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The ABC Of Our Lives 50 Years Of Television -

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(generated from captions) Hello? Hello? Hello? Trevor? Trevor? I've only got a couple of minutes. Security. Hello. Yes. Oh, Security. do you know where he is? Trevor the sound recordist - I need to do...sound recording. No, why? Why? Because we're about to go to air 50th anniversary. with ABC Television's ABC Television's 50 years old. 50. How many? Me? Been going for 50 years. you work for, son. Not you. The organisation 50 years?

along in a while. Huh? Yeah, 50 years. The dancers will be Thanks for your unhelp, son. Hello? Trevor, we've only got...

Oh, good on you. Oh, you ARE there. The program's about to go to air. Is this my monitor here? I just look in here and... in your own time Alright. Push the green button point, will you? and stick the kettle on at some We'll have a cup of tea. of Tel..." (Reads) "The ABC...50 Years We're in the right place. Yeah, this is the one, Trevor. Who can that be at the door? Hello, everybody. Good evening, everyone. Good evening.

G'day. Hello, me little lovelies! Hello, boys and girls. Good morning. Good evening. Good evening. Hi, everybody. Hello, everybody! Hello, Miss Jane. Hi! My name's Daisy Potts. I'm Frank. My name's Norman Gunston. Some things didn't work. But most of it did. Hmmm. (Laughs) Welcome to Countdown.

'Australian' in the title. It's the only network with the word but I do really love it. I don't want to gush, A hare is like a rabbit. Easy to do, simple and cheap. I shall marry whom I choose. Australians and ABC Television JOHN CLARKE: For 50 years, Look at this. have been growing up together. What a dump. The place is full of Marxists. to do it all. JOHN CLARKE: ABC Television has tried when they both fail, To inform, to educate and, to entertain. Here we go again. to watch Countdown. Look, I've got to get home The ABC. What channel is that, Sir Cedric? ABC NEWS THEME ON HARMONICA the national television service. Stand by for the opening night of ladies and gentlemen, Hello there, and good evening, and children. JOHN CLARKE: Hello. At 7:00pm on 5 November 1956, in Sydney. ABC Television first went to air from a makeshift studio It was broadcast in Kings Cross. just above Woolworth's upstairs at the Cross, When I walked into Woolies the atmosphere was very tense, but excitement was terrific. on the North Shore Over at Gore Hill a telecine unit. we have something called rehearsed... CLARKE: It had all been beautifully ..to absolutely no avail. Roll telecine. Is it on? Right, then.

What happened here? No sound. Where's the sound? opening night program of ours. The set-up is complicated in this moments of panic and tension. There are bound to be a few little We're having one right now. But it was on with the show,

Walker's entertainment and Western Australian Julitha with a bit of a twist. (Chants in Aboriginal language) Australia's rich Indigenous culture Julitha's demonstration of went off without a hitch, and without, frankly, an Aborigine. (Continues chant) (Hoots)

afterwards. And we had a marvellous party of it, really. I don't think I remember the end I think we had a ball. and Australians were wrapped. ABC Television was off and running, we'd watch it. If it flickered and moved, taken into town, MAN: I remember as a kid being

windows in Bourke Street, first watching outside the Myer's and white flickering images, watching these little black I was in there doing it. and a couple of years later It was just an amazing period. thought, "This is just wonderful," It was so exciting. Everyone being able to see performances. And a neighbour bought a television, over to see it. so we used to hope we'd get invited MAN: I was 10 years old for the Olympic Games. when television arrived working in television. And I never once imagined I'd be This was magic stuff. You'd watch anything. And you would sit... myn maneer... # (Sings) # Ay melonini (Barks like a dog) just about anything. ABC Television would try (Sings in other language) # I read in a story... # for wholesome fair. And the ABC could be depended upon

# I shot an arrow into the air... # in the world... # # If you were the only girl and moral guardian It saw itself as the cultural of postwar Australia. that we put on, One of the early plays there was a scene set in a bar. it a sandwich bar! And we had to make And me while you're at it. Cup of tea for Joel, son. There were all sorts of no-nos is good for people, based on the principle of what not be allowed to corrupt. and the idea that television should and they were mostly men, The men in charge, were heirs of the British traditions. television, Charles Moses, The first general manager of was British to his bootstraps. In your own time here, Charles. Well, this year, we at the ABC Broadcasting Conference. are hosts to the Third Commonwealth Moses ran a very tight ship. Sir Charles Moses was a lovely man. miss anything either. He didn't interfere, but he didn't he had his eye on everything. You knew darn well And from the start,

and improve the nation. his aim was to entertain GLITZY MUSIC Bang the gong # Beat the drum wedding bells chime... # # Let the golden # With elation and precision Tantalising television... #

SOUTH AMERICAN MUSIC What's he that was not born of woman? Such a one am I to fear, or none! # Just who I am... # So now let's have a look and see what kind of weather we're gonna have tonight. It's a most peculiar, most peculiar, most peculiar thing! Hmm! Before long, the ABC was training its audience in how to respond. # If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands... # ABC Television was in fact capturing a new generation. Mr Squiggle, all we need is Blackboard. Here, Miss Pat, I'm here. # Open wide, come inside... # One program became a national treasure. Hello. I'm Alister. And this is Dianne. Hello. Dianne's been very busy this morning. She's been washing some of our dressing-up clothes for tomorrow. I remember hearing about

this new children's program they were going to do, and it was going to be different to other children's programs, they said. They didn't want to talk down to the children. Lorraine Bayley became a 'Play School' regular facing all of the regular challenges. Hello, Abu. Abu's from a circus.

This elephant was huge! And I know I had to say to Philip, the trainer from Ashton's Circus, "Is Abu the biggest elephant in the circus?" And I said instead... Is Abu the biggest circus in the elephant?

The biggest elephant... The biggest elephant in the circus? Yes, yes. I'm a little nervous with Abu around. Later on I found out I had good reason to be afraid

because I remember reading in the newspaper where Abu had actually killed her trainer. Oh! Oh! It's gone inside. I can't find it! Lorraine Bayley was one of the first in a long line of distinguished performers on 'Play School'. There she is, there. There you are. They had a good run around, didn't they? My favourite question from the children was...they'd look at you like this and say, "How did you get out?" From the early days, the ABC felt it had a responsibility to tell our own stories. Across the country we were soon watching Australian drama in our living rooms. Notice it's not raining on the left there. One of the first serials was 'The Stranger', a story about a mysterious alien from outer space. 'The Stranger' was the first science fiction serial, particularly for children, if not for grown-ups, and we had no idea when we started 'The Stranger' it would become the success that it did. BEEPING The writer had devised a new language for the actors. Melosis. Melosis. Sinti am soshen. Nonsoso shwenus. Masel tossen ketet. If you didn't learn it phonetically as it was, you got yourself into terrible strife. Astosis menasa soestis osalis. And you try to say, "Suwulya by sasass umbrushis secis," you'd tie yourself in an absolute knot. The series finale had a Cecil B. DeMille cast of thousands. Of, well, hundreds anyway. Well, seven. The spaceship flew over a panorama of 1960s Sydney Harbour for a spectacular cinematic climax. It was picked up by the BBC and had a great run and was critically well received. And in the 'Radio Times', the critic said,

"If the Australian Broadcasting Commission can do this, "surely we can." SPIRITED MUSIC ABC Television could be unashamedly high-brow.

