THIS month Canberra’s first television station, Southern Cross Ten, celebrates 50 years.
It has been a long and winding history for the station; starting from humble beginnings in 1962 up on Black Mountain, with 22 staff, led by broadcasting pioneer and founding general manager George Barlin, to its current Watson station, which now supplies television to more than 30 separate broadcast markets across Australia with more than 170 staff.
It’s had many name changes, starting out as CTC (Canberra Television Canberra), and just as many ownership changes, including the “golden years” under Kerry Stokes.
It owns some of Canberra’s most important historical footage, including Gough Whitlam’s dismissal speech on the steps of Old Parliament House and the fatal Canberra Hospital demolition.
It has also been a stepping stone for many TV personalities including Steve Liebman, “Foreign Correspondent” journalist Mark Corcoran, sports reporter Andrew McKinlay and CNN international news anchor Rosemarie Church.
Television operations general manager Jeremy Flynn said that over the years, the station had produced many local content programs including children’s programs, live sports programs and outside broadcasts at Parliament House and at community events including Birdman Rallies at Lake Burley Griffin.
“We used to cross out to a sports reporter who would go with the Canberra Raiders to Shark Park in Sydney because they were playing Cronulla in the afternoon,” he said.
One of the stations lowest points was losing its news bulletin hour in 2001.
“It’s fair to say, in the time I’ve been here, when the news bulletin was rationalised in 2001, they weren’t particularly happy times,” he said.
“However, with evolution being evolution, it has re-evolved now to have a greater news presence in my mind, be it a different type of news, but a greater news presence across all of our assets across the entire eastern seaboard that comes out of this building than we did in 2001.”
The station now produces news content, five days a week, for about 20 markets along the eastern seaboard and Darwin; producing more than 600 news updates a week.
They also have supply agreements with Seven and Channel Nine, although its main agreement is with Network Ten.
For Network Ten, the Watson station supplies programs to the entire eastern seaboard, outside capital cities, regional SA, Tasmania and Darwin.
For Seven, it supplies televison to Tasmania, regional SA, Darwin and central Australia, and for Nine it supplies to regional SA.
“I think the evolution of television is such that we are in some fantastic days, we are in groundbreaking new television in terms of multi-channelling and our business has changed substantially over time,” Jeremy said.
“While I have an enormous regard and respect for what we used to do as a regional broadcaster, with the economy scale these days simply doesn’t make that possible as much as it was back then.
“It’s one of the most exciting times for television in Australia in all time, in my view. We are a little way behind the States, Europe and the UK, they’ve been in the multi-channel space for quite a few years, however in a really short period of time Australia is going to catch up.”