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Studio no longer in its prime:  end-of-the-line for CBN-8 site

Studio no longer in its prime: end-of-the-line for CBN-8 site

It’s a sad end for an Orange institution with the old CBN-8/Prime Television studios on Lone Pine Avenue set to be demolished.

Closed for nearly a decade and beset by long-term structural decline and encroachment by thieves and vandals, the owners believed that the site was no longer safe.

“It keeps getting broken into,” Tim Leahey from the Tony Leahey Motor Group explained.

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“Thieves have been going through it, stealing the copper and other material. People have been going-in with sledgehammers and the like and it was turning into a safety issue,” he explained. “It’s basically now a derelict building,” he added.

For those who remember the glory days of the station which was a proud local addition to the central west media landscape for nearly 50 years, the news is particularly poignant.

CBN-8 Orange commenced broadcasting in March 1962, licensed to Country Broadcasting Services, owners of the local radio station 2GZ. This was only half-a-dozen years after the introduction of television in Australia with CBN-8 and the ABC the only local television available in the central west.

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The Station was a fully-functioning creative broadcaster in its early years producing and covering local news, local drama, quiz shows, current affairs and sport. In fact, it was not until 1968 that the station acquired access to national news programs and other major events live for the first time.

The station daily buzzed with reporters, presenters, television writers, local actors, cameramen, editors, graphic artists, and sales representatives.

An instance of the station’s dynamic production schedule was the 30-minute documentary on the 1978 National Rodeo Titles, called Goin' Down The Road, which won the station the “Outstanding Contribution by a Regional Station” at the 1979 Logie Awards.

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As well as an Orange-based news service broadcast daily from a studio on the Lone Pine Avenue site, local programming into the 1980s included FocusRural RoundupEarly ShiftWeekend ReportTime to LiveAround the Schools, and coverage of local special events.

Local sports coverage, especially of tennis and the rugby codes, formed a major part of the schedule in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From 1979, the station sponsored, and telecast the United Permanent Tennis Tournament.

Even into the 1990s, the site formed part of a major televised fund-raising event from the Orange studio for flood victims of the Nyngan floods.

Soon after a major extension at the site, including construction of another studio and a second floor for management, the Federal Government in 1988 introduced its new regional broadcast media policy of “aggregation”.

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This effectively-involved the broadcast areas for CBN-8, Orange, Capital-10 at Canberra, and WIN Television at Wollongong all being increased so as to overlap and allow for three commercial stations for each regional area.

The writing was now effectively on the wall for old-style self-contained regional television stations that now had to broadcast to massively-increased geographical areas while also competing three-ways for the local television advertising dollar.

With aggregation looming, CBN and CWN at Dubbo were purchased by health-care magnate Paul Ramsay's Ramcorp Ltd in 1987, and merged with RVN/AMV in southern NSW to form Prime Television in May 1988.

Local programming and staff levels were gradually reduced with broadcasting from the studio ceasing in 2010 when Prime wrote-off both the Orange and Wagga stations as “dinosaurs of the digital age”. In August 2010, production of Prime7 News for the Orange and Wagga Wagga markets moved to Prime7's Canberra headquarters.

The only commercial AM radio in Orange for a number of years, local station 2GZ was also resident for decades at the site. A small Sydney network station covering the former 2GZ AM bandwidth then broadcast from the old studios for some years after the station transferred to the FM signal.

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