60 Years of QLD TV

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Shaking Up The Dial

The hashtag is #shakingupthedial

Dedicated to Hec Lindsay (the art director that created the TV0 logo in 1983, we have very few details on Hec unfortunately: let us know at the Lost TVQ Facebook page, if you do have any information at all) and David Jull TVQ's first face, (1944-2011)

This post is a journey. A long journey. It starts in the early 1960’s less than three years after television was introduced to QLD, and culminates in the lead-up to Expo 88. Welcome to the conclusion: for now, of what we started on September 10 2013. We moved up the dial then, now it’s time to see how it was shaken up, at the very beginning of the 50th year for TVQ and the national 50th celebrations… On behalf of this site, and Lost TVQ on Facebook: this is Shaking Up The Dial.

THE LONG ROAD FROM GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT: TO LAUNCH DAY: (this section's research is mainly courtesy of Google’s newspaper archive (the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) with the images and some research for the rest of this post coming from State Library of Queensland microfiche).
The announcement in early 1962 from the federal government, that third commercial TV licences would be issued in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide (with Perth gaining a second commercial licence, a third licence for that city would be 26 years away) not long after the introduction of regional stations in Victoria and NSW (QLD’s first was four months away from opening): was a eyeopener. However it was two regional stations (GLV-10, Australia’s first regional station based in Traralgon in Victoria’s Gippsland and DDQ-10 in Toowoomba in QLD) that would put the squeeze for Melbourne/Brisbane, with the lack of the choice of Channel 10 for their signals (like Sydney/Adelaide had chosen), but it couldn’t be rectified in time: thus, the allocation of the 0 frequency. The licence hearing: court-based, saw potential applicants for new licenses come up against both existing stations. Eventually the winners were decided: with airline Ansett: who’d had two full bids, for Brisbane and Melbourne, only succeeding in Melbourne (what became ATV-0), while the Brisbane licence (issued at the same time as Adelaide (what became SAS-10) and Perth (what became STW-9) went to a company whose name would live on for 25 years, until the DDQ acquisition: Universal Telecasters Queensland. However: a major stock play by Ansett when UTQ’s shares were listed on the Brisbane stock exchange (which amalgamated with other Australian stock exchanges in 1987 to form the ASX), saw the Brisbane station almost change hands, and briefly saw the licence held up by the federal government, before sense prevailed and the licence was re-issued to UTQ, and eventually it’s callsign was issued: TVQ-0, with Ansett almost (only needing 1.1% of UTQ shares, and was eventually successful in acquiring them), calling the shots. The original plan, was for Brisbane to be on air by March 1965: however the UTQ interest by Ansett’s television division (heavily focused on getting ATV open by August 1964) pushed the launch out.

After months of waiting, which saw a delayed TEN in Sydney open, as well as STW-9 (who had agreed with it’s competitor TVW-7 to split content from the third commercial network) TVQ finally opened, 11 months after ATV, on July 1 1965, with a line up of stars: mostly new to the medium, with one experienced talent: that Brisbane previously saw fronting Coles £3000 Question, Malcolm Searle, to spearhead a lineup of new programs, from Australia and overseas: but it was left to David Jull (who passed away in 2011), to open the station: as he recalled in 1995 for the station’s 30th birthday…
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to TVQ Channel 0, a division of Universal Telecasters Queensland Limited, here is the official opening by Sir Alexander Murphy.”
However, as Jull again recalled in 1995: it didn’t go quite to plan, with the message from Murphy (UTQ’s chairman)…
“We had Sir Alexander with the audio of a margarine commercial running underneath, and nothing much else…”
However, it all worked out right (most of the time) from then on, with a broadcast schedule from 3 in the afternoon to midnight, which eventually expanded earlier (with 24hr transmission, eventually happening in 1988 post-conversion to 10) as more content arrived either locally produced, from the southern states as well as overseas.

The link for TVQ to the Ansett station in Melbourne through ownership in the early years of the station would prove to be invaluable. Some interstate products that aired in Brisbane, included: youth program Go! (which would lend itself to the title of the written history of ATV in Melbourne: written by Mal Walden, in 2004 as “From The Word Go!”) The Magic Circle Club, a childrens program, and the Ray Taylor Show from ATV in Melbourne, and from TEN in Sydney: TV Spells Magic (the opening spectacular of TEN in early 1965), Owly’s School (another childrens product), Girl Talk (whose host would win 0/10’s first Gold Logie) and Blind Date (a game show).

Haydn Sargent: Look.
The first time, Brisbane actually looked at (opposed to heard), radio personality Haydn Sargent, was through a program that is often overlooked, when looking at the evolution of commercial current affairs on television in Queensland. In 1968, TVQ launched, “Look” in a daytime slot. From it’s modest budget: it tackled a few issues, most notably the Vietnam War, thanks to a lucky break: an airline making it’s first flight from Brisbane to Singapore, gave Haydn a free ticket on that particular flight, and he ended up with a small film camera exploring Singapore, Thailand, and eventually, Vietnam for showing on the program. The trip to Vietnam ended up changing his opinion on the war, and brought him in conflict with Reg Ansett himself, and this conflict ended Look, before it could have gotten some traction.

Sherri Wright:
The first big local program on TVQ, was aimed at children: Funsville, with Sherri Wheeler (now Wright) and a cast that included John Dommett and Shane Porteous, in their earliest television appearences. However, as time passed: the popularity of the trio (Porteous playing the nemesis to Dommett and Wheeler), then Dommett and Porteous leaving for acting roles, along with expanded transmission hours saw a expanded program emerge on Saturday mornings: a precursor to the Boris The Black Knight and Jackie Mac success stories of the 1980’s. O’s Saturday Show, later to become “The Saturday Show” was a popular program for it’s day, with Wheeler partnered up with Brisbane actor Darryl Boyd playing “Danny O’Dibble” a lovable leprechaun. Eventually leaving television behind, after becoming a pioneering female producer, she re-emerged in 1995 for TVQ’s 30th, looking at how things had changed, as well as one thing that likely would astound viewers today…
“there was a waiting list (to appear in the audience) of 5 ½ months” That’s right, the early 0 products (along with dance group “Kids Incorporated” (which eventually gained their own program “It's A Small World” (no relation to the Disney attraction) which was choreographed by Sandra Breen from Southern Academy of Dance at Inala (which is also turning 50 next year, a magnificent achievement in itself) , were so popular with the young of Brisbane, it was one of the hottest tickets in the big country town.

