ITV 1955: The view from Scotland 

22 September 2016

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Glasgow’s main morning newspaper, the Glasgow Herald, had two references to the opening of the new Independent Television service in London that evening, 22 September 1955.

The straight news report, from the Herald’s anonymous own correspondent, is very positive. The writer praises the programme parade seen in the first issue of the TVTimes, finding something to attract everybody on the first evening alone. Leslie Mitchell, a defector from the BBC, is seen as a good voice for the stations, and the 1,250,000 sets in London are contrasted with the 10,000 viewers that the BBC had in 1936. All in all, very positive.

The editorial is more wary. The paper is worried about competition in the supply of radio programmes and is pleased that the commercial experiment has happened only in television, with no plans to extend it. The greater powers of the ITA to rein in the excesses of the advertisers is praised while that very control is a source of concern as to whether commercial television will turn a profit.

The BBC’s previous television output is treated neutrally: it cannot please all of the people all of the time and therefore doesn’t; a second channel will allow television as a whole to please more people at once, purely by offering variety. None of this variety will reach Scotland for a while yet, however.

The big evening paper in Glasgow is the Evening Times. Their tabloid format is more strident than the Herald, with the editorial noting directly that Scotland will have to wait for ITV, but the BBC has done a good job in getting to the nation, with Meldrum opening on 12 October. Nevertheless, the lack of VHF radio services in Scotland is noted and disapproved of, despite the tiny audience for FM in 1955.

The Evening Times’s main news report is by their television reviewer David R Dewar. He notes that the BBC’s variety of programming is already good and that they have no plans to compete with ITV tonight. Clearly he didn’t know what the Light Programme had planned for Grace Archer. He notes that the ITA transmitter has had periods on low power and off air whilst under test in the last few days and this evidently comes as a surprise to him – the ITA’s engineers could have done a better job of explaining how ‘testing’ works.

Nevertheless, he gives the transmitter the benefit of the doubt, confident that all the hard work will pay off when the channel goes on air.

“TSG”, another anonymous reporter, watched last night’s BBC Television Service and thought that they saw a change, with a lighter presentation of lighter material than used to be expected. TSG likes this new “zest” in the service and thinks that the challenge to the monopoly will raise the Corporation’s game.

You Say

2 responses to this article

garry robin simpson 23 September 2016 at 8:13 pm

I will ask this question as I have asked once before,but the very first edition of I.T.N. News on 22nd September 1955 along with the opening of I.T.V. in London with [the late] Christopher Chataway was not tele-recorded as it would have been in those days? Is this also the same for the first day of I.T.N. in Colour in 1969? I am sorry to sound so repetitive but if any site would know the answers this site would!

Kif Bowden-Smith 26 September 2016 at 2:25 pm

So far as I am aware no recordings exist of those things you list, except for short clips of the original 1955 Guildhall Dinner speech by The Postmaster General, Charles Hill, and a filmed clip of the first few opening moments to the transmission. As for 1969, I imagine ITN recorded the first colour bulletin, though a test bulletin had gone out in colour (major regions only) – (unadvertised) the previous week.

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