Television in Australia
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Television in Australia began experimentally as early as 1929 in
Mainstream television was launched on 16 September 1956 in
Local programs, over the years, have included a broad range of comedy, sport, and in particular drama series, in addition to news and current affairs. The industry is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, through various legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice, which also regulates radio and in recent years has attempted to regulate the Internet.
Origins: Early transmission trials
In 1885, Henry Sutton developed a Telephane for closed circuit transmission of pictures via telegraph wires, based on the Nipkow spinning disk system, so that the Melbourne Cup could be seen in Ballarat. Reports differ on whether the Telephane was successfully implemented.
The first television broadcast in Australia took place on 30 September 1929 at the Menzies Hotel in Melbourne, using the electro-mechanical Radiovision system. Other transmissions took place in the city over the next few weeks. Also in 1929, the Baird system was used on 3DB, 3UZ and 2UE.
After 18 months of test transmissions, regular broadcasts began in Brisbane on 6 May 1934 using a 30-line system, to an estimated 18 receivers around Brisbane. The test transmissions, which were of 1 hour duration each day, were made by Thomas M. B. Elliott and Dr Val McDowall from the Wickham Terrace Observatory Tower. The programs included news headlines, still pictures and silent movies such as the temperance film Horrors of Drink. The Commonwealth Government granted a special licence and permission to conduct experimental television by VK4CM, in July 1934. By 1935, it expanded to 180 lines. Other experimental transmissions followed in other cities.
Television commenced in the United States and in the United Kingdom before World War II. The two countries developed radically different industry models, which were based on the models each used for radio broadcasting. British broadcasting was entirely controlled by the government-created broadcasting corporation, the BBC, which derived its revenue from compulsory viewer licence fees. The United States adopted a commercial model, based on privately owned stations and networks that earned revenue by charging for advertising time, with public broadcasting forming only a minor component of the larger system.
In June 1948, the Australian Labor Government under Ben Chifley, opted to follow the British model, on the advice from the Postmaster-General's Department. It decided to establish a government-controlled TV station in each capital city and called for tenders for the building of the six TV transmitters. The Broadcasting Act 1948 specifically prohibited the granting of commercial TV licences, a decision that the Liberal-Country Party opposition criticised as "authoritarian and socialistic". This policy was never put into practice, however, because the Labor government did not have the opportunity to establish the TV network before it was defeated in December 1949. The incoming Robert Menzies-led Liberal-Country Party coalition, which was to hold power for the next 23 years, changed the industry structure by also permitting the establishment of American-style commercial stations.
The economic situation at the time that TV was established in Australia exerted a pivotal influence on the foundation and subsequent history of the industry. When the decision was made to go ahead with granting the first licences for broadcast TV in the early 1950s, Australia was in a recession, with severe shortages of labour and materials and an underdeveloped heavy industrial base, and in this context TV was seen as a drain away from more fundamental projects.
The Menzies government was concerned about the long-term viability of the new industry and worried that it might be called on to bail out struggling stations and networks if the economy deteriorated. Consequently, it decided to grant the initial commercial TV licences to established print media proprietors, with the expectation that these companies would, if necessary, be able to subsidize the new TV stations from their existing (and highly profitable) press operations.
Meanwhile, in 1949, the first large-scale public demonstrations of the medium took place when the
Buoyed by the success of these tests, in March 1950, the Astor Radio Corporation embarked upon a tour of 200 regional towns with a mobile broadcast unit, giving a series of 45 minute demonstration programs, allowing local performers and members of the public to appear on camera.
In January 1953, in response to increasing pressure from the commercial lobby, the Menzies government amended the Broadcasting Act 1948 to allow for the granting of commercial licences, thus providing the legislative framework for a dual system of TV ownership. This structure was directly modeled on the long-established two-tiered structure of Australian broadcast radio—one tier being the stations in a new national, government-funded TV network run by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), and the other tier being privately owned commercial stations that drew their income from advertising revenue.
Commercial TV licences were nominally overseen by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB), a government agency responsible for the regulation of broadcasting standards and practices, while technical standards (such as broadcast frequencies) were administered by the Postmaster-General's Department. The ABC, as an independent government authority, was not subject to the regulation of the ABCB and instead answered directly to the Postmaster-General and ultimately to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (a situation that provoked bitter complaints from commercial radio in the mid-1970s when the ABC established its controversial youth station Double Jay).
