About About Anglia 

19 September 2016 tbs.pm/9684

From About Anglia ’75, a book published by The Boydell Press in 1974.

aboutanglia-aThe red light is shining outside the doors of Studio B at Anglia House in Norwich. At ITN in London, Gordon Honeycombe is coming to the end of his final story of the ten to six bulletin. The About Anglia programme director alerts his studio crew to “stand-by”.

At his side in the control room, high above the studio floor, his production assistant is counting out the seconds to “on air”. On studio talkback comes the command “Roll Tele Cine”. The vision mixer selects the buttons on the lighted panel in front of her for the camera focused on the familiar Anglia Knight symbol. A “mix” through to About Anglia’s opening film. A further cue from the director relayed to Graham Bell in the studio by a hand signal from the floor manager. And About Anglia is once again being transmitted into nearly a million homes in the East of England.

Five times a week About Anglia programmes go on air “live” — a daily exercise in team-work that’s been repeated against that deadline of one minute past six for almost four thousand times since the programme first came to the screen in 1960. When viewers tune in in the early evening to find out what has been going on in the East of England, few probably realise the complicated technical jigsaw that’s being put together as they sit before their television sets, or the planning and the skills that go to make up just one half hour of news, interviews and features.

All kinds of skills go into just one programme of About Anglia. Electricians, cameramen, journalists, film processors, despatch riders, typists… a small army of people each with a vital role to play in creating a daily electronic newspaper. It all begins nine and a half hours before the “on-air” deadline of one minute past six. At 8.30 a.m. the early shift of journalists and secretaries arrive in the newsroom at Anglia House. For the next two hours a steady stream of information is relayed from all corners of the Anglia region. News of events about to happen, fires, crimes, tragedies, successes. Information fed in by contacts and correspondents based in towns and cities throughout the East of England.

As the stories flow in camera units and reporters are assigned. Telephone briefings are held between the Norwich newsroom and Anglia’s news units based in other parts of the region. Where required, aircraft have to be booked; flight plans arranged to locations too distant to be reached by road in the time available. Arrangements are made to bring interviewees to Norwich, or to get them to a studio in London. Stories are checked, accepted or rejected. The bare bones of that night’s programme gradually take shape.

At 10.30 a.m. a conference attended by the programme editor, the director and the production team, finalise the sequence of items and times allotted to each section of the programme. Timings have to be agreed to the second. Decisions are made over props and furnishings required in the studio; the lighting effects and technical facilities needed. Lines are booked via the Post Office to ITN or studios elsewhere in the country, if film or interviews are to be fed in from sources other than the studio in Norwich. But all these decisions are taken in the knowledge that if early assessments of major news stories prove wrong, plans may have to be torn up and the programme radically altered to accommodate fresh items as the day proceeds.

From this meeting the production assistant prepares the daily “running order” — an information sheet which contains all the necessary details to brief technical departments on the programme plans.

David Henshaw reports on IRA vandalism on the Rubens "Adoration of the Magi" at King's College Chapel, Cambridge

David Henshaw reports on IRA vandalism on the Rubens “Adoration of the Magi” at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge

Meanwhile, in the newsroom, the flow of news stories grows. Copy is phoned to copy-typists by reporters and correspondents throughout the region, or sent by teleprinter from news agencies in London.

Each story has to be assessed, checked and its importance at the end of the day judged. Every item must be looked at to decide how best it can be presented visually by use of film or still pictures. Where fresh film, on the day, is impossible to obtain, Anglia’s film and slide libraries are asked to check if stock illustration can be provided. Reporters who have been briefed on interviews to be conducted later in the day, sift through cuttings and background information in the reference library.

The news film editors are viewing and assembling early film into its final transmission form, and by early afternoon further news film is on its way to Norwich by despatch rider, train, car or air. When it arrives at Anglia House all the film goes directly to the colour processing laboratory. There it is fed through a series of chemical processes to emerge three quarters of an hour later ready to be edited and fitted into its place in the programme. With deadlines creeping closer any delay in either processing or editing can seriously jeopardise the time schedule.

In the studio other parts of the programme are being prepared. On most days About Anglia will include a short recorded section—either an interview or a regular feature like Mid Week Mail or Police Call. To the viewer at six o’clock the item will appear to be live like the rest of the programme. But in fact it is recorded on video-tape, which like a giant tape recorder stores both sound and pictures ready to be played out at the touch of a button.

As the afternoon proceeds the pace in the editing rooms and the newsroom increases. As each script is typed in its final form a further copy is made on a special narrow roll of paper. At 5.30 p.m. when the bulletin editor decides the make-up of the bulletin these Autocue scripts form a long paper chain. Down in the studio the whole roll is fed through a machine which scans it with a small television camera and projects the words through mirrors directly into the lens of the studio cameras. When David Geary is seated at his news desk he can read his newscripts as he looks directly at the camera.