A full-scale opera was produced every month or so, and an opera production was drama in itself. We were all absolutely insane, and we needed to be. I mean, going out to air as we performed it, with three cameras, which is all we had. And the live symphony. And the live singers. (Man sings, people scream)

That's going well. DRAMATIC FINALE Along with the European classics, the ABC also decided that Australians should know more about their own past. 'The Outcasts' was a 12-week serial on the emancipation of the convicts. It was live to air in Sydney every Sunday evening. I know him, sir. Oh? There were perils in going to air live, like, for example, forgetting your lines. What could he have done to be flogged so brutally? The...the report is here somewhere. If the Governor is prepared to stand up for us, he'll find we'll stand up for him. 'The Outcasts' was a winner. So much so that even the tabloid press jumped aboard. Now, you don't often see that.

Once they realised how popular it was, one of the evening papers would get the script from the Sunday night and the whole script would be published in the centre pages of the afternoon paper.

Back then we thought, "Well, we're doing a bit now, but it'll grow, "and it'll grow bigger and bigger "and we will have a real industry with Australian drama." How do you see the future, Dr Deptford? Far more optimistically than I did, sir. DING! In the 1960s, optimism was in the air. So two ABC staffers, Bob Raymond and Michael Charlton, thought the time was right to take a bold new concept to their boss. They wanted to tell real stories from real life. Charles. Charles Moses gave it that nod, and this one's still going. He said, "I'll give you a small budget "and see you're not interfered with. "If it's a success, the ABC will take all the credit. "If it's a failure, "I'll kick you both all the way up William Street myself." In 1961, 'Four Corners' was born, and a new phrase entered the language - television current affairs. THEME MUSIC

It started out in gentle fashion with little cameos about Australian life, such as it was. High noon in Marble Bar, the hottest town in Australia. A thousand miles from Perth, this could pass for Australia's wild west. I believe you call the pub here 'the bank'. Why do you call it that? Well, that's where the boys put their money. But after just four weeks on air, 'Four Corners' got more adventurous, and exposed Australians to the hidden world of an Aboriginal community. This is Box Ridge. Just over here is a cemetery, a cemetery for the dead. And what Bishop Davies has called a cemetery for the living is all around us. 'Four Corners' was pioneering a tradition of investigative

and often unsettling television journalism. He said, "My grandkid is born in Australia. "He's a citizen of Australia." But Aboriginal people - me - I'm not.

Somewhere wrong here. I think this started to open people's eyes to the fact that there was something radically wrong out there in those fringe dwellings. Most Australians were far removed from these scenes, and knew surprisingly little about their own country. But they were learning a lot about other places. This is the primeval Africa, and you won't see anything like it anywhere else in the world. In the '60s there was no wildlife strand in television, and if you watched a wildlife program, it came from Africa or some other country. Ken Taylor thought Australians should be able to look at their own wildlife, and he said so to his boss. He was unsympathetic, couldn't see the need for it,

see a film about a swamp?" asked me the question, "Who wants to And sent me away for 12 months. he called me up again and said, At the end of 12 months, I've got a budget for it." "That idea of yours - He said, "$40." I said, "How much?" of black and white film. $40 bought us two reels 11 minutes of that 30 minutes. And we edited and used It was quite extraordinary. All beating black and white wings. Beautiful, powerful bird, the swan, amount of trouble flying. and yet it seems to have quite an That long, sinuous neck... the wild side Ken's idea was to really bring right into people's homes. it was instantly successful. And I think that's why There's a silver-eye's nest, the shelter of the undergrowth. with its three eggs tucked away in had a sense KEN: Australians generally that had to be conquered. that the bush was something and different concept. What we brought was a completely new We thought we were walking through a cathedral. We were careful where we put our feet. Goannas are a major predator around here. followed. Series like 'Wild Australia' they were winners, Shot in colour for overseas sales,

natural history film-making and a new generation of Australian was launched. When I first joined the ABC, the head cameraman, Keith Taylor, and I'd think, I used to look at his footage "That is just what I want to do." in flight. Particularly following birds

"How did you do it?" And I said to Keith one day, the cricket. "Well," he said, "we used to shoot there was a catch or something." "I'd have to follow the ball in case

where I learned to hold focus. And he said, "That's they were a cinch." "So when it came to birds, covered everything. And when it came to sport, the ABC it says here. Sport brought Australians together... an effective national broadcaster. And this was the key to being That's Frank McMullin. Go, Frank! That's the All Blacks. more appreciated And of course nowhere was this in the bush. than among top-flight sportsmen

The ABC was a lifeline to the bush, particularly in sporting coverage.

And that's where I could find a relevance. into the bush Because when you did go out recognised by everyone, and found that you were instantly important the ABC was it drove the point home, just how to people in country Australia, and how many people watched it. took the ABC Television signal Every year, the latest technology further across the country, Australian popular culture. and it brought with it the latest in 'My Brother Jack' The best-selling novel on television. became an absolute knock-out Look at this. Jack, stop it, stop it! and get your money. Right. Get up to Mr Klippendorf Both of you. innovative period of television This early, exciting and busy and to a large extent I think laid the ground for the great television series which were to also go on from that point. It's mine! Then get it out of here and come back without it, or not at all! I won't either! Davey! Oh, Dad! Local successes like this were a treat, but we still wanted to be reminded of our British connections. You don't live here?! Oh, yes. I live here with my dad. Do come in.

(Woman screams) What's the matter? (Screams) What are you doing down here?! go through the ceiling. I let the tub Things were going so well to be the local sales agent that the BBC appointed this man in Australia. of course. This is before he got a proper job, I discovered that I had been in the whole world. the BBC's best salesman earnt them more money, I sold more programs, any of these things, and I had no idea that I'd done

and really, I'd done no selling, short of material. because the ABC was just desperately Your cricket's no good, is it? of that bodyline bowling. Might be if they allowed a bit more Or better, if they let the bowler chuck the ball at the batsman... THE BBC gave us 'Till Death Us Do Part'. He could come tearing down the pitch and bust the bloody bowler... And in 1967, this was our most popular program. There it is. And the tongue-in-cheek spy thriller 'The Avengers' gave us our first cult following. Hold it! we could...have a bit of a go at. Well, anything the British could do, (Woman calls out) Arggh! Oh, Joe, I'm glad you're home early.

an Australian classic was born. In 1967 Shh! He rang up a few minutes ago. No. Tattersalls? families spent their evenings. 'Bellbird changed the way Just after tea, and little kids would all have their showers and their baths, have their dinner,

and you had this lovely time just after dinner and before the news when you would sit down for 20 minutes and watch 'Bellbird'. You didn't tell her nothing, did you, about Bernie? Ooh, no, not till I'd seen you. The appeal - it was just a lovely, simple homespun yarn.

