Australian film and television chronology
1980: 0-10 becomes Network Ten
On 20 January 1980, the 0-10 television network became known as Network Ten. The 0 VHF band had been assigned to SBS Television, which began broadcasting later that year.
1980: Mad Max goes American
Fearing that audiences would not be able to understand thick Australian accents, Mad Max (1979) was released in the US by independent distributor American International Pictures with its dialogue dubbed in American accents. Many Australian colloquialisms were replaced, with 'very toey’ becoming 'super hot’.
1980: SBS Television launched
At 6.30 pm on 24 October 1980 (United Nations Day), the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) began full-time transmission in Sydney and Melbourne as Channel 0/28. It was located at 28 on the UHF band (the first Australian broadcaster to use the frequency) and 0 on the VHF band. According to its Charter, SBS was to 'inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society’. The first person on air was SBS Executive Director Bruce Gyngell, who also appeared on the first night of television in 1956. In 1986 the Hawke government announced plans to amalgamate SBS with ABC on 1 January 1987. The proposal was later abandoned following strong community protest and defeat of the legislation in the Senate.
Directed by David Bradbury, Frontline, was nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary Feature category. His 1986 film Chile: Hasta Cuando? also received an Academy Award nomination. Other significant Australian documentary makers to emerge in the 1980s include Tom Zubrycki, whose films include Waterloo (1981), Kemira: Diary of a Strike (1984) and Friends and Enemies (1987), and Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson who made First Contact (1983, also an Oscar nominee) and Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1988).
1980: CAAMA established
The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association was founded in Alice Springs. Its aim was to expose and promote Aboriginal music and culture to the rest of Australia. CAAMA is the major shareholder in Imparja Television, and CAAMA Productions (established 1988) produces film and television programs including the Nganampa Anwernekenhe documentary series, Green Bush (2005) and the award-winning children’s drama series Double Trouble (2007). CAAMA's other activities include the radio network 8 KIN FM and the record label CAAMA Music.
At the Cannes Film Festival in May 1980, Jack Thompson won a Best Supporting Actor prize for Breaker Morant (1979). Thompson played Major JF Thomas, an inexperienced military lawyer defending Morant and two other Australian lieutenants in a Boer War court-martial. Directed by Bruce Beresford and produced by Matt Carroll, Breaker Morant won 10 AFI Awards including Best Film and received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Fraser, B and the Macquarie Library 1997, The Macquarie Encyclopedia of Australian Events: Revised Edition, Macquarie Library, p 720.
1981: Gallipoli released
Peter Weir's Gallipoli (1981) premiered in Sydney and went on to become one of the most admired and critically acclaimed Australian films of all time. The first (and last) film produced by Associated R & R Films – a joint venture between Australian media entrepreneurs Robert Stigwood and Rupert Murdoch – Gallipoli (1981) became the first Australian production distributed in the US by an American major when Paramount released it on 28 August 1981. Gallipoli won 8 AFI Awards including Best Film.
Stratton, D 1990, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, pp 22-27.
To further encourage investment in film production following the introduction of Division 10B in 1978, the Fraser government introduced Division 10BA into the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936. Under the scheme, investors acquired an interest in the copyright of new, qualifying Australian programs and received a 100 per cent tax concession. 10BA sparked a boom in film production (334 features were made in the 1980s) and provoked strong subsequent debate about the quality of many films made under the scheme. Some commentators believed too many films were rushed into production to meet financial deadlines and imported actors were being cast over Australian performers in order to meet international marketing requirements. Amid rumours of rorts and excessive fees, 10BA was reduced to a flat 100 per cent write-off in the 1988-89 financial year in conjunction with the formation of the Film Finance Corporation.
Stratton, D 1990, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, p 11.
Screen Australia, Get the Picture
Retitled The Road Warrior for American release, Mad Max 2 set a record for an Australian film at the US box office. In its first three weeks of release it earned $US12 million.
