By Michael Roberts, Nick Place

An exploration of television year-by-year from 1956, reporting in time-capsule mode on celebrities and exhibits as they occurred, from chuffed Hammond and Skippy to the stay telecast of the terrorist assault on New York's international exchange Centre.

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Luckily, the opening broadcast then crossed to an outside broadcast ‘with a star-studded show’ direct from the Tivoli Theatre, in Bourke Street. Young comedians like Gordon Chater and Barry Humphries were listed in the program but only in the wake of larger acts, such as Richard Hearne – AKA ‘Mr Pastry’, the star of Tivoli’s Olympic Follies – who performed his simply hilarious act, ‘The Lancers’. Seven’s engineers had already worked out why the new medium was better than radio, hardly able to believe that they were laying cables and checking equipment while half-naked showgirls ran to and from the stage for a fortnight leading up to the big night.

Straight away, the commissioners were announcing their concern over content, and also that advertising would need to be controlled so that it did not become excessive. Has a group of public servants ever been so astute, so quickly? Monday’s papers couldn’t care less about such detail as protecting the eyes and minds of children. The Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial cut straight to the chase with the headline: ‘Begin TV here without delay, says report’. The Royal Commission had recommended that national and commercial stations be established in Sydney and then Melbourne, with a warning that the ABC shouldn’t aim for success at the expense of its existing radio obligations.

Shortly after, images of a child standing at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance would be successfully screened. These technical baby steps all took place less than four months before three Melbourne start-ups planned to cover an Olympic Games. You have to remember that this was only 27 years after audiences had heard Al Jolson singing in The Jazz Singer and marvelled at sound being added to motion pictures at the theatre. In other words, iPods were a long way away. In 1956, there was no such thing as videotape.

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