No violence to speak of and certainly no passionate sex scenes. May I introduce Tony Buckland? Very glad to meet you, Buckland. And I you, sir. 'Bellbird' became the most enduring home-grown soap opera. It was on four nights a week. and and lot of people thought it was like watching their own lives. as part of their family. They thought of the actors Look, bigger than ever. I actually had a baby of my own.

Not the character, but of my own. And on the baby's birth, my child, announced in the paper, I would have got, when it was about 200 pairs of booties.

and very sweet, Very gratefully received but, I mean, people believed in it.

I know I'm pig-headed, moody. But I love you. Difficult to live with. interruption of the 7:00 news, After 'Bellbird' came the rude was not encouraging. and news from the real world THEME MUSIC

together through the city Volunteers and conscripts marched active service abroad. before embarking for A heavy police contingent watched for trouble, but there were no incidents of any kind to mar Sydney's farewell to the Vietnam Task Force. In the coming years, the national broadcaster would face the challenge of reporting the Vietnam War objectively to an increasingly divided country. These are the Long Hai mountains about 10 miles south of the Australian base at Nui Dat. about Vietnam ABC News was very worried contentious. because it was politically it was a bit that way, Even at the start

became apparent we were losing it, but as the war developed and it moratoriums exploded in Australia, and the demonstrations and the the ABC became terrified of Vietnam. THEME MUSIC affairs program, There was now a new nightly current 'This Day Tonight', had a new job. and the BBC salesman in God's name to stop." "We call on them

late last year This was the appeal Pope Paul made to end the fighting in Vietnam. to the leaders of the world 'This Day Tonight' the reporting of current affairs introduced a satirical irreverence to in Australia. 'TDT' seized on the occasion when US President Johnson's Sydney motorcade was blockaded by antiwar protesters. A particularly tough job for the security man. The Premier of NSW, Robert Askin, sat beside the President.

Askin was in the car with Johnson. And when the driver turned round and said, "I'm sorry, Mr Premier, but I have to stop now. are lying down in front of the car." "All these people "Run over the bastards." And Askin said in my head. And it was ticking around run the bastards over... # I thought... (Sings) # Run, run, (All sing to 'John Brown's Body') # Run, run, run the bastards over # As I said to LBJ. # Premier of NSW, Sir Robert Askin, This electrified not only the but his supporters, and the switchboard lit up on that. absolute bastards we were. 75% of those people said what 25% said, "Keep after the bastards."

the bastards over... # # Run, run, run

We got reactions. What can you say? # As I said to LBJ. # The notion that the ABC could do satire on something as important as the relationship between America and Australia, it just seemed outrageous. Yeah, look at this lot. Here's your trouble. Of course, in the end, ABC management had to pull this lot into line. They said we must not ask negative questions, that a politician could withdraw a recorded interview if he felt it hadn't gone well for him, that I was not to ad lib. I must not say anything spon... This is live television. Um, it was unbelievable. One of the best things about 'TDT' was that it could go in in depth, and it could expose things that otherwise weren't going to be exposed, but it could also laugh, and make people laugh. (Sings) # You've got ants in your pocket # Ants in your shirt # Ants everywhere, even in your underpants # You like ants? I like ants! I knew it. The strand of anarchy that got 'TDT' into trouble soon broke out somewhere else. You might wonder why I wear these high-heeled shoes. Oh. I did wonder, yes - why? I was at Peter Weir's house, and his nieces and nephews were running round the house and they were really annoying me, and I went, "Listen, you 'orrible little pigs! "Either stop that or I'll rip your bloody arms off!" And Peter went, "What was that?"

And I said, "It's Aunty Jack." And he went, "Yeeees!" (Sings) So Peter Weir and Grahame Bond wrote Aunty Jack into a pilot for a children's program. And she had said at the end of the program, "If you don't listen to my show next week, I'll rip your bloody arms off." I'll rip your bloody arms off. And I thought it was a great idea that you abuse the audience, because not many people had done that on television. I thought that could work. Tonight on the Aunty Jack Show we're going to talk about sex. No, you're not! You get down here, you filthy animal! Oh, Aunty Jack, you must face facts. Sex is on the increase. Oh, terrible! The pilot became a successful series. In the best traditions of public broadcasting, a risk paid off. I'm leaving. Argh! Righto, son. You've had it. Come on! Put 'em up. Come on, put 'em up! I mean it. The ABC knew it also had to reflect society. But 'Chequerboard's plan to give ordinary people a voice made some at the ABC very nervous. They said that Australians couldn't talk, they were boring. And I just didn't believe that. I thought that was a great load of nonsense. I went to family welfare when my gas was cut off. I was expecting a baby and my husband was out of work. I don't think I'd ever go there again. I'd rather shoot myself before I went into family welfare. Why is this? They thought I was an animal. I finally remember getting through when it hit me to say, "This isn't going to exploit people. It's a compassionate program, "a compassionate approach."

What's on the menu tomorrow? Fish fingers. Curried prawns and rice. 'Chequerboard' could also be optimistic, and they were in this case, with a battling widow cooking everything that wasn't nailed down for her daughter's wedding. Four sticks of celery. One case of tomatoes.

And four willing daughters to help do the job. The program challenged the audience by exposing the underbelly of Australian society.

Like a family of nine living in appalling poverty. Well, I'll have baked potatoes and I've got a tin of meat and vegetable there. I'll make that up with, warm, put it into a saucepan and warm it up. With a bit of extra water in it, I'll make it up more gravier than what it is. That makes it go a bit further. Stop it. (Child cries) While 'Chequerboard' lifted the veil from urban life, a program called 'A Big Country' took to the road. Ruth Shephard is a princess in a kingdom, a kingdom of a thousand square miles, with only a dozen people but with great herds of cattle. Do you go out very much with the men? Mostly all the time now. I always said when my last kid was old enough to ride a horse, that's it. There wasn't a place where there just weren't fabulous stories to be told and new territory to be discovered for television. It was exciting and fabulous. If a woman stays at the homestead,

she sees her husband only during the three months wet season, so the wife catches a horse and goes with him, having to live under rough conditions for the privilege of being both tentkeeper and stockman. The thing about 'Big Country' is how important it was to actually show Australians wherever they lived.