Fraser, B and the Macquarie Library 1997, The Macquarie Encyclopedia of Australian Events: Revised Edition, Macquarie Library, p 720.
Released on 3 March 1982, The Man from Snowy River (1982) grossed $8 million in its first eight weeks of release, eclipsing Star Wars (1977) as the fastest-earning film in Australia. The record was short-lived, with ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) phoning home even higher figures later in the same year.
Stratton, D 1990, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, p 66.
Moran, A & Veith, E 2005, Historical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Cinema, The Scarecrow Press, Maryland, USA, p 20.
1982: Film Victoria launched
The Victorian Film Corporation was renamed Film Victoria by the Film Victoria Act (1981). In 1997, Film Victoria was amalgamated with the State Film Centre of Victoria to form Cinemedia Corporation. With the abolition of Cinemedia Corporation in 2001, Film Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image remained as separate statutory authorities. My First Wife (1984), Malcolm (1986), Shine (1996) and Japanese Story (2003) are among the feature films supported by Film Victoria.
In March 1982, The Australian Children’s Television Foundation was incorporated. Funded by the Commonwealth and State governments, the ACTF was established to develop and produce innovative, high-quality Australian programs for children. The founding director of ACTF was Dr Patricia Edgar, who held the post until June 2002. Award-winning productions ACTF has been involved in include Winners (1985), Touch the Sun (International Emmy Award, 1988), Round The Twist (1990-2000), Lift Off (1992-1994), Noah and Saskia (2004) and Mortified (2006).
In 1982 the Australian Teachers of Media held its first awards ceremony. Formed in the late 1960s as an independent, non-profit professional association promoting the study of film, television and new media, ATOM is represented in every state and territory and publishes Screen Education and Metro magazines. Since the late 1990s, ATOM has published several hundred study guides for films relevant to school curricula.
Filmmakers Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson receive an Academy Award nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category for First Contact (1983). A chronicle of the first meeting between highland tribes of Papua New Guinea and white explorers in the 1930s, First Contact was followed by Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1988) and Black Harvest (1992) to form the Highlands Trilogy. Other documentaries made by Connolly and Anderson include Rats in the Ranks (1996) and Facing the Music (2001).
The final film screened at Sydney’s premier picture palace was the American sports documentary Ski Time (1983). Designed by Cedric Ballantyne and built at a cost of £250,000, the Hoyts showcase opened its doors on 9 March 1928 with Flesh and the Devil (1926). Also used as a live music and performance venue in later years, the Regent screened the rock opera Tommy (1975) with an ear-splitting quintaphonic sound system set up in the stalls. It closed in May 1984 and remained dormant until 1988 when a permanent conservation order was controversially lifted. The building was demolished amid public outcry and the site remained a hole in the ground until 2004 when construction began on an apartment block.
Shirley, G & Adams, B 1983, Australian Cinema the First Eighty Years, Chapter 4 ‘The Royal Commission’, Currency Press, Sydney, p 79.
In 1984 the US studio 20th Century Fox sold its interest in the Hoyts cinema chain. Fox had acquired a major shareholding in the company in 1932. By April 1985, the Fink family became the sole owner of Hoyts and expanded its operations into distribution, home entertainment, and exhibition in New Zealand, the US, South America and Europe. By 1994 Hoyts was one of the ten largest cinema chains in the world and was sold to Kerry Packer’s family company, Consolidated Press Holdings, in 1999. Consolidated Press commenced selling cinemas and in 2003 the Hoyts America operation was sold to Regal Entertainment.
Moran, A & Veith, E 2005 Historical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Cinema, The Scarecrow Press, Maryland, USA, 2005, p 7.
AllExperts Encyclopedia, Hoyts
The National Film and Sound Archive was established in 1984. It was founded as a separate Commonwealth collecting institution from the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library, which was launched in 1935 as part of the then National Library. In 2003 the NFSA became part of the Australian Film Commission’s operations before becoming a statutory agency in 2008.
