Regional television in Australia

Regional television in Australia

Regional television is a term given to local television services in areas outside of the five main Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth).



The first regional television stations were launched soon after the rollout of television to metropolitan Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. GLV-10 in Traralgon, GMV-6 in Shepparton and BCV-8 Bendigo were the first stations to commence operations, in December, 1961.

Television continued to expand throughout Victoria and the rest of the country in 1962, with new stations opening in Ballarat (BTV-6), Newcastle (NBN-3), Launceston (TNT-9), Wollongong (WIN-4), Townsville (TNQ-7), Toowoomba (DDQ-10), Canberra (CTC-7), Lismore (RTN-8), and Orange (CBN-8). RTQ-7 Rockhampton launched in 1963, while in Albury and Wagga Wagga, AMV-4 and RVN-2 commenced broadcasting. SEQ-8 Maryborough, NEN-9 Tamworth, NRN-11 Coffs Harbour, CWN-6 Dubbo, MTN-9 Griffith and STV-8 Mildura began transmissions in 1965.

In 1966, FNQ-10 Cairns, ECN-8 Taree, SDQ-4 Warwick and SES-8 Mount Gambier commenced, followed in 1967 by BTW-3 Bunbury and GSW-9 Albany, both in Western Australia. Finally, in 1968, BKN-7 Broken Hill, GTS-4 Port Pirie and MVQ-6 Mackay were launched.

Many of the first stations produced their own local programming, supplemented to content from the capital city stations such as GTV-9's "In Melbourne Tonight". GLV-10 was amongst the first to make use of live 'off-air' relays of programes from metropolitan stations without the use of video recording equipment.


Similar to their metropolitan counterparts various stations began to form programming and operational partnerships in order to reduce operating costs and share the cost of imported programs. Examples of these included "Midstate 6, 8, 9" in New South Wales, comprised of CWN-6 Dubbo, CBN-8 Orange and MTN-9 Griffith, "RVN-AMV" between RVN-2 Wagga and AMV-4 Albury, "NRN-11/ECN-8" between NRN-11 Coffs Harbour and ECN-8 Taree - later broken off and replaced with NEN-9/ECN-8, with NEN-9 Tamworth, and "Northern Rivers Television" between NRN-11 Coffs Harbour, RTN-8 Lismore

The final regional areas to begin receiving television were, in 1971 Darwin, with NTD-8, Kalgoorlie with VEW-8, as well as Mt Isa with ITQ-8. RTS-5A Riverland and GTW-11 Geraldton began in 1976 and 1977, respectively.

All television stations in Australia, regional stations included, were required to convert to colour transmission in 1975.


Stations continued to form partnerships throughout the 1980s. The networks to emerge from this included "North Queensland Television", with TNQ-7 Townsville and FNQ-10 Cairns, as well "The SIX Network", later "Television Victoria", between GMV-6 Shepparton, BTV-6 Ballarat, and later on STV-8 Mildura.

Others included "TV8" (later known as "Southern Cross TV8" and then "Southern Cross Network") with GLV-8 Gippsland BCV-8 Bendigo and initially STV-8 Mildura, and "TasTV" with TVT-6 Hobart TNT-9 Launceston. TNT-9 split in 1989, to become Southern Cross. The "Golden West Network", between BTW-3 Bunbury, GSW-9 Albany VEW-8 Kalgoorlie, and GTW-11 Geraldton, also began around this time.

In order for the metropolitan 0-10 Network to become Network 10, a number of regional stations were required to move to different frequencies. These included GLV-10 in Gippsland, who moved to channel 8 in order to allow ATV-0 Melbourne to move to channel 10 in 1980. DDQ-10 and TVQ-0 switched channels to become DDQ-0 and TVQ-10, and SEQ10 became SEQ55 in 1988.

The last regional station to launch before aggregation began in 1988 - Imparja Television (IMP-9), based in Alice Springs, began transmission via the AUSSAT satellites, as well as a number of terrestrial transmitters.


In an attempt to gain regional votes,Fact|date=August 2007 the Hawke Labor government of the 1980s introduced a system regional equalisation, known as aggregation, which would provide regional viewers with the same viewing choice as their metropolitan cousins.

Local stations protested at this proposal, arguing that their profits would fall, and that local content would also decrease. They offered their own proposal, whereby the existing operator would be allowed to operate relays of the other two networks, allowing a combination of both viewer choice and local content. If NBN were to take the Nine affiliation, for example, their two relays would offer programs from the Seven and Ten networks, direct from Sydney.Fact|date=August 2007 This proposal was, however, rejected.

