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Video clip synopsis – TV soap operas have the ability to reflect Australian society and culture and connect people through the shared memory of watching a television show.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 3min 55sec
Tags - audiences, communities, identity, soap operas, television, television programs, see all tags


TV Soap Opera

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About the Video Clip


The interviews with Megan Spencer, Scott Goodings, Mac Gudgeon and Corinne Grant were recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Megan Spencer is a film critic, reporter and filmmaker. Scott Goodings is a self-proclaimed “TV freak” and walking archive. Corinne Grant is a comic, writer and actor. Mac Gudgeon is a screenwriter and a community television advocate. You can view their full biographies at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


Students have the opportunity to define, exercise and evaluate rights and responsibilities associated with being a young adult including the concept of working together for the common good.

Students develop skills in collective decision making and informed civic action.

Students evaluate ways in which individuals,groups and governments use the media and ICT to shape opinion and manage controversy..

Background Information


The 1970s was Australia’s great decade of change – changing visions, changing values and a changing 'vibe’. The new socially progressive Labor Government under Gough Whitlam reshaped core beliefs and promoted social justice and equality for all Australians. A distinctly 'Aussie’ culture emerged in art, music, fashion and on the stage and screen. And Sydney finally opened its Opera House.

TV Soap Opera
When television was introduced to Australia much of the programming was imported from overseas, especially from the United States. Popular programs included quiz shows, variety shows and 'soapies’ – long-running series that typically screened on daytime television.

One of the first successful locally produced television soap operas was Bellbird, which launched in 1967, produced by the ABC. The achievement of Bellbird – and indeed all Australian 'soaps’ – was nothing short of miraculous. Punishing production schedules were necessary because of the need to create product week-by-week, on minuscule budgets with limited resources.

Bellbird depicted life in a small Australian country town, a fictional place that lent its name to the show’s title. Most of the series was shot at the ABC’s Melbourne studios in Elsternwick, with only limited location work in towns around Melbourne and Victoria. Bellbird screened for 15 minutes leading in to the 7 o’clock news, from Monday to Thursday. The series was a huge hit in rural and regional Australia because it dealt with the concerns of people living on the land and the dynamics of small country town life. The ABC produced 1693 episodes of Bellbird and the series ran for 10 years, until 1977.

The next breakthrough Australian television series, much more modern and risqué, was the 1972 'soap’ Number 96, which set a new standard and wholly different tone for Australian TV 'soapies’. Other popular and successful local soap operas included The Box (1974), The Young Doctors (1976), The Restless Years (1977), and Prisoner (1979).

Classroom Activities


1. Students discuss the concept of a ‘TV soap opera’. What are the ingredients and features of a TV soap opera? Using the students’ understandings and TV guide list the soap operas that are currently on TV, noting in particular those programs created for a young audience.

2. In small groups, students select one program and deconstruct its major features, including location, cast, major story themes, attitudes, embedded beliefs and values, the targeted viewing audience, and the incorporation of advertisements. Share the findings of the groups.

3. Students explore the extent to which they believe a distinct ‘Aussie culture’ is embedded in TV soap operas. What values apear to be in the soap operas? What democratic concepts (for examples, rules,cultural diversity, social justice) also appear to be in these programs?

4. According to Corinne Grant, how do TV soaps help build community? Do you think that this is a valid statement? Give specific reasons for your answer and examples from current programs. How does Megan Spencer describe Neighbours? Do you think that a TV soap opera could be a useful source for future historians studying Australian life?

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.