Launching the Station 

2 February 2004

It was 1955 when commercial television started in London, following shortly after in the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Despite offering viewers an alternative to the BBC for the first time, the early years were rather difficult on the finances as the early companies struggled to make ends meet. Such was the concern about the financial problems, that there was even some doubt as to whether commercial television would be spread out to the rest of the country and it wasn’t until 1957 that the Independent Television Authority decided expansion could work.

The original franchise areas had been given to two companies – one for the week and the other for the weekend, however by the time the franchise for the North East was offered, it had been decided that new franchises would be offered for seven days to one company.

Despite the financial problems of the early companies, things were beginning to pick up, and there were those who were still convinced that money could be made, so the new North East franchise attracted a number of parties including the existing four companies, Granada, ABC, ATV and Associated Rediffusion.

The applicants were narrowed down to four (one of which was north and midlands contractor, ABC) and on 12 December 1957, a local consortium headed by Sir Richard Pease was awarded the contract.

Getting a name

Having won it’s franchise, the company needed a name. The fashion at the time was for geographical names, in place of the unwieldy and meaningless ‘Associated’ titles used by the early ITV companies. The ITA ruled out ‘North East England’ as being “imprecise”. The consortium then looked towards the three rivers which flowed through the region – the Tyne, the Wear and the Tees.

One of the early station idents

The original three T’s logo which would appear in three idents between 1959 and 1969.

First suggested was ‘Three Rivers’ along with the unwieldy ‘Tyne, Wear and Tees’, although in October 1958 the new name was announced: Tyne Tees Television.

The river-based name reflected the strong relationship between rivers, the sea and the North East, which naturally led to Tyne Tees adopting a rather nautical image. It’s triple-T logo morphed from an anchor in the early idents, whilst the jingle featured part of the ‘Blue Peter’, many years before a similarly named programme on the BBC was launched!

The station also created it’s signature tune, usually used for its startup music. ‘Three Rivers Fantasy’ was a medley of folk songs: Bobby Shaftoe, Keel Row, Waters Of Tyne, the Blue Peter (the Tyne Tees 1960s jingle) and ending in Blaydon Races. It was composed for the station by Arthur Wilkinson


The original idea had been to launch before Christmas 1958, but building work in the studios meant prevented that from happening, meaning that Tyne Tees hit the airwaves on 15 January 1959, with announcer Adrian Cairns being the first voice on the station at 5pm.

After the official opening by the Duke of Northumberland, and a speech from company chairman Sir Richard Pease, viewers were given a tour of the studios.

And that was it. Tyne Tees was on air and as Sir Richard Pease said on that night “We are going to make our voice heard.”

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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1 response to this article

John Butler 7 June 2014 at 9:37 pm

To stress again, as I always do, that the mock of the Picasso tuning signal is not strictly accurate. In this period although the ABC/Granada slide merely said North, the Tyne Tees slide said Northeast England, not Northeast. The reason appeared to be that the ITA also had a region called Northeast Scotland. Grampian of course being the franchise holder there.

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