Category Archives: Television

I Think They Call It Mixed Emotions

The last week in November was the 10th anniversary since being told I had cancer.

It was also the same week I was told I was no longer required to read the weekend news at Channel 7. The end of a 34 year career at SAS.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Joyous, that I had been free of cancer for ten years but sad, more than angry that my days reading 7 News were over.

I’ve moved on,on both counts, despite regular checkups to make sure the cancer is gone I rarely think about being so sick, but I am forever grateful that it was a point in my life that forced me to reflect on what, and who, really mattered in my life.

The days, then years that have unfolded since that dreaded statement “I’m afraid you have colorectal cancer, it’s a level 3 and we’re going to have to act quickly.”

Anyone faced with a life threatening illness knows after something like that your life changes forever, it can never be the same. It’s up to you to decide whether life is better, worse or just different.

Same with losing your job, although it does get harder as you get older.

For me, I see new opportunities unfolding, but not without effort, dusting off old skills getting back into media training, doing more MCing and public speaking.

Most exciting,  I’m retraining myself. My voice has been that of a news presenter for more than three decades. Now I’m going to put it to work as a voice over artist, you know reading those dreaded commercials. Maybe narrate some documentaries. However, the voice needs work, so I’m having lessons. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

I’ve already ventured further into the internet, on social media and setting up a website for my new business. I made a DVD about dealing with cancer several years ago. Cancer - What Now? DVDCancer – What Now? has been exceptionally well received and has helped many cancer sufferers and their families.

I often give talks about dealing with cancer and now I have done a webcast which has received wonderful feedback.

So here I am, when many my age are enjoying retirement,  I’m truly re-invigorated and setting off in a number of new directions. I miss Channel 7 but like getting cancer maybe it was my time for a change and I just needed a push in the right direction.

Sorry dear, the garden is just going to have to wait.

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Samsung’s New Age TV – Not Quite What They’d Hoped For

The Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing in Las Vegas with all the latest in whizz-bang technology.

All the big companies are there showing off their bigger, brighter, better TV’s. It’s not good enough to have HDTV anymore, that’s made way for Ultra HD. But ultra might just as well refer to the price which kicks in at  $10,000+.

I talked with  News Limited techno reporter Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson in Las Vegas on 5AA this morning about the latest techno-gadgetry.

An item that caught my attention was Samsung’s new television that lets two people watch two different shows at the same time.

The F9500 TV is the first in the world to offer this feature, dubbed “multi-view,” using screen technology called “organic light-emitting diode” or OLED.

Viewers  wear special 3D glasses, which come with personal speakers built in to deliver the audio, in stereo, directly to them.

Now this TV is billed as the perfect answer to those who fight over who controls the TV.

Yeah right!

Consider this scenario –  he’s watching the big AFL Friday night game and she’s watching a tense sci-fi thriller.  After the typical, slow, nerve-wracking build up  the unwitting heroine is about to be attacked by an alien.  At the exact same moment  Tex Walker takes a screamer and kicks the winning goal for Adelaide on the siren.   Screams of horror on one side and a leap of joy and “Mighty Crows” on the other.

Talk about mixed emotions on the sofa.

Back to the drawing board Samsung.

Tony Charlton – Master Sports Broadcaster

The death of Television sporting icon Tony Charlton from bowel cancer closes a chapter of the early days of sports TV coverage in Australia.

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Tony Charlton inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame

As a boy growing up in sports-mad Melbourne the viewing highlights of my week were the Sunday Sports shows. World of Sport with Ron Casey on 7 and Tony Charlton’s Football Show on 9. Both had great appeal, for very different reasons.

World of Sport was a blokey show with  knockabout  crew and “okker” sporting guests which seemed to lurch from one segment to the next, basically free-fall entertainment. It had “pass me another beer” charm.

Meanwhile, over at 9 Charlton’s Show was far more formal. Charlton’s beautiful voice and masterful command of the language  gave his show a touch of class.  A diamond among the rough and tumble of footballers who, in those days, had few media skills and many had little education. Charlton’s journalistic skills got the best out of every situation.

It was blue singlet versus bow tie television every Sunday.

I leant towards Casey’s World of Sport with it’s woochopping, bike races on rollers and the mandatory handball competition,but  if there was a big news-sports story we’d turn over to Tony Charlton’s Show.

One case in point was the shock sacking of Melbourne coach Norm Smith who after winning six premierships in ten years was dumped after  round 13 in 1965.

Even as teenager I couldn’t help thinking what powerful television it was as Charlton asked all the tough questions.

Charlton had a wonderful career – after starting in radio and advertising he went to Channel 9 to work on the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

When Channel 7 broadcast the football Charlton became their first commentator.

Channel 9 saw his worth and lured him to Bendigo Street where he spend more than a decade presenting as well as producing football shows and other general programs.

He could turn his hand to any sport be it tennis, golf, motor racing, athletics.  He was the true all rounder who brought his commanding sporting knowledge  to any event he covered and delivered with an old world charm.

Tony Charlton fell to bowel cancer  aged 83, but even to the end he was doing volunteer work for the Prince Alfred Hospital. He was that kind of bloke.

I never met Tony Charlton, my only contact with him was via the small screen, but he made a huge and life-long impression on me.

On hearing news of his death Mebourne broadcaster 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, a friend of Charlton’s, said Australia had lost a great man, a great Australian and a gentleman of the media.

The end of an era.

Nostalgia – What Is It Good For?

Nostalgia is the good feeling you get when you remember things from your past.

We all love a good dose of nostalgia. In fact it can be quite intoxicating, to the point you can almost OD on it.

“There are no days more full than those we go back to.” Colum McCann, Zoli

A meeting with old friends, a visit to your hometown, a fleeting scent,an old song, can all propel you back to a time when we didn’t have a care in the world and all was good.