Brisbane’s Deadly Earnest:
The 0-10 network had a major win in the mid-late 1960’s, when it acquired a swathe of horror movies, for airing late at night. Borrowing a idea from Perth (on a solus TVW-7 prior to the launch of STW-9): “Deadly Earnest” “re”originated in Sydney in 1966, and became a hit overnight, so much so, that the other three stations of the network adapted the character: with Adelaide/Melbourne’s Deadly Earnest’s (Adelaide’s Earnest being played by Hedley Cullen (who passed away in 1994) while Melbourne had the role played by Ralph Baker) becoming iconic in their own right: but Brisbane’s was relatively shortlived, but it’s actor who played the character, has, ironically: had the most success post-Earnest. Shane Porteous, was a up and coming actor, and was working for TVQ on a part time basis: when given the role, he played it very well. At the same time, he was also the lead villain of the Saturday Show childrens program: playing a perfect nemesis to Sherri Wheeler, and other characters, before he was offered a acting job in Sydney, leaving Brisbane and the Deadly Earnest role, to the late John Dommett (in a TVQ-created replacement “Professor MacaBre” with the Deadly Earnest role retired, while Dommett passed away in 2004 of a heart attack after a having a fruitful acting career post TVQ) and Porteous went on to greater things. In 1981, he got his biggest break: Dr Elliott on A Country Practice, a role that would earn him a Logie in 1990, and played from episode 1 in 1981, to conclusion in 1993. Today Porteous is a again a stage actor as well as a script writer, it’s a role much like Brian Tait had, after he left television: the wizened veteran, giving newcomers a hand. But: the saddest story out of this, is while some of Porteous’s Saturday Show work survived the ravages of time: his time as Brisbane’s Deadly Earnest hasn’t (compared to the others: which saw limited footage preserved). Only two still photographs exist today of Brisbane’s Deadly Earnest.

As Brisbane exited the 1960’s, a big new sound was emerging from Brisbane’s western outskirts: with 4IP beginning to be the force that made them (alongside 3XY in Melbourne and 2SM in Sydney (a future TVQ owner) the dominant forces of Australian radio in the 1970’s. A major factor in the cross-pollination TVQ had with 4IP in the early years (of both TVQ and of 4IP’s success), was that the head of 4IP: Sir Frank Moore (who’d go on to be a founding father of QLD tourism promotion) also sat on the Universal Telecasters board. Resultingly, the talent that TVQ received from 4IP was very noteworthy: such as Geoff Mullins (who joined the newsroom after a successful run as a 4IP “Good Guy”) Des McWilliam and John O’Loan (transplants from the radio newsroom), Jimmy White (who was picked up to do gameshow voiceovers, and other events), Billy J Smith (who floated in and out of the medium of television) and most notably, Alan McGirvan: whose talents were utilised at TVQ as part of it’s most important asset of all: on-air promotion during the 1980’s. Alongside these names, were John McCoy, Gary Hardgrave, Grant Goldman, Wayne Roberts amongst others, who were notable figures in Brisbane radio in the 1970s, and most (with Grant Goldman eventually going to Sydney: with his son Mike following in his footsteps) would become the royalty of Brisbane television and radio during the 1980’s, as well as the 4IP club also earning two federal parliamentary members: the late David Jull (who’d joined 4IP before coming to TVQ) serving as the federal member for Bowman from 1975 to 1983 and federal member for Fadden from 1984 to 2007 (choosing to retire, to tackle health problems that would ultimately take his life in 2011) and Gary Hardgrave serving as the federal member for Moreton from 1996 to 2007: and becoming earlier this year the federal government-appointed administrator (a equivalent role to a state governor) for Norfolk Island.

The gameshow business in Australia, had slowly evolved. Initally it was national event programming one night a week (Pick a Box with Bob Dyer, which wound up in 1971, being the pioneer), or daytime content, locally produced: like TVQ’s Billy J Smith-hosted “The Numbers Game”, with very few city based-products in primetime: Brisbane notably had I’ve Got a Secret with Don Seccombe on Nine, and it was a success in it’s own right. Meanwhile, a pioneer who’d set up in Brisbane (and incidentally produced IGAS for QTQ, from a US format): Reg Grundy made his first tilt at a national gameshow (and a gameshow revolution in Australia) in 1971. 0/10 pioneered gameshows airing 5 nights a week in primetime, with The Moneymakers, hosted by Philip Brady (a Melbourne-bred personality, who made his name on IMT on Nine in the previous decade: as a commercial announcer, and occasional compare) becoming successful enough: to have a junior spin-off, in the days when childrens television was a lot less restrictive. But, another TVQ national gameshow would have it’s own magical moment. During the run of Casino 10 (whose logo was styled with the 0/10 network logo replacing the “o” in “Casino”) a rather curious incident happened, and is often replayed on blooper shows to this day: The set’s centrepiece (a roulette wheel) spun out of control, and all of the dollar amounts flew off, to much mirth from audience and crew alike.

1972-3: 0 finally on the map: Number 96.
The corner finally turned for 0 Brisbane, and the 0/10 network in general: in early 1972. It was the drama that shocked Australia: Number 96. Just looking at the promotion between the two Ansett stations for 96, it is a 360: Melbourne went with a focus on a pre-emptive apology (later repeated by Crawfords for The Box) while Brisbane had big glossy (as glossy as possible with black and white) ads with the station’s “Alive 0” tagline. 96 premiered in Brisbane on March 20, a historic night for another reason: Seven’s Brisbane hour news experiment also launched. What 96, brought to the table was a adults-only soap opera, with plenty of comedy. Brisbane learned to love Abigail, and all the other residents of the apartment block, and brought 0 many more viewers. It had become Australia’s #1 show by the end of 1972: and had made instant stars out of their cast, as was shown at the Logies in 1973 and 1974, where it wasn’t Abigail that gained the awards: but Dorrie Evans, played by Pat McDonald who not only was awarded two most popular actress awards in 73/74, but also gave 0/10 their 2nd Gold Logie winner in 1974 (the first being, Hazel Phillips in 1967), the first of four gender-specific Gold Logies awarded in the 1970’s: with Jeannie Little winning the last ever gender-specific Gold Logie in 1977. The most astounding part of that was, out of the first eight female Gold Logie winners, three were from the fledgling 0/10 network.

The 0-10 Network/Network Ten, as of 2013 has had eight separate Gold Logie winners: three men (Graham Kennedy in 1978, Craig McLachlan in 1990 and Rove McManus in 2003, 2004 and 2005) and five women: (Afore mentioned, Hazel Phillips in 1967, Pat McDonald in 1974, Jeannie Little in 1977, as well as Kylie Minogue in 1988 and Asher Keddie in 2013). Both the Gold Logie wins for McLachlan and Keddie also came at times of ratings woe for 10, while Craig McLachlan’s 1990 win was also the only Network 10 Gold Logie win with the ceremony airing on the network itself (with narrow losses by Greg Evans in 1985 and 1987, and E-Street’s Bruce Samazan in 1993).

Just as No.96, had marked it’s second year as Australia’s #1 TV program, a new program by Crawfords tried to push the line further. The Box, was based in a fictional TV station, and amped up the envelope already pushed by 96. Originating in a pilot, “The Dream Makers” that was shipped around 7 and 9 with no success, 0/10 took hold of it, acquired the series after a retooled pilot as “The Box”, and premiered it in early 1974. With such names as Graeme Blundell: (later to deepen the genre that 96 and the Box pioneered, with Alvin Purple) and Ken James (previously known for Skippy the Kangaroo in the late 60’s) alongside a talented ensemble, the program formed a powerpack with No.96, with screenings after said product. Like 96, it was adapted into a film, with Graham Kennedy starring, but the end came after a ratings fall, in 1977 after people simply got too used to the program’s envelope pushing. The most critical thing is however, that Crawford’s bet on The Box kept them afloat, during a tough time: when it’s crime dramas, were struggling, and it’s next big hit (WWII drama, The Sullivans, for Nine) was in detailed preparation. But, thankfully to Crawford’s foresight: many of those landmark dramas they produced, have been preserved (with the Crawfords archive today owned by Win Television), and released as DVDs (sold directly to people online), although the wait continues… for The Box to be released (after all every episode of The Box has been preserved), alongside Division 4 and Homicide.

