ITV 1955: The view from Canada 

22 September 2016

ITV 1955USAScotlandCanadaAustralia

Last night’s launch of commercial television in the UK makes it to the front page of Canada’s Ottawa Citizen on 23 September 1955.

Jack Stepler reports for Canadian newswire service Southam Inc that Independent Television arrived hesitantly and with good manners. The commercials themselves need polishing, but the programmes were very watchable – and, he believes, much watched.

The British habit of the time of hosting a formal meal to celebrate the launch of something and expecting the viewers to enjoy watching the great and the good eating and making speeches is noted with disdain – yet this habit would still be present almost 13 years later when roughly the same people gathered in roughly the same place for another yawn-inducing meal, this time to launch Thames Television.

Once that was out of the way, things improved with a spot of variety at 8pm, and then 10 minutes later the commercials. The word “awful” here is interesting; perhaps the word had a slightly different meaning 61 years ago in Canada than it does now in the UK. Nevertheless, Gibbs SR is up first, and the concept of a ‘natural break’ for advertisements is discovered – very novel in North America, where commercials largely go wherever the hell they like. They are, however, cramming too much in to each advert, Stepler believes, and should slow down a bit. He did enjoy the Guinness and Shell advertisements, however.

Stepler finishes by noting that the BBC has a real battle on its hands. Commercial television has a zip and a slickness that the BBC Television Service can’t match. The new American programmes, although limited in number by the ITA, will add to that. And Chris Chataway, the world-famous runner, makes for a great newsreader. For the Canadians, ITV wins this one.

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