The station's name, NBN, stands for Newcastle Broadcasting New South Wales. NBN is the only regional station in Australia to produce a one-hour news bulletin seven days a week. On 9 May 2007, NBN Television was purchased for AU$250 million by PBL Media.
NBN's original owner, the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation (NBTC) was founded in May 1958 to begin preparations for the upcoming television licence allocations. The main shareholders in NBTC were United Broadcasting Company (owned by the Lamb family, owners of radio station 2KO), Airsales Broadcasting Company (owners of local radio station 2HD), and the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate (to be bought out by John Fairfax and Sons Ltd.). In accordance with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board regulations, at least 50% of the company had to be locally owned. 750,000 shares were made available by the NBTC (at 10 shillings, equivalent to AU$1 each). Approximately 2000 people bought shares.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board awarded the commercial television licence for the Newcastle and Hunter Valley area to the NBTC on 1 August 1961. NBN-3 would transmit on VHF channel 3, from a transmitter atop Mount Sugarloaf near Newcastle. Council approval for the transmitter was issued on 17 July that year.
The call-letters, NBN, were derived from the company's name, Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation, with the second N representing New South Wales, as required by law. Unofficially, it stood for Newcastle Broadcasting Network.
Construction began in November 1961, supervised by engineers from RCA in the United States. It was a step backwards for RCA, building a new station transmitting in black and white while colour television was fast becoming the norm in the United States. Ninety per cent of the original equipment was imported from the United States, and held in bond until they were due to be installed. Equipment was purchased with colour production and transmission in mind, so that only 20% modification would be required when colour came to NBN. Studios were to be built on a three-acre block at Mosbri Crescent, near the city centre.
Work on the 142-metre (466 ft) transmitter was delayed by a combination of weather, the conditions for the road leading to Mount Sugarloaf, and excited sightseers blocking work trucks during the weekends. During that time, the technical team stayed at the top of the mountain. The construction took 8 months at a cost of AU$1.5 million dollars, and required staff to work seven days a week (except on Christmas Day) in order to make the deadline.
NBN Television commenced transmission on 4 March 1962. The first programme on launch night began at 6pm, a taped welcome by the then-Postmaster General Charles Davidson. Following that was a guided tour around the NBN studios by the original production manager, Matthew Tapp.
Murray Finlay began one of the longest newsreading careers in Australia with NBN's first news bulletin at 6.30pm. This was followed by The Phil Silvers Show at 7pm, and the 1937 movie Green Light starring Errol Flynn at 7.30; the George Sanders Theatre series followed at 9pm, with opening episode, The Man in the Elevator, followed by the first episode from the Halls of Ivy, then the first Mystery Theatre program, The Missing Head at 10 pm. Anglican Bishop James Housden gave the first evening meditation at 10.30pm, marking the end of the first night of transmission for NBN-3 in Newcastle. Commercials on the first night included Rothmans Cigarettes, Streets Ice Cream, Ampol, Commonwealth Bank, Shell, and W.D. & H.O. Wills, amongst others.
In the lead-up to the opening night, the station promised at least two movies a week, as well as men's interest programs each Saturday afternoon between 3pm and 4pm - a commitment successfully met, along with female-targeted programming in the early afternoon, and children's programming from 4.30pm to 6.30pm weekdays and mature programming thirty minutes before closedown each night. NBN Television broadcasted fifty-six hours in its first week of transmission, setting the Australian television record for the most time spent on air in a week for a new television station.
In 1963, Australian Consolidated Press and News Limited bought 200,000 shares in the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation. Shortly after, United Broadcasting Company sold its shares to Neatherley Investments Limited in Adelaide, and Australian United Investments in Melbourne, with each company purchasing 100,000 shares. Time Enterprises, purchased Australian United Investments's shares in November 1967.
During the period between 1968 and 1969, NBN secured a relay from the Postmaster-General to enhance their news service. In 1970, NBN began upgrading its studios in preparation for the commencement of colour television at a cost of AU$360,000. The improvements included an enlarged film department; a film editing and cleaning equipment; a larger master control with four video transfer machines; a new telecine room with caption scanner and slide drums; as well as an expansion of the administration and staff offices which also included new offices and a boardroom.
