The Television Revolution

The arrival of Television in Australia, during the late 1950's, created a social revolution that led to complete changes in our habits and attitudes. The first broadcast was in Sydney in 1956. Within a decade, watching TV had become a way of life around the country.

In the early days, a TV antenna on the roof was a status symbol; the higher the better. Selling and installing antennas quickly became a boom industry which rivalled the fledgling Television Industry itself. A great deal of money was made by the installers, some of whom were less than scrupulous in their dealings, and overcharging was widespread.

When TV broadcasts first started, it was common to see little groups of people on the footpath outside electrical shops, wrapped in blankets, sitting on folding chairs, watching the evening broadcast on a TV set up in the shop's window. This was a very successful selling ploy of the retailers. After sitting on the footpath for a few nights, it was only natural that people would stretch their finances to put a deposit on a set, so that they could watch the programmes in their own living rooms.

As soon as someone had a set, their neighbours would move in for their favourite programmes. My wife and I used to drive half way across Brisbane each week, to visit friends with a TV set, so that we could watch our favourite who-dunnit show, "Hawaiian I". And this was only black and white TV!?

As if by magic, the manners and eating conventions of previous generations changed. Prior to the introduction of TV, the entire family would gather for the evening meal. While Mum was preparing the dinner, the kids would be setting the table, laying the cloth, placing the crockery and cutlery for each member of the family. They would take their places around the dining room table, facing one another and talking to each other. The table would be carefully laid with knives, forks and spoons, china and glassware etc., all in readiness for a pleasant dinner that had been cooked and prepared by Mother, for all to enjoy. Conversation would flow easily, Mum and Dad asking questions about school and homework and everyone talking about things that interested them.

How quickly that all changed when the family dinner had to compete with television. As hard as Mum and Dad might try to preserve the old way, everyone wanted to be watching the TV set at dinner time, so the carefully prepared knife and fork and plate dinners gave way to bowl and fork snacks eaten in front of the box. Take-aways gained in popularity as it was easy to eat mush with a fork. The art of family conversation and table manners were slipping out the back door.

Cinemas too went into decline. Whereas once the big theatres were full on a Saturday night, now they were nearly empty. Every suburb in every town had a picture theatre, now they started to go out of business and close their doors. Even the Drive-In-Theatres, that had sprung up around the same time as the commencement of TV, started to feel the pinch. They were very popular for a while, but, in a decade or two they had all but disappeared.

The standard of early television in the 1950s was very poor, little better than it is today. For some reason, people who would not tolerate sub-standard entertainment in times gone by, now put up with the most awful rubbish, and no matter how poor the programme, the TV set stayed on, and people watched it, and so it is today.

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