UK based theatrical agent Darren Gray has just returned from Australia after flying out to Sydney especially to attend the 25th anniversary CTV-1 reunion. CTV-1 was Australia’s first community cable television station which began broadcasting in 1987.
The network was the brainchild of the late Royce Sutcliffe and was located in the basement of a high rise block of Housing Commission flats in the suburb of Redfern. The station was run on a not-for-profit basis and was staffed by volunteers.
Mr Gray who was a producer and a presenter at the station said, “When I went out to Australia I was very fortunate to come across CTV-1, I had worked in television in England but I loved the community spirit and the vision of CTV-1, I instantly felt at home. The station was unique in that anyone could literally walk in the door and would be given airtime in which to express an opinion. Many of those people were individuals ignored by the mainstream media.
“As well as giving a voice to everyone we provided free training. Again, anyone could walk in the door and would be given the opportunity to learn the skills and disciplines required to work either in front of or behind the television camera. These people were immediately thrown into working on a live television production with all the excitement that this entails. They had the satisfaction of their output being watched and enjoyed by a large viewing audience. I am very proud to say that many of those people have gone on to have successful careers in the entertainment industry. In other cases we had people who were from relatively deprived backgrounds and who had no focus in their lives, we helped to give them self-confidence and a belief that they could achieve something.”
Ironically Royce Sutcliffe had initially tried to get his vision of a community television station up and running in London after observing the social problems faced by residents of high rise blocks of council flats here. He was refused a broadcasting licence to start the venture in the UK but the Australian authorities thankfully saw the benefit of his idea. CTV-1 closed in 2003 but the spirit of community television has continued in Australia with broadcasters now operating in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide via the digital platform, and with a nationwide station called Aurora also in operation. Satellite Community Television also reaches the entire continent.
Mr Gray, who now runs a theatrical agency in the UK for Australian actors, producers, writers and directors said, “I have often felt that it’s a great pity that the UK doesn’t have a channel like CTV-1, I’d jump at the chance to be involved if we did. I can only hope that with local television licences now being awarded that the kind of opportunities we were able to offer people at CTV-1 will now be available to residents in the UK. I hope that the organisations being given these local broadcast licences will be required to throw their doors open to the general public so that anyone who wishes to can become involved. These stations should become much prized local community assets.”
Amongst those at the CTV-1 reunion were producer and director Doug Moody and 85 year old Joy Hruby. Doug who has spent 30 years working in community television has written and published over forty five books this year ranging from plays to novels. Joy, the leading lady of community TV in Australia, continues to present a weekly chat show on TVS (Television Sydney) and is believed to be the oldest presenter in the world to host and produce a weekly show. Clove Moore MP, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, was the VIP guest and spoke of the ground-breaking work CTV-1 did.
The CTV-1 tape archive is now available to be enjoyed by all on You Tube and Darren Gray has just written a book called The Story of CTV-1 covering the history of this trailblazing broadcaster. The book is available from Amazon.
Media regulator Ofcom is currently issuing licences for a new regional television network in the UK as the BBC and ITV continue to cut-back on local content.