In 1954, the Menzies Government formally announced the introduction of the new two-tiered TV system—a government-funded service run by the ABC, and two commercial services in Sydney and Melbourne, with the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne being a major driving force behind the introduction of television to Australia.
An interview with Mrs
Videotape technology was still in its infancy when Australian television was launched in 1956 and video recorders did not become widely available to Australian TV stations until the 1960s. For the first few years, the only available method for capturing TV programs was the kinescope process, in which a fixed movie camera filmed broadcasts screened on a specially adjusted TV monitor. Similarly, the playback of pre-recorded programs to air was only possible at this stage through the telecine process, in which films or kinescoped TV recordings were played back on a movie screen which was monitored by a TV camera.
Because of these limitations, it was relatively difficult and expensive to record and distribute local programming, so the majority of locally produced content was broadcast live-to-air. Very little local programming from these first few years of Australian TV broadcasting was recorded and in the intervening years the majority of that material has since been lost or destroyed. Even the footage of the 'first' Australian TV broadcast with Bruce Gyngell on Channel 9, Sydney (see image above) is a fabrication—according to Gerald Stone the kinescope film of the actual Sep. 1956 broadcast was lost and the footage that exists today is a considerably more polished re-enactment, made a year later.
Most programs in this early period were based on popular radio formats—musical variety and quiz formats were the most popular.
In the first decade after the first TV licences were granted, the federal government and the ABCB did not act to enforce local content quotas, and such measures were resisted by the commercial sector. As a result, Australian TV was soon dominated by material imported from the United States and (to a far smaller extent) Great Britain. In this period nearly every TV drama screened in Australia came from the US and the few programs that were made locally were almost all produced by the ABC. In other formats, the few locally produced programs made by or for commercial stations were typically low-cost copies of proven American talk/variety or quiz show formats. By the early 1960s at least 80% of all Australian TV content was sourced from the US and not surprisingly American programs consistently topped the ratings.
These changes led to a significant concentration of cross-media ownership. By 1960, the Packer family's Consolidated Press group controlled Channels 9 in Melbourne and Sydney (the flagship stations that formed the basis of the Nine Network), Melbourne's Herald and Weekly Times group owned HSV-7, and the Fairfax newspaper group controlled ATN-7 in Sydney. In the view of some media historians, these arrangements established a pattern of "high-level political allegiances between commercial broadcasters and Liberal-National Party governments" and that, as a result, the ABCB "was left very weak and uncertain in its capacity to control broadcaster conduct and exhibited strong symptoms of regulatory capture, or over-identification with the industry it regulated".
In 1963 the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, chaired by Senator Victor Vincent (known as the Vincent Committee) presented its report to federal parliament and its findings painted a bleak picture for local producers—the Committee found that 97% per cent of all television drama shown on Australian TV between 1956 and 1963 was imported from the United States, and it criticised the ABCB for failing to use its powers to enforce local content standards on television broadcasters, particularly the commercial stations. The Vincent Report recommended a sweeping program of reforms but none were implemented by the Menzies Government at that time.
The advent of TV effectively destroyed Australia's once thriving radio production industry within a few years, and the absence of local production quotas for TV in this formative period compounded the problem. Faced with almost unbeatable competition from American-made programming, local technical and creative professionals in radio were unable to make the transition to the new medium, as many of their American and British counterparts had done when TV was introduced there.
Those Australian producers who did try to break into TV faced almost insurmountable challenges. Imported American and British programs benefited from high budgets, an international talent pool and huge economies of scale, thanks to their very large domestic markets (relative to Australia), established worldwide distribution networks; additionally, since most American production houses and networks were based in Los Angeles, they had access to resources and expertise built up over decades by the Hollywood movie studios. These disadvantages were further exacerbated by the fact that American producers and networks offered Australian channels significant discount rates on bundled programming. Taken as a whole, these factors meant that local producers were faced with a relative production-cost ratio on the order of 10:1 or more in favour of the imported product.
Some sense of the scale of this "resource gap" can be gained by comparing the budgets of contemporary American and Australian TV programs. The pilot of the 1967 satirical sketch comedy series
By comparison, the budget for the pilot episode of the 1964 Australian topical revue series The Mavis Bramston Show was just AU£1500. Adjusted for inflation, this was around A$3500 in 1967 figures; given that US-Australian dollar exchange rate in 1967 was A$1.00 = US$1.12, this still would have only equated to around US$4000–50 times less than Laugh-In.
