Tonight’s BBCtv… in 1967 

29 November 2017

The Radio Times tells us what on BBC television on Wednesday 29 November 1967. Things worth noting include:

  • BBC-1:
    • Almost four hours of schools programmes dominate the early part of the day on BBC-1. These are solid, well-made, educational and entertaining programmes that attracted a wide audience not in school: anybody able to watch television during the day, in fact. Genres aired today include, engineering, history, drama and science.
    • I wonder if the programme on colonialism for sixth formers at noon would stand up to scrutiny now?
    • The transmitters for the Make Yourself at Home programme at 12.25pm (designed to help integrate our new British Asian population) are fascinating. South West and North East England, the Scottish/English Border and Cumbria, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are all excluded from the programme. It seems unlikely there were no new British Asians in these areas – especially as rural East Anglia is covered – so maybe this is to do with staffing of the smaller broadcast centres in the days of manual relaying? Or did the GPO charge extortionate rates for the lines to these more out-of-the-way transmitters?

    • A different array of selective transmitter use kicks in at 1pm, as transmitters with any overlap into Wales – but not the transmitters in Wales itself – and the London station (for the diaspora) come on for a 25 minute Welsh language feature.
    • All of this jumping around forces a small break in transmission between 12.50pm and 1pm and between 1.25pm and 1.30pm, to allow for switching by the Post Office.
    • The limits on broadcasting hours caused both the BBC and the ITV companies to get creative in using exempt items to pad out the on-air time. Schools programmes didn’t count; neither did the Asian integration programme or shows in Welsh. Another exemption was adult education programmes, the brief being interpreted quite broadly. Small Business at 4pm obviously qualifies; Looking at Cooking at 6.15pm also does, somewhat more surprisingly.
    • Winter Hill channel 12 opened in 1965, but the BBC’s pan-north news programme, Look North, wasn’t split until the early summer of 1968, under the threat of the two new ITV regions in the area.
    • Juke Box Jury, mostly remembered as being on Saturdays after Doctor Who, has been bumped to Wednesday and its weekend slot has been filled by the highly successful Dee Time.
    • 7pm was a slot that Wales regularly used to opt out of the BBC-1 network fare. In this case, they drop Tomorrow’s World for a French film, presumably dubbed into Welsh, about animal research (farming rather than vivisection, I believe).
    • Magician David Nixon has been poached from ABC Weekend for The Nixon Line at 7.30pm, at a time when crossing channels was still unusual. He’s a big enough coup for the BBC to get his name over the title in the Radio Times.
    • Softly, Softly at 8pm was very successful and very well made – enough to attract Alan Plater to write this week’s episode. The series blew out of the water the Dixon of Dock Green myth that the police were gentle and polite with suspects: accused criminals are seen bullied, blackmailed and bellowed-at to obtain confessions.
    • Notably absent today is the lead character DCS Charlie Barlow, played by Stratford Johns.
    • The Assistant Chief Constable was played by John Barron, who didn’t get where he is today without knowing how to handle policemen.
    • Twenty-Four Hours floated around the 10pm spot ordinarily – opposite the new ITN News at Ten – but has drifted to 9.05pm to allow The Wednesday Play – ‘Dial Rudolph Valentino One One’ by Ewart Alexander – to air in a later slot, probably due to risqué content.
    • The party political broadcast, by the Liberal Party, is shown on BBC-1, BBC-2 and all ITV regions (except the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland), making it almost literally unmissable. This was done by the Post Office switching ITV’s network over to the BBC – often including the continuity announcement beforehand.
  • BBC-2:
    • BBC-2’s target was 4 hours a night, with Late Night Line-Up (at 11.50pm) being open ended and using what time remained available. To squeeze an extra 30 minutes out of the day, Outlook at 7.30pm is classed as adult education.
    • Man Alive at 9.40pm was a terrific success for BBC-2, which is why it was one of the early programmes to go into colour. It was popular with babyboomers who had got a free higher education in the redbrick universities and the new polytechnics thanks to Mr Attlee’s post-war government and embraced the new(-ish) science of sociology. For those very reasons, it was loathed by the right wing of the Conservative party, who considered sociology and socialism to be roughly the same thing.
    • BBC-2 is not yet fully in colour: tonight, that’s about an hour and twenty minutes for colour – which is less than usual. The network would continue to ramp up its colour output before declaring itself to be “in full colour” next month, allowing the BBC to suggest they were “the first in Europe” to achieve this.
    • The limited number of colour programmes at first is caused by the slow conversion of Television Centre to colour – colour cameras being prohibitively expensive and the BBC suffering from a chicken-and-egg problem: until people went colour, they didn’t get the extra licence fee money to pay for the new equipment; but people didn’t want to go colour until the colour programmes were there to justify the outlay and the doubled licence fee.