Over two decades, 'A Big Country' would try to bridge the continental divide that separated Australians, from the isolation of the outback to football obsessed country towns. Now, look at this bloke. I love this bloke.

Carly, get with it! Ready for a hand pass. Look at 'em all trying to mark it, would you? Bruce, most towns with a population of 3,000 are flat out keeping up enough support for one side. How can Orbost keep up the support for two sides? Hand pass! The, er... Hand pass! Oh, spare me. Go, you little ripper! Absolutely everybody in the country has a story to tell, and so it didn't matter to us whether it was a bachelor and spinsters ball, where...the fabric of rural life where they don't get an opportunity a lot of times to have fun and kick up their heels, where the nearest neighbour is hundreds of kilometres away. And when they get together, they know how to play up. And we wanted to show that. I love this bloke too. This bloke's a really class act. Look at this. He doesn't lose a drop. Now, meanwhile, of course, the outback,

left alone for a million years, was about to be examined by a generation of celebrity presenters. Fantastic size, this place. You don't really get any idea of scale looking at it because there's nothing to compare it with. But you saw that man walking along the top there, and that must be a thousand-foot drop from where he is down to the ground here. (Sings) # I'm Jake the Peg # With his extra leg Deedle eedle eedle um # Wherever I go through rain and snow # The people always let me know # There's Jake the Peg... # On his 'Walkabout' series, Rolf introduced us to a couple of mates from Perth, one of whom just happened to be an unknown called Harry Butler. This country here, you can see how desolate it looks. You had your eyes on the rock all the time, but... Harry was just marvellous.

He became the star of that show without a shadow of a doubt. He was driving along and he just slammed the handbrake on and jumped out of the moving car. The next thing I know, Harry's run right back into the bush and come out laughing like mad, saying, "You beauty!" And he's got this python which was draped around his neck. Look at that one. How long is it?

How long is it? Well, about eight, nine feet, I suppose. Rolf's mate Harry was a star. One of the first television conservationists, he soon had his own series.

That's about the most dangerous animal up here. The death adder. Look at those fangs, those great, huge fangs in that little head. And a bad bite could kill a healthy adult in about three minutes, I guess. Although he's a bitey and a baddie, in nature, you let things go when you finish with them. People are crowding around Mr Whitlam, shaking hands, patting him on the back. In 1972,

there was a big change when the ALP came to power for the first time in 23 years. We want Gough! It's clear that we...we won. The new government meant more money for public institutions,

including the ABC. There was a great swell of optimism going on, which was not just about the Labor Party.

It was about life, things were good, it was all of those things. And everybody was just beginning to understand what you could do with television. On television, drama is the most expensive thing to produce, but now it got a new lease of life. He's had enough, Ben. Let him go. The saddles and the crinolines were dusted off. Everyone, please be quiet. Did you start this?

I threw a piece of bread at Bunty. I missed. It was Bunty's fault anyway. He started throwing things.

I did not! (All talk at once) Where do you want these? Over there, darling. He could cut himself, you know? By the 1970s, ABC drama began to reflect the changing expectations of half the audience - women. Someone help me! What's happened? I'm having a baby. 'Certain Women' ran successfully for four seasons, but perhaps these issues were easier to deal with in fiction than they were in reality. Is it Mr Clarke, the first speaker? The man who said he was a Catholic father of nine, and is happy... At a Sydney Town Hall debate, women demanded their say on abortion. 'Four Corners' cameras were there. I am a Catholic mother reared by the Irish nuns, and a mother of eight. I have had eight children in 10 years, one hysterectomy, one rectocele, one cystocele and two varicose vein operations, and I'm not happy.

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE Someone's sensibilities were offended, and the ABC pulled the plug on the whole program. I think we were pretty staggered when the decision was made not to go to air. And I am sure it was because pressure was put on by politicians at the request of the churches. Many Australians were clearly uncomfortable with the social changes going on around them. Welcome again to Monday Conference. Robert Moore travelled the country to give ordinary people their say. Why are there more homosexuals now than 20 years ago? Well, there clearly aren't.

What is the situation now is that we're prepared to talk about it, because we're no longer prepared to stay silent and suffer the sorts of things we've suffered in the past.

Why don't you call yourself a straight out poofter and pervert, and why are perverts allowed to run the street and rape and murder and kill little babies, like you people?! And there was also something for the petrol heads.

Peter Wherrett here, relishing the independence of public broadcasting,

owed no-one any favours at all of any kind. Now, we've already picked the first car for our test, and it's Leyland's P76 V8 Executive. Fairly recently it was awarded the 'Wheels' magazine Car of the Year award, and as well, in its pre-release advertising, Leyland called it "anything but average". I think it's exactly average, and I'm also reasonably certain it has no right to a Car of the Year award. TYRES SCREECH The audience loved it. They loved the fact that after years of reverential looking at cars in the newspapers, here was this guy slamming boots open and closed, kicking doors open and closed, saying,

"It's a bucket of so-and-so." It was great fun. TYRES SCREECH something for everyone. ABC Television tried to have I wonder what these people wanted? By the early 1970s, however, was growing up and getting restless. the first 'Play School' generation of their very own. Not unreasonably they wanted a show they had one for us. I think it's about time Why is that?

except for 'GDK', Because there's nothing else on and that's only for 10 minutes.

# You watch a horror movie Right there on my TV # Horror movie Right there on my TV # Horror movie of my brain... # # Shocking me right out by senior management It was widely loathed because it was crass and vulgar, and I suppose it contained music thought was absolute trash. that anyone over the age of 35 # I hate the music... # But it was riotous fun to do. # Whoa oh oh oh... #

Before long, over a million young Australians were watching 'Countdown' every Sunday night. 'Countdown' was one of the shows that I watched religiously. And that thing was, we didn't just watch 'Countdown', we learnt about bands. we learnt from 'Countdown', for music, And Molly had this passion on a stick, and he wasn't just this talking head he really loved his music. well now it's just unbelievable, Alright - one guy that is doing so on the American charts, and it's justifiable because... incidentally... I'm talking about Rick Springfield, had become national celebrities. By the mid-1970s, TV presenters talking, sleeping (Sings) # I've got the walking, # What's on in Wollongong blues. # out of the ABC And at exactly this point, in television history. came one of the great creations

Now to get things really hopping, for a progressive spot stomp. all you cats up on your feet be really outrageous? I thought, what can I do that'd A TV presenter would have shaving cuts.

Ludicrous. And a comb-over and that sort of stuff. HARMONICA PLAYS # I've got the star-struck showbiz light the lights hit the heights # What's on in Wollongong blues. #

Hi there. I'm Norman Gunston.

