The article is divided into the following sections:
HistoryThe Lead Up
The Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation (NBTC) was founded in May 1958,
to begin preparations for the upcoming television licence allocations. The main
shareholders in NBTC were United Broadcasting Company (owned by the Lamb family,
owners of radio station 2KO), Airsales Broadcasting Company (owners of 2HD), and the
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate
(to be bought out by John Fairfax and
Sons Ltd.). In accordance with Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB) regulations,
at least 50% of the company had to be locally owned. 750 000 shares were made available
by the NBTC (at 10s. ($A1) each) and approximately 2000 people bought shares.
The ABCB awarded the commercial television licence for
the Newcastle and Hunter Valley area to the NBTC on the 1st of August 1961. The station
would be transmitting on VHF channel 3, from a transmitter atop Mount Sugarloaf
overlooking Newcastle. Council approval for the transmitter was issued on the 17th
of July that year.
The call-letters, NBN, were derived from the NBTC's name, (N
and Television Corporation), with the second N respresenting N
ew South Wales.
Unofficially, it stood for N
Construction began in November 1961, supervised by engineers from RCA in the United
States. For RCA, it was a step backwards, building a new station transmitting in black
and white while colour television was fast becoming the norm in the United States.
90% of the original equipment was imported from the United States, and held in bond
until they were due to be installed. Equipment was purchased with colour production and
transmission in mind, so that only 20% modification would be required when colour came
Studios would be built on a three-acre block at Mosbri Crescent, near the city centre.
Work on the 142-metre transmitter was delayed by a combination of weather, the
conditions on the road up the mountain, and excited sightseers blocking work trucks
during the weekends. During that time, the technical team stayed at the top of of
The construction took 8 months and cost $1.5 million dollars. Staff were required to
work seven days a week (except on Christmas Day) to make the deadline.
Test transmissions took place in early 1962, and could be seen as far away as
Muswellbrook, Avalon (Sydney), Katoomba, Lithgow, Gloucester and around Port Kembla.
Staff employed by NBN at this early stage included the chairman, Stuart Lamb (of UBC);
general manager, C.J. Derwin; operations manager, Ken Stone; production manager
(and ex-2KO announcer) Matthew Tapp; news editor, Murray Masterston;
producer/directors, John Brown (of TVW-7 Perth), Godfrey Phillip
(of GTV-9 Melbourne)&Ronald Gant (of the ABC);
station manager, Ken Brown; floor manager, Len Richardson;
staging manager, "Bud" Budden; AT(??), Robin Cornwall (also an ex-2KO announcer);
and station orchestra conductor, Frank Scott.The Launch
NBN's first programme on launch night began at 6pm with a taped welcome by the
then-Postmaster General Charles Davidson. Following that was a guided tour around
the NBN studios by the original production manager, Matthew Tapp.
At 6.30, Murray Finlay began one of the longest news reading stints in Australia with
NBN's first news bulletin. That was followed by The Phil Silvers Show
and NBN's first movie, the 1937 movie Green Light
, starring Errol Flynn.The George Sanders Theatre
series followed at 9pm, with the opening episode,
"The Man in the Elevator"
, followed by the first episode from the
Halls of Ivy
, then the first Mystery Theatre
"The Missing Head"
Anglican Bishop James Housden gave the first evening meditation at 10.30pm, which
marked the end of the first night of transmission for NBN.
Commercials on that first night included ads for Rothmans Cigarettes,
Streets Ice Cream, Ampol, Commonwealth Bank, Shell, and W.D. and H.O. Wills, amongst
That first week, NBN had set the Australian television record for most time spent on
air in a week for a new station (56 hours).
In the lead-up to the launch, the station promised at least two movies a week (Thursdays at
8.30pm and Sundays at 7.30pm), as well as men's interest programs each Saturday afternoon
between 3pm and 4pm. Women were well covered with programs in the early afternoon, followed by
childrens programming from 4.30pm to 6.30pm weekdays and more "adult" programming 30 minutes
before closedown each night.1960's to the 1980's
To begin with, NBN's coverage extended from Bungwahl to Broken Bay and as far west
as Aberdeen. It operated from 2.30pm to 10.30pm weekdays, 3.00pm to 11.00pm Saturdays
and 3.00pm to 10.30pm Sundays.
