When television began in Australia it inevitably started up first in Sydney and Melbourne in 1956. The following year it was announced that TV services would be extended to the other capital cities of Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.
By the end of 1959, Brisbane would have three channels, Adelaide would have two, and Perth would have its first channel – TVW7. (Hobart followed in 1960)
The licence to operate Perth’s first commercial television station was issued to TVW Limited, owned by West Australian Newspapers, in October 1958. The only other applicant for the licence was Western Television Services which had ties with News Limited, based in Adelaide. News Limited was successful, however, in gaining one of the two commercial television licences for Adelaide.
TVW7 made its first test transmissions from 31 August 1959 and was officially opened on Friday 16 October 1959. The station was operating from studios in the suburb of Tuart Hill and from a transmitter located in Bickley.
The opening night’s line-up started with speeches from TVW general manager James Cruthers and Western Australian governor Sir Charles Gairdner, who officially declared the station open. Later in the evening, TVW7 presented the first edition of its live-to-air variety show, Spotlight, featuring Rolf Harris who had returned from London to become a presenter and producer for TVW.
TVW7 would have Perth’s TV viewers all to itself for the next few months – as ABC’s local channel, ABW2, did not commence transmission until May 1960.
Perth’s second commercial channel, STW9, commenced transmission in June 1965 – almost six years after TVW launched. It was this prolonged commercial monopoly in the market that helped TVW gain an unbeatable position against its newcomer rival and, to this day, TVW7 continues to dominate ratings in Perth.
In the lead-up to TVW7’s 50th anniversary – and a planned staff reunion – the website WA TV History has compiled an excellent and detailed account of various aspects of the station’s history – including some of the channel’s past and present personnel, programs and technical production. There is a vast array of photographs – many donated from the personal collections of former staff – and a roll-call of people who have worked at TVW7, and also a list of Western Australia’s TV Week Logie award winners.
Some names have gone on from TVW7 to become known across Australia. Garry Meadows was an early TVW presenter who went on to radio and television on the east coast. Johnny Young hosted a pop music program, Club Seventeen. Peter Meakin worked in the news room before heading the news department at Nine and now the Seven Network. Ann Sanders was a game show hostess on $50,000 Letterbox. Simon Reeve was a children’s show host and news reporter. Terry Willesee was a newsreader.
And it would be remiss not to mention what is the station’s annual highlight – Telethon. Since 1968, Telethon has raised over $80 million for children’s charities in Western Australia. It has attracted national attention and international celebrities – including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Sammy Davis Jnr and Celine Dion – some of which came to Australia specifically for Telethon. (Pictured are Johnny O’Keefe, Graham Kennedy, Bobby Limb and Stuart Wagstaff, all sans shirts for a stunt at the first Telethon.)
WA TV History is an excellent resource and a highly-recommended read.
Additional source: Eric Fisher