Monday, 28 November 2016

MILESTONE: ATN7 begins Transmission (1956)

This Friday (December 2), Channel Seven will celebrate 60 years of broadcasting in Sydney, under the callsign ATN7.

It was the third TV station to commence operations in Sydney following the opening of TCN9 in September 1956, and ABN2 (ABC) just a month before. The studios were located at Mobbs Lane, Epping, with the TV transmitter based at Gore Hill. ATN7 would remain at Epping until 2010 when they moved production facilities to the Australian Technology Park at Eveleigh. The original studios is now a housing estate. Several years before in 2004, its news department relocated to purpose-built studios at Martin Place. Local and national news bulletins and programs are produced there.

Source: Anon. 1956. Untitled (photograph). The Sun Herald, December 2:39. 

ATN7 was owned by Amalgamated Television Services comprising of a consortium of various radio, electrical and media interests including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun. It was a subsidiary of Fairfax. The channel would eventually become the flagship of the Seven Network, even though HSV7 in Melbourne was the first channel in the network to go to air in November 1956. ATN7 and HSV7 formed the Australian Television Network (Seven Network) in 1963. It would eventually be joined by BTQ7 (Brisbane), SAS7 (Adelaide) & TVW7 (Perth).

Fairfax would have ownership of ATN7 until 1987 when Quintex owned by Christopher Skase bought out the Seven Network. This was due to changes in Commonwealth media laws which stipulated that Fairfax could only own either print publications or television stations. Fairfax opted for print publications. Today, the Seven Network is currently part of Seven West Media, owned by Kerry Stokes.

Source: Anon. 1956. "Television Station ATN Channel 7 Opened by P. M. G.". The Sydney Morning Herald, December 3:1.  

The transmission on opening night (December 2 ) commenced at 7:30pm with the official opening of the channel by the Postmaster General - Mr. C. W. Davidson. This was followed by A Shower of Stars, which was a live studio program at 7:45pm. The first feature film - It's Folly To Be Wise screened at 9pm. A news bulletin at 10:30pm would close the first night's transmission, closing at 10:45pm.

Source: ATN7. 1956. Untitled (advertisement). The Sun Herald, December 2, 39. 

A special supplement was provided in the December 3 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald to mark its opening. Selected extracts feature below.

Initially, TV broadcasts on ATN7 commenced at 4:30pm with transmission closing at around 10:30pm. On weekends, broadcast times were shorter.

Early shows included:
  • Your Home featuring Del Cartwright
  • At Seven on 7 with Howard Craven
  • This I Believe with Eric Baume
  • Sydney Tonight with Keith Walshe
  • Caltex Theatre (Sunday Evening)

Below is a feature on its mobile broadcast unit (Click to enlarge).

Over the past sixty years, ATN7 has contributed significantly to the success of the Seven Network and bred stars of the small and eventually for some the big screen. Writing its achievements would need to be an essay. It has also been noted for pioneering programming formats on Australian television. For instance, Sydney Tonight was the first "tonight" show in Australia. Where would Graham Kennedy, Bert Newton and Don Lane be if it were not for this? At Seven on 7 was also the first current affairs show in Australia. ATN7 has also been an innovator. They were first with videotape equipment at Epping in the 1950s but also working with GTV9 in Melbourne to broadcast programs between Sydney and Melbourne with microwave links.

Seven Network Headquarters at Pyrmont. Photo was taken by the Author (2011).

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