And I'd like to tell you about an exciting new holiday idea from Echidna Tours. Norman Gunston's career took off. lights of the big city He left Wollongong for the bright in his very own tonight show. It's the Norman Gunston Show! Norman Gunston Show. Welcome to the first It will be an hour of high-powered entertainment, Logie-type award-winning Wollongong style. Now, Danny, down. What have I got to do? Danny won't get angry, will he? How's that? Hey! bombed. The very first 'Norman Gunston Show' Um, do you want to have a go? came off at 8:00. It went on at 7:30,

broadcast van rings. 8:01, the phone in the outside "Hello, it's Maurice." taken this on, Says the program director who's "That show is off." I was pretty depressed, because all round the ABC, no-one would make eye contact with you. It was like, "Oh, God, that show."

I thought, "Oh, what a failure it's been." The next day, the young producer was hauled before his superiors who confirmed that the show had indeed been canned. So I began to cry. I wasn't like a screaming child. slowly, you know. Just tears rolling down my face hurt me so much' sort of tears. The sort of hurt, 'how could you And they were terribly embarrassed. crying trick, though, you know? He was very good at doing that

you bas... One more show." And they said, "Alright, and it went onto its great success. So the next show was fine, tears will get you anything. So my advice to everybody is, I thought you were crying. No! Help! Nothing. What's up? She's into drugs, I think. No! I'm alright, Mr Gunston. I'll give her a Bex. Yes, perfect. questions and get out of here. Let's get on with the in-depth on the television He was a character that appeared that fired up every little bit of my imagination. And as a performer, the fact that he was fearless, and the risks that Norman took was something quite outstanding. CHEERING AND APPLAUSE I thought he was gonna talk to me! The sacking of a federal government was tumultuous, but then things went on exactly as they had always done.

Bowled him! was drawing even bigger audiences, Sport, which was now in colour, was still seen only on the ABC. but cricket, at this stage, and it was only going to be changed That had to change, any one network could offer. by the amount of money in advertising revenue, And of course, with the explosion

and the requirement for colour, then the commercial networks saw a great money earner, that this was going to be and a great ratings success. by buying the players Kerry Packer started and launching World Series cricket. would come later. The rights for Test cricket of commercial television I guess it was the inevitability in its early stages. and commercialisation of sport with World Series Cricket, So the writing was on the wall and I guess the writing was on the wall too for ABC sport. They were doing sport, and they were doing it better than the commercial networks. They were doing drama, than the commercial networks. So we kept a very close eye on what the ABC was developing as a nursery for what we may do in the future on commercial television. Come, adore him." The hymn, "Come, you people. that commercial networks Well, here's something particularly interested in. were never Would you now all, please, stand? It's hymn number 27, Trevor. SONG: # Come, you people # Come adore him # been there from the very beginning. Religious programs, of course, had (Sings) # Makes me love everybody # Makes me love everybody... # But as Australian society changed, to each team. the challenge was to give a fair go SONG IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE chart of the way Australian WOMAN: It's quite an interesting have altered since television began. attitudes and sensibilities we must do - it's our duty. It's regarded as something and no-one else So...it's both valued, television spectrum does it. in the entire Australian VOICEOVER: The technique of chick-embryo culture, now standard in the production of flu vaccine,

was pioneered by Sir Macfarlane Burnet. Now, here was another strand of interesting program development at the ABC. Science had always been taken pretty seriously to take a more populist approach. until about 1980 when it was decided ELECTRONIC THEME MUSIC was a fairly simple one. Our attitude to science it's biology. If it's green and wiggles, If it stinks, it's chemistry. it's physics. And if it doesn't work, These are product or 'barcodes', with the equipment to read them, and in any supermarket

can be made, recorded, they mean that a purchase inventoried, and correctly charged purchase through a scanner beam. in the time it takes to pass the The system works like this - told that today coffee costs $2.29, the store computer has already been that bread costs 73 cents a loaf, say, 63 cents a packet. and that porridge costs, the space shuttle hadn't flown, Now, you think back to '79, home computers - well, they didn't exist, mobile phones hadn't actually happened. MAN: This aircraft is in the very leading edge of technology. Much of this plane isn't made of metal at all, but of a type of fibreglass called 'epoxy/graphite'. We think there's an attractive way of telling some of these science and technology stories people pontificating. that doesn't involve rather dull 'rock'n'roll science'. We coined the expression are digital - MAN: All the displays on the fascia the fuel gauge, many miles you can actually do the fuel range, which tells you how you've still got in the tank. with the fuel that is digital. Even the electronic climate control of course, It was so successful on the ABC it was packaged and went, that they took it off and later on I think, to 93 countries. Apparently I'm still a household word in some parts of Kazakhstan. (Sings) # I'm puttin' on my top hat... # Meanwhile over in the light-entertainment department - Trevor, stop giggling, please? This is serious. Trevor! MAN: Saturday night at 7.30 was a classic time for light family entertainment. And we - a lot of money. We threw a lot of money at it. 'RHAPSODY IN BLUE' The documentary division, however, was now getting so excited it was looking for opportunities to make documentaries outside Australia. THEME MUSIC And here again we had a new presenter on the back of an elephant,

Keith Adam, and he'd been sent off to introduce Australians to the neighbours. VOICEOVER: For a romantic like me, Rajasthan is the most romantic part of India. It's spectacular palaces,

its desolate landscape studded with old fortresses. MAN: This was not a thing for lectures, this was a thing for... ..for personal journeys. So first up, it was Keith Adam, and Keith was a terrific storyteller. VOICEOVER: For 1,000, maybe 2,000km down the Ganga Valley, you can see this scene... ..the same flat landscape. But for me it's never monotonous. And the same austere life that the people live here, but with variations and with satisfactions that we've half forgotten, I think. While the ABC was exposing us to the ways of the rest of the world there were aspects of Australian life that remained unexamined. You are now probationary police constables. You're about to embark on a long and rewarding career. An ABC drama was about to shine a light into one of these dark corners. You'll see people look at you with dislike, fear... SANDRA LEVY: 'Scales of Justice' was an incredibly important drama. It was the first time I think that... ..that police corruption really was blown wide open and told in the minute detail of the way it actually happened. It was based on meticulous research. Sarge? I'll go back to the station, mate,

tell the night Ds and organise the owners. You stay and guard here. I'll get Bull to pick you up. TRAFFIC SOUNDS

SANDRA LEVY: When 'Scales of Justice' was being researched and then as it got closer to going on air, there were unpleasant phone calls, there were death threats, there were threats of bombs in cars. The producers of 'Scales of Justice' were determined to accurately recreate the world of crime and corruption. It was a case of necessity, being the mother of invention. MAN: We had a small budget. We made six hours of that show, and we had no money for lights.

And the first whole hour of the show was shot at night. So we drove all over Sydney looking for places that were brightly lit,

like the front of service stations, or outside pizza parlours, or in shopping malls.