Although by the end of the 1950s television had expanded to also include Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, it was estimated that less than 5% of the residents in Melbourne, and fewer than 1% in Sydney owned a television set, which at the time cost, on average, six to ten weeks' wages. During these early years broadcast days were very short—all stations including the ABC only broadcast programs for a few hours each day and broadcast the test pattern for the rest of the time they were on air. Broadcast times were gradually increased over succeeding decades, although the ABC did not commence 24-hour broadcasting until 1993.
A TV series
Television and programming in the 1960s
The 1960s saw the continued growth of television in Australia, particularly into regional areas. The first regional TV services began in
While the first television services were being established in regional areas, larger cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth began to receive their second and, in the mid-1960s, third stations. In order to reduce costs, networks began to merge – originally in 1957 between HSV-7 and TCN-9, but later between almost all the metropolitan stations of a certain frequency. This led to the formation of the National Television Network (forerunner to the Nine Network) and Australian Television Network (later known as the Seven Network) in 1962. Not all stations became a part of their respective networks – TVW-7 in Perth remained independent for a number of years as the sole commercial station in the city. Throughout the decade the ABC expanded transmissions to several major centres including Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Canberra.
Beginning in 1964, the federal government tried to address concerns about competition and local production by licensing a third station in major cities, beginning with
Channel 0 in Melbourne took an early lead in catering for teenage viewers and quickly became the preeminent network in pop music programming, commissioning a sequence of popular and influential local pop shows including The Go!! Show and Kommotion (1964–67), Uptight (1968–70) and Happening '70 and its successors (1970–72).
The establishment of the Sydney–Melbourne co-axial cable link between Sydney and Melbourne in 1962 marked the first step in the establishment of effective national networking for Australian TV stations. The cable supported the simultaneous live broadcast of the 5th test of the 1962–63 Ashes series to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne – a major milestone in Australian television history.
The introduction of satellite broadcasting in the late 1960s allowed news stories and programs to be accessed from around the world. The first live satellite transmission occurred between Australia and the United Kingdom in 1966. The first direct telecast across the Pacific from North America to Australia took place on 6 June 1967 when "Australia Day" at Expo 67 in Montreal was broadcast live to Australia via a US satellite link. Prime Minister Harold Holt officially opened the Australian pavilion and visitors watched events including boomerang throwing, sheep-dog trials, wood chopping contests and tennis matches with members of the Australian Davis Cup team.
In the afternoon a variety concert, 'Pop goes Australia', featured musicians Normie Rowe, Bobby Limb, Rolf Harris and The Seekers. The entire 10-hour program was televised live and several hundred thousand people across Australia sat up through the night to watch it. One newspaper reported that the picture was so clear that hundreds of viewers rang a Sydney television station to seek assurance that the pictures really were being broadcast live from Canada.
Two weeks later, on 25 June 1967, Australia participated in the historic "Our World" broadcast, the first live global satellite television hookup involving fourteen countries. The event is now chiefly remembered for the participation of
Even though the dominance of imported American and British programming continued, local production gradually increased in the 1960s and several important new Australian programs were launched.
Veteran actor-producer John McCallum and filmmaker Lee Robinson created the children's adventure series Skippy the Bush Kangaroo which premiered in 1968 on the Nine Network. At a reported cost of A$6000 per episode it was said to have been the most expensive Australian TV series yet produced up to that time (by comparison, the first series of Star Trek reportedly cost around US$200,000 per episode). Although Australian TV was still in black-and-white at the time, Skippy was filmed in colour with a view to overseas sales and it was the first Australian-made series to achieve significant international success, with sales to more than 80 countries worldwide, and it became the first Australian TV show to be widely screened in the USA.
Winners of the first nationally shown TV Week Logie Awards included In Melbourne Tonight host Graham Kennedy – twice, Pick-a-box host Bob Dyer, Lorrae Desmond from ABC's The Lorrae Desmond Show, Four Corners reporter Michael Charlton, Bobby Limb, Jimmy Hannan, Gordon Chater, Brian Henderson and Hazel Phillips.
