Yorkshire Television presents… 

29 July 2018 tbs.pm/67007

Gazette — the story behind the stories

From the TVTimes Yorkshire for 27 July – 2 August 1968

THERE are 75 local weekly newspapers in Yorkshire, ranging from the thriving, 42,300 – strong Barnsley Chronicle to the gallant little Thirsk, Bedale and Northallerton Times, which not only has the longest title, but also the smallest circulation — 1,931 copies.

Oldest is the Harrogate Advertiser, founded in 1836. Latest is the Westdale Gazette, launched this week — and all set to become the best-known and most talked-about of them all.

It is a fictitious newspaper and the focal point of Yorkshire Television’s first nationally-networked drama series, Gazette.

The Westdale Gazette is typical of Yorkshire’s medium-sized local weeklies — and their hard-worked, underpaid staffs, fighting to maintain both the circulation figure, with housewives itching to cut the paper bill, and advertising revenue, with local traders suffering the effects of the squeeze.

Key figures, introduced in Friday’s first episode, are the 38-year-old proprietor, James Hadleigh (played by Gerald Harper), who leaves a brilliant career as a top Whitehall administrator to take over the Gazette on the death of his father, and 36-year-old editor Frank Walters (Jon Laurimore), who opts for the leisure of Westdale after the pressure-cooker life of London’s Fleet Street.

In real life, what future would the Gazette hold for them? Editor Walters has a salary of between £1,500 and £2,000 a year [£26,000 and £34,500 in 2018 allowing for inflation] for producing his paper with little professional help. Just two senior reporters (picking up under £22 [£380] a week each) and a junior whose starting salary is £7 1s [£7.05 in decimal, £122 allowing for inflation].

Proprietor Hadleigh has plenty of financial headaches— and a satisfying income provided he keeps a tight rein on costs. Out of a yearly revenue of £100,000 [£1.7m], he should be able to tot up a before-tax profit of £10,000 [£173,000].

A scene from the first episode of Gazette shows reporter Bill Spence (Michael Blackman) typing, and the Editor (Jon Laurimore)

The series is written by Elwyn Jones, former Head of Drama Series at the BBC, and the man responsible for launching a variety of TV crime classics from Maigret to Z-Cars.

An ex-journalist, he began his career on a magazine that has long since disappeared — a fate that today hangs over several Yorkshire weeklies.

The Gazette seems fairly secure — at the moment. Like many Yorkshire papers, it has recently put its price up to 6d [2½p in decimal, 45p in 2018] to meet higher newsprint costs. And it has raised its advertising rate.

But not all Yorkshire papers can report healthy balance sheets. Some, particularly family-owned papers with no line of succession, face a very uncertain future — with a merger or a take-over the alternative to folding-up completely.

The people of Westdale, however, are faithful to their paper. It goes into two out of every three homes — where they don’t seem to mind paying higher than the national average for their local weekly.

“And why shouldn’t they?” asked producer Terry Williams. “There’s a lot of brass in Yorkshire — they SHOULD be able to afford it.”


Frost on Friday – a serious tone

David Frost – now three shows a week [sic]

DAVID FROST, who recently signed a contract worth £125,000 [£2.2m] with an American television network to make four hour-long programmes, flew into London from the States last week to start work on his new series, the first of which is Frost on Friday (August 2).

Of the three shows each week — the other two are screened on Saturdays and Sundays — Friday’s will be “serious,” devoted to people and issues “of the moment.”

Clive Irving, one of Frost’s closest friends and advisers, says: “Frost on Friday will be the hard, journalistic programme, similar to the previous series.

“But there will be differences due to new circumstances. The old series had Thursday, Friday and Saturday [sic] to thrash out various serious subjects. Now we’re restricted to just Friday.

“As it comes towards the end of the week we will include people who embody the main event or events of that week. Our policy, as always, will be to steer right away from the pundit type of programme.

“We won’t, for example, have someone on the show who says ‘I think…’. They should not be outsiders commenting on the particular issue, but be so involved, first-hand, with it that they can say ‘I did this because…’

In the previous series. Frost’s TV interrogations were described by Mr. Alexander Lyon, Labour M.P. for York, as “akin to a lynch mob of the Wild West.” And he added: “I do not believe he (Frost) is an oracle of truth.”

Now the ITA, with the BBC, have given assurance to Mr. Short, Postmaster-General, that they will prevent “trials by television.”


Driveway — and the strain on the family

NEXT to illness, death or money troubles, the most traumatic experience to hit any British household is probably the driving test.

It was this realisation that gave Fleet Street television columnist Peter Dacre the idea for the new serial “Driveway.” A complete serial story in eight parts, “Driveway” will tell of the day-to-day dramas and emotional upheavals of an ex-Army officer who starts a driving school with his savings.

