Tonight’s Rediffusion London… in 1965 

28 July 2015

Continuing our in-depth look at the scheduling policies of ITV’s London weekday company in 1965, we again see the role of Rediffusion as flagship contractor for the ITV network, providing a radio-style ‘Home Service’ sustaining feed for regions to opt into or out of. This arrangement worked well with Granada in the north, but the relationship with ATV Midlands was more strained, with frequent network scheduling disputes with Lew Grade and ATV acting very much on its own leading to interesting placements later in the evening.

The usual dollop of afternoon racing coverage, appearing on 30-40 afternoons a year, facilitates an earlier daily startup than the basic schedule allows for and introduces the opportunity for a musical interlude (called an intermission on the more cinematic ITV). This would have consisted of five minutes of light orchestral mood music from library discs, played over a static caption, typically of a country scene, mixing halfway to the Rediffusion clock. The BBC habit of short cine films was not copied on ITV.

Children’s Television continues to be labelled as such, which we noted yesterday to be the only region where the TV Times did this; presumably a Rediffusion request to the editors.

Small Time, the long lived toddler’s programme featured the glove puppet Pussy Cat Willum and the folk singer and poet Wally Whyton. One of the ironies of a regionalised, federal structure of ITV was that some programmes were only part networked and this had the bizarre side effect of creating stars who were known of in some regions only while being totally unrecognised in others. Pussy Cat Willum was almost the prime example, hailed in early histories of ITV as a star of the small screen, known to children throughout the UK. Sadly, what these authors and journalists never seemed to quite grasp was that he (and the many other examples of this fame-plus-part-networking anomaly) was an utterly unknown quantity in the regions that did not show the programme. The metropolitan mentality of many London-based journalists never allows for this and the assumption that ‘what London watched, everybody watched’ never quite ceases to haunt the London-based national press.

The Granada stalwart Zoo Time came, as so often, from London Zoo in Regent’s Park, chosen because of its large staff of animal experts and authoritative figures from the natural history world. The programme’s usual northern homeland zoo at Chester went unvisited this week it seems.

The Littlest Hobo was another oft-repeated American import – a cheap and cheerful filler is the best that can be said.

ITN Reports at 6.30pm was the successor to the long lived Roving Report which ITN produced for the network as a home for longer filmed features from reporters overseas that could not be accommodated into the then-shorter standard bulletins. Once News at Ten started in 1967, running to half an hour, these weekly overflow news features ceased and the ‘from our own correspondents’ output was absorbed into the main bulletins. Having many overseas reps was very much de rigeur in the news world at the time.

Pardon the Expression was an interesting attempt by Granada to give the Coronation Street character Leonard Swindley (Arthur Lowe in pre-Dad’s Army days) his own spin-off series. He had been rightly seen by Coronation Street writer Jack Rosenthal and producer Harry Driver as a figure of considerable comic potential and the spin-off series was a success with the audience. The big guns wanted to keep the character in the main series, however, and the work schedule did not really allow both to be recorded each week. For entirely internal, practical reasons, the spin off did not survive. To have Swindley living simultaneously in two different Weatherfield universes at once was also seen by script editors as unrealistic as the plots were not coordinated. The wayward science of soap!

After The Real Thing at 7.30 (with guest appearance by Mollie Sugden) we revert to another American import at 8pm in the wildly successful series The Fugitive – always seen as one of the classic US series of the sixties.

The half hour of cabaret with actor-singer Mark Wynter at ten past nine is this week truncated by ten minutes, to allow for a Labour Party Political Broadcast at the fixed time of 9.30 (simulcast with BBC1). To shorten a programme in this way was the automatic time deployment in those days – to run ten minutes late for the rest of the evening would be our current preference – but at the time the networking of party political broadcasts to BBC and ITV meant drastic measures had to be taken to meet the agreed joint slot.

It is a notable irony here that the PPB itself was fronted by Herbert Bowden MP, who would, three years later as Lord Aylestone, succeed Lord Hill as Chairman of the Independent Television Authority. What goes around comes around.

Intertel’s ident

At 9.40pm possibly the most interesting item of the evening appears. Intertel was not the camera facilities company of today but an international consortium of four cooperating public service broadcasters from around the world who specialised in documentaries. Each agreed to produce one a year, with the four Intertel programmes per annum date simulcast (but not line simulcast) in the four countries. The four consortium members were Australia’s ABC, Canada’s CBC, Britain’s Rediffusion London, and from the USA, National Educational Television (NET,) the forerunner of today’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS). In the latter case, the actual filming was customarily sub-contracted to Westinghouse Group, who produced much material for NET. These programmes were made for many years and won numerous awards. The evident pride in international cooperation was emphasised by an opening fanfare showing the four broadcaster’s names in sequence, which lasted thirty seconds at the start of each documentary.

At 10.40pm the Redcap series from ABC Weekend Television gets a non-networked outing on one of the weekday contractors. This comparative rarity underlined the strained relationship at weekends between ATV London and ABC Weekend in the North and Midlands. ABC could often not get their product shown on ATV in London due to endless disputes about production cost sharing, where Lew Grade customarily drove a famously hard and often impossible bargain. ABC often had to sell their weekend wares to the London weekday company – spoiling the audience advantages of full networking – as the only way to get them shown in the capital. Thus the company credit here is the rare and telling “ABC Television Production” rather than the more common “ABC Weekend Network Production”. Hidden stories sit behind tiny detail.

The evening rounds off with more overspill news items that didn’t fit into main bulletins and gives a leg up to the young new presenter Peter Woods, who later went on to fame as BBC2’s long running presenter of an innovative news half hour in their 7.30.slot.

Another fairly heavyweight evening after 9.30pm keeps Rediffusion policy on traditional target.

You Say

1 response to this article

Arthur Nibble 28 July 2015 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for mentioning the Intertel logo, which I wasn’t aware of.

I found a Rediffusion production for Intertel called “Farewell Arabia” on YouTube. As well as the presentation logo (imposed over the footage and 26 seconds long in this case), the end credits gave not just the Rediffusion logo but also the ‘house roof and aerial’ NET logo as a bonus.

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