Posts tagged ‘Australia’


January 2023 gallery

01.01.2023

Here are January 2023’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
Rosa Clará image, added as I was archiving files from the third quarter of 2021.

The Claudia Schiffer Rolling Stone cover came to mind recently—I believe it was commended in 1991 by the Society of Publication Designers, which I was a member of.

I looked at a few more risqué, but mainstream, covers to see what is appropriate, since the Lucire issue 46 cover was one of our more revealing though most glamorous ones in years. Vanity Fair and Women’s Health were useful US cases.

Lucire 46 cover for our 25th anniversary: hotographed by Lindsay Adler, styled by Cannon, make-up by Joanne Gair, and hair by Linh Nguyen. Gown by the Danes; earrings by Erickson Beamon at Showroom Seven; and modelled by Rachel Hilbert.


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If corporate America says it, it’s probably untrue

16.07.2022


Le dernier.
 
I see the Le Snak range has now left us, after its US owner PepsiCo cited a lack of demand. I call bullshit, since during 2021 it was becoming increasingly difficult to find them on the shelves. Throttling distribution is not the same as a lack of demand, something you see time and time again with corporate claptrap.

It’s like the myth that New Zealanders all prefer automatic transmissions. No, not supplying manuals will inevitably force people to change. Has the industry done a survey as I have? Last time I conducted one, in the 2010s, we were still running 50–50, with a lot of people saying, ‘I prefer a manual, but I had no choice but to buy an automatic.’

Ford is a useful example of US companies citing reduced demand but doing things behind the scenes to ensure it. The line that no one was buying big cars saw to the end of the road for the Australian Falcon and the closure of its Broadmeadows plant. Did any of you see any advertising for the Falcon leading up to that? Or see many Falcons on dealer lots? It seems to me that a corporate decision had been made, and steps taken to guarantee an outcome. Throttle the distribution (‘We’re out of stock’) and of course demand falls.

Get your tape measures out, and you’ll find the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo (which at that point was still selling) on key measures other than overall length and, presumably, boot volume. The two-litre Ecoboost Falcon with its rear-wheel drive was promoted with all the energy of a damp squid, but it had all the ingredients for success as a decent-handling sedan. But Broadmeadows was an inefficient plant, from what I understand (from hearsay), and bringing it up to speed would have cost more than a bunch of Pinto lawsuits. ‘But there’s no demand for what it builds anyway!’ they cry. Then they can justify the closure.

Go back to the 1990s and the same thing happened with Ford’s Contour and Mystique twins in the US. People were buying BMW 3-series in droves, cars the same size as the Contour. But Ford claimed there was no demand, leading to its US cancellation after the 2000 model year. Reality: I say the Dearborn fiefdom didn’t like the fact the Contour was part of a world-car project (which gave us the original Mondeo) led by Ford’s Köln fiefdom. Not-invented-here killed the Contour, and a relative lack of promotion also guaranteed its fate. (Ford would wind up contesting the segment again later in the 2000s with the Fusion and Milan, but put far more effort into promoting them since they were US-led programmes. I actually saw advertising for them in US magazines! I saw a Milan in Manhattan with Mercury encouraging us to try it out!)

If you take the line that anything a big US firm utters is an utter lie, it keeps you in good stead. Use that approach with Facebook, for instance, and you’ll find things make sense more often than not. And of course we all knew what Elon Musk meant when he said he wanted to buy Twitter.


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One award, one interview—positive publicity for May–June 2022

07.06.2022


 
On to more positive things. Earlier this year, Luxlife got in touch with us, to say Lucire had been shortlisted for their awards. It was later confirmed that we had become their ‘Most Pioneering Online Fashion Magazine 2022’, which I was very happy about—especially as we started 25 years ago.

The judges did know of our UNEP partnership, and the fact we had diversified into print in 2004 (and kept that going in different countries). These points differentiate us from pretty much every fashion magazine. The fact family (namely my father) helped keep things going even during the toughest times, including the GFC, also distinguishes us—and a lot of this success is down to him.

You can read our release here, and I mention it on the Lucire website, too.

