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History

14 Dec 2017

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Television – Southbank leads the way

The month of November 1956 was an exciting one for Melbourne. Late in the month the Olympic Games kicked off, largely centred at the MCG.

But early in that month was the much-anticipated arrival of television, an event that would irrevocably change the leisure activities of everyone.

There were three television stations and they became linked to the suburb in which they were located – GTV9, in Bendigo St Richmond, ABC2 in Ripponlea, and HSV7 in Dorcas St Southbank. Television was obviously different in its early black and white years, with new skills (on and off camera), new stars, an evening news bulletin and then closure at about 10.30.

The production studios and headquarters of HSV7 (originally owned by the Herald Sun) were housed on the north-east and north-west corners of Dorcas and Wells streets. The sprawling building on the eastern side was topped with a large mast to transmit signals, similar to the one constructed on the top of Mt Dandenong.

The ability to receive television transmissions was a major talking point for Melburnians as they spent their hard-earned money on television sets and installed aerials on their rooftops. The western side of Dorcas St was formerly the site of Thornycroft Australia, motor showrooms and service station from the 1920s.

The first broadcast of television in Victoria was by HSV7 on November 4 and included a live broadcast from the Tivoli Theatre in Bourke St. Like GTV9, the station was open in time for the Olympic Games broadcasts.

HSV7 soon provided a range of viewing options to entertain viewers – drama (such as Homicide from 1964), news (presented initially by Eric Pearce and later by Brian Naylor), variety shows (Sunnyside Up), the annual Good Friday Appeal for the Royal Children’s Hospital, children’s shows (such as Romper Room) and of course sport. TV Ringside was broadcast from Festival Hall on Monday night, and HSV7 pioneered the televising of (then) VFL football.

From 1959, a generation of Melburnians would tune into World of Sport at lunchtime on Sunday, and then tuck into mum’s Sunday roast. Stars were born at HSV7 including a young Bert Newton, who hosted The Late Show.

The eastern part of the Dorcas St site was operational until 2002 when the station moved progressively to Docklands, and it was then developed for the Elm apartments.

The western part of the site was converted for use by Fox Sport, but still provides an important link to Melbourne’s motoring history. The distinctive building remains today but for how long?

 

Robin Grow

President - Australian Art Deco and Modernism Society

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