In 1972, NBN was granted a license to operate a translator in the Upper Hunter from Rossgole Lookout near Aberdeen, on VHF channel 10. Concurrently in April 1972, NBN expanded its nightly news service to one hour, becoming the first television station in Australia to have a one hour news bulletin. As a part of earlier preparations for colour production, between 1972 and 1973, orders were placed with Rank Cintel and the EMI Group in the United Kingdom and Ampex in the United States for new colour equipment, in time for colour transmission tests on 7 October 1974. On 1 March 1975, the station began regular colour transmissions, whilst transmission was expanded to Banderra Downs, Merriwa, Mount Helen, and Murrurundi at a cost of AU$180,000. In 1978, the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation made a bid for local station (and former owner) 2HD, however was disallowed by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Also during the same year more extensions were added to the studios, which included a new car park, and was officially opened on 17 November 1978.
On 22 November 1979 the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation officially became NBN Limited, and the station itself renamed from Channel Three to NBN Television. By the late 1970s, NBN was producing twenty hours a week of local and networked programming from its studios, which in turn led the station to purchase a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter for news coverage purposes.
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In 16 March 1983, Hadjoin finally completed the purchase of NBN, officially delisting the company. It had cost Parry AU$6.76 per share for acquire 1,285,289 shares. Michael Wasley resigned from the board at the end of the year as a result. In 1984, plans for a second independent station in Newcastle had failed. During that time, NBN and ABC Newcastle were asked to leave the VHF band to accommodate FM radio. NBN would have been on UHF channel 51, and ABC on UHF channel 48, however this did not eventuate. A proposal to launch a radiated subscription television service with community broadcasting during the daytime hours had also failed that year.
In the late 1980s, NBN's Perth-based owner, Parry Corporation, spun off NBN Limited into a new company, NBN Enterprises, and took a 40% stake in the new company, with Security Pacific Capital Corporation buying 60%. Parry sold their stake soon after, holding onto Papua New Guinea television station NTN, which NBN had helped to set up. Fulcrum Media's move to later purchase the station was a source for confusion, as it was revealed that many companies, including the NSW State Superannuation Board and Westpac Banking Corporation, held substantial stakes in Fulcrum Media. Parry Corp's new owner CityWest issued a court challenge in order to re-acquire NBN, but it was revealed that CityWest was held by Hong Kong company Hung Lung Corporation, thereby violating foreign ownership laws. Following ownership changes, NBN Enterprises was sold to Washington H. Soul Pattinson for AU$36 million.
Throughout the 2000s, NBN was regarded as one of the leaders in digital broadcasting, not only being the first to produce a nightly regional news bulletin in full digital format, using a digital friendly news set, but also Australia's first fully digital outside broadcast van.
In 2004, Washington H. Soul Pattinson began moves to transfer control of the station to its publicly listed subsidiary, Soul Pattinson Telecommunications, which became SP Telemedia as a result.
On 30 January 2006, NBN adopted a new logo and on air graphics, in line with Nine's new logo. However, the news department did not update its graphics until 15 March. During April 2007, SP Telemedia announced that it would consider selling NBN Television, and had received at least two bids, one each from WIN Corporation and PBL Media. On 9 May 2007, the PBL Media AU$250 million bid became final.
NBN News is the only regional mainland news service to produce a nightly bulletin seven days a week. The news service employs 60 staff and produces over 20,000 local news stories annually, of which is combined with news reports from the Nine Network, the American Broadcasting Company and ITN; with local stories in all of its sub-markets. Throughout its history, NBN News produced Good Morning News, Good Evening News, News Night, NBN Evening News, and NBN Late Edition News and currently running NBN News.
NBN's evening news is presented from the station's news studios at Mosbri Crescent in Newcastle, by Ray Dinneen and Natasha Beyersdorf on weekdays, with Paul Lobb on Saturdays and Melinda Smith on Sundays. Mike Rabbitt and Garry Youngberry present sport and weather respectively on weekdays, whilst weekend sport is presented by Jim Callinan. During annual summer holidays, NBN News is presented by Paul Lobb and Melinda Smith on weekdays, with Adam Mcilrick on Saturdays and Jane Goldsmith presenting on Sundays. Mike Rabbitt and Jessica Philis present sport and weather respectively on weekdays, whilst weekend sport is presented by Jim Callinan.
