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Programme Distribution in Australia: 1960

I was approached by the Head of Presentation at the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Ron White, he said that the prospect of sending copies of programmes to all the States was going to prove a real problem.  At that time, programmes broadcast live were telerecorded and the only other interested party was either Melbourne or Sydney, depending where the original recording was made.  The other States had not yet started broadcasting.

The problem would arise when Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, the BAPH states, came on the scene.  It would mean that the last station in the line could wait six weeks for a programme.

He asked me if I had any thoughts on the matter.  I could, of course, call upon my knowledge of what happened at Movietonews where the newsreel, known as General Release was issued to “first run” cinemas, this was followed by theatres with a “three day old” contract and then through “six day old” to even “nine day old” (see this article for more details).  Of course the older the newsreel copy, the cheaper it was.  The odd thing was that there were more “six day old” contracts than first run.  However, it was usual to find that a cinema in a given city on “first run” would have a neighbouring cinema than was on the “six day old contract” and, maybe, another with a “nine-day-old” contract.  They would hand over their copy to the second cinema after use and so on.  Simple really.  I made a suggestion to Ron White which he wrote down in a memo to the Programme Director.

“Whilst talking to the Senior Film Editor (me) today he made a suggestion in relation to Federal Film Distribution which may be of assistance in future planning and I undertook to bring the suggestion to your notice.”

It is that, for the purposes of film distribution, the States be divided into two closed circuits with Sydney supplying film to Brisbane who pass it on to Tasmania and then back to Sydney and with Melbourne supplying Adelaide who in turn forward to Perth and then back to Melbourne thus completing the circuit.  There would virtually be two self-contained circuits.  This system would mean that each State normally forwards film only in one direction and could greatly ease handling problems.  The two circuits would each need a copy of the film, or the entire series, to set the system in motion.  Under this system a programme such as “Woman’s World”, could complete its run of replays within four weeks from its “live” transmission until the last of the six States completes its replay.

The second circuit would lag behind the circuit in which the original “live” transmission took place by one week.  The subject is rather complicated to discuss in detail in a memo but I thought you might like to know of this possible solution to film distribution problems as proposed by Mr. Gallacher who I know would be glad to elaborate more fully on request should this be required.”

Ron White – S. Presentation.

The truth is that Mr. White seemed to misunderstand what I said.  There seemed to be no sense in creating a system whereby the last station in the line had to wait six weeks for their copy of a programme.

Film Cans

Film Cans - Image by tallfoot via Flickr

No, I said of the two circuits, with three stations in each, that I thought it reasonable for the stations to broadcast such a programme only two days after its broadcast at the previous station. After all, there were daily flights on all the required routes.  This would mean that a programme broadcast live in Melbourne in a Monday could be scheduled in Sydney on a Wednesday and Hobart on the Friday and Brisbane the following Monday.  From the other copy made by Melbourne, it would be scheduled in Adelaide on the Wednesday and Perth on the Friday.  So, I told him that under my scheme, the whole process would be completed in one week, not six.

All this of course was one of the many problems we suffered before the coming of booster stations, landlines (the coaxial cable between Sydney and Melbourne was introduced in 1963) and satellites.   It would not be very long before some of us would become privy to what the future would hold (click here for the story of Operation Crowflight).

I recall all these events with the A.B.C. management to show the difficulties involved on distribution of programmes over great distances which prevailed at the time and continued to do so for some years.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2010.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about the ABC click here.

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