Defining Moments: Melbourne Olympics and Introduction of TV

Defining Moments: Melbourne Olympics and Introduction of TV


I’m Mikey Robins and I’m here at the National Museum of Australia to check out their project Defining Moments in Australian
History. What we’re going to do is go behind the scenes to check out some objects
that tell the stories about these moments, about who we are. This next object is quite dear to me
because it combines two of my favourite things: television which I’ve worked in
and sport which I’m very bad at but love. This is the OB van purchased by the ABC
to cover the 1956 Olympics. To talk about this we have curator
Kylie Carman-Brown
and we’ll get to Barry Lambert in a second. Barry has a very close personal connection with this van.
In fact, for 25 years he lived in it. – Kylie, this was purchased for the 1956 Olympics.
– Yes. – The ‘56 Olympics, why is that
a defining moment in Australian history?
– Well, the first and very obvious reason is the fact that the athletes did such a stellar job. It was the best performance on record in in any Olympic team: 13 gold, six silvers, 13 bronzes.
– We’ d love that now, wouldn’ t we? We won the Olympic bid in 1949. There was a very strong sense that Australia
really needed to perform and to really be on show, and to get it all together.
And they did a brilliant job in the end. – TV started late in Australia?
– It was a very long time until it came in 1956, and part of those reasons were technical so it
was not until 1936 that the BBC started the reasonable quality picture because
of those technical issues. So then there’s actually only three years between
then and the start of the war and of course transmissions were ceased.
Then when life resumes again, the Chifley government, who was in power after the war, decided to introduce television,
but he lost in the 1949 election to Menzies. – And Menzies was not a fan of TV.
– Menzies could quite clearly see what a powerful medium it was. He was very good with
media but he just didn’t feel comfortable with it. So he tried to delay things and ended up with a
royal commission and it was the royal commission’s recommendations that set up
the current broadcasting situation that we’ve got now.
– So this popular medium
help move Australia out into the suburbs? Yes, so Australia goes into an enormous boom. Television becomes part of that … central, almost. One of the interesting things that television
does to Australian society and to the entertainment industry
is that it sort of domesticises. It brings people into their living room.
We should talk to the man who was actually there when this arrived in
the country. Barry Lambert. The first question to ask: how did you get a job
in TV in 1956 when TV was only just … Had you been in radio? Had you been in radio?
– I was working with the Commission on the knowledge that television which
going to require staff. – But your first big job was in this van.
How were old were you, mate?
– I was 17. We did training out at the showground,
a number of exercises, sporting exercises and things
like that .Our first job was the opening of television … Channel Nine went to air first, we went to air second. Because the studios weren’t finished, we had to operate out of a music studio at Kellett Street in Kings Cross … The very next day we packed up
and went down to Melbourne.
– When you guys were covering the Olympics,
how many vans did you use? – We had two vans.
– Two vans? How many cameras? – Six.
– How much do those old cameras weigh? The cameras weighed just over 100 pounds, 56 kilos.
– how many people were in each van?
– Seven people in there, and you must realise at that stage of the game everybody smoked, So the doors would be shut to prevent people from walking in.
Everybody would be smoking. Quite disgusting in there?
The ceiling is saturated with nicotine. – When was the van decommissioned?
‘- 74 with the advent of colour. It went right through and basically the technology
didn’t change and it was admirably supported by Pye in England. They kept on upgrading the equipment.
– Is this the last van of its type in the world? It is yes. I did a couple of trips
overseas looking for bit and pieces for this van and picked up quite a few. But in the travels it became evident that this is the only operating van left. And it still works.
– What goes through your heart and head when you look at this beautiful old van?
– Looking at the van,
I’ve got an emotional attachment to it. It represents the beginning of technology
in television in Australia and the changes that have occurred since the van arrived through technology, to colour, to digital. – Kylie, what do you feel like personally
when you look at this?
– Well, for a start, it’s a very beautiful object. I am amazed because I now realise
that this phased out for colour television so this was actually still in
operation when I first started watching television. Guys, thanks for having a chat. It’s been fabulous. Thank you. Thanks for watching, But it doesn’t end here. We want you to
join the conversation. Go to the National Museum of Australia’s website –
that’s nma.gov.au – and let us know what you think are the defining
moments in Australian history. We’d love to hear your opinion.
Once again thanks for watching. See you soon.

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