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Kif Bowden-Smith Contact More by me

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10 responses to this article

David Heathcote 29 November 2017 at 3:42 pm

Interesting account, Kif – as always.

BBC and ITV schools television programmes were always very well made. As a fledgling physics teacher in 1973, I persuaded my headteacher to invest in a Philips N1500 VCR and 6 45-minute tapes. I recorded the BBC “Physical Science” programmes (O-level) and must have watched many of the episodes at least a couple of dozen times. I knew the scripts off by heart, but my enthusiasm for the programmes never flagged.

In the late 1970s, Granada had a go at filming a series of A-level Physics experiments difficult or impossible to achieve in the school laboratory, called “Experiment”. The quality of filming left a bit to be desired, and it was not always easy to take the essential readings directly off the television screen. “A” for effort, Granada, but not a series that would be remembered for the right reasons.

Victor Field 29 November 2017 at 6:40 pm

For some reason the theme song from “Casey Jones” and the logos at the end (for Briskin Productions and Screen Gems) stuck with me a lot more than the show it when I saw it on BBC1 in the ’70s. See also fellow ’50s series “Whirlybirds” (still getting repeated in the 1980s!).

David Heathcote 29 November 2017 at 11:33 pm

BBC “Physical Science: Free Fall”

Paul Mason 30 November 2017 at 2:06 am

I recall The Nixon Line and Basil Brush, an odd choice for an adult peak show. BB was soon moved to a kids slot, at first with the late Rodney Bewes.
The Wednesday Play featured two actors who’ve left the stage in 2017, Keith Barron and Roy Dotrice. Still alive however is the future Liver Bird Nerys Hughes (now 78).
The evening BBC2 show featuring folk acts from Scotland featured a 25 y.o. Billy Connolly.
Back to BBC1 and Zena Skinner had her cookery show. Juke Box Jury was nearly at the end of its run, I m not sure if it lasted into 1968.

Paul Mason 30 November 2017 at 2:25 am

I’ve just discovered that as of my posting date Zena Skinner is still alive at 90 but she retired from TV some years ago.

Arthur Nibble 30 November 2017 at 12:29 pm

Interesting to see the weather shown before the early evening news and not after, “Tomorrow’s World” on a Wednesday night and thus not preceding “Top Of The Pops”, and Wally Whyton, who I remember more as an ITV children’s television personality, co-presenting “Play School”.

Paul Mason 2 December 2017 at 11:22 pm

The folk programme on BBC2 was Tonight In Person, featuring a Matt McGinn with Billy Connolly simply providing backing music, his comedy act dated from the 1970s.

Paul Mason 2 December 2017 at 11:39 pm

Wally Whyton started out with a skiffle group The Vipers (Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O and a long association with early ITV shows with Muriel Young, Pussy Cat Willum, Fred Barker and Ollie Beak. We was also along with Peter .
Eckersley the host of Granada TVs Time For A Laugh, a selection of cartoons. Wally Whyton gradually went over to BBC Radio 2 hosting a long running country music show until his death at just 58 in 1997.

Paul Mason 3 December 2017 at 12:03 am

Returning to Tonight In Person, I checked out Wikipedia and discovered what a fascinating if hard life Matt McGinn had. He is up there withEwan McColl and Pete Seeger and had a prolific output as a musician and poet. Sadly McGinn smoked in bed just before his 49th birthday in 1977, and the inevitable happened.

Alan Keeling 4 December 2017 at 10:30 am

Interesting to know that the only US import on both BBC channels is Casey Jones (1957/58 Screen Gems Inc) as the chief engineer of the Cannonball Express. Also as a note of interest, Casey Jones was also shown on ATV (Midlands) in a similar weekday slot in 1958.

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