The new system would allow stations to transmit into neighbouring markets, as an affiliate of one of the three metropolitan networks. For instance, before aggregation, there were three separate license areas in northern New South Wales - Newcastle, New England, and the North Coast, each served by a single commercial station. After aggregation, these three license areas merged, with the three stations in direct competition for viewers.

Soon after realizing they had lost their battle with the government, the stations began to organize affiliations with metro networks. Stations that hadn't joined forces beforehand began to merge, including RTQ-7 and DDQ-0, which became "Vision Television" (later "Star Television"), Midstate 6,8,9 and RVN-AMV, which became "The Prime Network", currently known as "Prime Television",and SEQ-55 and MVQ-6 which became "The Sunshine Television Network".

Southern New South Wales was the first area to be formed, in two phases (as a result of problems in Orange and Wagga), starting on March 31, 1989. WIN Television in Wollongong became an affiliate of the Nine Network, The Prime Network a Seven affiliate, and Capital Television in Canberra a Network Ten affiliate.

The next area to be aggregated was Queensland, which took place on December 31, 1990. QTV was to become a Nine affiliate, Star Television a Network Ten affiliate, and the Sunshine Television Network a Seven affiliate, however in the work before aggregation was due to take place, WIN Television bought Star Television and gave them the Nine affiliation - meaning that QTV was forced to change its affiliation to Network Ten. A year later, northern New South Wales was aggregated. NBN Television became the Nine Network affiliate, while the Seven Network would be carried by Prime Television. Northern Rivers Television became the Ten affiliate.

Aggregation in Victoria took place between 1992 and 1993. VIC TV became a Nine Network affiliate, Prime Television the Seven affiliate, and SCN the Ten affiliate. Tasmania was aggregated in 1994, albeit with only two stations - Southern Cross became a dual Seven and Ten affiliate, while TAS TV took programming from the Nine Network.

Remote and Central Australia was the final area to be aggregated - one of the largest geographical license areas, taking in parts of the Northern Territory, western Queensland, and other areas in which terrestrial television signals cannot be received. Stations broadcast to this area mainly through satellite or re-transmission stations. Imparja Television, based in Alice Springs, became a dual Nine and Ten affiliate, while Seven Central became a Seven affiliate.

A number of areas were not aggregated, due to their small size and relative inability to support more than one commercial station - these included Griffith, Mildura, Darwin and regional Western Australia.


Throughout the 1990s a number of changes relating to local content and identity began to take place - the first of which was to occur for NRTV, bought out by QTV's owners, Telecasters Australia in 1993. Soon after, both stations took on generic Network Ten branding with the name "Ten Northern New South Wales" and "Ten Queensland". Local news services were also axed in most of these areas with the exception of Townsville and Cairns.Fact|date=August 2007 Similarly, the Southern Cross Network in Victoria changed its named and logo to a pseudo-Ten "SCN" design. The same network later axed local news services and changed its name to "Ten Victoria", in line with moves taken by the Telecasters Australia-owned stations in New South Wales and Queensland.Fact|date=August 2007

NBN Television made similar moves in 1993, when it launched a new logo based on that of the Nine Network at the time. Sunshine Television was purchased by the Seven Network in 1995 and became nearly identical to the network's metropolitan stations under the name "Seven Queensland".

A second commercial license was made available for single-license areas such as Mildura, Griffith, and Darwin. Incumbent stations were permitted to apply for the new license under Section 73 of the "Broadcasting Services Act, 1992", however only if the Australian Broadcasting Authority, at the time, felt that there was no other operator would be interested or able to operate a new station in the area. The ABA initially denied all three stations the ability to operate the new licences. [cite press release
title = New Mildura/Sunraysia commercial TV licence to be auctioned
publisher = Australian Broadcasting Authority
date = 1995-11-03
url =
accessdate = 2006-01-29
] [cite press release
title = Application by MTN for second TV service in Griffith/MIA area
publisher = Australian Broadcasting Authority
date = 1995-10-03
url =
accessdate = 2006-01-29

A joint complaint to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal against the ABA and Imparja Television in 1996 found in favour of MTN-9 but against the other incumbent stations. In both the Darwin and Mildura cases, it was determined that Imparja satisfied the ABA's criteria of being in a position to run a second service in the area. Prime Television's applications in both Griffith and Mildura, for the purposes of the appeal, were rejected on the grounds of insufficient local coverage. [cite press release
title = WIN-TV Mildura Pty Ltd, MTN-TV Pty Ltd and Territory TV Pty Ltd v. Australian Broadcasting Authority and Imparja
publisher = Administrative Appeals Tribunal
date = 1996-07-01
url =
accessdate = 2006-01-29
quote =

