Tonight’s Rediffusion London… in 1967 

5 April 2017

The TVTimes tells us what was on Rediffusion on Wednesday 5 April 1967. Things worth noting include:

  • Racing from Doncaster is a Granada production (technically) but the long standing ITV racing team (Tony Cooke, Ken Butler, Peter Moor, John Rickman) are on contract to Rediffusion, who plan and manage horse racing for Independent Television. This enables better cost control and a standing group who know the ropes and indeed the form… This team were together for over 20 years and achieved a rare sense of quality and permanence in one aspect of the always variable ITV sport output. Sometimes Rediffusion took their own cameras on occasional forays outside their contract area and on others, the cameras of the local company were used – (this time, Granada’s) but in any event it was the hand of Rediffusion that was the controlling force in ITV racing. This also prevented the style of the programming varying for session to session. The Post Office allowed 300 hours per year for Outside Broadcasts, which was not part of the 50 hours-per-week basic allowance. Spread through the year this wasn’t a lot per week – quite a dollop being used on Saturdays – but it enabled ITV to compete with the BBC sports department on a level playing field.
  • The intermission at 4.10 was just too short to permit a closedown and formal start up routine – so the rather formalistic Rediffusion would have filled the space with orchestral gramophone pieces from their record library (though often jazz was heard on Granada for this purpose)
  • During its first years of life, Crossroads was tried experimentally at varying times in differing regions – though it got the best exposure in ATV’s Midland region at 6.35pm. In London, Rediffusion were never able to quite decide how important this ATV production was to them, and it was trialled over the early years at 4.23pm, 4.35pm, 6.08pm and 6.35pm. Though successful in audience terms in the 4.23pm slot, prior to children’s programming – it was eventually moved away from there after many complaints that the placing prevented viewers from also hearing radio’s The Dales (originally Mrs Dale’s Diary) on the BBC Light Programme at 4.15pm each weekday afternoon. This is a useful reminder that ITV’s main competitor in “off peak” hours was still radio in general and the Light Programme in particular. After 6pm GMT (7pm in the summer months) ITV’s main competitor for national spot advertising revenue (apart from the cinema) was of course Radio Luxembourg – and the competition between the two, often overlooked in the history books, was every bit as fierce as that between both organisations and the BBC. Offshore radio subtracted some income after 1964 but for long advertising contracts with multi national manufacturers of various sorts, Radio Luxembourg had the pulling power.
  • The long running Small Time had become the revamped Playtime by 1967 and resembled a British version of the (later) Sesame Street franchise. It was popular in London but did not achieve networked status.
  • Zoo Time at 5, came as it often did from London Zoo in Regents Park – and though a Granada production from London, continued to start and finish with the famous “from the North – Granada” caption. This leads to the very existential conclusion that ‘from the North’ did not refer to the location of the outside broadcast – but really meant “from the Northern contractor…”. A distinction probably lost on the viewers…
  • Three After Six continued its long run in the slot used by other regions (or “the regions” as Rediffusion would have seen it) for the local news programmes. There was no ITV regional news in London, for the contractor saw themselves as “national” in scope and metropolitan in style, with visiting journalists and commentators of the day looking at national issues and rarely focusing on London. The public liked this and the programme was popular but the ITA did not – and on its renewed regionalism kick after July 1968 required successor Thames to run a more London orientated (though still metropolitan minded) equivalent in the form of Today.
  • Batman had been imported from American ABC by British ABC (no relation) and was seen in many regions at the weekend. The ATV-ABC overlap in the Midlands meant that London viewers were obliged to see this series on a weekday, as ATV would only buy (anything) that they could themselves show in both their regions (weekends in London, weekdays in the Midlands) – thus causing again the “Avengers problem” where an ABC weekend import or production would often be seen in weekday slots in the London area.
  • Who Were the British, at 10.35pm – was yet another clever ploy by Rediffusion to extend their broadcasting hours slightly, this time by using this Anglia series. By treating the programme as adult education in the weekly return to the Post Office, the permitted total number of on-air hours per week were expanded elsewhere by the same number of minutes. Adult education (along with schools, religion and sports) was not counted towards the licensed total of hours that the Postmaster-General permitted for the broadcasting industry (50 hours per week at this time, deployed as 35 hours on weekdays and 15 at weekends). Clever use of these regulations, particularly for sport and religion, allowed the weekend contractors to appear to be on air for much of the day – something that was not possible on weekdays, even with copious schools broadcasting.
  • Professional Wrestling was in the same basket and with cunning and skilful manipulation of these rules, Rediffusion gained an industry reputation for stretching permitted broadcasting hours like no other company. Several reprimands were even received from the ITA over the years – but with a nod and a wink – this continued unabated until the 1968 contract changes, when broadcasting hours restrictions were marginally extended by the Postmaster-General (half an hour a day more!!) though not abolished until late 1972.
  • The ten minute Dateline slot at 11.52pm was used by ITN to look each night at one story in greater depth than the news bulletins permitted. This popular feature was dropped and absorbed into News at Ten when that began in July 1967. Paid for by Rediffusion as part of their culture commitment, Dateline was not networked though occasional editions were seen outside the capital on a one-off basis when a major news story required amplification.
  • In place of a traditional epilogue, Rediffusion often used ten minute mini-documentaries of a “social work with religion” style, to round off the broadcast day – and uncounted by the Post Office, to wriggle further on-air minutes out of the regulations. A Rediffusion habit, par excellence…

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6 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 5 April 2017 at 2:06 pm

“No Hiding Place” coming close to the end of its admirable run (16th September 1959 to 22nd June 1967, the last two years being tagged on after cancellation of the series in 1965 followed by reinstatement due to public demand).

Alan Keeling 5 April 2017 at 8:52 pm

Court of the Lion was episode 18 of season 1 of I Spy, this episode was Robinson & Scott’s final visit to the Orient. Episode 19 sees the two agents in Mexico.

Paul Mason 8 April 2017 at 10:32 pm

From the North – Me.
As a child I remember Zoo Time with Desmond Morris who is still alive at 88. I also remember Batman which ABC broadcast at 7.25pm on Sundays. BAM! POW! BIFF!

Also I recall the mid-60s gonk Tivvy, who’s catchphrase was “IN KALLA” (which means In Colour). Im not sure whether he meant theTV Times magazine or ITV, but ITV didn’t go colour until 1969. Good to see Tivvy again!

Paul Mason 10 April 2017 at 2:48 am

Noticed a few famous names in No Hiding Place which my family watched. Apart from Raymond Francis was the now 91 y.o.Pete Murray, also Pauline Yates and James Beck, a year or so before Dad’s Army and six Yeats before his untimely death.

I Spy I remember , and it was repeated in the eighties late at night. I don’t think anyone would show it nowadays due to the alleged antics of Bill Cosby.

Paul Mason 10 April 2017 at 2:50 am

It should read 6 YEARS before his untimely death.

Geoff Nash 27 September 2017 at 10:29 pm

Being in an overlap area I remember Southern taking the ABC feed of ‘Batman’on Sunday evenings and then watching the same episode on a weekday on Rediffusion, much to the annoyance of my parents.

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