Prime Television is an Australian television network owned by Prime Television Limited. Prime Television launched on 17 March 1962 as CBN/CWN in Orange and Dubbo, New South Wales, and has since expanded to cover regional New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory as a Seven Network affiliate.
CBN-8 Orange began on 17 March 1962, followed by CWN-6 Dubbo on 1 December 1965. The two stations were both licensed to Country Broadcasting Services (also the owner of radio station 2GZ in Orange). CWN-6 was a direct relay of CBN-8 - this meant that the two stations formed the country's first regional network, CBN/CWN.
At the same time, RVN-2 Wagga Wagga began on 19 June 1964, and MTN-9 Griffith began on 15 December 1965. The two stations merged in 1971 as the Riverina and North East Victoria Television Service Pty Ltd, RVN/AMV on air.
In northern New South Wales, NEN-9 Tamworth began transmission on 27 September 1965, with a relay in Armidale (NEN-1, later NEN-10) on 15 July 1966. ECN-8 Taree started on May 27 1966. At one stage, ECN-8 was tied NRN-11 Coffs Harbour (now owned by Southern Cross Broadcasting as Southern Cross Ten), however the two stations split. NEN later merged with ECN as NEN-9/ECN-8.
Colour television was introduced at the same time as the rest of the country, on 1 March 1975 - one of the single most expensive processes undertaken by CBN to date. The station was a prominent broadcaster of local sporting events including Tennis and Rugby. In 1979 a documentary titled Goin' Down The Road, about the 1978 National Rodeo Titles won the network a Logie award for an 'Outstanding Contribution by a Regional Station'.
Midstate produced a number of local programs, including the Weekend Report, Early Shift, Rural Roundup and Around the Schools. Since 1968 CBN was able to access the Postmaster General's microwave link for national news and other major events.
Midstate Television was bought out by media magnate Paul Ramsay's Ramcorp Ltd. in October, 1987. It was soon merged with Ramcorp's other stations, RVN/AMV and NEN/ECN. The name The Prime Network had been in use since 1986. By 1988 the network began to show increased Seven Network programming in readiness for aggregation.
When aggregation took place, Prime began broadcasting to both southern and northern New South Wales, Victoria. Transmission problems meant that aggregation in southern New South Wales took place in two stages - first the Australian Capital Territory and south coast on 31 March 1989, followed by Orange, Dubbo, and Wagga Wagga on 31 December 1989. These changes led to the de-merger of RVN-AMV, with RVN becoming CBN-2.
Griffith remained a one-station market, however instead of taking programming from Prime in line with the network's other stations, MTN-9 relayed programming mainly from WIN Television in southern New South Wales. A supplementary license, AMN-31, was successfully bid for by MTN in 1996, providing a relay of Prime Television. Soon after the station was purchased by WIN Television, which undertook a number of minor changes - mainly changing the news service to WIN News, and using entirely WIN branding. AMN-31 remains a relay of Prime. Similarly, the Mildura license area remained separate from the remainder of Victoria, albeit with a single station, STV-8, later bought out by WIN Television in 1996. In 1997 Prime was successful in bidding for a new license for the area at a cost of $3.2 million. PTV-31 began broadcasting the following year.
Although advertising revenue increased post-aggregation, local programming declined as a result of the costs incurred by the network's expansion - an estimated $45 million had been spent by Ramcorp during and in the lead-up to aggregation. After losses of $50 million, it was not until 1993 that the renamed Prime Television Limited posted a profit.
In November, 1996, Prime's parent company, Prime Television Limited, purchased the Golden West Network, a merged group of four stations; BTW-3 Bunbury, VEW-8 Kalgoorlie, GTW-11 Geraldton and GSW-9 Albany. Western Australia, similar to Griffith and Mildura, remained a one-station commercial market until 1999 when GWN became a Seven Network affiliate, after WIN Television began transmission as an affiliate of both the Nine Network and Network Ten.
The network began to expand into New Zealand in 1997, when a number of licenses were purchased from United Christian Broadcasters for an estimated $3.6 million. Prime Television New Zealand began broadcasting on 30 August 1998, with a nightly local news program in both Waikato and Christchurch. Prime also expanded into Argentina with the purchase of the Canal 9 network.
