The article is divided into the following sections:
In March 1968, the Postmaster-General Department announced that it would be considering
the allocation of a commercial television licence for the Darwin area to a company
that would commence broadcasting sometime during 1970 (which, ultimately, would never
eventuate). Shortly after this announcement, TTPL was formed, with then-Mayor of Darwin,
Bill Richardson as chairman and a number of other Darwin-based business proprietors
as key shareholders and directors of the company, most notably including wholesaler
John Hickman and Rod Lever of the Northern Territory News
(which had a 5 percent
interest in TTPL).
In March 1970, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board commenced the public hearings
process for the consideration of Darwin-area licence applications. Two applications
were considered - TTPL's and the Electronics Industries-backed Territory Telecasters
Pty. Ltd. On the 1st of October 1970, TTPL was granted the licence by Postmaster-General
Sir Alan Hulme - the callsign (NTD) and the channel (8) were allocated soon after.Construction of facilities
TTPL commenced negotiations with the PMG Department for a studio and adminstration site near the proposed
transmitter mast to be shared with the ABC's television service (which was expected
to commence in mid-1971) - ultimately, a site on Blake Street, near Garden's Hill was
chosen. The transmitter, which would end up on a 76m (250ft.) mast atop Garden's Hill
was designed so that the eventual introduction of colour television services would be
a straightforward affair and that - on an ideal day - it would emit a signal that could
be received upto 240km (150mi.) away (the aim - on a regular day - was for a 160km
(100mi.) radius), reaching out to remote communities within the Arnhem Land region and
on Bathurst and Melville Islands. The mast was constructed by Electric Power Transmission
at a cost of $60 000 and work was carried out between November 1970 and February 1971.
The transmitters were prefabricated by Amalgamated Wireless in Sydney and were
installed in June 1971.
The studio's construction - which was carried out by Bell and Prechelt Contractors
Pty. Ltd. - took just over two weeks to build and about a further six weeks to install
the studio equipment. As Darwin is located in the tropics, the installation of
an effective air conditioning system was of considerable importance. The studio was
fitted out with a master control panel manufactured in Melbourne and a Plumicon camera.
Construction took place shortly after the transmitter's installation.The best laid plans...
Due to various mayoral commitments, Bill Richardson stepped down as TTPL chairman in
December 1970 and John Hickman was appointed chairman in his place.
Originally, TTPL planned to launch their service sometime during June 1971 - two
months ahead of ABD6 - however, the launch date was pushed back at least three times,
largely due to both the PMG and ABCB's red tape.
TTPL had stated that if studio facilities were not ready by June 1971, they would
commence broadcasting out of a makeshift caravan - the PMG Department, however, did not
agree with TTPL that such an arrangement would be adequate enough to launch a service
with, therefore they moved the start date back to August of that year.
However, there were even more holdups that pushed the starting date back even
further. Although studio and transmitter space had been acquired and construction
was well on the way, the ABCB was holding up progress through the requesting and
processing of various legal documents. At the insistence of TTPL's newly appointed
Chief Executive, Fred Yates, the documents were expediently processed and a definite
launch date was agreed upon - the 11th of November, 1971.
With the studio completed and a launch date looming, film crews began producing
commercials to air on NTD8. The first test transmissions consisting of a test pattern
and a documentary film went to air two days before launch day.Opening
Although NTD8 was officially launched at 8pm on the 11th of November, the first
programme to air was Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
at 5:30pm - this was followed
by Brian Henderson's popular music programme Bandstand
at 6pm, then
An Evening with Burt Bacharach
Opening speeches were made by Northern Territory Adminstrator, Fred Chaney,
ABCB Chairman, Sir Myles Wright, John Hickman, Fred Yates and assistant executive
John May. An official launch party was held at the Hotel Darwin later that evening.
The first night's programme lineup was rounded off with the film "All The King's Men"
at 8:30pm and the British espionage series Danger Man
at 10:30pm. Transmission
concluded at 11pm.
The succesful first night's transmission was tinged with sadness, as but a week prior
to launch date, Bill Richardson, who guided TTPL's development for its first three years
of existence, passed away and as a result, never witnessed the culmination of his
On the 25th of December 1974, Cyclone Tracy devastated much of Darwin, affecting
the lives and businesses of many residents - NTD8 was no exception. In the immediate
aftermath of the cyclone, finding temporary accommodation for citizens that had remained
behind to help assist with the major cleanup task ahead of them had priority over
putting the local commercial television station back on air, nevertheless, management at
TTPL were determined to have their station return to the airwaves, no matter how long
TTPL had quite a challenge ahead of them: not only would they have to rebuild their
station, they would also need to upgrade their equipment in order to broadcast in
colour - and all with a diminished source of funds, due to the decrease in Darwin's
population (pre-Tracy: 36 000 - post-Tracy: 10 000, stabilising to 25 000 by mid-1975).
