24 May 2004

ALBUM Rediffusion

Associated-Rediffusion (ARTV)
London weekdays: 1955-1964 (Name change)
Rediffusion, London (Rediffusion Television Limited)
London weekdays: 1964-1968 (Franchise change)


Auntie with adverts

Captain Thomas Brownrigg RN (Ret’d), the semi-legendary and proudly abrasive general manager of Associated-Rediffusion from 1955, was clear what his station was going to be. Put simply, it would be the BBC Television Service, with adverts.

He recruited people from the BBC (although he had little choice, as the BBC was television at that time) and shaped the station-to-be in the BBC’s image. He ran the headquarters building, Television House on Kingsway, like a ship, barking orders, issuing typed crew instructions, and telling the lift boys to salute senior management.

This austere approach was made more striking by Associated Rediffusion’s neighbour, the weekend contractor ATV, which was light-hearted and showbusiness-orientated – the opposite of everything AR stood for and determined to live down to the role critics had chosen for the new commercial service.

Typical of the AR outlook was the AR clock, nicknamed ‘Mitch’ after chief announcer Leslie Mitchell by staff, with its heraldry, pomp and circumstance. Associated Rediffusion was determined to be the long-arm of the 1930s extending into the 1950s – continuing the dying notion that Britain and its Empire where something important in the world.

In 1964, the management had a change of heart. Out went Brownrigg, pensioned off to the south coast and given a director’s position at the TVTimes, and in came ‘Rediffusion, London’. The changes were total – new specially-composed music, a lighter approach (although it’s game shows were inherited from AR, which had no problem in slumming it for money) and a very sixties ident. Rediffusion was the face of a swinging, happy London in a bright, shiny new UK. This was the Britain of prosperity and youth rather than Empire.

The new Rediffusion did not have long in the saddle. Three years after the relaunch, Lord Hill announced that there was to be no place for Rediffusion in ITV any more. Parent company BET took at minority stake in the successor Thames, and the staff largely moved to newcomer LWT. Rediffusion, the swinging station for a swinging London, swung off into the past.

On Screen

Rediffusion, London ident

Rediffusion, London ident

Rediffusion, London ident

Rediffusion, London ident

Rediffusion, London ident

The swinging ident.

A relaunch of station identity – in order to compete effectively with the new BBC-2 – brought AR firmly into the 1960s and saw the company itself renamed ‘Rediffusion, London’.

The star rotated anticlockwise constantly, unlike the ‘clockwise then stop’ of the AR symbol. Any clockwise stars you see are faked.

Associated Rediffusion authority announcement by Leslie Mitchell

The first Associated Rediffusion authority announcement, and thus ITV’s very first announcement of any kind.

Noticeable is how the pattern for announcements had not yet been set. A slogan – This is London – gets a look in, but the ITA do not.

The channel gets a mention, but so does the VHF band. Also missing is the word ‘weekdays’ – a word that was not available in English at the time, so the rather longer circumlocution “every week from Monday to Friday” has to be used.

Associated Rediffusion authority announcement by Redvers Kyle

A year later and the pattern of authority announcements is now set, and AR comply with Redvers Kyle – one of the quintessential voices of ITV – reading an announcement that fits with everything the ITA could want.

Gone now is the ident in the middle of the announcement, and the also the militaristic tune that accompanied the first announcement.

Rediffusion London authority announcement by Redvers Kyle

Some eight years later, Redvers Kyle adopts the ‘voice of god’ tones of Mitchell for the final version of the announcement.

The whole look of the station has been lightened, the name simplified and the heavy music of the past changed for “The Widespread World of Rediffusion”, a Dankworth piece which has never dated (except, perhaps, for the ‘summer holidays’ middle) and gives a thrill of anticipation as it builds to a climax.

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