TVQ-0 had for the first 8 1/2 years on air, a limited news service, compared to it’s network brethren (Melbourne had 15min from opening in 1964, and later increased to 30min news, Sydney had similar growth pattern as Melbourne (15min, then 30min) and Adelaide had 30min news from day one): let alone stations in it’s own city, which had made major innovations in the same timeframe: QTQ’s pioneering duo of Don Seccombe and Melody Welsh in the mid 60’s, and  BTQ’s hourlong 6pm news in March 1972 (the first hourlong news bulletin in Australia), which paved the way for a hourlong boom: first with regional station NBN in Newcastle adopting a hour news in April 1972 (and celebrated 40 years of hour news as part of it’s fiftieth birthday in 2012) with 0 Melbourne adopting the hour format briefly, in 1975 just as Australia was in the middle of a constitutional crisis, before the 10’s adopted it as their trademark in the late 70’s. 0 Brisbane’s expanded news service (branded as NewsWatch, as “Eyewitness News” was on 7, until they relinquished the brand in the mid 70’s to TVQ): from 5min, to 30min was launched (a side-effect of the 1974 Australia Day flood, requested by the federal government most likely due to lack of decent emergency coverage on 0), on May 13 1974. The TVQ news service in it’s original form consisted of a newsroom in the CBD studios of 4IP (when the bulletin was launched, they claimed it was because “what ever happens on Mt Coot-tha?”) with bulletins produced at Mt Coot-tha along with the first use of chromakey in Brisbane, all watched over by two people who’d become stalwarts in time: Des McWilliam, and John O’Loan.

Sport on television usually wasn’t a primetime event: with it purely being a daytime passion initially. Ansett’s gamble on a boxing match: Alan Rudkin V Lionel Rose, in March 1969 at Melbourne’s Kooyong tennis courts became one of the highest rating programs in the short history of Australian television at that time, as well as a major selling point to convert to 0 in Melbourne. However, the first big primetime television regular event for sport (opposed to one-off), was none other than the Amco Cup midweek rugby league competition in 1974. The original concept, was for a large-scale competition featuring the four main leagues of RL in Australia at the time (the NSWRL Sydney competition, Newcastle RL competition, NSW Country Rugby League and the Queensland Rugby League (which controlled the Brisbane RL competition and country league in QLD). However, agreements were not made in time for the first competition in 1974 for Newcastle and QLD, so a addition was made: Auckland in New Zealand for the first season. The midweek competition (with modified rules, such as games split into four 20min quarters, and games under floodlights) was a runaway success. 1975 saw Newcastle, country QLD, and the Brisbane league join in, and eventually in 1979: the format was standardised (as the format had become too large (36-40 teams): with it standardised to representative sides for NSW Country, QLD Country, Brisbane as well as a expanding NSWRL. Naming rights continued to change during the 1980s, which saw it branded as the KB Cup, the Tooth Cup, and the National Panasonic (later changed to just Panasonic) Cup. However, two midweek games stick in peoples minds when it concerns Queensland’s participation: the first was the 1984 National Panasonic Cup final, at Leichhardt Oval: where a combined Brisbane representative side defeated Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs Roosters, to take the trophy home, and likely inspired a movement towards a Brisbane side in the Sydney competition and the second was the 1989 Panasonic Cup: where the Brisbane Broncos and Illawarra Steelers faced off for their first trophy for their respective clubs at Parramatta Stadium. It was a nailbiter until the end, with the Broncos facing a raucous reception from a pro-Steelers crowd after they won 22-20. It was the experience with midweek football, that led to Network 10 bidding for the Sydney league (while Brisbane’s league was on 0 briefly). But with the rise of Monday and later Friday night fixtures for regular competition points (as well as the growth of State Of Origin: which eventually moved to midweek in 1989 (although with dalliences with future timeslots for RL (Monday night) in 1993-96 and 1999-2000 Origin series as well as a Friday night Origin series in 1998 after the end of the Super League war as well as sporadic Tuesday night fixtures), midweek football was eventually de-emphasised with it reformed into a preseason NSWRL-only competition in 1990, as well as discovering the post-Broncos expansion of the game: with bids in the early 1990s for sides from a QRL-backed second Brisbane club (what became the South QLD Crushers) as well as North QLD and Auckland (which was built from Auckland’s representation in the midweek competition) in a expanded ARL in 1995.

1975-76: TVQ in colour: Celebrating 10 years on air.
As 1975 opened, the 0/10 network was preparing for colour television, due to launch on March 1 1975. 0 Melbourne proclaimed they were first in colour, while 0 Brisbane (who was beaten to the symbolic first in colour in Brisbane moment, by Seven at midnight) went with initially, “Color Your World” before embarking a slew of rapid slogan changes during the ensuring years. Colour gave life to 0/10’s dramas and news, but caused one thing to be stillborn: The Box followed No. 96, with a feature film, but it wasn’t a success like the 96 film was. With the change to colour, a new 0 logo was adopted by both Melbourne and Brisbane: the “Split 0” lasted nine years, with it’s latter days being the symbol of TVQ’s status post ATV conversion. Ratings slid, as many of the hits that had begun in the successful period lost their shine, however there is one standout: in September 1975, was the night that a big cliffhanger was introduced: the No. 96 “explosion” which saw ratings increase briefly. Meanwhile, 0 Brisbane marked 10 years on air in July 1975 with a recreation of the trip the No.96 stars did to the Logies, with a celebrity train trip from Sydney to South Brisbane, for a telethon/10th birthday celebration.


The Melbourne Cup was always the race that stopped the nation, but for the first two decades of television, the Melbourne Cup had major restrictions on when it was covered, and the film sometimes took days to go across the nation: thus the “race that stopped the nation” referred to people listening to the Cup on radios. However, in 1978: the horse loving Ansett (after all, ATV0 opened on the horses birthday, August 1) acquired exclusive coverage, and most importantly live coverage in Melbourne (something the VRC prevented previously, to not compete with the gate at Flemington), and was eventually expanded nationally, throughout regional stations and the rest of 0/10’s stations with the last telecast by Network 10, airing in 2001.

1977: A year of great change…
The close of 1976, saw some hard departures from the 0-10 lineup. Matlock Police ended it’s run (which signified the beginning of the end of the police drama boom in Australia, which began with Homicide, in the 1960s) and Mike Walsh, took his midday program on 0, to Nine: where the format would live on for 21 years, with four incarnations as “The Midday Show” after Mike Walsh’s departure for primetime in 1985. The dominant theme in ’77, was that Ten’s great successes were ending, a new success began, and the first “television event” became a ratings hit. Number 96, and The Box were both in ratings decline, and ended in late 1977, after a prolonged debate about how to end both series. Just as the final seasons of The Box/96 began, a shock acquisition, became a primetime hit. Adapting the US gameshow “Match Game”, and the return of the “King of Television” after departing Nine in 1975, Graham Kennedy’s Blankety Blanks (again produced by Grundy’s), became a smash hit for 0/10, in Brisbane, it aired leading out of the TVQ news service: giving the fledgling news service a shot in the arm it deserved.
Advertisement from the Courier-Mail (from SLQ microfiche) on May 28 1977, promoting the premiere of US mini-series Roots on TVQ-0 the next night.
But, the biggest television event of the year was to come. In what was likely fast-tracked 1970’s style (3 months between airing in the US on ABC and Australia) the first true mini-series, “Roots” dominated the ratings in a era of very little contact with the US for the common viewer: winning TVQ it’s last ratings survey of the Ansett era, and inspired a generation of Australian producers to create their own stories: but it was something greater than that, that made 0-10 executives proud. Roots (and it’s sequel ”Roots-The Next Generations” that aired in Australia in 1979) were the only programs from ABC in the US, during the beginning of Nine’s “Still The One” period in the late 1970’s (which gave Nine such titles as: Happy Days, The Love Boat and Charlies Angels), that Nine likely passed on buying (because it was probably seen as a risky ratings proposition in the diary era), a mistake it would think twice about repeating in the future.

SHAKING UP THE DIAL: Some Roots facts.
-Roots aired in the US, in late January 1977: the first Australian airing came three months later: in April 1977 on 10 in Sydney, but due to the complexities of film: let alone the lack of proper networking, the program aired in different markets at different times, The Ansett-owned 0’s aired it a month after Sydney, and used the ratings success in Sydney as a selling point.
-The same producer, that worked on the first adaptation for film of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, David L Wolper (who passed away in 2010): executive-produced Roots.
-Roots in the US, drew a massive audience: especially in the way it was formatted, aired over eight consecutive nights. In Australia, many newspaper reviewers thought 0-10 had picked a dud (likely without seeing the American result): but the scheduling remained similar to the US, albeit with breaks for 0-10’s midweek Amco Cup rugby league coverage, and 0-10’s Saturday night programming, which differed heavily from city to city. It was a ratings smash (holding the honor of the highest rating program in Australian television history, until the 1984 Olympics opening ceremony), and made many of those reviewers eat their hats!
-Roots was based on a novel: “Roots, the Saga of an American Family” written by African-American author, Alex Haley (who passed away in 1992), and is based on his own family’s history.
-A side effect of the success of Roots was the increase in people interested in their own genealogy, wanting to also find their family tree’s roots.

Daryl, Ossie and Jackie Mac.
Blankety Blanks couldn’t keep up it’s popularity from 1977, in 1978. The program was axed, and replaced with one that didn’t last long either: a zanier, forgotten game show with Daryl Somers and Ernie Carroll (playing Ossie Ostrich, Daryl’s sidekick from “Cartoon Corner”, which evolved into Hey Hey It’s Saturday) entitled, the “Daryl and Ossie Show”. It too was axed, and both Daryl and Ossie went back to Nine, to return to the Saturday morning cartoon show, with a new third wheel, who had been brought in to replace Daryl/Ossie after they went to 0-10. Jacki Macdonald, had been a childrens presenter for Nine, but her popularity was cemented in Brisbane when she arrived at 0, after a stopover at Seven, to initially do the weather, and then did a weekday breakfast product, full of hijinks and freak waves on a tiny budget (a freak wave almost always consisted of a bucket of water being somewhat thrown onto a person.) and introduced Brisbane to Wickety Wak: whose reputation was boosted massively by being associated with Jacki. Jacki had also become a enigma in television in Australia: once again due to very little contact between cities (and a station manager in Brisbane who had been generous, to her unique schedule) and Jacki worked a 6 day week: 5 days of breakfast shows on Mt Coot-tha, then commuting between Brisbane and Melbourne on Fridays, to work Hey Hey live on Saturday mornings from GTV-9’s studios in Richmond, a schedule she continued to keep until leaving TVQ in 1983.

Coming in, at the tail end of the successful era, that the 0-10 Network enjoyed in the 1970’s, was a drama that would redefine the format, in Australia. Grundy’s commissioned for Ten, a program that was originally meant for a 20 episode run in 1979: it lasted nearly 700 episodes, and when it ended in 1986: it had become a major overseas commodity. That program, I am referring to, is Prisoner. When the program launched in 1979, it became very popular, to the point 0/10 extended the series, until was aired indefinitely, with breaks between seasons. The actors became royalty, and had become very well known: some still ply their trade today. But the biggest success was Prisoner breaking into the US, as well as the UK (as Prisoner: Cell Block H), and Europe: where it gained a cult following, with late night screenings. However, the biggest part of the Prisoner legacy lives on today, not just in DVD sales of episodes, but with pay television operator, Foxtel launching a reimagining of the program, in modern day Australia, in 2013 as “Wentworth”, after many years of Prisoner reruns (first on UK-TV in the late 1990’s, then 111(Hits) in the early 2010’s), on the platform, and achieved similar success in overseas sales, and most importantly, Foxtel’s television ratings.

As the 70’s unfolded, the newsroom moved to Mt Coot-tha, in preparation for the conversion to Electronic News Gathering using videotape (first used for news, by DDQ Toowoomba) but it was one event, that made the comfortable 7/9 club look at Channel 0. January 18 1977, saw the use of the Sydney-Brisbane bearer for rolling coverage of the Granville train disaster by all stations. The bearer was a expensive tool to use regularly for news, thus the Brisbane stations got all their newsfilm from interstate and overseas from the old Brisbane airport, causing a day’s delay for news from interstate. TVQ changed the game, not long after Granville, and brought all it’s interstate news via the bearer, the same day it aired in Sydney and Melbourne. This was the spur for many more innovative changes to the news in the last few years of the 1970s that TVQ, alongside the 10’s innovated in (e.g. live eyes (previously, live crosses were complicated affairs: now stories could be edited on the go), packaged reporting (previously, all reports were read by newsreaders, and led to news presenter stereotypes in Australia changing: from the jack of all trades (one minute newsreading, next doing a gameshow), to trained journalists reading the news) helicopters (which could go where no vehicle could go, and have improved dramatically, from the days of cameramen dangling out the door: in the beginning, they were also the biggest status symbol in news, during the early 80’s), improved weather (starting with the introduction of satellite pictures and three day outlooks) and strangely, boats (a typically QLD move: all three commercials had boats during the late 70’s-early eighties) along with some great talent pickups by TVQ, both old, e.g Brian Cahill (who was close to ending his career which had started when QLD TV began) and Geoff Mullins (who’d come from radio: as a 4IP “Good Guy”, (a path many a TVQ’er trod: thanks to 4IP management on TVQ’s board) with a Brisbane #1 record under his belt in 1971) and new, e.g. Jo Pearson (who’d make a bigger name of herself, when she moved to Melbourne, and helped lead 10 to the top of the news ratings) Kay McGrath, Robin Parkin (who also made ratings success, joining with Bruce Paige to lead Nine Brisbane back to the top after five years in the wilderness, in 1987) and Paul Bongiorno. But, the moment when respect was earned by 7/9 for TVQ’s news, was in May 1980, when TVQ had hired the Wales (now Westpac) rescue helicopter to fill-in while the regular helicopter was under maintenance. The Wales rescue helicopter was called into a rescue, on Moreton Bay that would become noteworthy in it’s own right. A yacht was in distress, and a Coastguard unit from Redcliffe had responded. The Seven news helicopter was also overseeing the scene capturing footage, when the Coastguard boat flipped. Instantly, the TVQ people dropped everything, and concentrated on the rescue, without a winch. The story became international news, the rescue spurred Queensland into investing in rescue helicopters with winches, as well as improvements in radio communications between various marine rescue organizations and finally, when awards season rolled around in 1981, the Seven team won awards for the story, not without commending the TVQ team for their bravery, and it was at that point, that TVQ’s news crews had finally earned the respect of their compatriots on Mt Coot-tha, and in the years to come, TVQ would outshine them (and even members of it’s own network) in the yearly Walkley awards: despite their ratings position.

The first thing you think of when you look at the 0-10 network: is that it’s strength was on the younger viewer. Nothing was more simpler than the term “capture the minds of children, and you’ll have the adults forever”, and two products produced by the network (and hit their stride at the same time) proved it through and through.
Young Talent Time:
Young Talent Time in 1980, was about to enter it’s tenth year on air. Created by Johnny Young in 1971, it would go on to launch many careers (including Danni Minogue (Kylie’s sister), Jamie Redfern and Tina Arena), in it’s original incarnation which ran until 1988. The program visited QLD numerous times, including trips to Dreamworld and Hamilton Island as well as concerts in venues from Festival Hall to Chandler to being the second major act booked (after Torvill and Dean) for the Brisbane Entertainment Centre when it opened in 1986, but the most memorable event concerning the YTT team in QLD has to be the Expo 88 concert series for TVQ’s corporate day, where they drew 24,000 people to Expo’s Riverstage, over two nights on May 6-7, including a televised event on May 7. The interest in the program lived on, well past it’s end in 1988: resulting in a short-lived revival in 2012: but it didn’t capture the same passion.
Simon Townsend’s Wonder World:
Meanwhile the other product: Simon Townsend’s Wonder World: had only been on air for less than three months at the start of 1980, after a long road to getting it on the air (including pilots for 9 and 7 (which eventually went for Shirl’s Neighbourhood (which in a weird anomaly: aired on Nine in Brisbane), then took nationally Brisbane-produced Wombat in 1984) before 0-10 took a chance on Townsend. However, when it started in September 1979: it only aired over the Ansett axis as well as Sydney, as well as having a theme (Afternoon Delight) that needed a change after it was discovered by Townsend what the song actually meant: something not suitable for children. A new theme was commissioned (“Wonder World” the song chosen, became iconic itself and was even released as a record), and by the end of 1980 it had been picked up by a fair chunk of the regional stations in Australia, Nine in Perth (due to the long held TV Facilities joint venture which split Network 10 programming in Perth between 7/9 until the arrival of Aussat and a dedicated 10 station in Perth in 1988): as well as it’s entire network. At one stage it was the highest rating product Network Ten had outside primetime, to the point that Ten aired two episodes a day: one a repeat, one a fresh episode, simply due to ratings power: and the fact that they had many past episodes to draw on. After a magnificent 2000 episode, 9 year run: Simon Townsend’s Wonder World ended in 1988: with a magnificent legacy, giving starts to people like Jonathan Coleman (who returned to Ten in 2012 as a creative executive: but ended up in a on-air role with Studio 10) and Amanda Keller (as a story researcher) as well as leaving plenty of memories of time spent with Simon and Woodrow the bloodhound (whose popularity was so great, that when Woodrow died in 1986, it made front page news) and made a generation remember, as was Simon’s iconic closing remarks: “and remember, the world is wonderful.”

The last great move of the Ansett era of being the senior partner of the 0-10 Network, began in 1978. Reception and image problems in Melbourne, (not helped by the unusual move at the time, of Graham Kennedy criticizing the lead-in to Blankety Blanks in Melbourne) led to the changeover to 10, for 0 Melbourne. The move had to get government approval, and most critically, the approval of GLV in the Gippsland (which had been on Ch 10 since opening in 1961, a factor to why ATV was on 0 to begin with), to move off Channel 10 to allow 0 Melbourne to convert to Channel 10: with a added cost, being filters for television sets in areas that could receive Channel 7/9 in Melbourne, so they could continue receiving them as well as the new GLV channel: Channel 8. However, the biggest surprises included, the beginning of plans to acquire ATV, by Rupert Murdoch, who controlled Ten Sydney (through a purchase of Ansett Transport Industries: parent of ATV/TVQ), culminating in the sale of Ansett’s other television asset: TVQ-0, to satisfy the government’s “2 station rule”. When the final preparations were made, in late 1979 for this historic move, Graham Kennedy was asked to be the person to “sell the switch”, and relaunch the station on January 20 1980, while the 0 frequency was reserved for the launch of SBS in Sydney/Melbourne, where it’d cause some woes with TVQ’s signal, especially if the weather or the TV antenna played havoc, (showing in one extraordinary case, both SBS and TVQ’s signal) until the capital city SBS network went to UHF-only (all expansions outside Syd/Melb, including Brisbane being on UHF) from January 1986, to analogue switchoff in 2013, when SBS’s digital signal moved to Channel 7 VHF (formerly Seven analogue) in the major capital cities. However there was a side effect to all this: Brisbane at the same time became a “black sheep” affiliate within the newly named Network 10 purely due to it’s position: a 0 amongst three 10’s, with two of those 10’s with common ownership (opposed to the two Ansett 0’s and two independently owned 10’s prior to 1980), and that image took until TVQ’s own eventual move to 10 in September 1988 to fix.

A new direction: TVQ-0 post-Ansett…
One of the biggest stories of 1980, concerning the media at least, was the plan by Rupert Murdoch to buy ATV-10, not long after conversion to 10, to align with Ten Sydney. 0 Brisbane, had to be sold, by Ansett (at that time owned by News Ltd) to keep the regulator happy, so, it was sold off to a joint-venture between petroleum company, Ampol and Sydney radio powerhouse, 2SM (who had acquired 4IP in the late 70’s (at the peak of 2SM’s success), again aligning the stations: this time under common ownership) for $17m ($65m today). What followed in the next two years was a major change in business for TVQ. A classic example is the news: TVQ was all ready to join Sydney and Melbourne with a 6pm news hour, but when Haydn Sargent returned to TVQ, after Seven ended Haydn Sargent’s Brisbane, all plans for the change were frozen: in favour of “The Sargent Report”, which didn’t set the world on fire (the move that TVQ did put Brisbane viewers in a unprecedented position: with all three commercial current affairs products head to head at 6:30pm at night), and was axed within four months, at a cost of $500,000 per year ($2m today). While, TVQ did have some successful content: Jackie Mac’s breakfast show, being a highlight (Jackie continually winning Logies, including 1981: when TVQ aired the event for the first time, and would air them again in 1983, 1985 and 1987) however the schedule handed to it by the network had numerous locally produced turkeys in 80-81, that are remembered today: such as shopping centre-based soap Arcade (produced by the people behind Number 96), the first program promoted nationally under the “Network 10” banner: which debuted in January 1980, on the same night ATV converted to 10. Arcade didn’t last long, only six weeks elapsed, before it was axed: not before millions were spent on building a entire arcade in Ten’s Sydney studios, and Crawfords-produced Holiday Island in 1981: which by the name alone, meant a shoot in Queensland, instead opted for a complete island set, in Melbourne out the back of Channel 10, in the middle of winter. The program lasted six months, while the set: would lay dormant until Neighbours arrived, and reshaped it into “Lassiters” (the Ramsay St local’s meeting point) in 1986. However, with all the struggles TVQ had with content (some foreign content was successful: such as Dallas and M*A*S*H, that had been airing on Network 10 for some time), however it was the Commonwealth Games year in 1982 that would begin a slow change.

Network 10 in March 1981 also made a major stride when it came to news. Building on the growth of the news services in Sydney and Melbourne, the network introduced the first breakfast program of the modern pattern: gone were cartoons and kids shows, and in was two hours of news at 7-9am, with Gordon Elliot, and Sue Kellaway. It was such a success, that Nine launched their own product (the Today Show), eighteen months later: poaching Sue Kellaway in the process. However the replacement chosen would end up having at GMA more longevity than Kellaway did at Today. Kerri-Anne Wright (a Brisbane girl, who had at that point her biggest role was in soapie “The Restless Years”): soon to be married, and become Kerri-Anne Kennerley: became the shining light for a program that changed the male host with regularity: after the departure of Gordon Elliot, they had Kerri-Anne paired with Tim Webster, then with Mike Gibson (brought across from Nine), and when Mike Gibson got his own show weeknights (Sydney with Mike Gibson) in 1990: Ten brought in Terry Willesee (from Nine): before reverting back to Tim Webster, after 10’s receivership in 1990. Eventually, KAK left breakfast television behind, while Ten would do the same in late 1992: with both of the recent attempts at new breakfast programming by the network falling short.

“Hello Brisbane, Hello Channel 0!”
1982, was a major game change for news at TVQ: the aging Brian Cahill, was about to leave for politics, while the young guns, like McGrath, Wiseman and Bongiorno shone. But it was the eventual move by TVQ, to air the Sydney-based Good Morning Australia, saw the end of the Jackie Mac breakfast program, which saw something more critical happen: Wickety Wak, which had been made stars by Jackie, went to touring, and eventually landed a deal with another station on the hill, which sent them into the stratosphere. As 1982 came to a close, a shortlived run occurred of Des reading the 6pm news solo, and promoted heavily. But, the year was most remembered for the jingle, that emphasised the life of Brisbane, about to show the world. “Hello Brisbane” was a attempt to try and beat Seven at their own game, especially with their fractured promotion in the previous year. However, Seven hit a winner, with “Love You Brisbane”, and it took until 1986, for TVQ to get the local image promo correct.

Paul Bongiorno newspaper promo (first TV journalist in Brisbane to get his own solo advertising)
from Courier-Mail (SLQ microfiche) in 1984 
One of the Canberra press gallery’s stalwarts of the last 25 years, came from TVQ: Paul Bongiorno (who on Australia Day 2014 received a AM for his services to said press gallery), former weather presenter, Roman Catholic priest, and skilled journalist: who at this stage of time had won two of his four Walkleys (1981, 1982 followed by a threepeat in 1983 (something for a single reporter, for television news reporting has never been duplicated since), and a fourth win in 1985) he earned before he went to Canberra in 1988 and eventually rose to lead political reporter for Network Ten (after Kerry O’Brien departed for the ABC) in the early 1990s. The 1982 Walkleys, were fortunate for TVQ: also winning, a award for the best news camera work in the nation by Shane Dyson for a story on a yacht (who’d go on to win in 1988 for a dramatic piece of footage, a mid-air RAAF Roulette collision: awarded to Channel 10 post switch)… especially significant because TVQ’s news was rating at this stage, deep third in Brisbane. As for Paul: he announced his departure from Ten recently, amidst major cuts to the news service, with a honourable career behind him, as well as many friendships made in Canberra: including the late Peter Harvey.

“Getting better all the time”: The evolution of ‘83
TVQ in 1983, entered that year, with a continuation of the “Hello Brisbane, Hello Channel 0” theme from 1982, for around six months, while the news service also returned to dual anchor, with Jackie McDonald (who continued her commuting to Melbourne, with 0’s blessing) and Des McWilliam reading. However a more drastic change loomed, that would set the course for the years to come. In early 1983, Ten Sydney adopted a brand new logo, which would eventually become the network’s, a modern “TEN” in a circle. TVQ went one step further: it dropped the logo it had shared with Melbourne since colour and on it’s own since 1980, literally overnight in viewers minds, at the beginning of a midyear survey. Channel 0 as a station identity was dead and buried (due to management admitting that it’s brand was suffering similar image problems to Melbourne in 1978/79, thus the decision to reinvent the brand), it was now TV0, and it was simply: “Getting better all the time”.  As the year closed, TV0 was slowly making ground it had lost (especially as the news had begun to gain some traction: not due to anchors, but to the reporting), however small the steps may be.

The Jackie McDonald run at TVQ hit a screeching halt in 1983. After being placed at the weekday news desk, earlier that year when Brian Cahill went into politics, TVQ tried very hard to promote the unlikely duo of Des and Jackie McDonald. However, it was one interstate issue of TV Week (with a image of Jackie dressed as a steak sandwich on Hey Hey it’s Saturday, before it went to primetime, which didn’t air in Queensland), that got leaked in Brisbane, just as TVQ was doing a mass billboard rollout (likely to have been to be tied in with the TV0 brand change) and Jackie was forced to choose, either: stay in Brisbane or do Hey Hey full time. She chose the latter, and when Hey Hey went national and to primetime in early 1984, it was joked about on the very first episode.

The Olympics in Australia, up to 1980, were always a joint effort by broadcasters due to costs. The Moscow games, were broadcast on Seven (a deal done three years in advance, for the princely sum of $1m) exclusively: but due to the boycott by some countries aligned to the US (repeated again in LA four years later by Russian allies), people weren’t turned on to the Games, other than the swimming, and Seven’s theme, German act, Genghis Khan’s “Moscow”, which stayed in the #1 slot on Australian music charts for six weeks. Thus, when the rights came up for Los Angeles 1984: there were two groups interested: Network Ten, and a joint bid by the ABC and the Nine Network, off their successes with Brisbane’s Commonwealth Games, in 1982. Network Ten, took a major gamble: the largest bid for television rights to the Olympics in Australia to that point, $10m ($27.5m today), and won the race. In February 1984: the largest telethon of it’s type ever held in Australia to that point (which also saw the Brisbane debut, of Debbie Turner, then a children’s session presenter (who’d later on come to TVQ to be the station’s promotions head, with the DDQ takeover), with the DDQ-10 team in their own call room), helped raise money for the Australian team to go to Los Angeles (also helping to build the foundations for three Australian bids for the summer Olympics, two of which were unsuccessful: Brisbane for 1992 (coming a gallant third, when it was decided in 1986, in the first Olympic bidding process since the 1984 Olympics's success), Melbourne for 1996 (being eliminated in the third round when it was decided in 1990) and the eventual successful bid: Sydney for 2000 (decided in 1993), as well as having many fundraising products available featuring a Australian mascot: a koala named “Willy”, who was part of a memorable television campaign, to simply say, “When there is a will, there is a way, to LA!”

1984: The year of new beginnings… and LA.
The first full year, of the TV0 brand, began with the debut of another news team change, with Des McWilliam retained, and Kay McGrath elevated to the 6pm hotseat, full time after a notable departure: Jackie McDonald who committed to Hey Hey full time, with the program’s move to night-time in early 1984, and the program’s subsequent debut in Brisbane. However, the rumors spread that TVQ was on the market (especially made stronger, with the sale of BTQ-7 to the Fairfax newspaper business, that also owned ATN-7 in Sydney for a sum of $50m, the previous year), during the early months of that year, and 2SM/Ampol wanting to get out of the television business, months before, what would have been a big payday for them: the LA Olympics. Eventually, all rumors were silenced, when a shock bidder, arrived, and conquered. Christopher Skase, and Qintex saw a opportunity, in acquiring TVQ in early May 1984, and thus started this great race, towards the 1984 Olympics, with the TV0 debut slogan “Getting Better All The Time” , become simply, “Go, TV0”. This interest in the station, that many seemed was lacking since the Ansett departure, would go on and reshape it, thanks to Christopher Skase, and a few others internally: such as promotions executive, Mike Lattin who had suddenly been given a lot more resources. The Olympics themselves were a hit: especially the opening ceremony, that was estimated to have had 900,000 viewers in Brisbane alone, according to internal surveys, and in official surveys, the opening ceremony rated slightly lower than the Brisbane Commonwealth Games opener (albeit it was on the ABC) two years earlier. The Olympics also woke Skase up to what was going on interstate, with the newshours on Ten, in Sydney and Melbourne rating well due to Perfect Match leading in. TVQ’s news also had swelled ratings during the Olympics, with a great lead-in, but it would be until year’s end before a permanent change was made at both 5:30 and 6pm.

To understand, the success Ten had interstate news-wise in 1984, you also need to look at the lead-in to the news. Perfect Match (a dating game show, based on “Blind Date” (and would go under that title, when Ten revived it in 1991) debuted, in early 1984, and was aired in the 5:30-6pm slot on weeknights, a timeslot, at that time, many people thought only reruns worked in. Perfect Match changed all that, with it’s humor and quick wit, not to mention the chance to win a weekend away with one of three different people! It made it’s host, Greg Evans, and “compatibility robot” Dexter household words in Australia, almost overnight. However: in Brisbane, which had still not moved to a hour news, the first season in 1984, aired at 6:30 at night, after the news with some ratings victories over the rival current affairs products at 6:30: the next year however, Perfect Match, would move to the 5:30 slot in Brisbane… for TVQ’s time had finally come, for it’s news to go to 1 hour long, from 6pm-7pm like it’s network brethren.

1985, One hour of news: The Game Changer.
TVQ again broke the mould, when Christopher Skase turned his attention to the news service, in late 1984. Not only were Kay and Des, being retained (to show prospective viewers, about TVQ’s consistency: especially in a year which saw 7/9 change newsreaders twice each, with three of these changes (with both Nine’s changes and the latter of Seven’s involving Frank Warrick): for 1985, but a bigger change loomed: as the ABC began promoting the QLD edition of “The National”, due to launch in early March, TVQ scooped them on January 14, with the launch of 1 hour news, another new theme, a new font for their news brand, a new set reflecting Ten Melbourne’s, even having the newsreader’s announcements prior to the bulletin’s start, by a interstate V/O (in a week, which saw the first of many big stories during 1985: the worst Brisbane hailstorm in living memory to that point), as well as the debut just prior to ratings of a new weather presenter: Ray Wilkie (ex. Weather Bureau chief), during ratings offseason. As TVQ swept into survey 1, 1985, with a heavily promoted hour news, as well as new content both from the network (such as family variety show, It’s a Knockout, starring Brisbane’s Fiona McDonald, and Billy J Smith) and from TVQ itself (the debut of morning show, Living, with 4KQ’s then flagship announcer, Ian Skippen, which would last until the conversion to 10) would dominate… until the lights went out, due to the SEQEB dispute: which saw TVQ fare better than 7/9: especially, as they could produce one program from 6-7, while 7/9 were producing two. Eventually, Today Tonight ended on Nine on June 28 after a move to 9:30 at night post SEQEB dispute, and is likely to have been the first scalp of the TVQ hour with Seven widening their news output (in the process rehiring Frank Warrick), followed by the ABC’s backflip on the National, (although not attributed, to TVQ, rather the viewers nationwide not accepting a 6:30 move for the ABC’s news (in the case of Melbourne, the lack of local news with Sydney/Melbourne sharing a edition of The National), nor the idea of a hybrid news/current affairs program when the National began: but the ABC lost one thing critically, Bruce Paige to Nine), in late 1985. When the National fell over, TVQ crowed all summer, with the repeated use of the line, “Brisbane’s Only Hour of News… NOBODY ELSE HAS THE TIME.”

The biggest scoop TV0 got for the hour news in it’s formative weeks, was not a big news story. With the arrival of Ray Wilkie, who had just departed the top job at the QLD office of the Bureau of Meteorology in January 1985 at the age of 59 (A RAAF WW2 veteran, who went onto realising the weather’s worth to people: culminating with earning a OAM, for his longtime service to the BoM in 1984 and was known to most Australians, as the head of the Northern Territory BoM regional office, when Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in 1974), a matter of days after the dramatic Brisbane hailstorm of 1985, and instantly made a impact: with the quality of forecasts on TVQ improving, and most critically, that Ray was the one running head to head with the end of State Affair on 7 and TT (later Willesee) on Nine in the embryonic stages of TVQ’s hour news move. Another move made, by Ray, was to follow in the footsteps of Noel Stanaway, and publish his own book: with “Ray Wilkie’s Australian Weather” being released during World Expo 88 (including detailing his experience with Cyclone Tracy), and was such a runaway success: a reprint run was ordered in 1989, and is often found in older school libraries. Ray Wilkie remained in the weekday weather position for fifteen years continuously (surviving Ten’s financial woes in 1990): a Brisbane record at the time of his retirement in 1999 (since surpassed by Jenny Woodward at the ABC in 2001, with 28 years presenting weather and counting, including five years presenting ABC’s weather from Channel 10’s studios from 2007-12 after the ABC’s Toowong facilities were shut.) Today, however, there are many comparisons made between Nine’s Garry Youngberry and Ray: (dating back to when Garry was working at NBN in Newcastle), in their presentation style, while Ten and later Seven tried to emulate the Wilkie success with, with Tony Auden (previously a senior forecaster at the BOM) : however to date success has been limited.

Turning 21: with a little help from some new “Neighbours”.
1986, however, was a completely new tale: with Network 10’s long time drama, Prisoner wrapping production, along with the arrival of a castoff from Seven (whose Brisbane debut on Seven, was not long after the SEQEB dispute), the nightly soap, Neighbours, at 7pm (the same timeslot it was in when it aired on BTQ (straight after their news, and State Affair): a clever programming decision that rated well, and actually sold Network Ten on buying Neighbours) after the strong hour-long news. Alongside this, was the end of the cheesy “Go TV0” campaign, which had been on air since the 1984 Olympics, and the debut of a whole new package, from Frank Gari in the US (who had licenced the rights to the “Hello” promo campaign, he created, to numerous Australian stations: notably, the Seven’s in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, as well as solus regional stations, TAS TV in Tasmania and DDQ 10-4-5a in QLD (which was notable, for the only use of the original campaign closer (insert station here) Loves You) in Australia, all the others utilised the term “with you”, or a more upbeat ending “Insert Station Here, Says Hello”), that the rest of the network would eventually use: “Turn To News” with it’s image campaign (which only Brisbane and Adelaide used): “Stand Up and Tell’em”, becoming a instant hit with viewers, especially leading into the big push towards Expo 88, the next year, and the news theme, becoming associated with Eyewitness News in Brisbane (especially with TVQ having previously, news themes changing yearly), much like “Move Closer To Your World” was, in Sydney and Melbourne. As the station turned 21 in July, it celebrated with a conveniently scheduled episode of the celebrity version of It’s a Knockout, along with a great locally produced documentary focusing on QLD’s rich and famous, and by years end, TVQ’s news was starting to really look like a credible threat to Seven’s dominance: sparked by the shock loss to Nine, in the last ratings survey of 1986. However, it was survey 1, 1987, that would set the tone for a even more shocking wakeup call for Seven, no thanks to Nine, but from TVQ themselves.

