A Choice of Viewing 

11 January 2001 tbs.pm/3360

VHF television transmission is achieved in a broadly similar way to the UHF transmission we use in the UK today.

The main difference – leaving aside the number of lines and other considerations like stereo sound – is that VHF transmissions go further. Much further.

Listen to an ABC North authority announcement

As the enhanced illustration from the 1967 ITA yearbook shows, the maximum reach of the three North region transmitters was far larger than could be reached today.

The furthest extremities of the North region were amazing. ABC North (and Granada) could be viewed from Peterlee in the north east down to Bishops Castle in the south west, from Coniston in the north west to Boston and Coalville in the south east, and from Withernsea in the east to Amlwch in the west of Wales.

To this huge region with a population of least 14.5 million people in 1965 must be added the 10.5 million people within reach of Lichfield and Membury, the midlands transmitters. Visible from Maltby in the north to Frome in the south and Welshpool in the west to Sleaford in the east, ABC covered a huge area and a huge population.

The nature of VHF allowed for more viewers even than this – people willing to pay for a high-gain directional aerial and a head-top booster in Lincolnshire, north and west greater London, Hampshire, east Wales, Cumbria and Durham could tune in.

The majority were not willing to pay for the option. But overlap-viewing was a habit caught from the BBC Home Service, where listeners commonly chose a different region for alternate programmes. If a different television service was easily available, many people took the option. If a different television service was available with some difficulty or expense, some still took the option.

The main reason for this is how independent each company was in days gone by. All companies controlled their own networking arrangements, choosing which programme options to take and which to replace with local material. While in early days the young companies had banded together in affiliate programmes, many regions in the mid-sixties took the opportunity to pick-and-choose between rival ‘Big 4’ programming.

But overlap and out-of-area reception meant that viewers could also choose for themselves which programmes they watched and when. So a viewer in Sleaford may have wanted the Avengers on a Saturday night, so could choose ABC. But if that didn’t suit, Anglia may have shown the programme on a Thursday when Rediffusion was showing it.

Despite the ITA’s growing belief in an all-pervading regionalism, viewers were always happy to abandon their region for something else – be it better programming, better scheduling or just for the cosmopolitan feel of a company.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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