Australia in the 1950s


In 1954, the Menzies government formally announced the introduction of the new two-tiered television system. A government-funded service would be run by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), and two commercial services would broadcast from Sydney and Melbourne.

In September 1956, the first Australian TV broadcast took place on Sydney's Channel 9, featuring Bruce Gyngell. On 19 November 1956, the ABC began transmission in Melbourne, just in time to broadcast the Olympic Games. Black-and-white TV created such public interest that people gathered in front of shop windows to watch. Over the decades TV's popularity and accessibility grew and was seen as the dominant factor in the decline of cinema attendances. In 1955, there were 1,644 cinemas in Australia, but this figure had declined to 974 by 1970.

In January 1953, the Menzies government amended the Broadcasting Act 1948 (Cth) granting commercial licenses. This allowed for a dual system of TV ownership; commercial and non-commercial.

Most TV programs in this early period were based on favoured radio formats with musical variety and quiz formats were the most popular. Many programs were imported from the USA and UK, increasing the influence of US culture in Australia. Children's shows were derived from popular literature, particularly heroes and legends. The British-made The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene, was telecast for 143 episodes.

A television, c. 1950s

A snapshot of 1958

  • January
    • The first Opera House lottery is held in NSW to raise money for its construction.

  • February
    • The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals (FCAA) is established and later included Torres Strait Islanders.
    • Among its leaders are Faith Bandler and Chicka Dixon, and the poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker).

  • August
    • Herb Elliott sets a world record in the mile distance race (3:54.5) at Morton Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

  • September
    • The ANZAC Day Act 1958 receives Royal Assent, making Anzac Day (25 April) a national public holiday in Australia.

  • October
    • Sir Douglas Mawson, Antarctic explorer and geologist, dies at the age of 76.

  • November
    • The first television episode of Bandstand, hosted by Brian Henderson, goes to air on TCN-9.


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