Locally produced programs in those early days included Home at Three
with Ken Eady,
(which aired Monday through to Wednesday and Fridays at 3pm), Let's Cook With Gas
(in association with the Gas and Coke Company Ltd, Thursdays at 3pm), Tempo
Lappin (Saturdays), Focus
(3.30pm Sundays) and news bulletins airing nightly
In 1963, Consolidated Press Limited and News Limited bought 200 000 shares in NBTC.
Shortly after, United Broadcasting Company sold its shares to Neatherley Investments
Limited of Adelaide, and Australian United Investments Pty. Ltd. of Melbourne.
Each bought 100 000 shares.
Time Enterprises, Inc., purchased AUI's shares in November 1967.
In 1968-1969, NBN acquired a relay from the Postmaster-General to enhance their news
In 1970, NBN began upgrading its studios in order to begin colour production and
transmission as soon as colour television was given the go ahead. Costing around
$360 000, improvements included an enlarged film department, new film editing and
cleaning equipment, enlarged master control facilities (including four video transfer
machines), new telecine room with caption scanner and slide drums, and expanded offices
for administration and staff, including new offices and a boardroom.
In 1972, NBN was granted a license to operate a translator in the Upper Hunter from
Rossgole Lookout near Aberdeen, on channel 10.
As a part of preparations for colour production, orders were placed with Rank Cintel and
EMI of the UK, and Ampex of the United States for new colour equipment in 1972-73.
In 1973-1974, NBTC purchased local travel agency Jayes Travel. Other companies owned by
NBTC included Colour Tran Labratories, and a joint venture with a foreign company via
Pippita, involved with the rental of television sets.
NBN began its long running newshour in March 1974, becoming the first television
station in Australia to have a one hour news bulletin. The bulletin is still produced
today, and is the only hour-long bulletin on regional television.
Colour television tests began on October 7, 1974. Another set of upgrades for the
studio cost $1.25 million. On March 1, 1975, the station began regular colour
Further transmitters were installed at Banderra Downs, Merriwa (also on channel 10) and
at Mount Helen, Murrurundi (on channel 1), at a cost of $180 000 in 1977.
In 1978, NBTC made a bid for local radio station (and former owner) 2HD; this was eventually
disallowed by the ABT. Also that year, more studio extensions were built, including a new car
park, and was offically opened on 17th of November, 1978.
On October the 1st 1979, NBTC offically became NBN Limited, the station itself renamed
NBN Television. Prior to this, NBN was known either as Channel 3, NBN-3 or even NBN
At this stage, NBN was producing 20 hours a week of local and networked programming from
Also in 1979, the station purchased a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter.
In early 1980, NBN purchased Southern Television Corporation Limited, owners of NWS-9
Adelaide for $19 million. Also in 1980, NBN began a Teletext service and also bought
the free local newspaper, the Newcastle Star. NBN also had a hand in the rebuilding of
the old Royal Theatre, joining forces with Hoyts Theatres.
NBN was also one of the major sponsors of the University of Newcastle's radio station, 2NUR.
In 1981, Hadjoin Pty. Ltd., a subsidary of Perth-based company Parry's Esplanade Limited
(later Parry Corporation), purchased 20% of NBN for $6.7 million.
By 1981, NBN's ownership structure was as follows:
- The Lamb Family - 35.02%
- Michael Wasley and family - 30.14%
- Hadjoin Pty. Ltd. - 19.88%
- Others - 14.46%
Parry had then attempted to buy Wasley's stake in NBN, but was blocked by the Supreme
Court. It was later revealed that the Lambs had opposed NBN's purchase of the Star
newspaper and the attempt to buy 2HD. The company also faced possible suspension from
the stock market if a decision wasn't made soon.
In order to resolve the tension, NBN sold NWS-9 to the Lambs in exchange for the
majority stake in NBN in 1982.