NBN was the first to launch an hour-long news bulletin in April 1972, and from launch night until the 1980s, Murray Finlay was the face of NBN's news bulletins, and was one of Australia's longest serving newsreaders. In 1975, Finlay was joined by Ray Dinneen at the news desk, who has remained in position since that time. In 1979, the news service received an award for its coverage of the Star Hotel riot.
On 1 March 1985, Jim Sullivan began his career as news director for the service, which has ultimately led him to become Australia's longest serving news director.
NBN News' footage of the tragic events of the 1989 Newcastle earthquake was beamed throughout the world, with NBN's reporters also being interviewed by international news services.
During the 1990s, the news service produced bulletins for the breakfast and late night timeslots, however this was later replaced by the Nine Network's Nightline bulletin. Also, for a short period, the 4.30pm bulletin was broadcast coupled with introductions and weather reports produced by the station in Newcastle.
NBN was one of the first television stations in Australia to broadcast live video from New York City as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon unfolded. Liasing with NBN News director Jim Sullivan, NBN Late Edition News producer, Matt Carden secured a live feed through the Nine Network of ABC America enabling first pictures to be aired of the New York attacks within minutes. When NBN Late Edition News opened a short time later, newsreader Jodi McKay handed over to ABC News America's coverage of events, anchored by Peter Jennings. The bulletin was extended until 1am when NBN handed over to TCN-9 for the start of almost five days of continuous national coverage.
NBN News is unique as it simulcasts live across all 6 markets. After the major national stories are presented, the program is split into six Local Window opt-outs, featuring pre-recorded local bulletins for each regional market and a live local news round-up for Newcastle. After the first break, the bulletin continues as a live simulcast across the network with further Local Window opt-outs for sport and weather. News, sport and weather presenters start early at NBN recording introductions to each of the local stories which will be inserted into the live broadcast at 6pm. Stories are produced by regional news bureaus at Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Central Coast, Tamworth and The Gold Coast.
In 2006, NBN aired its 20,000th news bulletin during the week of 26 March; commemorating the event, NBN News produced five news specials that summarised the prior 44 years of news production.
NBN has always produced some local programming, and had set a record for most local programming and transmission hours in its first week of operation. It was also a member of Australian Television Facilities, and had a hand in the production of drama series Silent Number.
In 1963, NBN won the Logie Award for Enterprising Programming (which was only for country stations), and another Outstanding Contribution by a Regional Station award in 1978. NBN purchased the Romper Room franchise from Fremantle International in 1967, which broadcast for over three decades. The original host was Miss Anne, followed by Miss Kim, aided by NBN's station mascot Big Dog. Local travel agency Jayes presented their own travel show, Travel Time with Jayes, broadcast on Sunday nights for over 20 years, starting in 1962. Also, every four years, NBN produces a live 24-hour telethon to raise money for local charities.
NBN premiered Today Extra in 1989. The lifestyle program was broadcast three days per week as part of NBN's day-time lineup. On 3 January 2007, it was announced that NBN would axe Today Extra, claiming it was no longer economically viable, with a drop in ratings and a shrinking advertising base. The program's axing ended the career for former weatherman Nat Jeffery, who presented the program for 18 years, and worked at the station for 28 years.
Despite pressure from the Nine Network to adopt the nine dots, NBN Television retained its logo for a few years after aggregation. However in 1994, NBN added nine dots into a new logo designed similarly to the Nine Network's, and also began using Nine's on-air promotion, with the NBN logo replacing Nine's. In 1998, the dots were changed to spheres.
Three-dimensions were added to the letters NBN in 2002, coinciding with a revamp of the station's on-air identity, concurrently with the Nine Network. On 30 January 2006, the station relaunched its logo to coincide with the Nine Network's fiftieth year of broadcasting. The new logo designed by Bruce Dunlop Associates saw the removal of the nine dots, with a blue square added to behind the letters NBN. However in 2008, the nine dots were reinstated into the logo and the spheres were modified to discs.
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