Numerous television stations were launched, mainly concentrated around southern and eastern parts of the country. By the turn of the decade, the takeup of television had increased dramatically – by 1960 up to 70% of homes in Sydney and Melbourne had a television set. Following its introduction to regional centres and other capital cities through the late 1950s and 1960s over 90% of Australian homes in established markets had a television set. The new medium had also become highly lucrative to advertisers.
In 1967 the
The first fully equipped – permanent – colour studios and post-production facilities were set up in 1969 at Video Tape Corporation in Sydney (VTC), by executives that decamped from TEN. Although the output was hobbled to monochrome until 1974, many original long and short form productions were completed over the years until its closure and eventual absorption into other companies in the late 1980s.
Test broadcasting of colour began in the late 1960s. The full changeover to colour transmission did not occur until 1975.
Television and programming in the 1970s
Following the new medium's establishment in most major metropolitan and regional centres, television continued to expand to remote areas, most notably those in the northern and western parts of Australia –
In 1969, a group of ex-network executives pooled together to create Video-Tape Corporation (VTC) in East Roseville. This was to be the first end-to-end 'fully electronic' (no film) colour video facility in the region, intended to be up and running with studios, audio, OB and post-production facilities to feed the emerging colour broadcast industry. To accommodate producers and film aesthetics, VTC also installed comprehensive 'film-to-tape' (telecine) capabilities as they grew. However the networks and government were locked in their own battles, and despite being ready for full colour operation from around 1971, VTC was hobbled until 1973–74 before the content would ever reach "the masses". Around that same time, Royce Smeale/ECV arrived to offer a complementary service with more emphasis on production and OB services.
In 1972 it was announced that all stations would move to colour on 1 March 1975, using the European PAL standard mandated in 1968. The slogan used to sell colour television to the Australian public was 'March first into colour'. Australia was to have one of the fastest change-overs to colour television in the world – by 1978 over 64% of households in Sydney and Melbourne had colour television sets.
Government subsidies provided for the production of local series led to a boom in Australian-produced content. Some of the most popular series included Crawford Productions police dramas Homicide, Division 4 which started during the 1960s and Matlock Police which began in 1971; variety series Young Talent Time; comedy/variety series Hey Hey It's Saturday, which ran for 28 years until 1999, music show Countdown; soap operas Bellbird which had started in late 1967, Number 96 and The Box, and the World War II-themed The Sullivans. Against the Wind, the first major mini-series produced for commercial television, was shown on the Seven Network. Later hospital drama The Young Doctors ran for 1396 episodes between 1976 and 1983, becoming at the time it ended Australia's longest running drama series.
Graham Kennedy returned to the Nine Network after his departure from In Melbourne Tonight with The Graham Kennedy Show in 1973, but was banned from appearing from television in 1975 after an infamous 'crow-call' incident. Kennedy subsequently returned in 1977 as the host of Blankety Blanks. In 1979, commercial stations were mandated to provide 'C'-classified programming targeted at children between 4-5pm, and a minimum of 30 minutes of pre-school programming prior to that. These regulations saw the establishment of a number of children's series including Simon Townsend's Wonder World and Shirl's Neighbourhood.
News and current affairs, particularly on commercial television, grew significantly – the Nine Network's
A special Gold Logie Award was awarded to the Apollo 11 crew in 1970, alongside actors Barry Crocker and Maggie Tabberer. Other Gold Logie winners included Gerard Kennedy, Tony Barber, Graham Kennedy, Pat McDonald, Ernie Sigley and Denise Drysdale in the first awards presentation shown in colour, Don Lane, Jeanne Little, and Bert Newton.
Sports broadcasting became increasingly sophisticated through the 1970s.
In 1977 the
The Special Broadcasting Service, originally a group of radio stations broadcasting government information to ethnic minorities in Sydney and Melbourne, began test transmissions on ABC in the two cities – mainly showing foreign-language programming on Sunday mornings.
Television and programming in the 1980s
The country's second national public broadcaster, the
Although Australia had seen the introduction of the
The newly relaunched Network 10, with
In 1983 a two-hour experiment was conducted, in which the Seven Network televised a series of 3D films.
