Television itself was quite an invention and made significant changes all around the world. It became common in the United Kingdom and the United States by the end of the Second World War. The American system basically had the commercial system in which government interference wasn't so pronounced. On the other hand, the British system was more government owned and dominated by BBC. The television in Australia has always been caught up a struggle regarding which side to lead on. There has always been a tension between the regionalizing and centralizing pressures. Basically, the struggle has remained amidst the commercial television proprietors who want their shows to reach the entire nation. On the other hand, there were persons who wanted to maintain the region laity and locality of television based on which region it was showed in. [footnoteRef:2] [2: Anthony R. Smith, Television: An International History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 331]
Henry Sutton was the first person to develop the first thing close to a television. Starting from this invention, the television came into being. Television first made its premier in September in 1956. Following the addition of the televisions, it has had a big impact on the lives of many Australians. The technology initiated by John Logie Baird first was introduced in 1929. However, the real launch of television in the country was delayed about twenty five years. There were many reasons for is delay will be discussed below. The government had to play a pivotal role in delaying the launch of Television in the country. A major reason the government delayed was so it could see how it affected other countries around the world. Also, during the time when television was turning out to be the new thing, the Second World War was waging and TV didn't seem like such a priority at that time.
In the year 1949, The Australian Labor Government declared that television would be ready and showing in the next to years. The Royal Commission was more in favor of a system where government funded stations would be allowed. They wanted to rely on the British Model and wanted to have government controlled stations. An act known as the Broadcasting Act 1948 was launched that went on to restrict commercial TV licenses. The liberal country party saw this act as quite socialistic and authoritarian and opposed it. Unfortunately for the labor party, the Labor government eventually lost the elections and the new prime minister was in charge. Robert Menzies who now came into power had a more democratic approach towards television shows and what the public gets to see. This leader was thus in favor of a more commercial television showing. In 1953, a Royal commission was made that was to be in charge of the television broadcasting. The major objectives that the commission had were they had to make the perfect combination of commercial and public broadcasting. Thus, this meant that the government would still be in charge but not be so strict about the regulations. The commission therefore created a system that had both types of broadcasting but it was more inclined towards the American system of television.
The first television broadcast in Australia occurred from a studio in Sydney known as TCN-9. The broadcast occurred on September 16th, 1956 and was conducted by Bruce Gyngell. Subsequent to that show, the television broadcast occurred from Melbourne through HSV-7. The pioneer station funded by the government, the Australian broadcasting commission (ABC), starting broadcasting in November. Only two years later, the station was broadcasting television shows for children in schools. It was reported by the Daily Telegraph that large families made trips to the city to get their view of television at first. Surely, it was something extra ordinary for everyone and they wanted to get the first view of it.
It has been observed that television not only altered the fun habits and the lifestyle of Australian homes, but it also went on to change how the people of the country viewed themselves. [footnoteRef:3] As mentioned earlier, television was the new big thing following World War II. Being a major and a new mode of communication, it went on to monitor and regulate every aspect of the Australian life. [3: Michelle Arrow, "The Introduction of Television in Australia," in Turning points in Australian History, ed Martin Crotty and David Andrew Roberts. (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2009), 144]
A major impact that it made was that it decreased the amount of time people spent outside of home In other words, to seek entertainment, the people now moved away from the public sphere. Television provided another means of entertainment and thus people took advantage from it.2
What critics feared
Even before television was introduced in the country, the leading powers were scared of what it might do in the country. Their major apprehension came from the doubts of what sort of an impact they would have on the opinions and mindsets of the public. Menzies was already very distrust of the media's power and that is the sole reason he delayed it. There are even rumors of him telling BBC that he hopes television doesn't arrive in Australia during his term. (cite 8) Within time as the television did start growing, the big television owners made sure to increase their revenue through informal relationships. This meant that a lot of programs were being broadcasted from overseas thus leading to increased commercialization of media. Another fear that television harbored was that it was ruin and actually goes on to change the way family interacted. AA Clarke had predicted that television would become the centre stage for all family rooms. In other words, it would be not only a prerequisite but also the center of attention for most of the families. [footnoteRef:4] The critics feared that children would lose interest in education and other activities and would just be glued to television. Most of the fears were present due to the rumors they had heard regarding television being introduced in America. [4: Arrow, "The Introduction of Television in Australia," 147]
Television was growing quite fast as the broadcasting license were attained by different cities. Television ownership was about less than five percent in 1956. This mode of communication became so popular, that the ownership went onto around ninety percent within just nine years. (cite 14) It is true that television was a pretty expensive item and it also carried an annual license fee, it is interesting to note how this mode of communication went on to affect the Australian society.
Impact of television in the country
It is has been stated that television re enforced the idea of a nuclear family in post war Australia. It brought the entire family together and that was something that had been changing since quite a while. It laid emphasis on privacy, on different gender roles and also on domesticity. Television was an integral part of not only the family but also of relationships as well. Women magazines gave advice to women that if they can manage their house and their relationships in the house, they can manage television as well. 3 A lot of people feared that television would go on to affect the social interactions and the family relationships that were currently present. Magazines also advised people on how to not let that happen and how to keep things smooth in their household.
Changed how the lounge room was organized
In other words, Australian television changed how homes and the lounge room were basically organized. For instance, Women magazines told about TV dinners and what exactly is the perfect meal to eat while watching TV. Apart from meals, there were advertisements and actual suggestions on TV pajamas, TV lamps and furniture that was spill proof. A way that it altered the family and friend relations was that televisions suddenly became the cool thing. This meant that you attracted more visitors and friends if you had a television. This merely goes on to show that there was a change in popular culture and the way entertainment was perceived in the country. It also made the living in the Australian room quite disorganized and informal as well. There was a time when people used to formally cite in the dining room and eat properly on the table. Due to television, people brought food into the lounge room regardless of how manner less or messy it got.[footnoteRef:5] [5: Derham Grooves, "Gob Smacked! TV Dining in Australia between 1956 and 1966." Journal of popular culture, 37(2004):416]
Television became a very important and effective agent in increasing consumerism. This feature has been a hall mark of the post war Australia mainly due to increased production and increased purchase by the Australians. Since television and media played a crucial role in the marketing and advertising industry, shopping and consumption habits changed to quite an extent.[footnoteRef:6] Shopping became a leisure habit as people saw what they liked on television and then rushed…