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History of Australian Media

History of Australian Media

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The Australian media industry enjoys a history which is second to none.

Whether you take TV, radio or print, Australia has produced some of the best media, and on the rare occasion, the most controversial, media coverage on the globe.

Television has traditionally been the most “entertaining” of the three main mediums, or should that now be four, given the advent of the Internet, which originated in the United States.  Some may well argue that the Internet should not even be classified as a form of media, given its problems.


Australia’s first media broadcast was by way of a news broadcast presented by Bruce Gyngell on the 16th September 1956, when Bruce said “Hello everyone, and welcome to television”.

Interestingly, only 1% of Sydneysiders owned a TV set, while 5% of the Melbournites owned a “box”.

The first commercial television licences were issued to the Herald and Weekly Times (Melbourne), General Television Corporation (Melbourne), Amalgamated Television Services (Sydney), and Television Corporation (Sydney).

November 1956 saw TCN9 launch “Bandstand”, hosted by Brian Henderson, who went on to become a living legend in Australian television.

In the same year, TV Week launched its own annual TV Awards, and GTV9’s Graham Kennedy won the gold award for most popular TV personality.

1959 saw the Australian Broadcasting Service launch “Six O' clock” with Johnny O’Keefe.

1963 saw station affiliations change. GTV9 and TCN9 aligned to form the National Television Network, now known as the Nine Network, along with QTQ9 and NWS9; HS7 and ATN7 align to form the Australian Television Network, known the Seven Network, along with BTQ7 and ADS7.  TVW7, being the sole commercial television station in Perth, remains independent of network affiliation.

In the same year, the Australian Government invites applications for new commercial TV licences in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.

In 1968 the Government elected that Australia would adopt the European standard, PAL, rather than the United States, NTSC system.

1971 proves to be a huge year, with the launch of Sesame Street, Young Talent Time,  Hey Hey It’s Saturday and A Current Affair, hosted by Mike Willesee, on Nine.

1973 saw Number 96 become the most popular programme on Australian television. It was seen all over Australia, and delivered a never before seen level of raunchiness and airing of honest concepts like homosexuality and explicit sex scenes. 

1975 saw Grundy Productions launch its first drama series, Class of ’74, later becoming Class of ’75, before it got the chop. The 19th of October saw test color transmissions by all networks, and November saw Countdown, with music legend, Molly Meldrum, begin its amazing 12 year run on the ABC.

A huge sports coup occurs in 1977 with Network Seven going to air with the VFL, and 1978 sees The Melbourne Cup screened live on Channel 10.

1979 sees SBS screen a series of multi-lingual programs on the ABC, and 60 Minutes commences, and goes on to become the most successful current affairs program in Australian history.

The 1980s were huge, with many new hit shows, and live television was elevated with telecasted of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and 1986 Commonwealth Games from England.

1990 saw Network Seven and Ten go into receivership, with both networks later being saved.

1991 sees massive coverage of the Gulf War, Glenn Ridge replace Tony Barber on Sale of the Century, and The Simpson’s premier on Channel 10.

Pay TV commences in 1995 with Galaxy, Foxtel and Optus Vision.

1999 sees Hey Hey its Saturday get the axe after 28 years on the air.

The 2000s sees Reality TV and games shows become all the rage with hits like Big Brother, Temptation Island, The Osborne’s and Who Wants to be a Millionaire break record numbers.


Radio broadcasting in Australia officially commenced on evening of 13 November 1923, with a concert.

At 8.00pm on 1 July 1932, the Prime Minister Joseph Lyons inaugurated the ABC.

The ABC then controlled twelve stations – 2FC and 2BL in Sydney, 3AR and 3LO in Melbourne, 4QG in Brisbane, 5CL in Adelaide, 6WF in Perth, 7ZL in Hobart and the relay stations 2NC in Newcastle, 2CO at Corowa, 4RK in Rockhampton and 5CK at Crystal Brook.

Talkback radio started in 1967, with 3AW Melbourne hitting the airways.

Radio has even turned some journalists into broadcasting legends. Examples include “The Human Headline” himself, Derryn Hinch and Mike Carlton.

Australia's best known radio broadcasters are John “Golden Tonsils” Laws and Alan Jones.

For many years, the wireless was the most important and used form of broadcasting for news and entertainment, and a weekend sitting around the wireless was all the rage.


The Sydney Gazette the first newspaper printed in Australia, one of the earliest pieces of printing in the colony.

The key players in Australia’s newspaper publishing industry were, and in many cases still are, Fairfax, Murdoch and Packer.

Today, Australia’s most popular newspapers include the Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, and The Herald Sun is the biggest selling daily, whilst the Sunday Telegraph is the biggest selling newspaper.

Independent newspapers are making a small dint in the market; however the big three will continue to dominate for decades to come.


Audit Bureau of Circulations


Article: The Great Aussie Promoters, by Greg Tingle

Article: The Man They Call Harry M, by Greg Tingle

Article: Mr PR - Max Markson, by Greg Tingle


Interview: Richard Cashman - Walla Walla Press

Interview: Doug Mulray - Broadcaster

Interview: Kevin Jacobsen - Promoter

History related links

History of the ABC

ABC: 75 Years of Australian Radio

Journal of Australian Studies

The Australian Rock N Roll Appreciation Society

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter (University of Queensland)

National Library of Australia

National Plan for Australian Newspapers Project - History

Personality websites

John Laws

Peter Luck

Johnny O'Keefe

more personality websites