In March 16th 1983, Hadjoin finally completed the purchase of NBN, officially delisting
the company. It had cost Parry $6.76 per share for 1 285 289 to acquire control. Michael
Wasley resigned at year from the board as a result.
In 1984, plans for a second indpendent station in Newcastle had failed.
During that time, NBN and ABC were asked to leave the VHF band to accomodate FM radio.
NBN would have been on channel 51, and ABC on channel 48. To this day, NBN and the ABC
are still on 3 and 5A respectively.
Also in that time, a proposal to launch a Radidated Subscription Television service with
community broadcasting during the daytime hours had also failed.
In 1986, NBN bought the Hungerford Hill Wine Village for $4 million, and sold it two
years later for $7.15 million.The 1989 Earthquake
NBN's footage of the tragic events of late December 1989 were beamed right throughout
the world, and with NBN's reporters also being interviewed by international broadcasters.
You can see NBN's coverage of the earthquake at the Newcastle Regional Museum's permanent
display. 1990's to the 2000's
In the late 1980's, Parry spun off NBN into a new company, NBN Enterprises, and took a 40% stake
in the new company, with Security Pacific Capital Corporation buying 60%. Parry sold
their stake soon after, holding onto Papua New Guinea television station NTN, which
NBN had helped to set up. Fulcrum Media later purchased the station.
This move was a source for confusion, as it was revealed that many companies, including
the NSW State Superannuation Board and Westpac Banking Corporation, held substantial stakes in Fulcrum Media.
Parry's new owner CityWest issued a court challenge in order to get NBN back, but it was revealed that CityWest
was held by Hong Kong company Hung Lung Corporation, thereby breaking foreign ownership laws.
Later on, NBN was sold to Washington H. Soul Pattinson for $36 million.
NBN was one of many stations opposed to aggregation, and offered an alternative by opening up
a second station which it would operate for a period of time before selling it; which, ultimately,
would never eventuate.
Following aggregation on 31 December 1991, the station's coverage expanded to cover all
of northern New South Wales, beginning broadcasting 24 hours a day, and in stereo.
In 1992, NBN became an affiliate of the Nine Network, and in 1994, the station's logo was
changed to reflect that fact.
In 2002, NBN became the first regional station to produce a fully digital television
friendly news set, that is, a news set which can be seen in full view at a 16:9 ratio.
In 2004, Washington H. Soul Pattinson began moves to transfer
control of the station to its publicy-listed subsidiary, Soul Pattinson
Telecommunications, which became SP Telemedia as a result.
On 30 January 2006, NBN adopted a new logo and on air graphics, in line with Nine's
SP Telemedia announced in May 2007 that it had sold NBN to PBL Media - owner of Nine Network stations TCN9, GTV9, QTQ9 and NTD8 - thus giving PBL access to Australia's fourth largest television market.Programming
NBN has always produced some local programming, and had set a record for most local
programming and transmission hours in its first week of operation. It was also a member of
Australian Television Facilities, and had a hand in the production of drama series Silent
In 1963, NBN won the Logie Award for Enterprising Programming (which was only awarded to
regional stations), and another Outstanding Contribution by a Regional Station award in
NBN purchased the Romper Room
franchise from Fremantle International in 1967, which
entertained many a four year old for over 3 decades. The original host was Miss Anne, followed
by Miss Kim, aided by NBN's station mascot, Big Dog, both of whom are still
at NBN to this very day.
Local travel agency Jayes presented their own travel show, Travel Time with Jayes
, a Sunday
night institution for over 20 years, starting in 1962.
Local sport also played a significant role, from the days of sending their first OB van
out to local rugby league and football (soccer) matches in the area, through to coverage
of many of Newcastle's national sporting league teams, including (but not limited to)
the National Rugby League's Newcastle Knights and the now extinct Newcastle Falcons of the National
Basketball League (NBL).
Coverage of Newcastle Rugby League, Northern Soccer League and the Lake Macquarie Golf Tournament,
and outside telecasts of the Phillips Soccer League of Australia, the NBL and
various Sydney tournaments.