In April 1984 the AFC launched the Documentary Fellowship Scheme, aimed at assisting experienced documentary makers who had demonstrated excellence and innovation. Based on a report filmmaker Tom Haydon produced for the AFC, the scheme supported filmmakers including Tom Zubrycki (Friends and Enemies, 1987), Sarah Gibson and Susan Lambert (Landslides, 1986) and Dennis O’Rourke (The Good Woman of Bangkok, 1992).
Hughes, Peter 1995, Innovation or audience: the choice for documentary? An examination of the Australian Documentary Fellowship Scheme, 1984–1989 – Abstract, Screening the Past, Issue 4, uploaded 15 September 1998.
1985: Neighbours debuts on TV
On 18 March 1985, the half-hour soap opera Neighbours (1985-current) debuted on the Seven Network. Created by Reg Watson and produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation, the show was not a ratings success in Sydney and was soon cancelled. Network 10 picked up the program and began broadcasting it on 20 January 1986. It attracted a strong cult following when it commenced on the BBC on 27 October 1986 and was instrumental in launching the careers of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. As of 13 April 2007, more than 5,100 episodes of the show had been made. Celebrities who have appeared on Neighbours include Michael Parkinson, Shane Warne, Emma Bunton and Clive James.
Mercado, A 2004, Super Aussie Soaps, Pluto Press Australia, pp 208-231.
Clarke, D & Samuelson, S 2006, 50 Years: Celebrating a Half-Century of Australian Television, Random House, NSW, pp 151–160.
On 5 January 1986, SBS Television ceased broadcasting on the VHF 0 frequency in Sydney and Melbourne, making it the first UHF-exclusive television broadcaster in Australia.
1986: Crocodile Dundee opens
Crocodile Dundee (1985) premiered in Sydney and became the first genuine, all-Australian international box-office blockbuster. It grossed $47.7 million in Australia and $360 million worldwide. On the eve of its North American premiere at the Montreal Film Festival, star and co-writer Paul Hogan confidently announced 'It’s going to be a big hit in America like it was in Australia’.
Stratton, D 1990, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, p 337.
Screen Australia, Get the Picture
Peel (1986) (AKA An Exercise in Discipline – Peel) by Jane Campion won the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film. This marked the beginning of Campion’s run of awards at European film festivals.
On the opening night of the 1986 Sydney Film Festival, approximately 1,200 protesters led by the Rev Fred Nile and the Festival of Light demonstrated against the inclusion of Hail Mary (1985) in the program. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Hail Mary was considered blasphemous by some Christian groups for its modern interpretation of the relationship between Mary and Joseph. On the night of the film’s screening, the State Theatre was evacuated following a bomb threat. In July 1986, Anglican Father Walter Ogle of Adelaide and Catholic Father John O’Neill of Sydney launched an unsuccessful challenge in the Federal Court over the film. Hail Mary was later released theatrically in Australia with an 'R’ certificate.
1986: The Movie Show debuts
The Movie Show (1986-2007) featuring film critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton debuted on SBS TV on Thursday 30 October 1986. The weekly review program was the first Australian TV show to produce specials from the Cannes and Venice film festivals. Quentin Tarantino's first TV interview was for The Movie Show at Cannes in 1992. In mid-2004, Pomeranz and Stratton left SBS to present At The Movies (2004-current) on ABC TV. The highly respected and popular duo marked 20 years on television in October 2006.
In the 1985-86 financial year, a record 42 Australian feature films were produced. The largest contributing factor to the upsurge in production during the mid-'80s was the attractive investment opportunity offered by 10B and 10BA tax incentives.
Having placed a four-year moratorium on cable television in September 1986, the Australian government permitted the introduction of limited subscriber services to pubs and clubs. Not defined as broadcasters, Club Superstation and Sky Channel were granted licences and began transmitting horseracing and other sporting events into approved venues.
Herd, Nick 2005, 'Australian Television History – Timeline’, unpublished.