I was also stoked to see my interview with Komoneed go online. Komoneed is an online community providing global and local knowledge on sustainability, while avoiding false and unfounded information. You can even read it in German, and I had to clarify to a few people that no, I’m not fluent—this was thanks to Komoneed’s translators. The Aston Martin is also not mine—this was a press car from 2007, but I said to Komoneed they could pick whatever photos they wanted from our photo gallery. In fact, I’m still very proud of the story I wrote on the car 15 years ago.
 


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Afterpay wants my account details (even though I don’t have an account) to investigate its own activity

19.10.2021

Usual story: go into the Facebook advertising preferences, spot organizations that I’ve never dealt with somehow possessing private information about me that they’ve uploaded to Facebook.
   One noticeable one was Afterpay, both its Australian office (no reply on Twitter) and the ‘Afterpay USA Business Manager’ (the US office did reply).


   I’ve never had an Afterpay account. I’ve seen their TV commercials. One of the Lucire crew attended Australian Fashion Week, although I registered him before Afterpay became a sponsor. So how does this company have my details? How does anyone?
   The US office asked me to go into DMs on Twitter. And as this is (a) public policy and (b) their replies look copied-and-pasted, I doubt I am breaching any confidences here.
   My first DM:

Hi folks, I don’t know if I can tell you any more than what was in the Tweet.
   Somehow you have my private information and according to Facebook you uploaded it to their site for your marketing purposes.
   I’ve never dealt with you so how you have any info on me is a mystery.
   Obviously it would be nice to get me off your lists and off Facebook.

   Their first reply was this. From here you can already tell they didn’t read my first message.

Hi Jack,

We would love to investigate this for you.
   Before we do, we need to verify your identity to protect the privacy of your account.
   Can you please confirm:

* Your full name
* The mobile phone number registered to your account
* The address registered to your account
* Date of Birth
* Email registered to your account

   Polite reminder: It is essential you maintain the personal information we hold on our systems – this means keeping things like your current mobile number and email address updated, and updating your home residential address when you move home.
   We collect and handle personal data in accordance with our Privacy Policy (afterpay.com/en-au/privacy-…).

Thank you,

   My reply:

Hi there, that’s the thing, I don’t have an account with you, so you shouldn’t have any of this. Could you please just search for my name and delete anything tied to it? I can only assume you’ve bought someone else’s list.
   Obviously I’ve seen you in TV commercials and to my knowledge that’s the sum total of our contact.

   The next one was positive:

Sure! I can search your name to see if you have an account with us.
   That’s your full name?

   Me:

Thank you, and yes!
   I won’t have an account though, and if I do, that’ll be pretty suspicious since I’ve never signed up …

   This morning, we were back to square one:

I would love to investigate this for you.
   Before we do, we need to verify your identity to protect the privacy of your account.
   Can you please confirm:

Your full name
The mobile phone number registered to your account
The address registered to your account
Email registered to your account

Thanks,

   Three minutes later:

Hey Jack,

Without verifying your identity in order to protect the privacy of your account, we can not provide any account details.
   If you don’t want to provide any requested information via this chat, you can email us or give us a call to discuss this matter directly.
   Please contact us via +1855 289 6014 or use the link below to email us:
help.afterpay.com/hc/en-us/artic…
   I hope this was helpful! Please feel free to reply to this chat if you have any further question or concern.

Have a great day,

   You can tell what I’m thinking here:

We are going around in circles here. I don’t have an account so how can I provide information tied to an account? Can you please explain how you would do this?
   Please see your message at 1.47 p.m. GMT. You said you would use my full name, which you have, to see if I have an account with you. What was the result of that?
   I’m betting you came up blank …

   I tried their link and none of the options really apply here.
   We know that an unethical US-owned company operating in Australia did once obtain my private information through Lumino, the dentistry franchise, and I accordingly kicked up a big stink about it. And as Afterpay is Australian, are they somehow connected?

Updates since original post
Afterpay, October 20, 1.33 p.m. GMT:

Upon further investigation, I was not able to match your name: Jack Yan to any Afterpay account.

