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The Sydney versus Melbourne rivalry

When I arrived in Melbourne in June 1956, the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne was quite unknown to me.  In fact, apart from the stereotype Australian depicted in the United Kingdom, I knew nothing about the Australian way of life.

There were strange goings-on in Australia at that time.  In brief, the scene was that in both Sydney and Melbourne, three organisations were getting ready to launch television broadcasting,  A state broadcaster in each city and two commercial broadcasters in each city.

I arrived hoping to join on of them in Melbourne and start a career in television.  This was easier said than done.

In those days, television broadcasters were heavily dependent on the use of film.  Apart from few live programmes everything else was broadcast from film.

When I arrived at GTV to take up post as Senior Film Editor, I was astonished to discover that I was the only person in the entire company with film production experience.  My arrival was on nineteen days before regular broadcasting commenced.  On the day of my arrival, there were no other film editors of even assistant film editors.

They did have two cine cameramen with little experience.

Purely by chance, Jim Healy, a film man, walked into the building a couple of days after I started, looking for a job, and he came from London.

In both my case and that of Jim Healy, it was our initiative that we started work there.  We were not invited.

What did they intend to do ?  What if we had not shown up ?

Earlier in 1956, I had applied for a job with HSV7 and was told that they had already taken on two, yes two, editors.  This turned out to be a lie.  When HSV7 first took to the air, it was evident that they did not have an experienced film technician on staff.

ABV2 studios – Ripponlea from National Archives of Australia No: B6295

In the case of ABV2 at Ripponlea, the editorial staff taken on when it opened up for the Melbourne Olympics of 1956 were all from film production organisations in Victoria.

I had been in touch with Australian Movietonews shortly after my arrival, just to say hello. They were based in Sydney.  Also in Sydney there was the other newsreel Cinesound and a number of small production companies.  There were a good number of film technicians in the city; cameramen, producers, directors and cameramen.

The three Sydney broadcasters ABN2, ATN7, TCN9 all had made use of the expertise of Sydney-based technicians.  I believe that TCN had a contract with Cinesound to produce their news service until such times that TCN staff could take over.

Although I did not realise it at the time, it became evident that there was not a single technician from Sydney working in film within the three television station in Victoria,

Even if no Sydney technician wished to move to Victoria on a permanent basis, there must have been those willing to work for up to a year on short contract until locals learnt the job.

During my time at GTV, I was unaware of this situation.  GTV had no programming connection with any Sydney broadcaster at that time.  I left GTV in May of 1958.

It was when I got to the ABC that the rivalry between Australia’s two largest cities became evident.  In some respects it was more than rivalry, certainly not friendly rivalry, more like a feud.

As I have already written, at the ABC in Melbourne, we had a first-class film department, staffed by skilful and experienced staff.  The technicians in the film department in Sydney were jealous of us and lost no opportunity to, unjustly, criticise our work.

This was not the case with the heads of department.  All the federal department heads were based in Sydney.

From these we got high praise from time to time, no criticism from them.

At that time, ABC exchanged programmes between Melbourne and Sydney.  Every two weeks, Melbourne would produce a drama.  It was televised and the recording was sent to Sydney for broadcast there  the following week.  On the same night, Sydney would do the same and send their recording to Melbourne.  Many other programmes were produced in one city, recorded, printed and then sent to the other.

Documentaries were sent on to Sydney from Melbourne soon after the original broadcast.

On January 2nd 1959, our Film Supervisor received a message from the Programme Director in Sydney.

Would you please accept and pass on to members of your staff concerned, our thanks and congratulations for the excellent work done toward, and in the final presentation of, the Davis Cup films.  I am well aware of the extreme difficulties under which everyone is forced to work, and I think the results were most creditable.

 I’d also like to add congratulations for the first two presentations of “Highlights of the Second Test”. To have covered each day’s play up to the last ball and to have this material presented by 10 o’clock the same evening, complete with well thought out commentary, sound effects and graphics, was, I felt, a real achievement, far surpassing anything done by the other Melbourne Channels.  For example, last night Channel 9’s coverage was restricted to 7 mins. of play up to about 3 p.m.  The commentary was poor, and the picture was backed only by music.

DARREL MILEY
Programme Director

Later that year, Ken Dakin, Sports Supervisor relayed congratulations from Sydney.  He wrote:

I should be grateful if you would pass on to all concerned my congratulations for the excellent coverage of the training and interviews with coaches at the Melbourne and Essendon football grounds.

The fact that the filming did not cease until nearly 6.00 p.m. and we were still able to have the film on the air at 8.00 p.m. has caused such favourable comment.

We were quick and not a Sydney technician in sight.

We filmed a multi-camera interview with Tommy Steel in Melbourne.  Kip Porteous, our Head of Films received a telegram from Federal Head of Films, Neil Edwards:

SINCERE CONGRATULATIONS ON TOMMY STEELE, IT WAS ONE OF BEST INTERVIEWS BEST PRODUCTION YET.  PITY ABOUT REFRIGERATOR SOUND, OTHERWISE PERFECT.  MORE STRENGTH TO JOSH WHITE AND FINAL SHOT OF AVOCA STREET GUITARIST.

While all this was going on, we were still getting snide remarks from the film editors in Sydney.  On occasion, I would go up to Sydney for meetings with Neil Edwards.  While there, I would visit the cutting rooms where I received a cool reception.

The Senior Film Editor there was Derek Timmins, who had previously worked for Pathe News in London.  I wondered if he had some reservations because I was from Movietone, or was it that he had taken on board the Sydney- Melbourne Feud ?

One of the troubles with feuds is that, as time goes by, the the origin of the feud becomes forgotten and the feud is carried on for its own sake.

In the end, the Melbourne technicians must have overcome the feud problem because several of them were invited to work out of Sydney as temporary or permanent replacements for Sydney staff.

Kip Porteous, formerly Head of Films in Melbourne, went to Sydney to start up a special film production unit.

I often wonder, in the ensuing years, whether this phenomenon still prevails.

Additional link: Sydney/Melbourne rivalry.

© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2012.  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 terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about the ABC click here.
For other articles about GTV click here.

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