Sydney is beaut 

1 February 2019

Earlier this year [1967] Isobel Davie (now assistant head of casting) was seconded to ATN 7, one of the commercial stations in Sydney. These are her impressions of the scene ‘down under’

From Fusion 47, the house magazine of Rediffusion Television, for Summer 1967

In King’s Cross they told me to catch a bus in the Bayswater Road. In London? No, in Sydney, heading for Bondi Beach, which I found eventually.

Sydney is beaut! It is a young, thriving cosmopolitan city in the sun and full of surprises. Of course, there is the Bridge (affectionately known as ‘The Coat-hanger’) with its eight lanes of cars, buses and trains and some energetic pedestrians while down below the ferries and two hydrofoils scurry across the waters. Further up the Parramatta River, and very impressive too, is the new traffic-filled Gladesville Bridge.

The Opera House (or what there is of it) is just as fantastic as its photographs have shown. Should the conversation ever lag – and it seldom does with Sydneyites – just mention the Opera House and retire. As for the harbour, no film I have ever seen has done it justice. The city skyscrapers add a touch of Manhattan to the Mediterranean aspects of the many beautiful yacht-filled bays. At night the whole area is transformed into a fairyland of twinkling lights stretching for miles. Familiar names for districts and streets are everywhere: Paddington, Hyde Park, Croydon, Lewisham, Putney and Oxford Street except they are not geographically where you would expect them to be. Scattered about also are the aboriginal-derived names, such as Woollahra, Kirri-billi and Woolloomooloo. The latter district is shortened as one would expect though it is odd at first to read that a ladies’ lunch was held at the ‘Loo. King’s Cross does not resemble the grimy station area of London. It is the swinging ‘in-district’ – a sort of Chelsea/Soho with an attractive village centre of split-level, open-air restaurants and shops. The mini-skirts can be seen here too. worn by slim, suntanned Australian girls, but not to the same extreme lengths as in London.

Sydney Opera House under construction in 1968. Photograph by Phillip CapperCC-BY-2.0

ATN 7 is based at Epping, which is about 14 miles north-west of Sydney city centre. A few years ago the area was in the bush but the station is now surrounded by rows of pleasant bungalows with colourful gardens full of roses, hibiscus, frangipani and bougainvillea. ATN 7 has been operational since 1956 and is one of Sydney’s three commercial channels – the other two being TCN 9 (also started in 1956) and the more recent Channel 10 (1965). The fourth is the non-commercial ABN 2, operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

With four stations serving a population of approximately 2½ million, it is a highly competitive television scene, covering seven-day operations from morning right through till late-evening transmissions. Naturally there is a fairly large amount of imported material on all channels from America and Britain, including Rediffusion programmes such as ‘Blackmail’, ‘No Hiding Place’ and ‘This Week’ items.

ATN 7 has two good-sized studios which are heavily committed with their own productions, plus a small presentation studio. Nearing completion is a new adjacent studio in which E-cam and colour equipment will be used. Their well-equipped Atlab film laboratories are on the premises and a few miles away are the Artransa Film Studios used principally for hiring out to advertising agencies for the making of commercials.

Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1968. Photograph by Phillip CapperCC-BY-2.0

Besides a number of discussion programmes – some of which are recorded in batches of four or five in a day – ATN 7 originates two of Australia’s most popular long-running, weekly programmes. ‘The Mavis Bramston Show’ is satirical and controversial and stars Peter Reeves, Carol Raye, Ron Frazer, Barbara Angell, Andonia Katsaros and Johnny Lockwood. The half-hour situation comedy ‘My Name’s McGooley. What’s Yours?’ stars Gordon Chater, John Meillon and Judi Farr.

Michael Miles’ very successful Australian edition of ‘Take Your Pick’ was recorded at ATN 7 and I will never forget that evening and the enthusiastic audience of 500 British migrants. Although there is air-conditioning, the temperature in the studio registered about 82 degrees with 90 degrees of humidity.

The pattern of advertising in Australia is rather different to ours as there are more spot commercials and certain shows are sponsored. Also there is little direct networking and tapes and kines of productions are sent to the various affiliated and country stations in other parts of Australia.

At the start of one recording a clapper board was so full that the poor floor manager was out of breath by the time he had finished reading it.

Australia has always looked pretty big on a map, it is not until arrival that you realise just how vast it actually is. En route to Sydney, I spent a few hours in the spacious, fast-developing city of Perth. Melbourne is approximately 560 miles from Sydney and the numerous daily flights take an hour mostly conveying businessmen for city meetings. I spent two very interesting days there and liked the wide tree-lined streets and Victorian buildings and, as in Sydney, found the television scene very lively and interesting. Large and distant as Australia may be, the international world of television is small.

I hope to keep in touch with the many new friends at ATN 7 and must pass on greetings from ex Rediffusion colleagues: Alan Morris (producer, ABC Sydney), Ron Davies (director, ‘In Melbourne Tonight’) and Graham Ford (production manager, Channel O, Melbourne). Australians have many witty and pungent expressions of their own including the great Australian adjective. However, to my mind, the best adjective is ‘beaut’.

You Say

3 responses to this article

Alan Keeling 1 February 2019 at 3:52 pm

The Aussie half-hour sitcom, “My Name’s McGooley. What’s Yours?” Had showings on a few ITV regions in the late sixties, I should know, because I saw an episode on Grampian TV in 1968 whilst on holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

Paul Mason 6 February 2019 at 7:01 am

Not necessarily ATN7 but on YouTube there is a clip from an Australian breakfast news show from 1959! How come a nation with one-third of our population, widely dispersed get breakfast TV 25 years before us Poms did?

James Murphy 10 November 2019 at 3:13 am

Good question. Yes there was a breakfast show here in Australia (that one on YouTube) and it actually was on ATN-7 in Sydney, from 1958 to 1961 (I think 1961) which was apparently well received, and why it stopped I don’t know, but really breakfast televsion didn’t start in earnest in Australia until 1981 with Good Morning Australia on Channel 10 and the Today show on Channel 9 in 1982. Breakfast news shows must’ve been an 80s thing. In between 1961 and 1981 morning TV in Australia (I’m going on what happened in Sydney) mainly consisted of either kids programming (cartoons etc) or a test pattern, with transmission starting around 9 or 10am.

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