The Nine and Seven networks are preparing to do a lot of boasting about their pre-eminent places in the history of Australian television. Work has started at Nine on a lengthy special to mark the 50th anniversary of Australian TV next year. And Seven has started on its version of the first 50 years, with gun producer Adam Boland assigned the task.
But when exaclty is the anniversary? Officially it dates from 16 September 1956, the date when Bruce Gyngell entered Australian cultural history as the first person to appear on Aussie TV. But Seven in Melbourne actually started test broadcasts in 1955, even though it didn’t start public broadcasts until just after the 1956 Olympics. A few weeks ago Seven in Victoria aired a special called Melbourne Made, which marked the first test transmission from an old Herald and Weekly Times paper store in Dorcas Street, South Melbourne. So stay tuned – we could be celebrating the 50th anniversary a little ahead of the actual start of regular transmissions.
And all this activity leads to a quest to find the most influential person in those 50 years of Australian TV. Here are a few names to get the ball rolling: Bruce Gyngell, Sir Frank Packer, his son Kerry, Gra Gra Kennedy, Eric Pearce, Bob Dyer (no relation), Hector Crawford, Sam Chisholm, Talbot Duckmanton, Bill Peach.
My pick? Kerry Packer, for better or for worse. Not because I worked at Nine, but because of his good ideas about mainly US TV programs that would work here. He also changed the way television covered sport (read cricket).