Pirate television studios began operating in Pukatja (Ernabella) and Yuendumu (NT) using basic domestic video cameras to record community events in 1983. It was filmed mostly in local languages and copied on to VHS tapes then broadcast locally within the community.
Rex Guthrie began using a video camera as an educational tool in Pukatja in 1982:
I started using video with the kids and we’d go around the community and film … I’d get the kids to do the camera work… and we’d record various things that happened in the community… I was using video just as a tool for them to learn English. That’s what it was about. It wasn’t about taking video … Also used it for numeracy, as well, in the same way … So we did some sort of counting or working out some simple mathematics using video … and put voice-overs onto it with a microphone and different kids and they would play it back and get the reward of seeing the images with the sound and their own voice doing the English. – Rex Guthrie, interviewed by Chris Guster
Chris Guster writes, ‘It was not long before members of the community saw the value of video technology. The video unit at Ernabella was brought into being in 1983 by local elder, Wally Dunn and Guthrie in his new role as Community Adult Educator. Dunn and Guthrie held a series of community meetings about the coming of satellite television. As a result of these meetings, ‘The Ernabella Video Project’ was formed with six local ‘video production trainees’: Wally Dunn, Colin Brown, Simon Tjiyangu, Pantjiti Tjiyangu, Sandra Lewis and Joseph Tapaya. The recordings heralded the birth of the community’s own local television station.
In November 1984 EVTV conducted its first test TV transmission and by April 1985 EVTV began regular television broadcasts. In its first year EVTV produced 17 productions including Bush Medicine and the re-enactment of the dreaming story The Seven Sisters.’
Neil Turner speaking at the National Remote Indigenous Media Festival at Umuwa in 2011.
Neil Turner took over in 1985 and worked with EVTV (now PY Media) until 1996 when he moved to Broome to manage Pilbara and Kimberly Aboriginal Media.
The original concept for the TV station in Ernabella was that it was a community participation model, that it wasn’t just the video crew who would run the service for the community, but the school, the health clinic, the police, the church, the footballers, everyone would get involved in contributing to the community programming, and the video production crew could go and record things with them if they didn’t have their own cameras, and so on. – Neil Turner
In 1997, EVTV’s video cassettes went to the South Australia Museum in Adelaide in an effort to catalogue and stabilise the collection. Kunmanara and Pantjiti Tjiyangu spent many hours reviewing the tapes and helped document valuable cultural information. PY Media Video Productions made it a priority to produce stable digital copies and maintain the database so that the archive could be returned to the people on the APY Lands.