In 1987 Perth entrepreneur Alan Bond purchased the Channel 9 television network from Kerry Packer for approximately $1 billion. In 1990 Packer regained control of the Nine network in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for around $250m. It has been said that Packer later commented 'You only get one Alan Bond in your life’.
The Indigenous Programs Unit was established by the ABC in 1987 with the objective of producing high-quality Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander television. Its first production was the magazine program Blackout (1989-95). Other series include Kam Yan (1995-96), the music-focused Songlines (1997) and Message Stick (1999-current), which launched its 10th series in 2008. Past presenters of Indigenous Programs Unit productions include Rachel Maza, Deborah Mailman, Aden Ridgeway and Trisha Morton-Thomas.
Directed by Laurie McInnes, Palisade (1987) won the short film Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Jane Campion’s Peel (1986) won the same award in 1986, making it the first time any country had won it in successive years. McInnes later directed the features Broken Highway (1993) and Dogwatch (1997).
Fraser, B and the Macquarie Library 1997, The Macquarie Encyclopedia of Australian Events: Revised Edition, Macquarie Library, p 722.
Owned and operated by Indigenous Australians from the Northern Territory and South Australia, Imparja Television began broadcasting from its Alice Springs base. From retransmission stations in Ceduna, Coober Pedy, Leigh Creek and Woomera in South Australia, and Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory, Imparja reached an initial audience of 62,000 people. By 2007, the peak audience figure had reached 430,000.
Imparja began producing a local weather report in 1989. In 1990 Imparja Local News was launched as a 15-minute insert of local news into the national bulletin. The first non-news program produced by the broadcaster was Yamba’s Playtime (1994-present), a half-hour children’s program providing entertainment, education and information.
The Film Censorship Board was replaced by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, an independent, non-statutory body within the Federal Attorney-General’s portfolio. The OFLC's first Director was John Dickie, who served until 13 January 1998.
In May 1988 Treasurer Paul Keating announced the formation of the Film Finance Corporation. The aim of the federally-owned FFC was to end abuses of the 10BA tax write-off system and provide a sound commercial foundation for the film industry. The first film to bear the FFC logo was the Kylie Minogue-starring The Delinquents (1989). Up to February 2007, the FFC had invested in 1,056 feature films, mini-series, telemovies and documentaries with a total production value of $2.48 billion. In 2008, the FFC merged with the AFC and Film Australia to form Screen Australia.
Stratton, D 1990, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, pp 11-12.
Screen Australia, Film Finance Corporation subsite
Following the abolition of the New South Wales Film Corporation, the Greiner government established the NSW Film and Television Office. Its role is to support film and television production in NSW, including project development, production investment, a young filmmakers’ fund, and industry and audience development programs. Projects supported by the FTO include the feature films The Piano (1993), Sirens (1994), Somersault (2004), Clubland (2007) and the TV production RAN: Remote Area Nurse (2006).
Directed by Vincent Ward, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) was the first official co-production between Australia and New Zealand. It was selected for competition at Cannes and won six AFI Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.
Media Watch with Stuart Littlemore began on Monday nights on ABC. The 15-minute program quickly gained a reputation for exposing manipulation, shoddy reporting and questionable ethical practices in the Australian media. The ABC is not immune from the Media Watch microscope, with the national broadcaster frequently 'copping it’ from its own show. Subsequent hosts of the programme include Richard Ackland, David Marr, Monica Attard and Liz Jackson.
In May 1989 it became compulsory for consumer advice to be included on advertising material for all non-'G’ rated films. Australia was the first country to implement this system, which has since been adopted in many other countries including the US.
In 1989, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies was established. This organisation superseded the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, which began as an interim body in 1961 before being formally launched by an Act of Parliament in 1964. A centre for the study of Indigenous anthropology, archeology, linguistics and ethno-musicology, the AIATSIS holds the world’s leading collection of film, photographs and sound recordings relating to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories.