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Southern Cross

Overview

This profile considers Australian broadcast and production group Southern Cross.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • the network
  • Southern Star
  • holdings
  • studies

Introduction

TEN Network and Seven Network affiliate Southern Cross (SCB) owns and operates commercial radio and television stations throughout Australia. In 2004 it acquired production house Southern Star.

Southern Cross has a 30.5% stake in ntlT which plans to provide a telecommunications network along the east coast from Cairns to Hobart, offering infrastructure to all three major regional commercial television broadcasters and (through a 50:50 joint venture with SP Telecommunications) to provide telecommunication services to the corporate and government sectors in regional centres from Melbourne to Cairns.

The dominant shareholder is the Asper-controlled Ten Group Ltd (14%).

The network

It had one capital (Canberra) and four regional television broadcast licences in 1999. In 2001 it acquired Telecasters Australia Ltd (owner of Ten Queensland, Ten Northern NSW, Seven Darwin, Seven Central and Telecasters Communications)

It also controls six metropolitan radio licences and Sky Radio. The latter was acquired in 2001 (along with radio talkback stations 2UE and 4BC) from the Lamb family's Broadcast Investment Holdings Pty Ltd for $90 million.

Its Southern Cross Tricom owns and operates an audiotext licence to deliver premium rate audio information via the Telstra network and provides audiotext services to the group's television and radio stations. Southern Cross Syndication offers program content to 161 radio stations. The group's Telecasters Communications subsidiary has a microwave network from Toowoomba via Brisbane to Cairns.

Southern Star

The Southern Star production group, acquired in 2004 for around $100 million, is concerned with film/video production, distribution and merchandising.

It was initially established as the Taft-Hardie Group , being rebadged in 1988 after an $11 million management buyout led by Neil Balnaves. Taft-Hardie was a joint venture of interests controlled by the US Taft family (centred on the Hanna Barbera cartoon production studio) and asbestos products manufacturer James Hardie Industries (at that time expanding into publishing). The latter's interests centred on the Paul Hamlyn group, which had acquired 51% of Hanna Barbera Australia in 1974.

As of 2002 Southern Star comprised seven operating units including a distribution arm, Australian merchandising operations for the BBC and Colombia Tri-Star, documentary film operations and an associated image library, a Los Angeles-based animation unit, tape and disk duplication (sold that year) and a home video arm.

Its Southern Star Entertainment provides corporate support for established independent producers, notably -

  • Errol Sullivan - Southern Star Sullivan
  • Hal McElroy - Southern Star McElroy
  • Steve Luby and Mark Ruse - Southern Star Ruby
  • Sandra Levy and John Edwards - Southern Star Xanadu

and for joint ventures with offshore partners such as Endemol.

The production arms operate as partnerships, with Southern Star servicing all running costs, salaries, administration and publicity. The group has engaged in major co-productions with the BBC and ABC.

Holdings

Australian television stations include -

  • Channel Nine Adelaide
  • Southern Cross Ten Queensland
  • Southern Cross Ten Northern NSW
  • Southern Cross Ten Southern NSW and ACT (inc Canberra Ten capital city station)
  • Southern Cross Ten Victoria
  • Southern Cross Television Tasmania
  • Spencer Gulf Telecasters South Australia
  • Southern Cross Central
  • Southern Cross Darwin

Radio stations include -

  • 2UE - Sydney
  • 3AW - Melbourne
  • Magic 693 - Melbourne
  • 4BC - Brisbane
  • 4BH - Brisbane
  • 6PR - Perth
  • 96FM - Perth
  • Sky Radio

Other holdings include -

  • Southern Star (inc numerous joint ventures such as Southern Star Endemol)
  • Southern Cross Media Sales
  • Southern Cross Syndication
  • Tricom Group
  • Telecasters Communications
  • 30.5% stake in NTL-controlled digital television and network services group ntl Telecommunications Pty Ltd

Studies

There has been no major study of Southern Cross or Southern Star. Perspectives are offered in works on Australian television highlighted in the Asper and Murdoch profiles on this site.

A celebratory view of Hardie is provided in 'A Very Good Business': One Hundred Years Of James Hardie Industries Ltd 1888-1988 (Sydney: James Hardie Industries 1990) by Brian Carroll, predating the group's asbestos litigation and controversial move offshore.