Executive Producer: 1988 (Pilot–Episode 205)
Born in Perth on 2nd January 1936, William Alan Bateman was the creator of Home and Away, and remained its Executive Producer for the first 9 months.
Bateman started his television career as an electrical technician at the Seven Network in 1959. After working through various production roles, he was technical director for the channel’s coverage of the Commonwealth Games in 1962. Bateman and his wife moved to London soon afterwards, where he attended the BBC’s Training College and worked on such shows as Doctor Who and the RSC’s television production of War of the Roses
On his return to Australia in the late 1960s, Bateman joined ABC and worked his way up the ranks to become the network’s Head of Programming. He later moved to the post of Head of Drama for the Seven Network, where in 1986 he pushed forward with the development of a new show following Seven’s axing of Neighbours, which had been unexpectedly picked up by Network Ten and made into a success.
Bateman’s inspiration for this new show had famously came whilst buying an ice cream in a small country town in southern NSW, where he heard that locals were in uproar about the construction of a new foster home for kids from the city.
“I saw then the outline for a serial” Bateman said in a 1989 interview. “I had wanted to make a serial but I hate copycat television. I wanted to do something that really reflected the hopes, fears, challenges and ambience of young people in the 1980s. I believe young people are alienated to a certain extent nowadays. It is very tough growing up. They have to cope with unemployment and the family unit is a changing structure. Television shows were being written by middle-class, middle-aged people about what life used to be like, not what’s happening in the Eighties. Then in the country town I saw it. Nobody in the community wanted them to move in and I began to wonder how streetwise city kids would adapt to the new lifestyle. Suddenly I thought, there is my slice of life in a community. Some residents were violently opposed to what they saw as troublesome kids being dumped on their own doorstep. Others wanted to give them a go. It had all the elements of fine drama”
Originally titled Refuge, the pre-production faced a number of teething problems before the renamed Home and Away finally premiered on 17th January 1988. The first six months were very difficult for the show, which came close to being axed by the network executives after only six weeks, but Bateman fought to keep it on air for the time it needed to gain a loyal following.
Once the show was on safe ground, Bateman moved on to the Nine Network to head their drama department, where one of his first projects was revamping ailing soap The Flying Doctors. After running his own consultancy specialising in sports events, he returned to Seven in the mid 90’s as Managing Director and Head of Production, before leaving network television in 1999 to work in other executive fields.
Alan Bateman passed away on 18th August 2012, having spent his retirement years on the family farm.
Picture with thanks to the Bateman family