Other programs NBN have produced, or had a hand in producing, include:
- Review - an arts and entertainment program hosted by Lowen Partridge and Lucy Wagner;
- Good Morning News - a 20 minute news bulletin at 7.10am weekday mornings, presented by
Murray Finlay and incorporating a surf report with David Jefferies;
- Civic Report - a five minute program airing 5.55pm Saturdays with local council respresentatives
reporting on the latest council activities;
- Greek Affair - with Harry Michaels;
- Variety Italian Style - with Anne Luciano;
- Situations Vacant - co-produced with the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), this aired at 7.25am and
8.30am weekday mornings;
- Small Talk - a chat show with Keith Smith;
- Beating 'Round The Bush - nature show, with Ian "Beat" Hill, "Jake" the cockatoo, and Art "Poppa" Ryan
(host of NBN's Breakfast Club), winner of a Logie Award in 1980;
- Sally Is In The Big Time - a documentary about shop-lifting, winner of a Penguin Award in 1981;
- Girls in Trade PSAs - winner of a Penguin Award in 1981;
- Liberation of Skopje (for SBS) - winner of a Penguin Award, this show was produced using NBN's crews;
- Sunday Sports Show - with David Fordham, Warwick Norman's weekly racing panel and Bob Turton's popular
- Sandakan: The Untold Story, documentary, winner of the Most Outstanding Achievement by a Regional Network
award at the 1995 Logie Awards;
- Richmond Vale Railway, documentary, winner of the Most Outstanding Achievement by a Regional Network
award at the 1988 Logie Awards;
- A Last Chance, documentary, winner of the Most Outstanding Achievement by a Regional Network award at the
1983 Logie Awards;
- Today Extra, a lifestyle/infomercial-style program, which aired three days a week at 11am until the end of 2006.
Today, NBN produces
its own hour of local, national and international news each weekday at 6pm, and a
half-hour bulletin on the weekend, also at 6pm. They also air the local StarStruck performance, featuring local school children performing
at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
In The Community
NBN has long been a supporter of many local events and groups in the area. They have
been more noticeable through their sponsorship of the Newcastle Knights rugby league
team, their logo has on their uniform for all bar one of the past few years. Other
teams to receive their support are the Hunter Pirates NBL basketball team (and their
predecessor, the Newcastle Falcons) and the Newcastle United soccer team (as well as
their various reincarnations, such as the Newcastle Breakers).
NBN is regarded as one of the leaders in digital broadcasting, not only being the first
to produce a nightly regional news bulletin in full digital format, using a digital
friendly news set, but also Australia's first fully digital outside broadcast van.
NBN owns a subsidary known as One80 Digital Post, which operates the OB van, and also a
digital studio complex in Newcastle.Personalities
In addition to those listed above, the following have also worked at NBN at some time:
- Chris Bath (newsreader, now at Channel 7)
- Matthew White (sports presenter, also formerly of Channel 10, now at Channel 7)
- Anna Coren (North Coast news reporter, also formerly of Prime Television and Channel 9, now at Channel 7)
- Helen Kapalos (reporter, now at Channel 9)
- Vanessa Trezise (reporter, formerly of Prime Television, now at Sky News Australia)
- Antonia Kidman (reporter, formerly at Channel 10, now presenting on Foxtel; is also Nicole Kidman's sister)
- Darrell Eastlake (sports presenter/reporter, now at Channel 9)
- John Fordham (sports presenter/reporter, now at Channel 7)
- Johnathon Uptin (sports presenter/reporter, now at Channel Nine Darwin)
- Nat Jeffery (weather presenter, former presenter of Today Extra)
- Des Hart (station weatherman, and the station's first Community Service Director)
- Leigh Maughan (sports presenter, now appearing in some commercials in the Newcastle area)
Various articles from the The Newcastle Herald
from 1961-2005 Eye to Eye
, newsletter, Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation, 1979Annual Report
, NBN Limited, 1979-1980Annual Reports
, Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation, dates unknownhttp://www.delisted.com.auhttp://austvhistory.tripod.com/
"NBN 21st Anniversary lift-out", Newcastle Star
"Jeffrey's show cut", Newcastle Herald
3 January 2007, p. 1.