TV History - Questions

Thanks @TelevisionAU for the extra info. I suppose I was wondering why it wasn’t commonplace before the late 80s/early 90s for more programming to be shown simultaneously in the capital cities. The technology was there as programs like The Midday Show were relayed from Sydney - but in such a vast country the microwave links may not have been reliable or straightforward to make use of, as you imply. Time zone differences and various DST situations also meant that broadcast delays or “tape and rebroadcast” would have been necessary too which was another factor. It’s also easy to forget that although branded as networks, the commercial stations in each capital were (generally) independently owned and probably wanted to schedule programming around what they felt appropriate for their own viewers.

Another query - and it may not have a single answer - but when it comes to programs like Neighbours or ACP where the stations - at least in the Eastern states - were pretty much at the same stage as each other (but scheduling independently), would each station be sent tapes or could they record these “down the line” to playback later? I suppose this comes back to the same question about the availability (or not) of a link or feed from the origin station.

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Potentially could have been either scenario. In the earlier days, more likely to be tapes distributed. Reminds me of the time in the 70s when Channel 0 in Melbourne caused confusion when they accidentally played episodes of Number 96 out of sequence, due to human error. Other cities had the episodes played in correct order.

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I find Australian TV interesting in the way it evolved up until the advent of Aussat in 85/86 which became a factor in the modern day use of the word “network”. Firstly, Australia being a huge country but little population made links problematic. PMG (Telecom, Telstra) owned and built the microwave links. This took time and was limited. So a lot of material was sent on tape delay through Australia across the metro networks then onto regionals. Couriers were very busy in the early days! Here in Brisbane, I can recall asa child in the early 80’s knowing that we were normally behind in programs from Sydney and Melbourne. However, from what I can gather, there was perhaps only one microwave bearer between Brisbane and Sydney (not sure how this worked with news exchange which was used full time from 1977). The commercials had to book the bearer which made me think this was also a semi-permanent arrangement such as say 1982: GMA from TEN, Mile Walsh (TCN), Willesee (ATN), Sale of The Century (GTV), Don Lane Show etc. I presume Brisbane had to record for daylight savings. They could then on send to the QLD regionals and Darwin. Presume they couldn’t go overtime. Suppose they had to book for other sporting events and Logies etc. Saying that, the ABC had to also source programs live from Sydney so who knows? How did they send news items south at the same time? I can recall in July 1985 the Brisbane airport siege BTQ providing their live coverage between 4 and 6 in Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney first then Melbourne. You can hear the tech verbally giving the 10 second countdown to both capitals live on air. Again, how did the work with limited coverage? As owners of networks such as Skase beginning to take over the country, the age of Aussat made things easier to provide the same fee around the country. I can recall reading all 3 networks trialed this in 1987 before delivering in early 1988. This was also the time QLD regional networks could start cherry picking news and other programming with the microwave link.I saw a set up at school fete in 1986 of Aussat which was showing the output of what I can gather was GTV9. It was showing Craig Campbell recording promos late on a Saturday morning for the new Cartoon Company. My eyes were glued to the box for ages as we didn’t screen this in Brisbane at this time! So yes, Aussat was a real game changer and not before time. Some smart thinking by exectutives to get programs to air on time without the average viewer knowing any different.

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Were there also coaxial cable links between the state capitals? I remember seeing a clip of a show from the 60’s in which they crossed ‘live via coaxial cable’ between Melbourne and Sydney.

I also remember going to Hobart in the early 80’s and seeing that the ABC programs on radio and TV were often the same as in Melbourne, and TVT6 had live coverage of 7 News. I assumed it was all coming via cables.

I’m pretty sure there was national (at least within the mainland state capitals) coverage of major summer sports in the mid 70’s if not earlier, e.g. the tennis and cricket, and sometimes both would have been on at the same time. For example, here in Melbourne in the early 80’s we would get test matches and one-day internationals played in Australia live no matter whic capital city they took place in, even from Perth and probably also Hobart.

I also remember a particular incident in 1976 or 1977 where some technical hitch caused a tennis match’s coverage in Sydney and Perth to be interrupted by a fairly romantic movie scene, but not Melbourne. I don’t know what side of broadcastable it was as I was only a kid at the time and only heard about it in the news. So regular sporting matches were being broadcast nationally at least between state capitals.

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I can remember in 1982, prior to Aussat, here in Melbourne they had a live cross to Darwin for the announcement of the verdict in the Chamberlain’s court case. Also prior to that in the late 70’s, I remember watching coverage of a riot taking place in Newcastle. I assumed it was live coverage but not sure. So these things were possible.