Have a good day,

   It took two days for them to realize this, despite my saying so from the beginning. My response:

Thank you, this is what the original Tweet was about. It’s precisely that I don’t have any relationship with Afterpay that makes this perplexing.
   Now that we’re on the same page, hopefully you can finally start dealing with my original Tweet.
   What I asked there was: why you have uploaded private information about me to Facebook? That’s what they’re claiming—both you and your Australian head office did so over a two-day period.
   This means you must have some info about me and as I do not have an account with you, I would like to know how you got it.
   And as Facebook claims you have uploaded it to their platform, I would like you to remove it from both their and your databases.
   Trust me, if this was routine, where I could have just used your FAQs and your website, I would have done so.

   I’ve yet to hear from [email protected] over this matter but I only contacted them today.
   Since they have obstructed for two days it makes you wonder what they’re hiding. Over in Australia they’ve already done this:

Finally, some progress (sort of), at 4.30 p.m.:

Thank you for your patience
   We have reviewed your request to erase your personal data. The right to erase only applies to a customer who has an account with Afterpay. As we believe none of these circumstances apply to your situation, we have not option to upload private information to Facebook nor we can do if you had an account with Afterpay.
   You can read more about the purposes we use personal data for in our privacy policy afterpay.com/en-CA/privacy-…
   Please let me know if I can assist in any other way.

   Not a full answer but my feeling is that this is as far as things can go with their US office. If I don’t hear from their Australian head office in a week, I’ll get in touch with our Privacy Commissioner. I know, Facebook lies, but on those earlier occasions when I chased up firms who had done this, the honest ones took my details off. (One less honest one denied it happened but then my details disappeared!)
   My final DM for now:

Thank you. The privacy policy probably allows for uploads to business partners—I had read it when you first sent me the link—so you are technically covered should an upload have taken place, but I appreciate your going as far as you can in this thread.


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Putting on the breaks

20.06.2021

Being self-employed my whole adult life, I haven’t exactly been let go from actual employment, but there have been some gigs, paid and unpaid, that came to an end without me expecting it.
   I’ve never been sore about losing them, but I don’t agree with the way they were done.
   Gig 1. Did a quarterly task for these folks, which soon became a monthly one. Lasted 14 years and was either the longest-serving or second-longest-serving in that capacity. Let go in a group email.
   Gig 2. Voluntary one, told that I wouldn’t be needed because the organization was going in a new direction. I wouldn’t be replaced because of this new format. Found out later that there was no new format and I was replaced. Would it have hurt to tell the truth? After all, I replaced the previous person, and I would have been fine with them needing a fresh face. It’s not as though I made any money off them!
   Gig 3. Another voluntary one. Hadn’t heard anything but then I usually didn’t till pretty late in the game. Except this time I had to chase them up, given how late things got. When do you need me? Found out I was replaced and that the decision had been made months earlier. I was the last to know. Offered some inconsequential consolation, but no apology. Ironically this happened as my influence in this particular area grew substantially overseas, so the help I could have given them was immense, so bad luck and bad timing to that mob. Bridges burned.
   I’ve let a few people go in the past—one had so many allegations against him (theft, sexual harassment) that with hindsight I wonder why we took so long. Given the anonymous (and ineffective and illogical) letters he’s sent to some of my most loyal colleagues, I think he’s still sore. Others had to be let go when the financial winds blew against us. But I’m pretty sure they all knew why.
   The only mysterious one from our companies was one person who claimed I cut him off and stopped using his writing services. It was a complete lie—he just vanished. At one point we re-established contact. We agreed to put it down to an email glitch (although this person regularly phoned me and stopped doing so, but in the interests of moving on, I let it go). Years later, he did it again—just disappeared. He told a mutual friend of ours the same lie, that I ceased to have anything to do with him. I relayed the above story to that friend but I could see she didn’t believe me—till he did it to her a few years later!