While the ABC had their local television station up and running on the 4th of January
1975 (due to the fact that they are Government-funded) it would not be until
the 27th of October 1975 at 7:00pm - 10 months
after the cyclone - that NTD8
would be back on-air with a limited 3-hour nightly schedule (original plans for a
June 1975 re-launch never eventuated). Initial broadcasts were perceived as amateurish,
with a lack of programme continuity and sometimes lack of sound.
Over time, however, the service would improve while Darwin would recover and
ultimately prosper (largely due to the burgeoning tourism and shipping industries),
allowing TTPL to invest in a $A2,000,000
studio upgrade in the early 1980s, which included studio space, newsroom and
equipment upgrades - these were completed by 1982. By this stage, NTD8 were
broadcasting at most 12 hours a day (on Wednesdays) and were once again ready to
present a nightly news report in competition with the ABC's bulletin.
Up until this
point, only the ABC had access to the microwave bearer to the major stations
that would permit the timely and practical reporting of national and international
news. Upon rectification of the ABC's monopolistic arrangement, NTD established
a partnership with the Seven Network's news department. The first
edition of News at Seven
went to air on the 18th of October 1982.
By the mid-1980s, a 12-hour a day broadcast schedule became standard practice for NTD.Takeover by PBL
NTD8 was taken over by Kerry Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) -
owners of the Nine Network - in the late 1980s when NTD was in the midst of legal
action appealing against the allocation of the remote commercial television service
licence to CAAMA's Imparja Television. PBL, after failing to negotiate a settlement
with CAAMA, then withdrew NTD's appeal.
Under PBL ownership, NTD8 adopted the Nine Network's station IDs and promos but instead
including their own "8" logo (see above). The News At Seven
was also moved to the earlier 6.30pm timeslot and re-titled Eight National News
NTD8 continued as the sole commercial TV outlet in Darwin until Telecasters Australia
launched Seven Darwin
Prior to Seven Darwin's arrival, NTD8 had attempted to gain access to Seven Network
programmes, to supplement their complete schedule of Nine Network programming, as a
means of dominating over their new rival which would have little choice but to align to
the third-ranked Network Ten. NTD8 was deemed to be acting in a anti-competitive manner
and had to surrender its proposed ties to Seven. NTD then entered into a programme supply
agreement with Ten to supplement their Nine schedule of programmes.
On January 1 2003, NTD8 became known as Channel Nine
, although it still broadcasts
on VHF channel 8. After this date, it dumped virtually all Ten programming, apart from
Australian Football League (AFL) games and some other top-rating programmes, much to the
disappointment of some viewers.
Eight National News
was also moved to the 6pm timeslot and re-named National
, in line with Nine Network news services in other cities. This was considered
to be a risky move as the later timeslot was deemed more suitable for Darwin's
tropical lifestyle. This change by NTD has consequently been a bonus for the
ABC, which continues to provide a nightly 7pm news service based in Darwin.
In 2005, PBL announced that National Rugby League games would take precedence over
AFL games on the station - which could have been interpreted as a possible indication that
Nine was set to give up the rights to AFL coverage to a Seven/Ten consortium, which it did,
after PBL's record $A780 million bid was matched by the consortium in 2006.
Aggregation of the Darwin area and the adjacent remote-central licence area was
proposed, thereby allowing Imparja and NTD to transmit services in both regions,
providing five free-to-air channels in total. Under this arrangement, Imparja most likely
would have become a sole Network Ten affiliate. However, TND34 adopted a dual Seven/Ten
affiliation in early-2005 and an invitation by the Australian Communications and Media
Authority was made for the allocation of a 'Section 38B' licence for the Darwin
area in December 2005, thereby eliminating the possibility of aggregation.Programming
"Commercial Licence To Local Group", Northern Territory News
"Commercial TV may be ready to screen here first", Northern Territory News
"No television here before mid-August", Northern Territory News
"Hurry up plea by NTD8", Northern Territory News
"NTD8 Open Soon", Northern Territory News
"NTD8....Ready to take off", Northern Territory News
"Tonight's the night", Northern Territory News
"Local Control The Key", Northern Territory News
"NTD color in 4 months", Northern Territory News
Russell, Lyn "TV station has problems", Letter to the editor, Northern Territory News
"NTD8 Darwin Market Guide", Territory Television Pty. Ltd., 1984
Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), "A report
into the activities of the Central Australian Aboriginal
Media Association (Aboriginal Corporation)",
CAAMA, Alice Springs NT, June 1987.