ABC TV at GH in the Fifties

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Opening Night

THE FIRST DAY OF TRANSMISSION (5 November 1956)

How it all began. First the "Opener Run Down".

Then click on the appropriate Player to see the first transmisssion from ABC TV.

Opening Night

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Opening Night

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The first face on ABC television was that of Michael Charlton who was the presenter on the opening night. The official speakers were Sir Richard Boyer, Robert Menzies the Prime Minister, C.W. Davidson the Postmaster General and Senator N.J. McKenna, representing Dr. H.V. Evatt Leader of the Opposition.

The opening night programs were linked to Gore Hill from ABC Studios in Kellet Street, Kings Cross where Michael Charlton and the Official Party were assembled.

Official Party
Christian Ferras
Telecine
 
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The program crossed to Gore Hill Telecine for the first musical item on ABN2 (a Bach gavotte with the violinist Christian Ferras). This was transmitted without sound! During the start of the first newsreel the film broke! Then it was back to the Kings Cross studios for a number of variety segments featuring artists already known on ABC Radio.

Michael and Doug
Valarie Coonie
Paul O'Loughlin
 
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The first drama (J.M. Barrie's The Twelve Pound Look) produced in the Arcon Studio at GH was transmitted without any serious problems! The news of the opening night spread across the nation. Here's what the Townsville Daily Bulletin had to say.

During Michael Charlton's introduction to the opening night a panoramic scan of the Sydney skyline was replayed from Telecine. The tallest features on the skyline were the AWA and Radio Station 2UW's Radio Towers. A short video of the segment can be viewed by clicking the appropriate Player below.

 

City Skyline

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City Skyline

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Behind the Scenes on Opening Night

In researching the source of the recording of the opening night on ABN2 it turns out that there were no telerecording facilities as yet installed in Sydney. They were in fact being installed in Melbourne together with their own facility to cover the recording of the Olympic Games of 1956 which was held from Novenber 22 to December 8.

The Sydney Opening Night recording was facilited by a resourceful Cine Cameraman pointing his film camera at a television monitor. It also probably explains why there were breaks in the recording (including hands in shot) as the camera reels had to be changed every 10 minutes and as programme was sourced from the Kings Cross Studio and the Arcon Studio as well as live in telecine its a wonder that a recording happened at all.

Some of the official pictures of Opening Night appear below as well as a Letter of Appreciation from the General Manager, Charles Moses to individuals for their contributions to Opening Night. (Click on images to enlage)

Len Richardson and Harry Adams
The Opening Set
Ruth Page and Bruce Webber
Puppet Set
Wardrobe Department

The tale of Opening Night is also covered in Doug Grant's book "Alright Leaving Here - 50 Years of ABC Technical Services"

The ABC program "Can We Help" answers viewers questions submitted to its team. "What Happened on the ABC's First Television Broadcast?" was one such question.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Can We Help Question