument is that for most of the sixties and into the early seventies these stations pursued an essentially defensive strategy attempting to change the stations competitive position within the existing rules. The change to a more offensive strategy with the genesis of Number 96 was what laid the foundation for financial success. Jason Jacobs (Griffith University) The ABC’s early television drama This paper presents the preliminary findings of the Australian dimension of my ARC Discovery Project ‘Early Television Drama in Great Britain, Australia and the USA’. It will outline the significant developments in policy, management and production during the late 1950s and early 1960s, paying special attention to the development of the Television Writers’ Workshop, relations with the BBC and commercial UK television companies as well as US and Canadian Networks. In addition the paper explores the ways in which the ABC television drama managers dealt with manuscripts and ideas submitted by prospective Australian screenwriters, and the lengths the management went to in order to encourage the emergence of a distinctly Australian television drama.

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Chris Lawe-Davies (UQ) and Jason Sternberg (QUT) The spaces and places of audience research in commercial and public service television The history of TV ratings providers and developments in audience measurement has been well-documented in Australia, but little attention has been paid to TV networks’ use of ratings in their decision making processes. Also, while commercial and public broadcasters rely on ratings, these only tell one part of the audience story, with qualitative research and in-house audience research departments (particularly at the ABC) playing a significant historical and contemporary role. This paper examines the changing functions of audience research by Australian television broadcasters, highlighting three trends. Increased efficiency in ratings provision has made commercial broadcasters more reactive and conservative in programming decisions and, in conjunction with policy pressures, has also made public broadcasters more conservative and overly conscious of the market. At the same time, however, the increasing sophistication of ratings data enables broadcasters to strategically reposition themselves in response to the changing media environment. Market fragmentation has seen increasing importance placed on commissioned and in-house research in a shift away from mass audience capture to establishing and maintaining an audience bond.

Alan McKee and Andrew King (QUT) The secret life of Indigenous sex on Australian television drama This paper presents a history of the representation of Indigenous sexuality on Australian television drama since the 1970s; and suggests the political importance of such representations. In 1976 Justine Saunders became the first regular Indigenous character on an Australian television drama series – Number 96. Her character, the hairdresser Rhonda Jackson, was presented as sexually attractive. But the only way in which this sexuality was expressed was when she was raped after a party. Twenty-five years later, Deborah Mailman starred in The Secret Life of Us. Her character, Kelly, was

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also presented as sexually attractive. But by 2001, it was possible for an Indigenous character to have a loving relationship on screen.

The paper explores the changing representations that moved us from Number 96 to The Secret Life of Us – via The Flying Doctors and Heartland. It examines why it was impossible for earlier Indigenous characters to be shown in intimate relationships with non-Indigenous Australians. Finally, it suggests that in representations of intimate and loving relationships on screen it is possible to see hopeful models for interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Ailsa McPherson A view of times past in Australian television drama This paper explores the experience of making drama programmes in the early years of commercial television in Australia. It postulates that these productions, which had minimal if any editing, relied upon an understanding both between performer and technician and between possessors of technical skills which made for a level of `multi-skilling' now lost to the industry. This point will be explored by investigation of those `given credit' for their engagement in the production. The paper will also endeavour to explore the ideals, goals and achievements which underpinned `local production' in an era without landlines, hand-held cameras, electronic editing or satellites.'

Barbara Masel Television and Memory In the early-1960s, in honour of my older sister Carolyn's forthcoming birthday, my mother took us to a live taping of a children's television program at the ABC's Melbourne studios at Ripponlea. The program, essential viewing in our strictly rationed diet of TV was called, in our household at least, The Mary-Rose and Clive Show, although it’s actual title might well have been something rather less literal. It was, as far as I can remember, largely composed of stories, songs and games coordinated by the eponymous hosts in front of an audience of children.

