The television transmitter station on Mount Wellington, 1960 (AOT, PH30/1/3454)

Television appeared in Australia in 1956, and Tasmania in 1960, in Hobart. In 1958 Commercial Broadcasters Ltd (essentially the radio station 7HO) were granted a licence. They bought land at New Town, set up a studio and transmission tower, and transmitted the first test signal in March 1960, and on 27 April the first news story, of flooding in the Derwent Valley. The station, TVT6, was officially opened in May. TVT6's first live telecast was a talent audition, and first local commercial was for Coogans furniture store. The station had two studio cameras, 24 staff and 30 transmission hours per week. Announcers had to be versatile, hosting news, women's shows, children's shows, sport and other live presentations, and also assisting with commercials, voice-overs and promotional work. Later that year the Australian Broadcasting Commission opened Channel 2 in Hobart.

In the north, many people had erected huge aerials to receive Melbourne programmes. Northern Television, essentially the Examiner and the radio station 7EX, was granted a licence in 1960, and began transmission in 1962 as TNT9. Programmes were drawn from the three national commercial networks (Nine, Seven and Ten), and the company was trading profitably by the end of its first year. It made several popular programmes such as Quiz Quest with Neil Robson, Teen Beat, its first live show, Sunday Sports Club and children's programmes. Channel 2 also served the north, so most householders had two channels, one commercial and the ABC.

Television sales in Tasmania created a national per capita record. The viewing area gradually expanded, with translator stations relaying programmes to the west coast in 1965, and by 1971, 92 percent of homes in the viewing area had televisions. Colour transmission arrived in 1975. Television companies made many programmes locally. As well as sport and news, TVT6 produced the Channel Sixers (similar to the American Mickey Mouse Club), and the ABC produced a popular quiz show in Hobart.

In 1982 TNT9, headed by Edmund Rouse, bought TVT6, and as Examiner Northern Tasmania (ENT) controlled all commercial television in Tasmania, as well as several mainland stations, local radio stations, the Examiner, and a number of other businesses. ENT made popular programmes such as Caroline Matheson's Dateline Thursday, a news programme, and Taylor's Tasmania, which highlighted scenery and history.

In 1989 the northern part separated, and as TasTV, TVT6 covered the state. Federal government regulations meant that in 1992, ENT had to sell TNT9, to Tricom. In 1994 TasTV became an affiliate of the Nine Network, and in 1995 WIN bought ENT in a forced takeover. Tricom, now Southern Cross, went statewide with Channel 9. Meanwhile, in 1980 SBS TV started, to provide programmes for ethnic groups. It reached Tasmania in the 1990s, by which time most Tasmanians had a choice of four television stations: two commercial, 7 and 9, the ABC, and SBS. Sport and some news were still produced locally, but few other programmes were made, and in 2004 one of these rarities, Peter Cundall's Gardening Australia, was moved to Melbourne.

Further reading: B & C Woods, 40 years of Tasmanian Television Ltd, Hobart, 2000; B Clark, ENT, Launceston, 1994; Mercury, 1 March 2004.

Alison Alexander