No more till Monday 

1 February 2003

In the fading months of the black and white era of television, from July 1968 to November 1969, a considerable formality was to be found in the weekly hand over between the remaining weekday/weekend companies.

Alone in London, with a mid-evening split between the two broadcasters, Thames and London Weekend practised a formal dance that may have been lost on the viewer but made heavy impressions on the Transdiffusion Children.

Thames’s last advert would finish at 18.59.30 and the Thames continuity announcer would appear to rather formally say that Thames was “closing down now, until Monday”, rather as if there was to be no ITV over the weekend.

This would take about 15 seconds, during which the station theme, “Salute to Thames”, would be heard behind the announcer, beginning as the harp notes appeared.

The music had been commissioned by ABC Weekend Television, in advance of their relaunch as Thames, with a special point in the tune for this purpose.

The tune would play out, with a cut to the Thames caption, from about 18.59.45 to about 18.59.55. At this time there would be a mix to the Thames clock, for the last five seconds, at the point in the music where the Thames ident is finally reprised.

This was heard as the second hand on the clock ticked up to 19.00 exactly and control moved from Holborn to Wembley. It was a powerful ending, and never failed to send shivers down the spine.

It was very typical of ABC’s presentation ethos, which had been commended as the most notable and stylish on ITV up to that point.

The music was also used as the closing procedure for Thames during the day, after schools or sports specials, when a closedown until teatime was the norm.

London Weekend took over at seven, with an authority announcement and ident quite insulated from Thames, almost as if there had been test card all afternoon! It was all rather dramatic, and deliciously self important of both companies, ignoring each other and pretending that London was theirs and theirs alone.

Ironically, because of changing studio ownership when contract changes were made in 1968, the London Weekend presentation came from the former Rediffusion studios at Wembley, while the Thames presentation came from the existing Rediffusion studios at Television House in Kingsway.

It was as if, at transmission control level, Rediffusion had won a seven-day contract. From a personnel point of view it was quite different, as ABC people now occupied Television House, while London Weekend picked up the displaced Rediffusion staff and not a small amount of their former company’s presentation ethos.

The 7pm Friday switch was physically carried out, by GPO engineers who controlled all landlines in those days, by literally pulling a plug at the Museum telephone exchange, through which the Television House output was routed, giving a momentary instability of vertical hold to several million London televisions. This continued for 18 months, until renewal of equipment for the new colour service updated procedures.

The formality of the hand over faded with the introduction of colour in November 1969, with announcers now almost-but-not-quite ‘handing over’ to each other in vision, and a peep at the clock, sometimes with the final bars of “Salute to Thames” faintly in the background.

The original London Weekend ident was silent, and thus rather an anticlimax, so things improved when their first musical version appeared in 1969, and some sense of occasion was restored to the proceedings.

Formality in presentation was considered essential in those days. The companies were proud enough of their identities to emphasise the weekly changeover.

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