When the auction process ended in late 1996, however, Prime was awarded the Mildura licence for $3.2 million, and commenced broadcasting as with the callsign PTV-32 in 1997. Telecasters Australia launched Seven Darwin using TND-34 in the same year, followed a $2.1 million bid for the licence. [cite press release
title = New Commercial TV licences for Darwin and Mildura
publisher = Australian Broadcasting Authority
date = 1996-10-29
url =
accessdate = 2006-01-29

In the same year, [cite press release
title = ABA allocates new commercial TV licence for Griffith
publisher = Australian Broadcasting Authority
date = 1996-07-18
url =
accessdate = 2006-01-29
] an amendment was made to the Broadcasting Services Act affirming the ability of existing broadcasters in one and two commercial station markets to apply for "supplementary licences". These new licences allowed either a single incumbent or group of incumbents working together to run an additional channel.

In the then-single station markets, applying existing broadcasters gained both analog and digital licences for a new channel. In two station markets, the two existing broadcasters were allowed to form joint ventures to later bid for digital-only licenses following the introduction of digital terrestrial television in Australia in 2001. The new licenses were known as section 38A and 38B licences, respectively, after the relevant sections in the Broadcasting Services Act. Remote Central and Eastern Australia remains the only license area without one of these stations either proposed or currently available.

Using its Section 38A license, MTN-9 was able to begin their supplementary service in 1997 using the callsign AMN-31. The new station carried almost all of sister Prime Television station CBN-8's Prime programming with the exception of local news and major sporting events broadcast by Network Ten. A second license for remote Western Australia, one of the last remaining solus markets, was put up for auction in 1998. WIN Television won the ability to broadcast to the entire regional Western Australia market (as opposed to GWN, which held separate licenses in various areas), and subsequently launched its new station WOW in 1999. In the same year, WIN purchased Griffith affiliate MTN-9, as well as SES-8 Mount Gambier and RTS-5a Riverland.


In 2000Fact|date=August 2007 Southern Cross Broadcasting bought out both Telecasters Australia and Central GTS/BKN, subsequently removing any remaining local references, and rebranding its new stations with the 'Southern Cross' name. Supplementary licenses were also issued to SCB and WIN in parts of regional South Australia and Broken Hill, while at the same time local content was cut.Fact|date=August 2007 The remote Eastern and remote Central license areas were also merged at this time, amongst the last to be aggregated.

The axing of local news services by Prime Television and Southern Cross Broadcasting in Newcastle, Wollongong, Queensland, Darwin and remote Central and Eastern Australia triggered a review of local content regulations by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. The ABA later ruled, in 2003, that a minimum level of local content should be provided in the four largest regional license areas. Prime and Southern Cross responded to this by launching two-minute bulletins for all affected regions from areas in which local news was already produced, as well as in Southern Cross Ten's case the current affairs program "State Focus", and on Prime Television "Saturday Club".

In December 2003, the first digital-only commercial television station was launched, Tasmanian Digital Television, operating on a supplementary licenced owned jointly by WIN Television and Southern Cross. Similarly, Mildura Digital Television (a similar joint venture between WIN and Prime) began broadcasting in 2006 to Mildura, offering exclusive Ten based programming for the first time in the area. It is a direct feed of Ten Melbourne with local advertising. Darwin is On-Air with transmission 28 April 2008.

The Nine Network's owner, PBL Media, purchased affiliate station NBN Television from its owners SP Telemedia, in May 2007.


Three-station Markets

The majority of these license areas are on the more densely-populated east coast, which three commercial stations, each affiliated to the Seven Network, Nine Network and Network Ten from their respected capital cities. In addition to these digital and analogue television channels from the ABC Television and SBS Television are also available. The majority of these areas were aggregated in the early 1990s.
*Northern New South Wales
**Prime Television (Seven Network)
**NBN Television (Nine Network)
** Southern Cross Ten (Network Ten)
*Southern New South Wales
**Prime Television (Seven Network)
**WIN Television (Nine Network)
**Southern Cross Ten (Network Ten)
*Regional Victoria
**Prime Television (Seven Network)
**WIN Television (Nine Network)
**Southern Cross Ten (Network Ten)
*Regional Queensland
**Seven Queensland (Seven Network)
**WIN Television (Nine Network)
**Southern Cross Ten (Network Ten)

Two-station Markets

In these license areas, two commercial stations, one with a single affiliation to a network and the other with a combination of two metropolitan networks, are available as well as, in some areas, a joint-venture third channel owned by the two existing stations, typically digital-only. Although many of these areas are technically three-station markets, they are considered to have two stations due to the nature of the third, supplementary license.