The central character, Major Alan Brock, is played by Anthony Newlands, and his wife, Pamela by Margaret Ashcroft.

Peter Dacre, a journalist and overseas correspondent for more than 20 years, had the idea when the eldest of his five sons, Paul, took his driving test.

He said: “When somebody is having driving lessons or about to take his test, the whole household feels the strain. Tension taughtens everybody’s nerves. Rows flare up over trivial things.

“And some people — usually women — become emotionally involved with their driving instructor.

“There is always a close relationship between pupil and teacher. Maybe it is because both are shut away for an hour or more in a car.

“Often a kind word from a driving instructor will make their day. It could be the first kind word they’ve had from anyone, husband included, for months.”

Peter feels that with so much emotional adventure involved, “Driveway” will be a serial that is particularly attractive to women viewers.


Frontier — a tribute to the British Army

JUST about the most “in” thing these days — according to many people — is to “knock” the British heritage. But the new adventure series Frontier goes off in completely the other direction.

It is, quite unashamedly, an imperialistic series which bangs the big drum for and on behalf of the British Army of the 19th century. The British Army that made the British Empire.

It’s an all-action series with excitement, colour, drama and romance set on the North West Frontier of India and it tells how the British kept the peace along an explosive stretch of land. It has everything from tribal uprisings to lone espionage missions.

There are specific characters that the viewer will soon get to know — people like Lieut. Clive Russell (played by Gary Bond), Captain Stoughton (James Maxwell) and Colour Sgt. O’Brien (Patrick O’Connell).

But the real hero is the British Army. And the heroine is the tribe of womenfolk who joined their men on active service.

The action takes place when Victoria was Queen and the Indian Mutiny still a vivid, bloody memory. England is at the height of her Imperial power.

The British had to hold the North West Frontier against invasion by Russia and a state of constant cold war existed. Another of the tasks of the Army was to pacify the marauding tribes.

The stories, the people and the names in Frontier are not real. But they could have happened. Indeed, history has recorded 200 full scale campaigns and punitive expeditions. Minor forays and bloody clashes ran into thousands.


The System – a code we live under

THOUGH we may talk about living in a free society, we are being ruled more and more in our daily lives by “the system.”

This is the theme of a new series of one-hour plays starting on Tuesday, called The System.

“The System” is an intangible, nevertheless rigid code of social conduct by which we live. And the code says that it is better to be financially embarrassed than to fail to keep up with the Joneses.

That you must save for your old age when you may not live that long.

That, in business, the strong shall survive and the weak shall go to the wall.

John Finch, the producer, who has written two plays in the series, said: “The series reflects the constant clash between individuals and society. The system is a sequel to City ’68, with a wider framework.

“It allows us to concentrate more on people in conflict with specific, and in some cases nebulous, forms of the system.” Anthony Skene’s opening play, “The Flea Pit,” screened on Tuesday, is the story of students in revolt against military power.

They kidnap Major General “Bull” Atherton a visiting VIP and hold a mock trial in which they ask him to plead “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” to electing to become a soldier.

“They have nothing against him personally,” said Finch, “they are against the system he represents.”

One of the most dramatic plays in the series is “Victims,” written by John Finch. It suggests that a society which upholds marriage makes it almost impossible for many marriages to survive because of the built-in tensions in the system.


We Have Ways of Making You Laugh

FOR her audition for the new “fun series,” We Have Ways of Making You Laugh — the first show to be put out by London’s new weekend company on Friday (Aug. 2) — actress Gina Warwick turned up wearing a suit of white leather and revealing a pair of purple, frilly panties.

“Shazzam!” cried producer Humphrey Barclay, “she’s the girl for our show. She has real individuality, the sort of quality we’re after.”

And 24-year-old Gina’s job? To act as the right-hand of Frank Muir, who is the show’s linkman.

We Have Ways… is a jet-age show for a jet-age audience: instant comedy, fantasy humour, ad-libbing. And just about anything is likely to happen.

Barclay, producer earlier this year of that goonish, mad-for-the-sake-of-it show, “Do Not Adjust Your Set,” says that We Have Ways will have the same speed as “DNAYS,” though the format will be more relaxed and interspersed “with the thoughts of Chairman Muir.”

Each week there will be “jokey competitions” for the viewer. Such as… “How many tunes you can think of that open with the same two notes that diesel trains make?” Or… “Suggest suitable names of streets for famous people to live in — like Dean Martin of Tight Street.”

American cartoonist, Terry Gilliam, will be on hand each week, as well as guest singers like Trish Noble and guest comedians like Bruce Forsyth. One-man-bander, Don Partridge, has written the signature tune.

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