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I can finally identify with the main character in a New Zealand TV show

31.03.2021

While I care much more about when John Simm will grace our screens again (pun intended), it was hard to avoid the reality TV that gets beamed into our living rooms during prime-time. There is the disgusting Married at First Sight Australia, where I am speechless with shock that fellow Scots alumnus John Aiken appears to dispense mansplaining without conscience, but, on the other channel, the far more pleasant The Bachelor New Zealand, where, finally, for the first time on our airwaves, I see a Kiwi male that I can identify with. Apart from the times when I appeared on telly (I realize that this sentence sounds wanky, but if you can’t identify with yourself, then there’s something wrong).
   While Zac the lifeguard from a few years ago seemed like a lovely chap, he was in many ways the usual stereotype: sporty, unfazed, carefree, white, with a great smile. Moses Mackay is cultured, worldly, considered, respectful, humble, well dressed, and, surprisingly for this show, wasn’t quick to snog every contestant. It was also nice to see a bachelor who’s a person of colour on our screens for a change. He grew up poor and that’s not an unfamiliar story to many of us. He’s comfortable talking about his relationship with God. Heck, he even croons for a living.
   I’m no Matt Monro but I’ve serenaded my partner—just get us at the James Cook when the elderly gent is banging out tunes by Michel Legrand, or, as I call him, Big Mike, on the lobby piano. And yes, for some of us, this is perfectly normal. Just ask Moses.
   For all of us fellas who wanted to see an example of a cultured Kiwi gentleman on our screens—and as the fêted star, not the comic relief—our wishes were finally granted.
   I’ve no idea whom he picked, although I knew one of the contestants who didn’t make it—New Zealand is that small. I could say the same about Zac’s season as well. I’m sure not knowing the outcome also puts me in a minority. But I wish him well.

I’m reminded of my friend Frankie Stevens, since I mentioned Matt Monro above. I once did the same to Frankie and he said something along the lines of, ‘I was touring with Matt. We were in Spain, and he’d come in the morning with a glass of whisky.’ Another time I mentioned John Barry. ‘I worked with Johnny and Don Black. On The Dove. I sang the theme tune but Gregory Peck wanted someone else.’
   For my overseas readers: you don’t usually have these conversations in Aotearoa with a guy who’s not only met your musical heroes, but worked with them. All I could do was show I had the theme on my phone.
   With apologies to Lyn Paul, but Frankie would have been great (and indeed better) singing the theme to The Dove.


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Reduced Facebook? Australia is the lucky country

18.02.2021

Whichever side you are on with Facebook imposing a ban on Australians sharing news content, this says it all about the level of intelligence over at Menlo Park.

   In Australia, Facebook has not only de-platformed legitimate governmental bodies and non-profits, it has de-platformed itself.
   Maybe taxing these companies would have been easier, and the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, but I think most people see through Facebook’s rather pathetic tactics.
   It’s crying foul, saying it would have invested in local media in Australia, but won’t any more. But since Facebook lies about everything, I’ve no reason to believe they ever would have helped media organizations anywhere.
   And notice how quickly it was able to shut off pages, and remove an entire country’s ability to share news—yet it still struggles with removing fake content about COVID-19, extremist content and groups, bots, videos of massacres, and incitement of genocide and insurrection. It has struggled for years.
   We all know that Facebook can do as it wishes with a singular eye on its bottom line. It doesn’t want to pay Australian publishers, so it quickly acts to shut off what Australians can do. But fake content and all the rest—that makes them money, so it doesn’t act at all, other than issuing some empty PR statements.
   We all see through it, and this is probably the best thing it could have done. If people spend less time on its stress-inducing platforms, they will be healthier. And returning Facebook to what it was around 2008 when we shared what we were doing, not what the newsmedia were reporting, is really a plus.
   It’s a splendid own goal that benefits Australians, who will ingeniously find solutions pretty quickly, whether it’s telling their friends about articles via email (which is what I used to do pre-social media), finding alternative services, or, not that I advocate this, resorting to outright piracy by pasting the entire article as a Facebook status update. No news in your feed? There are services for that, like going straight to the sources, or using a news aggregator (if you don’t like Google News, the Murdoch Press actually has one in beta, called Knewz. Who would have guessed that the only organization that stepped up to my half-decade-old demand for a Google News rival would be Murdochs?).
   I doubt New Zealand will have the courage to follow suit, even though last year I wrote to the Minister of Communications to ask him to consider it.

