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Friday, April 10, 2009

50 years of Brisbane TV: Part 4-Queensland's regional television stations, the heart of Queensland's rural life.

Dedicated to those regional Queensland viewers who waited nearly thirty years for the same choice as Brisbane TV viewers.

Regional Television Month continues, with this fourth installment, of 50 Years of Brisbane TV, which will leave the big smoke, for a journey down the old bush track, we call memory lane, and stop and remember Queensland's great contribution to regional television.

The Beginning, regional stations open up the world to their viewers...

Queensland viewers were a early bloomer to regional television, with three years gap, between the launch of the Brisbane metro stations, and the first regional station in Queensland, appropriately within distance of Brisbane. DDQ-10 Toowoomba, serving the Darling Downs agricultural district, opened in July 1962, followed by the far north's first station, TNQ-7 in Townsville in November 1962. 1963 saw the opening of Central Queensland's first commercial station RTQ-7 in Rockhampton, in September of that year, while regional viewers in Wide Bay waited until April 1965, when WBQ-8 opened in Maryborough. Cairns viewers had their first glimpse in September 1966 when FNQ-10 opened, while Mackay's MVQ-6 opened in August 1968. One of the most notable things of early regional television was that news from Brisbane took longer to get there as it was film based, except DDQ-10/SDQ-4 which took QTQ's news on relay, until the early 1980's. By 1975 and the arrival of colour broadcasts, television had reached all the way along the eastern coastal strip, with one sole station, ITQ-8 (which opened in September 1971) serving the outback city of Mt Isa, in the far west of Queensland.

Personalities that regional Queensland produced, that went on to big things.

This first name I am mentioning, people would never have associated with regional television in Queensland, but became it's greatest export thanks to their involvement in a program that revolutionised current affairs in this country. The person? Ian Leslie. The program? 60 Minutes.

Ian Leslie, the Toowoomba boy, who took on the world.

Ian Leslie began his television career as a young employee at a recently opened DDQ-10 in his hometown of Toowoomba in 1962, and worked numerous roles at the pioneering regional station, both on and off camera, and found his true calling, journalism. By the mid 70's Ian left DDQ for Ten's Sydney newsroom, then went over to Nine Sydney just a few years later. It was his years at Nine that were his pinnacle of his career. For the first ten years, of Australia's 60 Minutes, Leslie was the glue that held the first and second generation 60 Minutes teams together and led the program to become a ratings success. After a brief return to Ten prior to the network's recievership in 1990, Ian retired from commercial journalism, and is currently running his own production company.

Another person who revolutionised the journalism profession, is Babinda's favorite daughter, Sharyn Ghidella.

From the Far North, to the newsdesk- Sharyn Ghidella.

Born in Babinda (south of Cairns) in 1968, Sharyn's career started at what was known then as NQTV (which became QTV in 1990) the way most journalists do, working in the NQTV newsroom (which also produced, Samantha Kume, who went to Nine Brisbane, prior to Bruce Paige's return) and presenting news and programming. After witnessing the vibrations which caused QTV to lose their 9 affiliation, she went to read news in Brisbane alongside Marie-Louise Theile, Tracey Spicer, and Geoff Mullins at a recovering Brisbane Ten until she got the call up from Nine in Sydney. At TCN, she often did fill-in news reading at first, then she started anchoring bulletins, and finally working her way up to the newsreading position on the network's breakfast program, Today after veteran newsreader Ian Ross "retired" (in reality he retired, but was lured out of retirement by new executives at 7 in Sydney to read their 6pm news in 2003) in 2002, and stayed until the end of 2006. Sharyn made the decision to leave Today and 9 just as she was pregnant with her first child (which arrived April 14 2007), and move back to Queensland, and read 7's weekend news bulletins, and is a cruicial part of the "networked" third peak that Channel 7 Brisbane enjoys.

The 1980's: a time of change in regional television in Queensland

The 1980's were a critical turning point. Unlike, down south, which had various station groups like The Six Network, TV8, The Prime Network, NRTV etc., Queensland only had one major group, which was NQTV Cairns/Townsville which also owned ITQ-8 Mt Isa. Also critical, was the fact that both Seven National News and Brisbane's State Affair started airing statewide, on every regional station. This caused headaches for Nine, especially as it lost DDQ-10 which relayed 9's news for nearly twenty years. But the biggest story was to come as at one stage, during the 1980's NQTV was worth more than Brisbane's Channel 0. Then in September 1987, a headline would shock the entire industry.

"Darling Downs Television buys TV0 for $120million"

Christopher Skase had only just bought the capital city Seven Network, and had owned TVQ-0 (a loyal Ten Network affiliate) since 1984. Skase's purchase included the Brisbane member of the 7 Network, BTQ-7. It gave Skase a rarity in Australian television, a duopoly, and was forced to sell 0 Brisbane by the regulators to keep BTQ and they sold to Darling Downs Television in September 1987. What made this deal unique, was that DDQ-10 was going to switch channels with TVQ-0, which occured on September 10 1988, during Brisbane's wildly successful World Expo 88. Eventually DDQ sold TVQ prior to aggregation, as the only regional station to ever buy a station in the "Big 3" TV markets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, procceeded in its own path.

The end of the road, 31 December 1990... while the outback gets TV.

Queensland was aggregated in 1990, with QTV taking 10 affiliation (after losing the 9 affiliation), WIN Queensland taking 9 affiliation (formerly Star TV using DDQ's links at 10 for affiliation) and Sunshine Television taking 7 affiliation. But the story didn't end. In 1988, NQTV bought a prized satellite FTA licence (which only SC Central, Imparja, GWN in WA and Win WA hold), and opened QSTV, a satellite operator running from NQTV-owned ITQ in Mt Isa. As the changes in Queensland television happened, QTV was bought by Southern Cross in 2001, and the satellite feed became SC Central, with a 7 feed running on it, competing with Nine affiliate Imparja, to win viewers in Queensland's outback.

"Television is 25 years old to most of us, but people in some of the more remote areas of this state have yet to have television in their homes..." Majella Marsden, former TV sidekick to Wayne "Waynie Poo" Roberts (a Brisbane radio icon), from On Air: 25 Years Of Television In Queensland, published in 1984.

As we approach the dawn of a new age, where television will give us the choice, of fifteen channels, all in digital quality sound and vision, there are some corners of Queensland which have no digital TV access, relying on the analogue satellite feed, which only gives you two commercial channels, SBS and ABC, or where you get five channels, but only in analogue, it makes you wonder how far regional television in Queensland has come since the 1962 opening of DDQ-10 in Toowoomba. The future is looking better, by the day.

1985 report by Queensland's ABC, on the impacts of aggregation.


MVQ-6 Mackay 1989 transmitter listing.


Star Television ID (the original Ten affiliate for Queensland, prior to the 9/10 affiliation wars that defined aggregation in Queensland) 1990


Youtube-Aussiebeachut.

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