And we'd set the scene in front of those things so they'd get all the ambient light. Filming techniques had to be invented. A car crash in which eight boys were killed had to look real if it was going to work dramatically. We created the event over three hours - four hours, I think, on that night. We didn't attempt to shoot anything, just worked away and away and away at all the pragmatic detail

of a big smash. Then when we were ready we shot the whole thing in 20 minutes, using four cameras. This mix of the look of a documentary and the purpose of a drama, created at the ABC, a new social realism. I claim this land and all her peoples for the greater glory England. GOD SAVE THE KING. GET DOWN, NOW! (All yelling and scuffling) Got you, Neddy. Gees, you serious, mate? You can bank on it, sunshine. If Australians were still sceptical about the level of corruption in our society, it was gonna take 'Four Corners' to expose the reality. FOUR CORNERS THEME VOICEOVER: There is little that's subdued or discreet

about Brisbane prostitution. While police and politicians can't find them, the public can't miss them. In one memorable program, would detail police corruption, 'Four Corners' name crooked businessmen, and help bring down a government.

television, there was no Internet. MAN: At that time everybody watched very much. Television was it. People didn't go out to the cinema a country, with one program. And so you could change literally, 'The Moonlight State' That program was policing and politics apart. and it blew Queensland of The House of the Rising Sun, VOICEOVER: Once through the doorway you've entered another small vice empire. MAN: It was demoralising work. to prostitutes and drug addicts We found ourselves talking and drug dealers and brothel keepers till late at night. and disgruntled police officers physically and morally, in a way. It was...exhausting the culture, I believe it materially changed the political culture, of this country in a way... ..that it was vastly for the better. After 'The Moonlight State' I did have a holiday in Queensland - in the Binna Burra National Park. we were bushwalking, I think, I was walking through the bush

towards me on a distant trail and I could see somebody coming that they recognised me. and they made no sign But as this woman passed me, for what you did for Queensland." she said, "Thank you And that put a smile on my face. was now an institution. 'Four Corners' By 1985, it was time for another one. This is a pension cheque. It's wet. Yes, yes. Yes. Ah, it was in the teapot. 'Mother and Son'. MAN: The ABC never wanted and you will know who you are - One of the executives at the time - senility, and senility ain't funny." said, "'Mother and Son' is about in a huge way. Well, he had missed the plot Son'. It's a great caring love It's a love affair, 'Mother and affair. I say, Arthur. Arthur. LAUGHTER ARTHUR! It's alright. It's al-right. LAUGHTER There's nothing to be afraid of. What's happening? No, no, no. It's only a storm. Go back to sleep. LAUGHTER no-one knew how big a success MAN: At the beginning, I would say, 'Mother and Son' was gonna be. have predicted the magic 'Cause I don't think anyone could as a couple on television. that Ruth and Garry produced And it doesn't happen very often, but they just had that quality, out of love for each other. which came, I think, for another, I mean, love as one performer each others abilities. admiring and respecting I need you to be my mother. to DO anything. But you don't want me I want you to look after me. Yes, I do. Doing what? We'll think of something. LAUGHTER they shook hands once more "Having given 3,000 cheers "and turned in for the night." 'Mother and Son' was a hit and it stayed a hit for almost a decade. And then, for some reason or other, this happened. TRUMPET MUSIC Good evening. I'm Max Gillies, and these people are your taxes at work. Max Gillies satirised everyone in power. (Sings) # Governor-General, what kind of job is that? # La, la, la, la, la, la (Belches) in a big top hat # Roaming around like a fool # La, la, la, la, la, la (Belches) Il Dismissale the opera - musical production number we were just doing this one-off we'd leave it alone. and ever afterwards such fun and it was so successful, And of course, we did it, and it was we ended up doing one in every show. that it could not be denied and so (Sings) # ..Sir John... # to be remembered forever? How would you like I would. # Now, just remember this (Mimics Bob Hawke) # I'm not longer on the piss # I laugh and then I cry... # the 'Gillies Report' went to air We heard that the week after Bob Hawke impersonation and Max had performed his celebrated for the first time, that members of cabinet started referring to Bob as 'Max'. And we're told it didn't go down too well. I never felt that it was in any sense improper for the Prime Minister to be the subject of that sort of treatment. I mean, that's, that goes with the, goes with the job. Of all the channels and all the TV sets in all the world, he had to walk into ours. Exactly, but in spite of the success of programs like the 'Gillies Report' audiences were down. was made Managing Director In 1986 David Hill to bring the people back. and he came in with a promise Look at that determination. audiences are important. I was saying, yes, of commercial ratings. Not the mindless pursuit

But we should be concerned switching off the ABC that people have been

challenging and exciting programs and we've got to be providing the that get 'em to switch back on. impossible increase David Hill demanded a seemingly

ABC drama production, in the amount of from 30 hours to 100 hours a year. The commitment that the ABC would produce a year, a minimum of 100 hours of drama I suppose it was plucked out of the air. And he hired Sandra Levy to do the job. I discovered of course that the money for the 30 hours was all the money they had and that this promise of 100 hours didn't come backed with funding. and we had the people, We had the studios to go with it but we didn't have the money for 100 hours seemed to unleash and just this with commitment the creative energy. got his 100 hours of drama. David Hill productive days of the early years. ABC television returned to the favourite on a medical practice, The backbone was a long-running 'G.P.' Well, I better practice up on my smiling for the next time Steve. Vera Veins comes in. she does that boeuf stroganoff. I sincerely hope Delicious. Boeuf? It was delicious, wasn't it, Robert? Boeuf Stroganoff. (All laugh) come in this morning. I didn't think you'd Here I am. Sorry to hear about your dad, Kath. Thanks.

Yes, very sad. You will be DAMNED as surely the worst Protestant is damned. 'Brides of Christ' was a runaway success when it took a voyeuristic peep over the convent wall. CHOIR SINGS LATIN

the series, including Trevor. 1.7 million Australians watched in the United Kingdom. And six million mores The nuns would give the ABC a taste for the mass market. reverberated around the ABC, And by the early 1990s a new word 'Infotainment'. Attractive word, isn't it? ABC audiences loved it. and 'Everybody', But 'Holiday', 'The Home Show', were all co-productions, outside the ABC. which meant they attracted money from were the buzz word. MICHAEL SHRIMPTON: Co-productions And they could be entered into with government departments, and were,