Areas with supplementary licenses

**Southern Cross Tasmania (Seven Network and Network Ten)
**WIN Television (Nine Network)
**Tasmanian Digital Television (Network Ten, digital-only)
*Mildura/Sunraysia, Victoria and New South Wales
**Prime Television (Seven Network)
**WIN Television Mildura (Nine Network and Network Ten)
**Mildura Digital Television (Network Ten, digital-only)
*Darwin, Northern Territory
**Southern Cross Darwin (Seven Network and Network Ten)
**Channel Nine Darwin (Nine Network)
**Darwin Digital Television (Network Ten, digital-only)

Areas without supplementary licenses

*Regional and Remote Western Australia
**Golden West Network (Seven Network)
**WIN Television (Nine Network and Network Ten)
** "Proposed"

*Remote Eastern and Central Australia
**Southern Cross Central (Seven Network)
**Imparja Television (Nine Network)

*Griffith/MIA, New South Wales
**Prime Television (Seven Network, supplementary)
**WIN Television Griffith (Nine Network and Network Ten)

*Spencer Gulf and Broken Hill, New South Wales
**Southern Cross GTS/BKN (Seven Network and Nine Network)
**Southern Cross Ten (Network Ten affiliate) (Network Ten, supplementary)

*South-Eastern South Australia and the Riverland
**WIN Television (Nine Network and Network Ten)
**WIN Ten (Network Ten, supplementary) SA Regional


Each commercial network (both regional and metropolitan) can be seen as being composed of three layers, with some exceptions. The first is the "national feed" - content that is broadcast to the entire country, more-or-less at the same time (accounting for timezones and minor rescheduling). This category is composed of nearly all the non-news programs and sometimes station promotions and branding.

The second is the "state feed", content that is broadcast to the entire state or territory. It comprises mainly state news, as well as sometimes current affairs programs and station promotions. This is usually the case in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The third is the "local feed", content broadcast to a specific market, such as local news and advertising.

Original Content

In order to fulfil regulations put in place by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the majority of regional networks are required to provide original, locally-targeted programming such as news, current affairs, or children's programmes.cite press release
title = MR 73/2006
publisher = Australian Communications and Media Authority
date = 2006-07-24
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-01

WIN Television, Australia's largest regional networkFact|date=September 2007, produces a number of programs including weekday talk show "Susie", from its Wollongong studios, "Fishing Australia", and travel show "Destinations". Southern Cross Ten produce a weekly regional current affairs program, "State Focus", while Southern Cross Television in Tasmania air "Hook, Line and Sinker".

Prime Television air children's program "The Saturday Club", country music show "A Little Bit of Country" as well as an agricultural news program, "On the Land". "Yamba's Playhouse", produced by Imparja Television, is shown in its own station and also National Indigenous Television.


ACMA regulations have, since 2003, required stations to provide minimum levels of local news and other content.

WIN Television produces 30-minute local bulletins on weekdays for each of its coverage areas, with the exception of some parts of Queensland, followed by the capital city of that state's edition of National Nine News. In Tasmania, however, WIN News covers local, national and international news every day of the week in place of a state-based bulletin from Nine. Similarly, NBN Television produces a one-hour bulletin for its entire coverage area, NBN News, which includes local, national, and international news on weekdays. A half-hour bulletin is shown on weekends.

Prime Television produce weekday local bulletins in Albury-Wodonga, Orange/Dubbo, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga, as well as in Western Australia under the name GWN News. In other areas, it produces two-minute news updates to fulfil quota requirements.

Southern Cross Television in Tasmania, like its competitor WIN News produce a 30-minute bulletin each day of the week. Southern Cross also produce a nightly, 30-minute, news service in the Spencer Gulf/Broken Hill area of South Australia. For the remote central and eastern Australia license area, Imparja Television produce a weekday bulletin of Imparja National News.

Southern Cross Ten, similar to Prime Television in some areas, air two-minute local news updates for each of its coverage areas.


The majority of programming in regional areas is shown at the same time as its metropolitan counterpart, with some exceptions, mainly for local news programs. For instance, A Current Affair is shown at 7.00pm rather than 6.30pm on WIN and NBN stations. For similar reasons, Seven Queensland shows Today Tonight at 4.30pm in place of the network's 4.30 News bulletin.

Many dual-network affiliates, such as WIN WA, show a combination of two network's programming at differing times of the week. Prime and GWN choose to replace nearly all Seven Network programs between midnight and 6am with infomercials, and along with Southern Cross Ten also replace some morning programs with infomercials.

Recently, WIN Television has begun to adopt a dramatically different overnight schedule to metropolitan counterpart the Nine Network. In place of Nine's overnight programming, WIN show repeats of WIN News, programs from its Crawfords Australia archives, and some Nine programs not shown in their normal timeslot.


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