In reality time erases the bad experiences and highlights the good times.

To be lost in a flood of nostalgia is to give your self to another time and another place. Each memory unearths other rich veins of nostalgia.

I know,  my teens and early twenties were not the best time of my life, but when nostalgia kicks in I see only the Everests and never the dark canyons.

Is it good to wallow in nostalgia?  I love to take those ventures into history, but at times it can be quite taxing.  A night of nostalgia leaving me with a non-alcoholic hangover.  Drained, listless but at least no headache.

The word nostalgia is derived from two Greek words: nostos, meaning ‘homecoming’, and algos, meaning ‘pain.’  In the late 18 century nostalgia was considered a serious condition that rendered sufferers incapacitated by homesickness and despair.

At some stage the word nostalgia slipped out of the medical compendium, was taken hostage  by the reminiscing set, and there it remains.

“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, and the past perfect!”            Owens Lee Pomeroy

Old photos, television, movies, music, thrive on nostalgia. Superman, Batman,  Spiderman the 40’s and 50’s comics coming to life on the big screen and Wonderwoman on TV. We can all write out own lists.

The TV series Mad Men is set in the sixties capturing the fashion and social mores of the period.  It’s been very successful but the interesting thing is it’s not only those who lived through the period who enjoy it.  My 21 year old daughter is a devotee of the show and there’s no nostalgia in it for her.

Every generation will have it’s favourite nostalgic period but is it a good thing?

Research by University of Southampton, found that remembering past times improves mood, increases self-esteem, strengthens social bonds and imbues life with meaning.

 “Nostalgia is a way for us to tap into the past experiences that we have that are quite meaningful – to remind us that our lives are worthwhile, that we are people of value, that we have good relationships, that we are happy and that life has some sense of purpose or meaning.”Image

I recently posted a photo  on Facebook of a Channel 10 Adelaide Christmas Appeal in the 80’s with dozens of TV personalities of the time. It provoked an amazing response as people recalled not only the faces but memories of a time gone by.

“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet” Robert Browning

Walking Through A Living Graveyard

Ever been to a work or school reunion?  It can prove to be a daunting experience.

I’ve been to three, all work related at 5DN, 3AW and TNT 9 Launceston.

  Walking into a room filled with people you haven’t seen for up to 30 years brings the    memories flooding back, good and bad in almost equal measure.

Someone once said.  “It’s like walking through a living graveyard.”

The first thing, “thank God for name tags.” The second thing you notice is how the years have treated people unequally.  Some have aged well, others are showing the ravages of time.

The most recent reunion was for the 50th year of TNT 9 Launceston. It’s where I met my wife- to- be Eve.

A visit to the channel studios the night after reunion revealed while so much had changed physically, the place felt much the same. Paint and furniture couldn’t hide the memories.

After 30 years those who had been close friends resumed the relationship as if the time in between didn’t exist.  Uneasy work acquaintance remained just that.

The older former employees spoke glowingly of the “good old days” while the younger current employees appeared to be thinking “silly old farts.”

If you’ve never done a reunion but get the chance make the effort.

The memories that such occasions provoke are priceless and if they aren’t the reunion will remind you why you left in the first place.

Golden Daze of TV – 3 The PENsive presenter

TV homework –  one of the great mysteries of television is what goes on behind the news reading desk.

A question I’m asked without fail when giving a talk on the media is “What do you wear under the desk? Is it true you’re wearing shorts?”  Why this is a perpetual question I don’t know.  True, in the early days studios became very hot with the banks of lights glaring down on you it could become very uncomfortable.  To keep cool we often wore shorts.

Things have changed, there’s air conditioning and the lights are now “cool”. However even with these creature comforts  in the heat of  summer I’ll wear shorts to work and only change the top half to a suit.

One thing about TV news reading still remains a mystery with me even after 30 years in the business.  Why do news readers (me being the only exception I’m aware of) hold a pen in their hand while they read?

Have you ever in all your years of News watching seen a news reader actually use the pen?  They never do.

The reason given is they may need to write something. On that basis they should have a box of tissues on the desk in case they need to blow their nose, a glass of water if they need a drink.

Those items are available but out of sight.

So why the pen?  One night when reading with Jane Doyle on 7 News I hid her pen just before the bulletin started.  I quickly gave it back to her when she broke out in a cold sweat fearing she could not go on.

So it’s a security blanket.

Here’s the  homework for you. When your watching your favourite news service tonight check the hands,  if you can spot a a penless reader let me know.

Saturday and Sunday nights on 7 News Adelaide don’t count – that bloke  works without a safety net.

Foxtel Moves The Goal Posts

The arrival of pay TV in Australia was a real cultural shock to most Aussies brought up on a staple diet of three commercial television networks and the ABC.  Of course then came SBS to broadened our choices.

The birth of subscription television with Galaxy 1993 gave us two things – a lot more choice in what we watched – be it mainly re-runs of past favourites – and commercial free viewing.

Galaxy later folded in to Foxtel but the service continued

The monthly subscriptions fees  weren’t cheap when compared to many overseas services, but there were many channels to choose from and lots of sport and movies.

And NO commercials.

What happened?  Tune in now to Foxtel and they run ad breaks every bit as long as the commercial channels.

They have now tapped into a revenue stream that was illegal in their first years of operation

But has there been a commensurate reduction in your subscription fees? I think not.

The only way the fees have gone in recent years is up.

With the proliferation of new free to air channels I can see why Foxtel subscription numbers are faltering.  Why pay to watch Ads?

I’ve even heard if you call Foxtel and say you’re considering cancelling your subscription they’ll “sweeten” your deal.

If you’re having second thoughts about keeping up Pay TV – give them a call and let me know what happened.

Happy viewing.