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. Since 2007, it has been owned by Nine's parent company Nine Entertainment Co. (formerly PBL Media), making it a sister station to its metropolitan counterparts. However, it is operated as a regional Nine affiliate, and not part of the main network.
TV Week reporting NBN as the first regional station in New South Wales in 1962.
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 A$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 3-acre (1.2 ha) 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 A$1.5 million, and required staff to work seven days a week (except on Christmas Day) to make the deadline.
Murray Finlay began his career as one of Australia's longest-serving newsreaders with NBN's first bulletin
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 broadcast 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.
Soon after launch night, NBN extended television coverage from Bungwahl to Broken Bay and as far west as Aberdeen. The station only operated eight hours per day, however several programs were produced locally including Home at Three, Let's Cook With Gas, Tempo, Focus, as well as nightly news bulletins at 6.30pm.
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 A$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 A$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.
In early 1980, NBN purchased Southern Television Corporation Limited, owners of NWS-9 in Adelaide, for A$19 million. During the same year, NBN began a teletext service and also purchased the free local newspaper, the Newcastle Star. In 1981, Hadjoin Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of Parry's Esplanade Limited (later Parry Corporation), purchased 19.88% of NBN Limited for A$6.7 million.
Parry had then attempted to buy Michael Wansey's stake in NBN, but was blocked by the Supreme Court of New South Wales. (Michael's middle name is 'Berkley' named for the wealthy, childless couple who lived next door. He inherited a majority share in the Lamb family owned Newcastle Herald and Sun). After Parry's takeover It was later revealed that the Lambs had opposed NBN's purchase of the Star newspaper (created and owned by Wansey') and the attempt to buy 2HD. The company also faced possible suspension from the Australian Stock Exchange if a decision wasn't made soon. To resolve the tension, NBN sold NWS-9 to the Lambs in exchange for the majority stake in NBN in 1982. What is not widely known is that Michael Wansey traded his shares in the Newcastle Herald and Sun for the Lamb Family's share in NBN, giving him control of the station. With the buy-out of community shares NBN the station ceased to be what Hunter residents considered to be 'their own'. It came at a cost. Wansey mortgaged his shares to Parry who called in the debt
On 16 March 1983, Hadjoin finally completed the purchase of NBN, officially delisting the company. It had cost Parry A$6.76 per share to acquire 1,285,289 shares. Michael Wansey 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.
NBN's headquarters on Mosbri Crescent in Newcastle. As of 26 May 2007, administration and the studio are to the right and left respectively.
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 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 A$36 million.
NBN was one of many stations opposed to aggregation, and offered an alternative by opening up a second station which it would operate for a period of time before selling it. This proposal was however rejected, and aggregation occurred on 31 December 1991, with NBN acquiring Nine Network affiliation. Following aggregation, the station's coverage expanded to cover all of northern New South Wales, whilst concurrently programming extended to twenty-four hours in a day, in stereophonic sound. In 1994, NBN Television's logo was updated to a pseudo-Nine logo, similar to fellow affiliate WIN Television.
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 A$250 million bid became final. However, PBL did not fold NBN into the main Nine Network, but continued to operate it as a regional station.
On 9 August 2009 NBN began transmission of the new digital channel GO! (now 9Go!) on channel 88.
In 2010, it was announced that two of NBN's inner Newcastle retransmitter sites in Charlestown and Cooks Hill were selected to carry 3D broadcasts of the 2010 State of Origin series.
On 26 September 2010 NBN began transmission of the HD digital channel GEM (now 9Gem) on channel 80.
On 26 March 2012 NBN began transmission of Nine's metropolitan informercial channel eXtra on channel 84.
After Nine revived 9HD and launched new lifestyle channel 9Life on 26 November 2015, NBN's Nine-branded Darwin station followed suit, but NBN made no announcements of its intent to follow Nine's move in regional areas, instead continuing to broadcast 9Gem's HD feed on channel 80. NBN released a statement on its website days before the 9HD relaunch, saying that efforts are made to upgrade its stations across the region. On 10 February 2016, Nine Entertainment Co. announced that NBN would receive both 9HD and 9Life in "coming months". As a result, their channel listing will be reshuffled to match to Nine's metropolitan listing with 9Gem on channel 82, 9Go! on channel 83, 9Life on channel 84 and eXtra on channel 85.
NBN News is the only regional mainland news service to produce a nightly bulletin seven nights 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 Australian Broadcasting Corporation 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 local news is presented from the station's news studios at Mosbri Crescent in Newcastle, by Paul Lobb and Natasha Beyersdorf on weekdays, with Jane Goldsmith on weekends. Mitchell Hughes and Gavin Morris present sport and weather respectively on weekdays, whilst weekend sport is presented by Chris White.
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 remained in that position until retirement in December 2010. 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.
Liaising 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. Top Stories are produced by regional news bureaus at Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Central Coast, Tamworth, Lismore 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 also broadcasts Nine Network's news content, including Nine's Early Morning News, Today, Nine News Now, Nine's Afternoon News, A Current Affair, Nine News First at Five. NBN, however, doesn't air Nine's Morning News or its flagship 6PM Bulletin (i.e. either Nine News Sydney or Nine News Queensland).
Paul Lobb took over as the network's main male newsreader after Ray Dinneen retired on 17 December 2010.
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 hostess was Miss Anne, followed by Miss Lyn, Miss Pauline and finally, Miss Kim who hosted the program until its demise due to 'political correctness'. (For example, a favourite feature called 'bounce-the-ball' was deemed inappropriate because not all children could bounce a ball). At first the 'Miss's' were assisted by NBN's station mascot, Buttons the Cat, who underwent a number of incarnations as its costume aged and became outdated. Later, Buttons was retired, being replaced by Humphrey B. Bear (as NBN had gained the rights to the character through their purchase of Southern Television Corporation), A Local suited character was then determined to be more suitable for a regional Television Station and the concept of Big Dog was created, the character and suit were created in Wyong on the NSW Central Coast and Big Dog came into being.
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 line-up. 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.
NBN has long been a supporter of many local events and groups in the northern New South Wales region. They are currently sponsors of the Newcastle Northstars in the Australian Ice Hockey League. The station has sponsored the Newcastle Knights NRL rugby league team for most of the 1990s and the 2000s, with the NBN logo visible on the team's uniform. The former Hunter Pirates NBL basketball team (and their predecessor, the Newcastle Falcons) as well as the Newcastle United Jets soccer team (and their predecessor, the Newcastle Breakers), have also both received sponsorship from NBN Television.
The original NBN logo, featuring the numeral three inside a ring was replaced by several others over the years. The three was used due to the station's frequency allocation, being transmitted on VHF channel 3 from a transmitter atop Mount Sugarloaf near Newcastle. On 22 November 1979 the logo was updated with the letters NBN replacing the numeral three. The blue and green logo coincided with the renaming of the station from Channel Three to the current name, NBN Television, and its parent company renaming from the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation to NBN Limited.
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 dots are first 3D discs in 2008, then 2D dots in January 2009, then later spheres in September 2009.