The Opening Night of the National Television Service:
Early on it was decided that the National Television Service's
night ceremony should not take place from the congested surroundings
Gore Hill 'Arcon', but should be conducted from the Sydney Symphony
Orchestra's rehearsal studio at Kings Cross. This was in a building
Darlinghurst Road on the first and second floors running through
Street, occupied on the ground floor by a Woolworths Variety Store.
known as Radio Studio 227. The Pye outside broadcast van was parked
rear in Kellett Street, with a microwave 'dish' placed on the roof,
order to beam the signal back to Gore Hill. As luck would have it,
was a line-of-sight for the microwave signal passing between the
pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and through to the receiving
located high on the 'Little Toot' mast at Gore Hill. From there
was routed to the 'Arcon's' Master Control as an outside broadcast,
being switched to the transmitters.
The big moment finally arrived on Monday night November 5th, 1956.
before 7pm viewers heard James Dibble saying "Stand by for
night of the National Television Service". At 7pm a cross
was made from the
'Arcon' to the Kings Cross Studio with a fanfare sounding and the
displaying the ABC-TV 'egg-beater' symbol (which was designed by
Producer Mungo McCallum). The camera drew back to show Michael Charlton
standing next to the mechanism that produced the rotating symbol
greeting viewers with: "Hello there, and good evening ladies
and children. This emblem that you've just seen is tonight the symbol
historic occasion - the opening of the National Television Service,
of course is your television service. And we hope that tonight,
and in the
weeks and years to come, you're going to see and enjoy a lot more
of it on
ABN-2, ABN Channel 2. Now my name is Michael Charlton and I'm your
here tonight, I'm going to welcome you and show you around, and
meet a few of the people who are going to make this service tick.
going to show you something too of how we bring these people, the
entertainers, to your home, how we bring them to that small bright
in your living room that you're watching now, or perhaps as many
of you are
doing, looking through shop windows at television screens in the
Now to do this we're going to have to hop and zig-zag all over Sydney,
here where I am in our Kings Cross studio. And first of all we're
take you to our central studio, and there the Prime Minister Mr.
waiting to open the ABC's National Television Service. And he's
him, the Postmaster-General, Mr. Davidson, the Leader of the Federal
Opposition in the Senate, Senator Mc.Kenna, and the Chairman of
Sir Richard Boyer. So let's go and join them. Over now to Sir Richard
Michael Charlton in fulfilling the role of the first face on ABC-TV
repeating the role of his Father, Conrad Charlton. At 8pm on July
Conrad Charlton announced "This is the Australian Broadcasting
and went on to introduce the Prime Minister, Mr. Joseph Lyons who
officially opened the ABC.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies in his official opening address,
tribute to the staff of the ABC's Technical Services Division by
"Now this may all seem very simple to you looking on, ...but
the truth is
that this is a triumph for the technicians.. The technical skill
is wonderful, and I'm happy to think that we have a pretty fair
share of it
in our own country".
The technical team that night included, in the Pye OB van, Lloyd
(Technical Producer), Jack Christopher and John Laker (Camera Control
Units), Gordon Waterhouse (Sound Technician), and Ken Middleton
(Supervising Engineer Television H.O.). Mungo McCallum was the Producer
Prudence Bavin the Script Assistant. On cameras in the Kellet Street
were Pat Kavanagh (Camera 1), Eddie Berlage (Camera 2), and Peter
(Camera 3). Barry Lambert was manning the Mole Richardson boom microphone.
Dave Tapp was the Technical Producer back at the 'Arcon'.
(Insert Fig. 25 photo here subtitled "Inside the Sydney Pye
OB van on
opening night - 5th Noveber 1956. From left: Gordon Waterhouse (Audio),
Lloyd Berndt (Technical Producer), Ken Middleton (Sup. Eng. TV NSW),
McCallum (Producer), Prue Bavin (Script Assistant).")
With the completion of the official opening formalities, it was
time for a
panorama, apparently from the roof of the studio, across the Harbour,
towards Gore Hill, over the city skyline and down to William Street.
truth was that the panoramic shot had actually been filmed some
before, and was a telecine insert from back at the 'Arcon'. The
had been filmed from the roof of ABC-Radio's building on the corner
William Street and Forbes Street.
The first technical 'glitch' of the evening occurred after Michael
invited viewers to see the massive EMI Flying Spot telecine unit.
'threw' to John West standing in front of the equipment back at
'Arcon', who introduced the telecine operator Don Crowley waiting
to run a
film specially recorded for the occasion, featuring the violinist
Ferras. With the cue "Roll Telecine" from John West, the
surprised to see Christian Ferras energetically 'fiddling' but with
A newspaper report the following day commented: "The voices
could be clearly heard asking 'Where's the sound? What has happened
There is no sound". The problem was subsequently identified
as being due to
the very complicated procedure required to change from the screening
35mm film to 16mm film. All the necessary switches had been changed
except the audio! Unfortunately this wasn't the only telecine problem
the night. Trouble struck again later with a newsreel, when the
However the real achievement of the night was the staging of a live
'The Twelve Pound Look' by J.M. Barrie (of 'Peter Pan' fame), from
'Arcon' using the two Marconi cameras relocated from the St. Peter's
training studio. Harry Adams was on Camera 1, and Len Richardson
Camera 2, as Len described: "two cameras on tripods which
had minds of
their own." The pictures and sound were excellent, with
and camera work, providing a most encouraging introduction for future
drama productions on ABC television. 'Glitches' and all, the opening
was, as one reviewer commented: "an exciting night, a foretaste
sorts of good things to come. The programme had movement, variety
spice of the unexpected. The technical achievement was considerable".