David Geary, the newscaster, with the studio floor manager, Sonny Vassallo

David Geary, the newscaster, with the studio floor manager, Sonny Vassallo

The clock creeps towards transmission time. On the studio floor, the floor manager relays instructions received over his headphones from the programme director. He is the link between the studio and the studio control which is located in a glass-walled room high above the studio floor.

In the control box the programme director and his production assistant sit in front of a bank of television monitor screens which carry pictures from the various sources from which the programme is made. He can select pictures from any of three studio cameras, up to three telecine machines each of which is loaded with separate reels of film, or from two video-tape machines. He may also be using colour slides fed through a slide scanner.

The director is responsible for the transmission of the programme, its technical quality and the way in which it is presented. He is in contact via a talk-back system with sound and lighting controls and with the telecine and vide-tape operators. Beside him sits the vision mixer who is responsible for selecting picture sources and visual effects on an electronic control bank. On his other side sits the production assistant who is responsible for the timing of each and every item and the overall “to-the-second” timing of the programme. On her stop-watch timings the various components of film or video-tape are slotted in and the presenters in the studio take their cues. Programme schedules are so closely interlinked between studio centres all over the country contributing to the ITV network that programmes have to run dead on time.

Shortly before the start of ITN’s ten to six news the final About Anglia scripts, those for the regional news bulletin, are distributed. As the newscaster at ITN goes into the final five minutes of his programme, at Anglia House, the reels of newsfilm are being loaded onto the telecine machines.

Last minute instructions are given over the talk-back from the control box to the studio floor. Interviewees and presenters take their seats in the studio.

As the seconds tick by the production assistant calls the studio to one minute stand-by. The count down proceeds and at six seconds to transmission the director gives the instructions to roll the opening film, cues in the music, and puts About Anglia on the “air”.

For nine and a half hours a huge variety of skill and talent has gone into the planning of just half an hour of transmission-time. For thirty minutes, as the viewer at home relaxes in front of his set, the atmosphere in the studio is one of teamwork and tension. But as the closing music is faded down over the familiar Anglia Knight caption plans are already beginning to take shape for another edition tomorrow.

Jim Wilson was Anglia Television’s Head of News in 1974.

You Say

3 responses to this article

garry robin simpson 19 September 2016 at 8:54 pm

Great! Here in the South we had Day By Day with Barry Westward and Trover ;the weather Baker Sadly both no longer with us. Later in the decade Sarah Kenedy Vironica Charwood and of course Fred Dinenage who has been a reporter/presenter for all three I.T.V. In the South Franchise Holders Southern Television 1955-1982 Television South 1982-1993 and Meridian 1993 to present. Fred has been on local T.V. since 1967. Also on Yorkshire Television Calender Sport in 1973. and The Anglia Networked I.T.V. Show Gambit. in the mid to late 1970″s Fred is the longest U.K. Regional News and Sport presenter since 1967. On the B.B.C.. Sally Taylor has been ether a co- presenter or main presenter of B.B.C. Television”s South Today programme since 1985.Viewers in the South-East had Scene Souyh-East twice a week on Southern then 5 days a week Coast to Coast and Meridian Tonight. In those days the film had to be finished by 3 pm long before the days of LIVE E.N.G. or today”s LIVE links. Better reports though with more considered reporting. These days. I.T.V. and B.B.C Regional News is just a self-promotion exercise for programmes on their channels. When my Mum passed earlier this year I lost interest. Are you doing a feature on B.B.C.T.V.”s Nation wide programme.Thanks. A former disabled carer for my late and lovely Mum. GOD BLESS!

Paul Mason 30 October 2019 at 10:32 pm

Judy Finnigan! What on earth became of HER?

Ronald Spafford-Crisps 6 November 2019 at 4:52 am

Did everybody just assume that “IRA” == “Irish Republican Army” when About Anglia reported it on the news, since it could have signified many other things?

It seems highly improbable that the Irish Republican Army would have been involved in such an act of vandalism. Blowing buildings up with explosive devices was usually their preferred modus operandi.

There was an article in The Spectator magazine “Why Rubebs Should Go” by Simon Blow (at 2013/01/why-rubens-should-go/) arguing for the removal of this painting whose placement resulted in the removal of the paneling installed by his grandfather, the architect Detmar Jellings Blow, from the part of the chapel into which the painting had been positioned. In the article, Simon Blow also casts aspersions against the master of Kings College who was responsible for the decision to remove Detmar Blow’s paneling and replace it with the Rubens painting, with whom Blow indicates personal interaction.

According to Blow’s autobiography of his childhood, “No Time To Grow: A Shattered Childhood”, his father was an alcoholic, and so he surely suffered great emotional distress during his formative years.

Purely coincidentally, does anybody know if Simon Blow was a student at the University of Cambridge (in view of the personal interaction with the master of Kings College he mentioned in his article) in the early 1970s?

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