The soap opera Home and Away has been produced in Sydney by the Seven Network since July 1987. It premiered in January 1988 and is the second longest-running drama on Australian television, winning more than 30 Logie Awards. The show initially focused on the characters of Pippa and Tom Fletcher who ran the Summer Bay Caravan Park and lived there with a succession of foster children, most notably their adopted daughter Sally, played by Kate Ritchie. Other notable actors who have starred in the series include Heath Ledger, Julian McMahon and Naomi Watts.
The late 1980s saw the ownership changeover for many commercial and regional stations. Six main ownership groups emerged, three for commercial broadcasters and three for regional broadcasters This was the beginning of aggregation for Australian television.
Television and programming in the 1990s
The 1990s saw a boom in Australian-made drama, which included Halifax f.p., Stingers, Water Rats, SeaChange, All Saints, and the long running police drama Blue Heelers which ran from 1993 to 2006, one of the longest running Australian programs, equaling Homicide's record of 510 episodes; a record set two decades earlier. A number of successful comedy programs also aired during the 1990s, including Fast Forward, Full Frontal, The Late Show and Good News Week. Hey Hey It's Saturday ended its 28-year run in November 1999. One of the most significant developments in terms of high quality Australian programming was the establishment by the Federal Government of the Commercial Television Production Fund. One of the most significant changes for
The first license area to aggregate was that of southern New South Wales, on 31 March 1989, followed by Queensland on 31 December 1990, northern New South Wales on 31 December 1991, Victoria on 1 January 1992 and Tasmania in 1994 (two stations only). Some areas too small to be properly aggregated, such as
During the 1990s the first
Subscription television allowed customers to have access to more channels. For example, PSN (later
The advent of pay television in Australia resulted in the
Galaxy folded in 1998 and was subsequently absorbed by Foxtel. Despite recent growth,[when?] subscription television in Australia still has relatively few subscribers.
Television and programming in the 2000s
The 2000 Summer Olympics resulted in huge ratings for its broadcaster (the event was hosted in Sydney) for the Seven Network – over 6.5 million Australians watched the telecast of opening and closing ceremonies, which were amongst the most-watched programs in television history and helped Seven defeat the Nine Network in ratings terms for the first time in more than two decades. The broadcast also ran on the short-lived C7 Sport subscription channel. The Dream with Roy and HG was a sports/comedy talk show, broadcast every night during the Sydney 2000 (and subsequent Salt Lake 2002 and Athens 2004 Olympics) presented by Australian comedy duo Roy and HG which achieved great popularity during the Games.
The turn of the millennium introduced digital television to Australia, as well as the transition to widescreen standard-definition and high-definition television production. Community stations also began to receive permanent transmitter licences, replacing temporary licences that were renewed yearly. At this time it was thought that allowing Commercial Multicasting would be detrimental so the publicly owned networks (ABC and SBS) were the only networks that were allowed to create new digital SD Channels. This was only revised after Digital Television Uptake was not as high as expected in many areas, and from 1 January 2009, Network 10, Nine and Seven were allowed to create alternative SD channels.
Many successful Australian shows were created during the 2000s, including
Amongst the new digital 'multichannels', one of the earliest was the
In October 2005,
The Nine Network, the traditional ratings leader, suffered ratings losses by the mid-2000s, losing out to the Seven Network, which became the most popular Australian network by early 2007, thanks to its "Seven in '07" campaign.
The move to
2009 also saw the launch of four other channels,
Television and programming in the 2010s
In the early stages of the 2010s, several governmental analysts observed that commercial networks were having trouble making the transition to digital television and subsequently, a $250m rebate was implemented on their licensing fees. The government funded stations, ABC and SBS, received increased funding in the closing stages of the 2000s to enable them to make the transition to digital TV. Meanwhile, the community station
Other issues were noted such as the increased cost of producing local content on commercial networks. For example: it costs roughly $800,000 to produce one hour of local content such as Underbelly and Packed to the Rafters, in comparison to a mere $100,000 to purchase one hour of the US produced Two and a Half Men, the former example screening very often during the off ratings period 2009–10. The cost disparity has led many to question the viability of commercial networks in the future of delivering and investing in locally produced content and has also brought their financial arrangements with business and industry groups into question. Meanwhile, ABC and SBS quickly began producing very successful local content with shows such as Review, Lawrence Leung's Choose Your Own Adventure, Hungry Beast and many more publicly funded local programs, produced in Australia, with Australian cast and crews, adding to the increasing health of Australian film and television industries.
