Countdown (partially lost Australian music TV series; 1974-1987)

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Title card.

Status: Partially Lost

Countdown was a weekly Australian music television program that was broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from 8 November 1974 until 19 July 1987. It was created by Executive Producer Michael Shrimpton, producer/director Robbie Weekes and record producer and music journalist Ian "Molly" Meldrum. It was screened Sunday night from 6:00pm to 7:00.

The show was the most popular music program in Australian TV history. It was broadcast nationwide on Australia's government-owned broadcaster, the ABC, and commanded a huge and loyal audience. It soon exerted a strong influence on radio programmers because of its audience and the amount of Australian content it featured. The first half-hour episode went to air at 6.30pm on Friday, 8 November 1974, but for most of the time it was on air, it also gained double exposure throughout the country by screening a new episode each Sunday evening, and then repeating it the following Saturday evening. The majority of performances on the show were lip synched.

Missing Episodes

A large number of master videotapes recorded between 1974 and 1978 were later erased and recycled during a management-initiated economy drive at the ABC, an action which Meldrum later criticised and said was unforgivable.[1] Given the costs at the time of recording on videotape, most tapes were wiped and re-used. At least 100 episodes in total were erased from this period of the show's history.

In the book Glad All Over, Michael Shrimpton said at that time the ABC were "run by financial types [who] suddenly discovered that the increase in the purchase of video tapes had roared up 200 percent in 12 months". He said they didn't stop to consider that the video tape "was the cheapest link in the chain". An order came through from middle-management Bill Pritchard to erase a whole wall of tapes.

500 12-inch reels were pulled out which affected at least 100 episodes. Ted Emery and Paul Drane heard about the order, surreptitiously removing as many reels as they could during the middle of the night and hiding them in their cars. According to Ted Emery, when the order came to erase the episodes he used stalling tactics such as moving the tapes around. He said: "I kept thinking fifteen years down the track this stuff will be important." The producers tried stalling further by handing in trims and pre-assemblies rather than the master copies. "But it wasn't enough," Emery said. "I didn't have enough to give him so they took the masters as well". Had it not been for Emery and Drane, the few episodes from the 1974-78 period that remained would have been erased. That includes the first episode broadcast in colour.

With the exception of 30 episodes, all programs aired between 1975 and 1978 were erased; only two episodes which aired in 1976 are known to exist. Most of the episodes erased originally aired from 1975 to 1977, but there are other episodes either missing or too damaged for future airing, the latter of which are most likely held only for research purposes.

Recovery Efforts

In recent years, ABC Archives has undertaken an upgrade of the remaining episodes, copying what was left to its two on-air playback formats (Betacam SP and Digital Betacam). It is the copying of the programs onto this format that has allowed the ABC to re-broadcast episodes of Countdown during its all-night music show, Rage in place of video clips which would normally air during that timeslot.

Missing episode enthusiast, Troy Walters, has a website Turning Back Time: The Hunt For ABC’s Countdown, which discusses what has been lost and found.

External Links