and were. or with private enterprise, by the board. And they were sanctioned that they should be done. Everybody was comfy The reason we're in Gabriel Gate's kitchen is because he wrote this book for the Anti-Cancer Council. The success of these programs however, went to the heart of an ABC dilemma. Many were troubled that these commercial arrangements breached the ABC's independence and principles. and all as they were, MICHAEL SHRIMPTON: Successful of the prime-time layout, and they were the powerhouse that there was skulduggery afoot. it was the perception And perception is everything. that there were commercial fingers It was more than a perception pulling the strings behind those programs. I believe that was accurate, that did happen. And that was against the ABC charter - heads rolled, and those programs ended. And there the process, the practice ended. So in that sense you can say it was a proper outcome. ROCK MUSIC PLAYS SONG: # Blah, blah, blah, blah # Blah, blah, blah... # And then somebody came up with another way to inform and entertain simultaneously. Now, this kid's got some talent - he could go somewhere. We have some special show bags for tonight to be handed out now. Andrew Denton was a fresh new face and his approach was entertainment with a message. It's a free condom and free vegetable for all of you, which is more than many people get in countries around the world. There was always a risk - some would say, intention - of offending viewers. Very good work, Andrew. The condom over the carrot proving to have a difficulty of 9.5 for some people. The philosophy we had for 'Blah, Blah, Blah' was serious television done stupidly. And that first show was actually about safe sex, because this was 1988, it was at the height of the AIDS epidemic, there were people dying around this country, and they were dying of ignorance as much as anything. And believe you me, the people that watched that show remembered it and that was the point. (Sings 'Advance Australia Fair') 1988 was the time when we all had to feel good about ourselves, by law. The ABC joined Australia's 200th birthday party with some unashamedly nationalistic offerings. The jewel in the crown was 'Nature of Australia'. Well over 100 million people looked at that series, which is staggering, I know. VOICEOVER: The wild seas that lash Australia's southern coast are driven by the 'roaring 40s'. The series sold all over the world, and did as much to lift Australia's profile as 'Crocodile Dundee'. It also introduced audiences to some Australians they'd never seen before. VOICEOVER: Avoiding the daytime heat is one way these hopping mice have made themselves at home in the sandy desert. And they've evolved a speedy hop to escape their enemies. WOMAN: Did people know about Sminthopsis? Did they know about a quoll? Did they know about any of these gorgeous little guys that run round in the desert or anywhere else? You know, FABULOUS animals. Most Australians didn't even know they were there. And I think that that's what that series showed people, that it was a much richer country than we'd thought of before. THEME MUSIC You know at no other time of the year could I sit down here and find so many bush tuckers, literally within arm's length. No sooner had 'Nature of Australia' had shown us what was out there, then Les Hiddins showed us how to eat it, with some tips from the experts. (Speaks Aboriginal language)

VOICEOVER: The locals throw these little fellows on the fire, just as they are. Most of the audience, like me, were terrified of being lost in the bush,

dying of starvation in the bush,

being eaten by snakes in the bush, or whatever. And there was, there was suddenly, you know, there were people who have lived there perfectly at ease for tens of thousands of years. And we learnt how they'd come to do that. It was great. VOICEOVER: But hidden in the heart of the mangrove tree is another dainty morsel. In the course of his travels, Les Hiddens came face to face with a mangrove worm - one of my personal favourites. He had no option, but to swallow it down. But I don't think it was a great moment in his eating career. It's alright. DIDGERIDOO MUSIC From the start ABC television had always shown Aboriginal culture from a European perspective. But the satirical drama 'Babakiueria' changed that. What...do you...call this place? Just, it's a barbeque area. Babakiueria? They call this, babakiueria. (Soldiers repeat, barbakiueria) Nice, native name. You rarely saw Indigenous people in dramas and that's what 'Babakiueria' actually did. In a program that really reversed the roles and projected the traumatic experience in a humorous way. And I just remember thinking, "Wow, this is fantastic." NO! Oh, don't be silly. Go with the nice lady, they're going to give you a proper education - much better than we can give you. It was like this is me, as an Indigenous person, for the first time being portrayed on the screen, and that was powerful. Do the white people think the government is doing a good job? Oh, yes. Very good. They look after us, don't they, kids? But you said the other night, "Why can't they put on TV shows with white people in them?" DIDGERIDOO MUSIC ABORIGINAL CHANTING Maroochy is an Aboriginal singer with a powerful voice and talent.

The ABC recognised that after 40,000 years perhaps Aboriginal people should be telling their own stories. And in the late '80s, the Aboriginal Program Unit was formed. (Sings Aboriginal language) I think that as Australia has grown as a nation, as the consciousness has changed,

about who we are as Aboriginal people, that there is more of an embracing of who we are, our place in history, our place within this landscape, and now our place within television,

that the Indigenous Programs Unit has a role to play in creating that changing consciousness. (Sings) # Cloud formation # In the west today # Thunder and rain reaching here tonight. # And here's another idea you'll never see on commercial television. This is actually one of the very few programs ever made that nobody wants to appear on. The 'Sydney Morning Herald' which holds itself out as a quality paper did very poorly.

It gave the consumers of the media some focus for disclosing the dishonesties and the lack of standards in the media, and also some place to take their complaints. It was only legitimate to have a program like, 'Media Watch' if it was at least as harsh as on the ABC as it was on the rest of the media. VOICEOVER: When it really matters Australians turn to their 'Newsforce',

the ABC 'Newsforce'. And when they do, what do they get? They get a producer in Sydney writing a script

which is faxed to Oklahoma City so it can be read back to Sydney over the phone by the ABC's man on the spot. The real problem with journalism in this country, and particularly in the ABC is its lack of accountability. And in a way 'Media Watch' made some journalists accountable for some of their worst excesses.

In 1991, the ABC reached a milestone it would prefer to forget. Good evening, Australia. And here we are at Twickenham for the final between Australia and England. Another major sporting event was about to be lost to commercial television. COMMENTATOR: Poidevin to Farr-Jones. And we were actually covering this for the whole of Australia and rating our socks off at 2:00 in the morning and the rugby had gone out and done a secret deal with Ten. People across the country stayed up to watch Australia defeat England. But this would always be a bittersweet moment for the commentators. It was very difficult calling that World Cup final because we were aware that a commercial network was poised to take the rights from the ABC. I felt a sense of betrayal. COMMENTATOR: That epitomises England's spirit... FULL-TIME WHISTLE BLOWS ..in the TOUR OF THE NATION! (Commentator screams) THAT'S IT! It was hard to explain and to describe emotions after Australia won that World Cup final. Although we felt betrayed, it was also like going through a divorce with someone you still loved. That's how bad it was. COMMENTATOR: Australia, now to enjoy their moment. The whole of the country must be jumping up and down rejoicing. Regrettably, the rabbit's gone. It's down the burrow and it's gone. I think it would be impossible for the ABC to get back to be a major player in sport now. Largely, because it's become so commercialised. THEME FROM 'THE BIG GIG' There was little to do but laugh. I was going out with this guy for about five years. He was great in bed. Trouble is, everybody agreed with me. I mean, I'd be out at a restaurant discussing my sex life, I'd look up and the whole place is going, "I know. I know." 'The Gig' was exciting. 'The Gig' was dangerous. 'The Gig' was three-dimensional. You were in the middle of that audience, you moved through them. There was a sense of being there. OK, hands up those who are under 25. Let's see... Oh, look at them. Look! (Mocks) "Look at me. Look at me. I'm under 25!" (All sing) # My sweet Lord Rama Got my ticket to Nirvana # It's a commune just left of County Cork # Share a pint with me, Lord Shiva