During January 2010, the ABC announced its long-awaited 24 hour news channel,
On 19 August 2010, the Seven Network announced their third digital channel,
In 2011, the Seven Network created history by winning all 40 weeks of a television ratings season for the first time since OzTAM was established in 2001.
On 12 December 2012, NITV started its free-to-air broadcasts under new ownership of SBS.
On 10 December 2013, the analogue TV shutdown completed all around Australia.
On 19 August 2015, then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced a bill retracting the legal obligation for broadcasters to broadcast their primary channel in standard definition.
On 29 August 2015, Racing.com was launched owned by Racing Victoria and Seven West Media.
In October 2015, the Nine Network announced their fourth digital channel, 9Life. Launching on 26 November, 9Life is a dedicated lifestyle and reality channel on Channel 94. Around the same time, 9HD was relaunched on Channel 90.
On 28 February 2016, the Seven Network launched a fifth digital channel, 7flix, which is a dedicated movie and entertainment channel on Channel 76.
On 2 March 2016, Network 10 relaunched
On 10 May 2016, the Seven Network relaunched 7HD in Melbourne and Adelaide on Channel 70. On 16 December of the same year, it was relaunched on the same channel in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
Television and programming in the 2020s
With the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the early months of 2020, television production in Australia (as it did worldwide) suffered greatly due to health requirements; many programs such as Neighbours and Home and Away were forced to suspend filming in an effort to keep their respective cast and crews safe from infection. From the first (of many) 'health lockdowns' until the later months of 2021, many studios were closed or reorganised to suit the legal requirements for spread prevention. As vaccination rates against the virus increased, many of the studios began to reopen and production rates have increased, with Neighbours and Home and Away restarting production in October/November 2021.
In most areas there is a choice of three free-to-air commercial broadcasters as well as two national public broadcasters, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service. A third, recently established, National Indigenous Television service is available in many remote areas.
Commercial television is dominated by three major metropolitan-based networks, the
Community television progressively launched between the 1980s to the 2000s. The sector is represented nationally by the
Cable television has been available in Australia since the early 1990s, with Galaxy TV being the first. It became insolvent in 1997, due to decreasing popularity after the launch of Foxtel and Austar in May 1995, two cable services that offered more variety than Galaxy TV. Foxtel commenced by supplying programs to Galaxy's subscribers on an interim basis. In 1999 Foxtel was able to significantly boost its customer base by acquiring Galaxy TV's subscribers from the Australis Media liquidator and commenced offering its services on a satellite television platform. There is currently one major subscription television provider in Australia, Foxtel. Foxtel bought Austar in 2012 and has now completed the merger of its operations. Other minor providers include TransACT, Neighbourhood Cable, and SelecTV.
In the capital cities, cable is the more predominant form of pay television distribution. In regional areas or in new or outskirted areas of cities, satellite is far more common.
Due to its history, financial backing and market dominance, most local versions of channels are either owned directly by Foxtel or through related companies.
In terms of coverage, Foxtel's cable network covers parts of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth. Optus's network covers small parts of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, though its restrictive subscription rules mean that many people living in apartments or confined living areas may be unable to connect.
Austar (now Foxtel) is available by satellite in most of regional and rural Australia, but does have a small cable network in the city of
Internet television in Australia is the digital distribution of movies and television content via the Internet. In
Broadcasting programming synopsis
Australia has produced numerous notable television series and miniseries, with the most prominent programs coming from the comedy, police, and medical drama genres.
Serials and dramas
One of the earliest Australian police drama series was
Notable miniseries have included
Australian soap opera success began with Bellbird in 1967 which was a moderate but consistent success. Following this the huge success of Number 96 in 1972 prompted creation of the similar The Box in 1974. These serials were all cancelled in 1977. Following this successful serials included The Young Doctors, The Sullivans, Prisoner, Sons and Daughters, Neighbours and Home and Away. This later group were also screened internationally, finding particular success in the United Kingdom.
Comedy series have included
The scheduling for each network is quite diverse: while the Seven Network, Nine Network, and affiliates have an hour of news and current affairs at 6:00pm, Network 10 has news at 5:00pm while ABC has news at 7:00pm and SBS has world news at 6:30pm. The primetime slot in Australia runs from 6.00pm to midnight, with the most popular programming shown from around 7:30pm to 10:30pm.
