Continuity from Newcastle 

12 June 2006

For over forty years, Tyne Tees’s continuity came from a small presentation studio in Newcastle.

Like many companies, Tyne Tees used in-vision continuity, where the announcer sits in a small studio and is seen on screen. Local announcers like Bill Steel, Neville Wanless and Lyn Spencer quickly became local celebrities, providing a warm and friendly face for the viewers. The announcers were perhaps one of the strongest pieces of branding the station had – a human face to the company.

Bill Steel in the continuity studio in 1989

Until the early 90s, announcers not only announced the programmes, but provided live voice overs for trailers (a tape was made of up all the show highlights but all the voice overs and graphics were put out live…), prepared their announcements, switched the slides in and out, read the news (on all bulletins until 1987) and presented two mini prog-ettes: Lookaround (which advertised charity events for free) and The Birthday Slot (for the kids…)

In the early years of Tyne Tees, announcers would also present the main news bulletins, and presenters like Tom Coyne are best known for their work presenting the regional news magazine programmes rather than linking programmes. Many announcers would also get the chance to present regional programmes, and some went on to become national stars.

The Studio

Announcements came from the small continuity studio. Until the 1980s this was a small set, but by the mid 1980s had been upgraded to be the chroma key system, where the presenter was sat in front of a blue screen, with the background added by the system.

The studio had a variety of backdrops available, for news, general continuity and for kids programming. By using a clever little trick of making the background just a little out of focus, and by softening the chroma key lines around the presenter, Tyne Tees did an excellent job of disguising the fact that they were using the technology – a feat that many modern blue-screen studios still can’t do.

The technology wasn’t 100% reliable though, and occasionally Bill Steel would be talking about a new quiz show, with the news set in the background. On one occasion, Kathy Secker was introducing with a variety of ‘Coming Up’ Slides changing rapidly behind her.

The Demise

In the early 1990s though, the writing was on the wall for the Newcastle based department. Tyne Tees’s new owners, Yorkshire Television started running the Tyne Tees service down, and many members of the presentation team left, pre-empting the staff cull.

With the staffing levels decreasing, some of Yorkshire’s announcers would be drafted in to fill the gaps, traveling up the A1 to present invision from Newcastle – a form of continuity which Yorkshire never used.

However the working hours of the Newcastle team were cut, and by the mid 1990s, announcers in Newcastle were working from around noon to half eleven in the evening, with announcements usually being pre-recorded by the Newcastle team at other times.

Invision announcements also decreased but did continue, abliet with fewer regular announcers. This was partly helped by the popularity in the region of the remaining announcers Kathy Secker and Bill Steel, but even they couldn’t save the department. Rumour does have it that Bill had a clause in his contract enabling him to present invision continuity for as long as he was working at Newcastle – put in his contract before the Yorkshire takeover.

By 1994 invision continuity was done by just three people: Kathy Secker, Bill Steel and Jonathan Morrell. Jonathan left that year, and in 1996 Bill departed too, with Kathy Secker moving to the news department shortly after. Announcements from Newcastle ended shortly after on 16 March 1996, with the final announcement being done out of vision by Allan Cartner.

From then on, all announcements were done from the Yorkshire team in Leeds. It was the first of many continuity departments that would later close in the late 1990s – sadly Yorkshire was a pioneer for this cost-cutting, although of course, it was not the Leeds team who were put out of a job.

Continuity Clips

First, three clips from the 1970s.

Listen to Neville Wanless introducing the news

Listen to Neville Wanless introducing Captain Scarlet

One of the most popular announcers, the King of Smooth Neville Wanless introduces the news and childrens programmes. The latter is a far cry from kids TV today.

Listen to Allan Cartner announcing New Faces

Listen to Allan Cartner announcing the racing

Meanwhile from the 1970s, Allan Cartner tells people about New Faces and the days racing from Sandown.

One of the greatest announcers in the world – the remarkable Colin Weston, showing us the art of how not to do a Christmas day greeting.

Bill Steel introduces Lookaround in 1986

Lookaround was the daily continuity slot dedicated to reading out details of local events, birthdays, and in the case of bad weather, cancellations. In the mid 1980s, the slot had its own title sequence, shown here with Bill Steel.

Lyn Spencer says goodbye to Thames in 1992

Lyn Spencer raises a glass and introduces the very last networked programme from a certain Thames Television on New Years Eve, 1992.

You Say

1 response to this article

Joanne Gray 16 December 2015 at 8:03 pm

Just heard the sad news that long serving Tyne Tees continuity announcer Kathy Secker has died, aged 70. Condolences to her family and colleagues at BBC Radio Newcastle.

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