PS.: Removing all Australian media is easy, but removing anti-vaccine pages is hard.


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Like communist dictatorships, Google and Facebook threaten Australia

23.01.2021

You know the US tech giants have way too much power, unencumbered by their own government and their own country’s laws, when they think they can strong-arm another nation.
   From Reuter:

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for the right to use their content.

   Fine, then piss off. If Australia wants to enact laws that you can’t operate with, because you’re used to getting your own way and don’t like sharing the US$40,000 million you’ve made each year off the backs of others’ hard work, then just go. I’ve always said people would find alternatives to Google services in less than 24 hours, and while I appreciate its index is larger and it handles search terms well, the spying and the monopolistic tactics are not a worthwhile trade-off.
   I know Google supporters are saying that the Australian policy favours the Murdoch Press, and I agree that the bar that the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has set for what qualifies as a media business (revenues of over A$150,000 per annum) is too high. So it isn’t perfect.
   The fact Google has made a deal in France suggests it is possible, when the giant doesn’t whine so damned much.
   Plus, Google and Facebook have been dangerous to democracy, and should have done more for years to address these issues. They’ve allowed a power imbalance for the sake of their own profits, so paying for news—effectively a licensing payment that the rest of us would have to fork out—at least puts a value on it, given how it benefits the two sites. No search? Fine, let’s have more ethical actors reap the rewards of fairer, “unbubbled” searches, because at least there would be a societal benefit from it, and since they aren’t cashing in on the media’s work, I’m happy for them to get a free licence to republish. Right now I don’t believe the likes of Duck Duck Go are dominant enough (far from it) to raise the attention of Australian regulators.
   Facebook’s reaction has been similar: they would block Australians from sharing links to news. Again, not a bad idea; maybe people will stop using a platform used to incite hate and violence to get their bubbled news items. Facebook, please go ahead and carry out your threat. If it cuts down on people using your site—or, indeed, returns them to using it for the original purpose most of us signed up for, which was to keep in touch with friends—then we all win. (Not that I’d be back for anything but the limited set of activities I do today. Zuck’s rich enough.)
   A statement provided to me and other members of the media from the Open Markets Institute’s executive director Barry Lynn reads:

Today Google and Facebook proved in dramatic fashion that they pose existential threats to the world’s democracies. The two corporations are exploiting their monopoly control over essential communications to extort, bully, and cow a free people. In doing so, Google and Facebook are acting similarly to China, which in recent months has used trade embargoes to punish Australians for standing up for democratic values and open fact-based debate. These autocratic actions show why Americans across the political spectrum must work together to break the power that Google, Facebook, and Amazon wield over our news and communications, and over our political debate. They show why citizens of all democracies must work together to build a communications infrastructure safe for all democracies in the 21st Century.

   Considering Google had worked on a search engine that would comply with Communist Chinese censorship, and Facebook has been a tool to incite genocide, then the comparison to a non-democratic country is valid.
   So, I say to these Big Tech players, pull out. This is the best tech “disruption” we can hope for. You’re both heading into irrelevance, and Australia has had the balls to do what your home country—from which you offshore a great deal of your money—cannot, for all the lobbyists you employ. You favour big firms over independents, and the once level playing field that existed on the internet has been worsened by you. The Silicon Valley spirit, of entrepreneurship, born of the counterculture, needs to return, and right now you’re both standing in the way: you are “the man”, suppressing entrepreneurial activity, reducing employment, and splitting people apart—just what dictatorial régimes do.
   As an aside, the EU is also cracking down on Big Tech as it invites the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) to a February 1 hearing. They’ve bled people for long enough and it’s time for some pushback.


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Why con?

