8 July 1929|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Died||7 September 2000
|Occupation||Australian television executive|
Bruce Gyngell (AO) (8 July 1929 – 7 September 2000) was an influential Australian television executive, prominent for 50 years in both Australian and UK television. Although Gyngell began his career in radio, in the 1950s he stepped into the arena of early television broadcasting, helping to set up Channel 9, the first commercial TV station in Australia. He is credited with introducing the sofa format of breakfast television and in later life, for expressing his attraction to eastern ideas which ranged through Zen Buddhism, meditation and Insight philosophy.
Gyngell was born 8 July 1929 in Melbourne. According to The Guardian, among Gyngell's relatives were an assorted lot of entrepreneurs. His great-grandfather was the pyrotechnician for the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, while his grandfather, who settled in Australia, introduced Cider-making to the continent. His father ran a flying circus before becoming an engineer with Mobil, and his mother was of Irish extraction.
He was a pupil at Sydney Grammar School and briefly studied medicine. He worked as a disc jockey for the ABC, and joined the university air squadron but the Korean war ended before he had a chance to participate.
Gyngell's media career began in the record industry, in the mid-1950s, when he was hired by Australian label Festival Records. He was soon poached by Sir Frank Packer, who hired him to assist in the establishment of TCN-9, Australia's first commercial television station, in 1956. Gyngell is often credited as being the first person to appear on Australian television on 16 September 1956, when he spoke the words, 'Good evening, and welcome to television'. However, many people (possibly several hundred) had already appeared in various television test broadcasts in Australia prior to Gyngell, including performer Alan Rowe, comedy duo 'Ada & Elsie', 'Happy' Hammond, and Graham Kennedy.
During the 1970s Gyngell was the head of many television networks in Australia, including the Nine Network, the Seven Network and also as deputy chairman of ATV in the United Kingdom. He was also the first chief executive of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in Australia during the 1980s. Gyngell also created the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the forerunner of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, and was its first chairman in 1977. In the United Kingdom, he was managing director at TV-am between 1984 and 1992; after the UK Conservative government introduced legislation which inadvertently led to the demise of TV-am (which at the time was the most successful television station in the world), Gyngell received a personal letter of apology from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In 1995, Gyngell was asked by company Chairman Ward Thomas to join Yorkshire Television (which, after taking over Tyne Tees Television, had become 'Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television').
Gyngell would repeat his opening night words upon the opening of the Special Broadcasting Service in 1980, and again in 1995, when cable television brought along Optus Television. He was the founder of the Nine Network's most popular music-variety program, the long-running Bandstand, which he had adapted from the American programme American Bandstand.
Gyngell died at the age of 71, on 7 September 2000 in Chelsea, London from a cancer-related illness. Upon Gyngell's death, the Prime Minister of Australia John Howard paid tribute to him, saying, "It's a big loss to the Australian television industry. In a way, he probably contributed more to the industry than just about any other Australian."
Gyngell married twice and had five children. The first time to Ann Barr with whom he had three children, designer Briony Gyngell, restaurateur and chef Skye Gyngell, and Nine Network CEO David Gyngell, who is married to Leila McKinnon. In 1986 he married Kathy Rowan, a TV-AM producer. They had two sons, Adam and Jamie.
The comedian Kym Gyngell is the son of his cousin Peter.
- Name That Tune – (1956)
- The Guardian, obituary article by Maggie Brown, 9 September 2000
- TV-am Timeline
- Horsman, Mathew (2 May 1995). "Yorkshire snaps up former TV-am boss Bruce Gyngell". Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
- "Bruce Gyngell: the life of a media legend", ninemsn, 10 September 2000
- "Courtney Love of Cooking", Sydney Morning Herald article by Cassandra Jardine, 25 July 2011