The renamed Argentine network Azul Televisión was sold for $108 million in early 2000 due to lower-than-expected performance. During the same year, Prime benefited greatly from its affiliation with the Seven Network throughout its carriage of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. The network's relationship with Seven was further developed throughout the early 2000s, leading to the unsuccessful introduction of 7onPrime branding for Seven Network-produced programs.
Local news bulletins for Newcastle, the Gold Coast, Canberra, and Wollongong were axed in 2001 due to falling ratings and the anticipated costs of the switch to digital television. This, and the closure of a number of news bulletins by Southern Cross Broadcasting, prompted the Australian Broadcasting Authority to investigate the adequacy of regional news services The ABA later mandated that stations broadcast a minimum level of local content, based on a points system - two points per minute for local news, and one point per minute for other local content, excluding paid advertisements.
Prime formed a partnership with the Nine Network (affiliated in Australia to competitor WIN Television), giving its owner, PBL Media the option to purchase a 50% share of Prime Television New Zealand in return for access to original programming, and cross-promotion in PBL's New Zealand magazine titles. Following this, Prime Television New Zealand began to take on branding and programming similar to that of the Nine Network. In November, 2005, Prime Television New Zealand was purchased by subscription television provider SKY Network Television for $NZ30 million, completed after approval by New Zealand's Commerce Commission in February, 2006.
Mildura Digital Television, a digital-only station in Mildura began transmissions in 2006 as a joint venture between Prime Television Limited and WIN Corporation. Section 38B of the Broadcasting Services Act allowed for the provision of a third station owned by either one or both existing networks. MDT is a direct relay of Ten Melbourne, albeit with local advertising.
Prime's overnight schedule also differs from the Seven Network feed, containing infomercials from Danoz Direct, Home Shopping, and a feed from pay television channel Expo. Past programming from Prime Television has been recognised nationally, with some local productions winning the Logie Award for 'Outstanding Contribution by a Regional Television Station'. The network has won Logies for Goin' Down The Road (CBN-8, 1979), Naturally (NEN-9/ECN-8, 1984), Stranded (Prime Television, 1993), Rest in Peace (Prime Television, 1994), and No Time For Frailty (Prime Television, 1996).
Prime News is the network's local news service. Full bulletins are produced for the towns originally covered by Midstate 6,8,9 and RVN-AMV, Albury/Wodonga, Orange/Dubbo, and Tamworth/Taree. In other areas two-minute news updates are shown at various times of the day.
Prime News is presented live, from local studios weeknightly at 6pm in most areas, followed by a delayed bulletin of Seven News (with the exception of Albury, where it is instead shown at 5.30pm). The Albury Prime News bulletin is presented by Helen Ballard, while in Orange it is presented by Alison Reis along with sports presenter Robert Beaumont. Fiona Ferguson and sport presenter John Hyde present the Tamworth bulletin, in Wagga Wagga Doug Hogan is the news presenter. Each region has its own reporter, such as Port Macquarie's Kristi Pritchard.
News bulletins for the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Canberra, and Wollongong were axed in 2001 (in the Gold Coast's case, 2000). At the same time, the network's Moree news bureau, which provided stories for the Tamworth bulletin, was closed. This, as well as the closure of bulletin by Southern Cross Ten in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, prompted an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. New rules were later set out requiring regional stations to offer minimum levels of local content, over a six-week period.
Two-minute news updates were introduced to Newcastle, Wollongong and Canberra in 2004. These updates are presented by Natalie Forrest, Daniel Gibson (weather) and Madelaine Collignon. Weekend weathers to the markets of Newcastle/Hunter Valley, Tamworth, North Coast NSW and South East QLD/Gold Coast are presented by Craig Moore.
A number of well-known news presenters and television personalities began their careers at Prime News, including former Today co-host Jessica Rowe, The Morning Show co-host Kylie Gillies, and It Takes Two host Grant Denyer. Kerryn Johnston presented Prime's Wollongong bulletin until it was axed, when she moved to WIN News, where she currently presents the network's Western Australia and Illawarra bulletins.
Prime broadcasts to southern New South Wales through stations based in Orange and Dubbo, northern New South Wales from stations in Tamworth and Taree, Victoria from its Albury-Wodonga-based station AMV, and Mildura via PTV. Prime is relayed to Griffith by the WIN Television-owned supplementary station AMN.
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