07.12.2020


 
During the course of the 2010s, I came across two con artists. One thing that united them was they were men. But they could not have been more different: one was rather elaborate and was the subject of a Panorama documentary; the other was a rank amateur and, at least in the situation we were in, never fooled us.
   I won’t name them as I’ve no wish to add to their notoriety, but here’s the real kicker: both had the means to do well legitimately if they each followed through honestly.
   The first one was clever enough to rope in people from very different parts, essentially setting up a publishing operation. But it was a swindle, and people were left in debt and jobless.
   However, if it had been legit, it would have actually done quite well, and if the con artist’s aim was money, then he would have made some, over a long period, which would have sustained him and his lifestyle.
   The second was not clever but came to a business partner of mine with a proposal to become a shareholder. We heard him out, he proposed an amount, and we drafted a cast-iron contract that could see him get a return on his investment, and protect the original principal. The money never came, of course, and we weren’t going to alter the share register without it. He might have hoped that we would.
   Again, he would have got something from it. Maybe not as good a return as property but better than the bank.
   The first is now serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure after things caught up with him and he was extradited to where he had executed an earlier con; the second, after having had his face in the Sunday Star–Times, was last heard from in Australia where he conned his own relatives. He’s wanted by the police here.
   I don’t know where the gratification is here. And rationally, leaving honesty and morals aside (as they do), wouldn’t it be better making money regularly than swindling for a quick fix that nets you less? Is it down to laziness, making them less desirous to follow through?
   On the first case, I did have the occasion to speak to one lawyer pursuing him. I asked him about my case, since my financial loss was relatively small compared to the others taken in (namely a FedEx bill that a friend of mine helped me get a decent discount on because of her job). Where’s the con? I was told that it might not have been apparent as the con artist’s MO was to draw different strands, sometimes having them result in something, and sometimes not.
   Whatever the technique, it failed him anyway.
   And what a waste of all that energy to create something that not only looked legit (as in the TV series Hustle) but could have functioned legitimately with so many good people involved.
   That did make the 2010s rather better than the 2000s when the shady characters included a pædophile (who, to my knowledge, is also doing time), a sociopath, a forger, and a US fashion label that conned a big shipment’s payment out of us. I doubt I’d be famous enough to warrant a biography but they would make interesting stories!


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Was it six networks or only five? In all this excitement, they’re ‘Still the One’

23.10.2020

I’m sure there are many, many more examples of this tune being used to promote TV networks, but it seems to be a standard in at least three countries I know, and probably far more besides.
   It is, of course, ‘Still the One’, which ABC used in the US to celebrate being the top-rated network there in 1977 for the second consecutive year. It was rare for ABC to be on top, but I think the general consensus was that jiggle TV got them there.
   Australia, which has always had a lot of US influences, then used it for Channel 9 in 1978 and included the original American footage. It would have been properly licensed but in the days before YouTube, and less international travel, few would have known of the origins.
   It was then adapted for the Murdoch Press’s Sky One satellite network in the UK the next decade (did they first see it in Australia?), before being revived by 9 in Australia in 1988. It was adapted once again for TVNZ’s Channel 2 here in New Zealand to kick off the 1990s.
   The slogan was used regularly by 9 as the 1990s dawned though new songs replaced the original, and by the end of the 1990s, both Channel 9 and its NBN sister were using the familiar tune again.
   Was that the end? In 2003, WIN, another Australian network, brought it back for their promos. As far as I can tell, WIN, a regional broadcaster, doesn’t have a connection to 9, but instead has an agreement with the Ten Network there. Just to make things confusing, 9 was using it at the same time, and it continued to do so into the mid-2000s.
   A quick internet search on Duck Duck Go reveals it was originally a song performed by the band Orleans in 1976, from their album Waking and Dreaming. The song was written by the then-married Johanna and John Hall. It charted at number five in the US. Given that it was used by ABC in 1977, it would have been a familiar tune to Americans at the time. I wonder if the Halls expected it would become a TV network standard in so many countries, and what did they think?
   Let me know if there are other countries and networks that used this—I’ve a feeling it went even further!

Orleans

ABC, USA

Channel 9, Australia (1978)

Sky One, UK

Channel 9, Australia (1988)

Channel 2, New Zealand

Channel 9 and NBN, Australia (1998)

WIN, Australia

Channel 9, Australia (2003)

Channel 9, Australia (2006)


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