# As we read the Bhagavad Gita # I'll have Krishna riding shotgun on the stagecoach of my life # Hey! Of my life. # There have been these periods where 'The Gillies Report', for instance, influenced a whole generation of comedians who actually got to work on 'The Big Gig', and 'The Big Gig' influenced a whole generation of comics who are now making 'The Glass House'. APPLAUSE AND CHEERING How are you going, guys? Surprisingly, I'm not happen again this week. What? Virgil, will you come in here, please? APPLAUSE AND CHEERING Well, this is the D Generation and they came out of the University of Melbourne. Of course, they went on to become Working Dog and make a host of other programs that are now incredibly famous. Close the door, son. LAUGHTER Never mind! Who are the kids? Oh, it's a story on youth unemployment. Despite the government's promises it's still running at 28%.

God, that makes me angry. Yeah. You order tuna and they give you whitefish. Absolutely no tuna! That's a 20 buck dish! God - that pisses me off! 'The Late Show' and 'Frontline' as a pair of programs that the Working Dog guys did back to back just blew me away, and that's the thing. I was never more jealous as a viewer just sitting at home going, "That's what I want to do for a living." We live in a modern world. A modern world... Everyone accepts homosexuality. Everyone.

I mean, take Ross who reads the weekend news, right. I mean, is he any less a person because he's gay?

Ross is gay? Yeah. Ross the newsreader is gay?

I thought you knew. You didn't... You're shitting me?! Oh, yuck. Where we attracted the single highest number of complaints and with intensity was our decision to televise live Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras. Here we are all looking so beautiful. Whoo! In 1995, the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was one of the three most-watched programs on ABC Television - and who's this? I'm Lucille Balls! The ABC came under attack for the broadcast but it worked for the boss. For months afterwards, if I ate in any restaurant in the inner city of Sydney, if there was a gay waiter, I'd get the wine and often the food free. What do you want this for? I want to read what's on it! Honestly, a little bit of red wine is not gonna... you know? It's certainly not... But you don't drink just a little red wine. I'll just have a couple of little glasses. You have four or five bottles. In the 1990s, ABC documentaries adopted an improvised approach to bringing real life to television. Oh, love, I wouldn't do that. 'Sylvania Waters' was absolutely groundbreaking TV. I just thought, "That is the way of the future - that show." And it turned out it was because that was the first reality TV show. When we saw that show, we weren't even thinking about doing 'Kath & Kim'. It wasn't like "Oh, 'Sylvania Waters', oh, we'll do 'Kath & Kim'." It was a show we were obsessed by. We loved. And obviously it completely stuck with us. And when we started writing 'Kath & Kim', we said, "We want that visual grammar." We're not racist to the Aboriginals around here... More disturbing was an exposure of life on an inner-city beat. Could I have a second car to Lily St at Chippendale? We have an Aboriginal person causing trouble. OK, mate, you're under arrest for offensive language. No! Bullshit! What?! I haven't done nothing. I ain't done nothing! Just hop in the back, please. You're under arrest for offensive language. Now hop in the back, please. 'Cop It Sweet' involved the ABC

putting a considerable amount of money behind a project that may or may not have worked. MAN: They put me in the back of the van and... Jesus Christ! I had no reason to be behind these bars. I'm telling you now.

I'm telling you now. No reason to be in here! Dammit now! The ABC is the great documenter

of Australian life and Australian culture. And documentaries are such an important part of that. And I think that it really is the ABC that should do those things, and I think it is the ABC that

should be bold and risky and passionate and brave. BOB HAWKE: It's an absolute commitment that I lead the party into the next election... In one of its boldest moves, the ABC secured unprecedented access to the heart of the Australian government in 1993. I'll back my...my loyalty to this country and my patriotism against Bob Hawke's any day.

It was quite clear that this man's naked ambition was an arrogance, was leading to a total perversion of the history

of the Labor movement. BAND ACCOMPANIES WOBBLE BOARD Even Rolf Harris was lured back to take a risk... # There's an old Australian stockman... er, rock band. # ..dusting off a Led Zeppelin classic on Andrew Denton's 'Money or the Gun'. A good idea this. # There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold # And she's buying a stairway to heaven. # The Harris 'Stairway' was sent to England and it became a huge hit. ROLF HARRIS: It got to number four in the UK. And that revitalised my career, basically. (Laughs) It changed my life. But, er, as my brother says, "If you don't have the courage to try something new, you never know what you're going to miss." Something like that - try it. It can't do you any harm and it could be wonderful, which it was. In 1996, a new program emerged from ABC News and Current Affairs that told people's stories without a reporter's voice. Just the people. It is the unmediated nature of 'Australian Story' which is what the Australian public love. The fact that there isn't a reporter in the way. That there isn't an interpretive voice. That is, they feel people able to tell their own stories in their own words.

You know, you look there and think, "At least I've still got one arm." Initially we were thinking, you know, "Well, Gayle's left-handed so it's a blessing that her left arm is the one that was left." But, you know, it all became 10 times worse when we knew that that arm didn't work. Those stories are very, very powerful

and resonate with the audience and one of the things that resonates about that story was just that scene of the husband who was putting the make-up on her face

with such incredible love and care. It just...your heart bleeds. GAYLE: It's very difficult to explain to someone where to put something without pointing.

But...maybe one semi-disaster, but other than that, pretty good, really. 'Australian Story' first went to air 10 years ago, and is still going strong. But back in 1996, the four top programs were all British. THEME FROM 'BALLYKISSANGEL' 'Ballykissangel' was doing brilliantly. The programmer at the time said, "I wish I had 50 more of them." I said to him, "What if we gave you an Australian series "that replicated the warm-heartedness of those worlds, "the eccentricity of those characters..." Um... "..but in a peculiarly Australian context?" THEME FROM 'SEACHANGE'

And so a new word entered the vernacular, along with a new heart-throb who very nearly didn't make it to the set. How is he? He's in pain! He was already in a state before, now he's had the self-esteem completely knocked out of him! I was only trying to teach him the only lesson my father taught me. Except how to balance an empty glass on your head when you're pissed. I actually turned the series down. I had a panic attack as I often do with work.

The possibility of being involved in a long-running television series

actually frightened me. So I said no. And I went back and read the script again and said, "I think I've made a terrible mistake." It's an extraordinary piece of writing and a great character. (Speaks Japanese) I think we'd all love to live in a community like Pearl Bay whether it be b