On the 16th of September, 1956, television came to Australia, when test transmissions commenced in time to warm up the system for the Melbourne Olympic games just 6 days later. The new technology promised Australia not only a new era of communication and entertainment but the launch of significant new industry, both in the production of television programming and the manufacturing of television sets. This is certainly the promise of This Is Television, a promotional film made by the ASTOR Radio Corporation, a Victorian radio manufacturer expanding into set production.
Produced in 1957 and preserved by the National Film and Sound Archive, This Is Television takes up the crucial challenge of promoting the wonders of the televisual experience to the Australian public, many of whom it is fair to assume, did not at the time possess a television (unlike the current sale of digital television). The entire film runs 22 minutes, the first third of which is dedicated to the technological marvel of television production, and importantly for ASTOR, the hard work and clever design behind the manufacture of local television receivers.
It is the latter two-thirds of the film that I find particularly fascinating, though, as ASTOR promotes the new entertainment and educational promise of television, brought into the home via the wide-variety of ASTOR television sets, through a series of juxtapositions that pair examples of television genres with instructional vignettes of television’s viewers. I’ve edited together a few minutes for your viewing pleasure.
There in the home, on the settee, and literally by the hearth, the Australian television audience is drawn into being. In a sort of demographic imagining, television viewers are matched to programming genres in an incredibly instructional fashion; makes an awful lot of sense, really. I like to show this clip to students and then play some of the network promos from a more mature time (like these two Channel 7 promos from the 1970s) where the audience looks awfully familiar but the instructions about how to enjoy TV have completely changed.
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