A major celebration occurred at the station at the end of 1987’s first ratings survey. It was a historic win, and also groundbreaking. After nearly a decade (the last survey win by TVQ was when Ansett still controlled TVQ, back in 1977: the program that spearheaded the victory, was the US mini series, Roots) TVQ had won a whole survey period, opposed to weeks here and there. What makes this groundbreaking, was that TVQ toppled the long-time ratings king in Brisbane, BTQ-7, that had dominated for five years. The big highlights of the survey win: Kennedy-Miller’s mini series Vietnam (although it wasn’t the highest rating program during the survey), and the switch away from State Affair, to the TVQ newshour’s second half, that sealed it’s fate, amidst major plans by Fairfax, and had the Mount Coot-tha club thinking...

The importance of this date, for the ascent of the TVQ newshour isn’t to be underestimated. Seven in Brisbane had axed State Affair and replaced it with a hour of news, debuting on that night, leading into Terry Willesee Tonight from Sydney at 7pm. The reaction to the Seven newshour was universally poor. While Nine gained viewers, craving a 6pm half-hour news and another Willesee (Mike Willesee) a half hour earlier than TWT: TVQ gained a new sense of being, with the arrival of Mike Higgins, while TVQ’s Expo 88 planning under Des McWilliam accelerated.

Newshour Wars: Mike Higgins Strikes Back.
Mike Higgins was a major turning point. Most of the people who came to TVQ, to read the news, were either young or were in the twilight of their news careers (notably, Brian Cahill). Mike Higgins was a completely different beast: choosing to go to TVQ in the prime of his career, the prime of his life. At that stage in 1987, TVQ’s hour had finally swept ahead, and was scooping the successes the network was having in news interstate. Other major additions to the family, included: John Schluter (who was doing weather and station announcements, on Nine (even promoted as such in the lead-up to April 6 1987), until offered to come across, and join his wife Christine Collins, albeit in a station announcement capacity) and others, as ratings soared. At the heart of it was a completely local news promotion initiative, commissioned by TVQ, that differed from the line the network had placed at TVQ in 1982/3, to the point that the network news promos produced in 1987: (animated news promos 10 developed for Syd/Melb reflecting on the changes in news over the years) were successfully meshed with the Person to Person campaign instead of feeling left behind. The “Person to Person” slogan became a brand that steered TVQ through that year of success, with Higgins and McGrath: and into 1988, and most critically, the final months of the 0 frequency at Expo 88.

Dare to beat the Bear: AFL on TVQ, 1980’s style…
Another shock to the system, was Seven losing the rights to the VFL, and gaining the Sydney rugby league competition off TVQ (a QLD-specific deal, that only lasted a year, as historically the Brisbane competition took precedence: and was made, just as the “Brisbane for Sydney” push was gaining steam, (which led to the Brisbane Broncos joining the NSWRL in 1988). However, the TVQ-VFL agreement (through rights holder Broadcom: who’d eventually own TVQ itself within two years), was part and parcel: Christopher Skase, then owner of TVQ, also owned a stake in the new Brisbane VFL side (entering the competition alongside the West Coast Eagles), the Brisbane Bears. Playing out of Cararra, that first year on TVQ, saw local and interstate viewers also see swathes of advertising for TVQ’s successful early evening lineup. Eventually, the duopoly Qintex gained in July 1987 (and the TVQ sale in September 1987) put a end to the VFL on TVQ, with Seven getting national rights, to the VFL in early 1988: as part of Skase’s plan to revive Melbourne’s fortunes, that had sunk, when Fairfax made rapid changes that weren’t being received well.

Ending Duopoly: The countdown begins to becoming Channel 10:
The DDQ sale in mid September, after months of Skase 0-7 duopoly: was crowned by David Haynes of DDQ, proclaiming in the business section of the Courier Mail, the day after it was announced, with a appropriate “10” hand sign to mark the plans that laid ahead for both stations, along with a front page article in Toowoomba, which took the cake away from preparations for the Carnival of Flowers. However, 48 hours, after the sale to DDQ: a major rumour began spreading at TVQ and in the Brisbane print media: was Kay McGrath leaving to join Skase’s newly acquired Seven team that had struggled throughout 1987? Eventually, in late 1987: it was confirmed, and in typical eighties fashion: a big farewell occurred.

The Kay Farewell…
The Kay McGrath farewell from TVQ on November 20 1987, was unique. Just as Kay went to the desk, to present that final hour of news, before leaving for Sydney and Seven (although not mentioned at the time), she literally, let her hair down: revealing a ponytail wig: before saying farewell to the viewers, that had grown to love Kay, in that run where she led the bulletin to the top. A fitting farewell, for the most notable female weekday newsreader TVQ had up to that point (and that notability was earned through her journalistic strength and hard work, and at that time, was one of the longest serving commercial female newsreaders in a lead weekday position in Australia.

Kay’s epilogue:
After joining Seven in 1988, initially paired with former QTQ TT host John Barton, on TVAM (Seven’s first tilt at early news) Kay returned home to Brisbane, and was placed in the anchor’s position with Frank Warrick. In the 25 year run on Seven Brisbane’s news: Kay read with two strong males: Frank Warrick, and Rod Young, along with a period in 2002 as the first female solo weekday newsreader on a regular basis on commercial television in Brisbane, reported on the events that shaped that quarter of a century, and eventually gained the honour of being billed ahead of the male lead, all while inspiring a generation of female journalists that passed through Seven in Brisbane, (Jillian Whiting, Melissa Downes, Sarah Harris just to name a few) to live their dreams.

As the curtain came down on Kay McGrath and Mike Higgins’s time at TVQ, in November 1987, the station made the unusual step of unveiling their weekday newsreaders for 1988, days after Kay’s final bulletin. Rob Readings, and Christine Collins (who would be referred to when they officially started, as Chris Collins) were spruiked in the Sunday Mail’s TV listings, much like Mike Higgins was when he joined TVQ. However this was a symbolic move: simply, TVQ unveiling the team, to lead the station that had for nearly 25 years, shaken up the dial, from Saturday mornings, to Number 96 and The Box, from a news service fighting for credibility, to Brisbane’s undisputed #2 rating news service… to a new beginning later in 1988, to move up the same dial, they first shook up in July 1965.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog and love your passion for the history of Queensland TV! Also although I'm not on Facebook I do enjoy browsing your Lost.TVQ page. Very interesting snippets there. Keep up the great work!