There was a Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney cable by 1963, and there was a link to Darwin around 1982 (although ABC may of had it’s own links).

Originally there was no link to Brisbane of any kind even ABC. There was a report that ABQ-2 staff would drive to the top of Mt Gravatt with a link truck to record ABRN 6 Mt Nardi off-air and send it to Toowong for insertion in news and current affairs programs. Eventually there were ABC and commercial links but they seemed to be limited. The 7 and 9 6pm news used to only show international and interstate stories one day late having recorded the 6.30pm Sydney news of the previous night. One of the advances promoted when 0 started their news service was same day international and interstate news with their news stating at 6.30pm and able to show news from the 6pm 10 news in Sydney,

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The Telecom network of microwave links between WA and the eastern states opened in 1970, allowing the simultaneous relay of TV programs to all states and later to include Darwin (although IIRC the ABC had sole use of the link to Darwin until 1982) but I imagine capacity was limited and expensive, so it was probably still prohibitive for extensive use. I am not sure if Telecom also used landline links for TV traffic as well?

And as mentioned earlier, the microwave link between Tasmania and the mainland still provided a connection for TV for a while even after Aussat was launched.

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I’m assuming the ABC were still using the microwave links for their regional TV Test cricket coverage in the 1980s, as I recall seeing regular dropouts with a ‘We apologise for this break in transmission’ message on screen (or words to that effect) when the cricket was in Perth (but not when it was from another city). Would happen probably once every 1-2 hours and last for a minute or two.

It didn’t seem like a particularly reliable link with all the dropouts.

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the original link carrying SBS from Sydney to Melbourne (via Canberra) also used to have dropouts. Melbourne viewers would end up seeing a blank screen with just a caption “No Signal” at the top of the screen… just having to wait for them to restore the connection. No breakdown slide or graphic or elevator music to pass the time.

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Stupid question time….

With the coaxial link between capital cities, how did this run? Via telephone poles with regular boosters for the signals?

Likewise with Microwave links. I assume it would bounce from major communications towers (such as those with existing high powered transmitters for that region) over the east coast and tall towers periodically over flat ground (Nullarbor etc). I know Black Mountain in Canberra was a critical link between Sydney and Melbourne but now seems redundant.

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AFAIK the Sydney-Melbourne cable was laid underground with repeater stations at regular intervals. I don’t know if the same applied to other cable connections between cities.

Australian Publications (coxhill.com) This website is a treasure trove of old PMG information including the Telecommunications Journals of Australia. The October 1963 edition shows the proposed microwave network for the eastern states.


A close up of Vic shows the tv transmitters as well:

and here is another from an unknown edition:
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Michael Thurlow’s very informative book on regional tv mentioned how BTV6 had some sort of aerial on Mount Buninyong (on the Geelong side of the city) which could pick up the Melbourne stations and sent the signal via microwave to the studios. I believe GLV had a similar arrangement with Mount Tassie.

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Thank you. I’ve been chasing info like this for years. Information suggests that PMG then Telecom charged broadcasters an arm and a leg to use it hence why it wasn’t used as much as it could have. No wonder Packer built his own link between Sydney and Melbourne!

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Here is an example from 20 years of the QLD TV microwave bearer still being used 20 years ago. TVQ still used the bearer for their Sunshine Coast bureau. Essentially, crews could roll up to the depots across Australia and link back to base usually pre-recorded footage but in this rare case, live from the depot. This one located at 153 Burnett St, Buderim is the first of the TV links north from Brisbane. Various PMG/Telecom/Telecom depots have the equipment installed pre-Aussat. Another example being the Charleville Floods in Western QLD in 1990 where all 4 Brisbane channels used the facilities to link back to Brisbane for the nightly news. No portable sattelite facilities available in those days!

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He didn’t build a link as such. The government built the Sydney-Melbourne coaxial cable, which opened in 1962. The cable was primarily for telecommunications but capacity was set aside for TV traffic.

(Frank) Packer signed a two-year lease for full-time access to a part of the cable capacity from November 1963. The lease was estimated to cost £100,000 a year. There was proviso for capacity to be sub-leased to ABC or other networks as long as it didn’t compromise Nine’s commercial interests. IIRC, ABC later came to an arrangement to share capacity with Nine but my knowledge of that is very vague or maybe distorted/incorrect.

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Does anyone know who this Ch 7 presenter was in the 1980s. I think he was on Newsworld - possibly a State newsreader.
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Darren McDonald

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Bit of a shady career that man.

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How come?