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To be honest, we had no idea that the program was actually “produced” somewhere. We thought of it more as a phenomenon, something spontaneously beamed into our living room in a completely unmediated way. I’m not sure what we imagined our journey to Melbourne’s ABV studios might yield, beyond perhaps the chance to see Mary-Rose and Clive, life-size and in colour. When we arrived at Ripponlea, my sister was ushered away from my mother and me, and led through a cluster of cameras and cables onto the set – both unrecognisable and yet oddly familiar to us – where she took her place with the other children who were gathered on a bank of raked seating. There seemed to be no urgency or special magic in the strange, slow orchestration of machinery and lights and purposeful adults. How did this have anything to do with the program Carolyn and I watched each week at home in our dressing gowns and slippers, on our HMV set with its large rabbits’ ears antenna? As I wriggled on my mother's knee, a large man came over to us, exchanged a few words, and then took me out of her arms. Almost before I realised what was happening, I was being carried away from the action, up a narrow flight of spiral steps that led from the set, towards a kind of sealed mezzanine that jutted out above the studio. When he reached the top of the stairs, the man opened the door and carried me into what I now know was a control-room and I saw that it was jammed with people gathered around a wide desk of levers, buttons and dials, which was partly covered with papers and coffee cups and smoking ashtrays. I felt a conflict immediately, torn between the anxiety for my mother whom I could no longer see, and the sudden pull towards something more mysterious and absorbing which was quickly casting its spell on me. There, above the desk, was a strip of black-and-white monitors, linked yet separate, like the hinged, angled mirrors on my grandmother's dressing table. As I looked from one to the other I could see that each was providing a different view-point on the same experience, a different angle on the world contained within the set in the studio below. It was not unlike watching television at home, except that now every point-of-

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view was simultaneously available, close-ups and wide-shots and sometimes even glimpses of the crew as they blundered into frame, with their large rostrum cameras and telescope-handled microphones. Underneath the monitors, spanning the entire width of the room, a glass panel provided a window onto the action in the studio below, a colour panorama bearing little resemblance to the constructed black and white images that played above it. Which was real – the colour world through the glass, or the black-and-white world of the monitors which were themselves selected versions of the world through the window? All at once I understood that TV is a kind of alchemy, a transformation of reality that creates its own enchantment. It was as if a magician had shown me how he did his magic trick. I couldn't un-know what I had learned. I was immediately, inescapably, hooked. Tom O’Regan (UQ) Too much television? Television’s middle period 1966-1986 In this paper I will survey the volatile middle period of Australian television which begins with the introduction of a third commercial television licence to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide (SMBA) and a second to Perth and the development of a substantial regional television market infrastructure and ends with the regulatory changes of 1986 ostensibly designed to provide a framework to “equalise” television services to Perth and regional Australia. This is a period marked by the formulation of a national market for television programming initially in variety and drama and extending to sport, increasingly formalised networking structures, a trend accelerated by the introduction of colour television in 1975 towards the concentration of production in the core Sydney and Melbourne markets and sustained controversies and sometimes crises in its governance and regulation.
Tom O’Regan’s work centres on the intersection of Australian film and television and policy studies, and the relations among cultural institutions, cultural production and consumption. He is currently Head of the School of English, Media Studies and Art History, convenor of the University of Queensland’s new museum studies program, is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and publisher of Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy. He was formerly the Director of the Australian Key Centre for Cultural and Media Policy (1999 to 2002) and a co-founder (1987-1994) of Continuum.

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Sue Turnbull and Felicity Collins (La Trobe University) ABC television comedy and the life of the nation This paper will present a brief historical overview of the ABC's internal processes, structures, personnel and policies relating to the production of television comedy. We will investigate how and why specific innovations occurred in comedy under different rubrics from 'light entertainment' to 'sport' to 'drama' in relation to international trends in those categories. From our analysis of annual reports, production documents, interview transcripts and selected comedy programs we will then propose an explanation of how comedy and the national are intimately connected.

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