Monday, 27 June 2016

1963: First live major TV News Event Broadcast between Sydney and Melbourne

On Saturday the entire nation is off to the polls. Recently, I came across advertisements from TCN9 which were published in The Daily Telegraph to promote its election coverage for the 1963 Federal Election.

The Coaxial Cable was actually switched on between Sydney and Melbourne in April 1962. This allowed for live transmission of television programs between the two cities and Canberra and could carry telecommunications traffic. In the first year, it generally relayed sporting events between the cities.

In November 1963, Australia went to the polls. The National Television Network (comprising of TCN9 Sydney and GTV9 Melbourne) was owned by Sir Frank Packer. He had entered into a two year lease of one hundred thousand pounds a year.

Election Day was November 30 1963, just seven days after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in Dallas. As part of election coverage, the first major broadcast of a news event across major Australia cities occured, drawing on the coaxial link. TCN9 published these advertisements to promote the landmark coverage.

TCN 9 Broadcast Ad November 29 1963 daily telegraph Ad

TCN 9 Broadcast Ad November  30 1963 daily telegraph 0074


1.  TCN-9. 1963. "TCN 9 Electoral Telecast Map Viewing Area" (Advertisement). The Daily Telegraph, November 29: 8

2.  TCN-9. 1963. "TCN 9 Electoral Telecast Map Metropolitan Area" (Advertisement). The Daily Telegraph, November 30: 8

Coverage would be anchored from the TCN9 studios at Willougbhy with live crosses to the GTV9 studios in Melbourne, Canberra and The Sunday Telegraph Newsroom in Park Street, Sydney. Here is advertising material sourced from The Daily Telegraph in relation to its election broadcast. TCN9's viewing area stretched well beyond the boundaries that it is allowed to transmit into. Those in Newcastle, Wollongong and the Southern Highlands could also receive the broadcast.

It would set a precedent for the way we watched television. Programming could be instantly relayed from city to city. No longer would there be delays in having to wait for shows aired in other capital cities. A show recorded in Sydney could be relayed to Melbourne at the same time and vice versa. Programming in Australia tends to follow a common schedule these days.

Source: Southern Star (Firm) & John Edwards Production & National Nine Network (Australia). 2013. Power games : the Packer-Murdoch story.  

The mini series Power Games (2013) takes a look at that election coverage from TCN9, though you might not want to take what you see seriously, especially Alan Reid's announcement that Menzies was back in power at 8:35pm, only 35 minutes after the close of polls.  In the film, Sir Frank Packer tells his son Clyde to "Sack the Computer" which had been bought in to predict the result. The computer itself was also a key feature in the promotion broadcast in order to predict the winner.

I also noticed that the front page of The Sunday Telegraph (December 1 1963) was actually read out by Reid in the film. Need confirmation if Reid did actually say it. I may contact Channel Nine to follow up.

Menzies Returns December 1 1963 sunday telegraph (1) 

The way we watched news changed as a result because Australians could be informed of events happening across the country in real time, and that information could be relayed instantly. It reflected the changing landscape in the relay of news in the 1960's as Satellites placed into orbit around the Earth, allowed events to be transmitted from one part of the world to another. The assassination of JFK one week earlier showed that.

And finally, it is believed (by some) that Sir Frank Packer decided to cause a fault in the coaxial cable in July 1964, so young media baron Rupert Murdoch could not relay the pages for the first edition of The Australian Newspaper  from Canberra to Sydney. He had to fly the plates to Sydney for printing, which he managed to do despite heavy fog in Canberra.

For the record, Sir Robert Menzies Liberal/Country Coalition won the election with an increased majority winning 72 seats out of 122 seats. This was 10 seats more than in 1961. There was no senate election in 1963.

There will be wall to wall coverage this Saturday on Channel Nine along with is competition at ATN7 (Seven Network ), ABC & Sky News. Yours truely wont be watching as he has to count the votes at a booth in southern Sydney and the networks will be dependent on me for the results.