When most of you asked one of your relatives their early memories of television, be it your mum or dad, most of their answers would be fairly generic to the classic TV shows that were circulating in Australia during the late 50’s and early 60’s and beyond. “Bandstand”, “Hey Hey its Saturday”, “Countdown”, they’re all synonymous with Aussie TV culture and household names for most children of the 60’s and 70’s, including my own Mum, who grew up in suburban Campbelltown in the 1960’s. Mum remembers television in her household as being a whole family experience. Everyone would gather around it during primetime to watch the news and popular entertainment shows like … and … which when she told me, didn’t come as much of a surprise that’s the sort of answer you’d expect from someone of her generation.
Another memory my Mum has of TV is from when she was in year 3 at school it was the year of the first moon landing. “I distinctly remember that we were all sent outside to play in the playground whilst the live broadcast was playing on the TV inside and all the teachers watched.”
I decided to ask my Dad about his childhood memories as I felt that his answers would be quite polarized in relation to Mum’s. Dad was born in South Africa in 1947 (Sorry Dad) in Johanessburg, where, unbeknownst to me, TV wasn’t broadcast until 1976 and when TV’s were first implemented into homes they were the top of the line Phillips “Pal” colour television sets. There would be only 2 hours every night where there were TV shows broadcast; half the shows were broadcast in English, and the other half in Afrikaans. “The shows we watched were mostly documentaries, like ‘The Underwater World of Ron Taylor” or “War of the Worlds” and the whole family was forced to sit together and watch these shows because that’s all there was at the time. The only alternative was to do homework and no one wanted to do that!” Any neighbours or friends who didn’t have a TV set would come around and watch TV in Dad’s house it was a really communal event.
At the time, there were no entertainment shows or Soap Operas and the news wasn’t broadcast either, so as a teenager my Dad missed out on the classic sit coms and soapies of the 60’s and 70’s as well as the beloved cartoons of the era. I asked my Dad why it took so long for TV to get to South Africa, as 1976 seems like it would’ve felt a long time after it was first released in Australia. He explained to me that during the 1970’s and particularly 1976, the South African Government had a strong censorship in place: “… it controlled what you listened to and watched. There was an apartheid still in place so any propaganda or demonstrations of assimilation between black and white was strictly prohibited and never broadcast.” The South African government didn’t want anyone to see anything that could corrupt the rest of the nation’s minds such as communism or assimilation of the races and this was prominent throughout South Africa until the apartheid ended in February 1990.
Both my parents made the point of mentioning how the TV’s in their houses served as a piece of furniture; there was only ever 1 TV as they were very expensive and treasured. This discussion with my parents made me realize just how much the TV culture has changed over the years particularly in regards to the way we incorporate it into our everyday lives. Most nights in my family household the TV is on from 6-10pm. When we’re not watching our favourite TV shows its often just there as white noise in the background with no one particularly paying attention to it. We’re either on our phones, laptops or having conversations with each other. Yet at the end of the day I cant imagine life without it and I’m excited to see what future functions and specifications Television will acquire.