Last Sunday and Monday it was the Nine Network patting itself on its back and the TV industry as it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the start of TV broadcasts back on September 16, 1956.

Sunday night’s program looked like a recut of the current Nine idea 20 to 1, Monday night’s program was a repeat of last year’s program which celebrated the 50 years of TV broadcasting.

This Sunday night, the Seven Network is going live for three hours from 7.30pm with one of the hosts Jana Wendt, fresh from the boning room.

The Australian‘s Media section marked the anniversary today with an attack on the commercial networks over the latest “deal” they have won from the Federal Government but inside Mark Day had a good story on industry legend, Colin Fraser, who helped found the Seven Network (for the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne).

It’s the sort of story Nine and Seven wouldn’t produce today, nor would Nine really acknowledge Colin Bednall who helped found and grow GTV-9 in Melbourne before the Packers got hold of it. He deserves as much credit (as does Colin Fraser) as Bruce Gyngell rightfully does for his work at TCN-9 after being the first man on air in this country. Read Gerald Stone’s book, Compulsive Viewing, if you want an idea of the contributions of Bednall and Gyngell to Australian TV.

And pollster, Gary Morgan has reminded us about the ratings back in those early days. Ratings have always been with the industry, they are nothing new and yet they continually throw up new quirks and reveal winners and losers among personalties and programs.

Morgan says in a statement that despite the idea that Nine has “always been the One” it hasn’t:

Seven in Melbourne was the true leader at the start of the Melbourne TV, according to the first-ever Australian TV viewer survey conducted in Melbourne by Roy Morgan in March 1957 — five months after TV began, when both channels were well into stride.

The survey covered a cross-section of 289 men, women and children from 102 TV homes. Respondents were asked about their viewing over the last seven days plus their favourite stations, programs, plays, actors, actresses, commentators and commercials.

The results showed that 18 of the audience’s 20 most-liked programs belonged to Seven, with extraordinary ratings including 73% of ‘sets in use’ tuned to I Love Lucy and 68% to the live hour-long Hit Parade down to 49% (Kraft Theatre). Channel 2’s top program was Liberace, viewed by 29%.

Nine’s two entries just made the most-liked list, with the 90-minute feature film show, Caltex Theatre at 52% and Bob Dyer’s Pick-a-Box at 51%.

The number of Hit Parade viewers was well above the numbers Roy Morgan measured in home viewing. Famously, every Thursday night at nine o’clock, people yet to buy a set gathered on the footpaths outside shops where demonstration sets in the windows were tuned to Seven.

It was not until the mid 80s, 30 years later, that Roy Morgan Research and ACNielsen introduced 24 hour-a-day, 7 days-a-week, people meters into Australia!

The favourite TV channel in 1957 was HSV 7 (61%), followed by GTV 9 (21%) with ABC 2 third (8%) while 10% of viewers had no preference.

Peter Fray

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