Many programs shown in these times on commercial networks are taken from American television, while ABC has a mixture of Australian and British productions. SBS, as a multicultural broadcaster, shows a range of programs produced locally and overseas in a number of languages. Imported programming has typically been shown months after its debut in the United States or the United Kingdom, however in recent times networks have begun to air programs within hours or days of their overseas counterparts.
Seven and Nine have rival breakfast shows that run from 5:30–9:00am while
Most scheduling is consistent across Australia's three time zones – this means that
One exception to this rule are subscription channels, which always run on
News and current affairs
Both national public broadcasters, the
Higher ratings for earlier bulletins from commercial broadcasters including the Seven Network and Nine Network have prompted fierce ratings competition. For most years up until the mid-1990's Nine News was traditionally the highest-rating news service in Australia, but in 2005 it was overtaken by Seven News before it regained the lead on a national basis in 2013.
In Australia, there are two local 24 hour news channels. The
A number of regional television networks produce news services.
Current affairs programming is shown in a broad range of formats, ranging between tabloid-style current affairs shows to investigative programs such as Four Corners.
Other current affairs programs include news and analysis program Lateline, 7.30, Foreign Correspondent, Insiders, Offsiders and Australia Wide.
SBS also shows a number of current affairs programs, such as Dateline, the country's longest-running international current affairs program, launched in 1984. Insight, originally conceived in 1999 as a domestic current affairs program, is a discussion forum focussing on a single issue. SBS's Indigenous Media Unit produces another program titled Living Black, which covers issues relevant to Australia's indigenous community.
There are a number of commercial current affairs programs. The Seven Network, in addition to Sunrise, broadcasts Today Tonight, a tabloid current affairs program, every weeknight after its 6pm news bulletin. On the Nine Network, A Current Affair, first shown in 1971, competes directly with Today Tonight and has, since Ray Martin began presenting in 1994, provided a similar mix of content. On Sundays, 60 Minutes features a number of stories produced both locally and from its US counterpart. In the morning Sunday covers local and overseas news, politics, and current affairs, in addition to film reviews, politics, arts, and music.
Political and interview program
In the 21st century, and especially the 2010s, programmes and series by and about Indigenous Australians proliferated. The Circuit (2007) was an early example; Redfern Now, 8MMM Aboriginal Radio, The Gods of Wheat Street (2014), Ready for This, Cleverman, Black Comedy, The Warriors, Kiki & Kitty, Total Control, KGB, Little J & Big Cuz, Mystery Road were all well received. Shari Sebbens commented that a "golden age" of Indigenous television is here.
The last episode of the second series of Get Krack!n, featuring Miranda Tapsell and Nakkiah Lui and co-written by Lui, trended on Twitter, outraged right wing commentator Andrew Bolt, and was widely lauded as hilarious, ground-breaking, hard-hitting satire.
National Indigenous Television (NITV) is (since 2012) a national, free-to-air channel dedicated to Indigenous stories, news, films and issues, with programming produced largely by Indigenous people, funded through SBS. In early 2016, it refreshed its brand and revamped its schedule, with an increased focus on its central charter, Indigenous news and current affairs.
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Ratings are collected for 40 weeks during the year, excluding a two-week break during Easter and ten weeks over summer. The majority of locally produced comedy and drama on commercial networks is shown during the ratings period.
For many years up until the mid-nineties, the Nine Network had been the ratings leader in Australia, typically followed by the Seven Network and Network 10. Subscription television and the two national broadcasters, ABC and in particular SBS, due to its special-interest nature, typically attract fewer viewers than the three commercial networks. Network 10, due to its programming line-up, has traditionally been the market leader for younger viewers.
In 2007, the Seven Network overtook its rival Nine Network in terms of average viewers,
Content on Australian television is regulated by the
The regulations in place define what a broadcaster may put on-air, the time(s) of day they are allowed to broadcast specific material, and what advertisements are shown in relation to these criteria. In essence, the Australian Communications and Media Authority controls what content is shown, what time(s) of day it is shown, and who controls what is shown (i.e.: international media as opposed to
Genre restrictions imposed by the Australian
- Digital television in Australia
- High-definition television in Australia
- Internet television in Australia
- Subscription television in Australia
- History of television
- List of digital television channels in Australia
- Sports TV broadcasting contracts in Australia
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