Tonight’s ITV… in 1974 

11 October 2018

The October 5-11 1974 edition of the TV Times is unusual for several reasons. The hung parliament created by the February 1974 general election resulted in a second election on 10 October, meaning the schedules for Friday October 11th featured here are dominated by the results. One of the reasons for a second election is the economic and political upheaval of 1974, with a printers’ strike resulting in a very monochrome emergency edition. The disruption doesn’t stop this edition from having an eye-catching cover, though, with some fine models of Heath, Thorpe and Wilson sat, pensive, around a television. The ITN pundit team identified ten seats to watch as ‘The ITN Ten’, and although I’m not aware if the election was won or lost in those seats, the results allowed the Labour Party to form a government with a 3-seat majority.

On Friday, all regions joined the networked The Nation Decides at 11am, although Anglia, Granada, ATV, Tyne Tees, Ulster, Yorkshire, Scotland and Thames started their days earlier with their own regional result bulletins. It’s more interesting, however, to see which regions DIDN’T provide those local bulletins. Border and Grampian aren’t necessarily surprising, but Ulster, HTV and Westward are more mysterious. Was it felt that election results were unlikely to be available for those regions at that time?

In any case, although election coverage wasn’t anywhere near the endurance test it is nowadays, The Nation Decides nevertheless took up five hours of network time, and my professional head spins with the technical complexity required in 1974 to keep such a show on the air. The regions keep in sync with each other after the show for the famous legal drama Crown Court at 4pm, the UK version of medical melodrama General Hospital at 4:30pm, and the children’s show Magpie at 5pm (except Westward, which, as there’s no programme listed to fill the gap, may be an error!), before the national news at 5:30pm. I suspect this hour and a half of singing from the same hymn sheet was actually contingency planning for The Nation Decides over-running, especially as ITV wouldn’t be running any peak-time advertising until the early evening. It’d be fascinating to know whether the programme DID over-run, as seems likely!

It’s the end of the fun for fans of harmonious ITV schedules, though, as the local news appears to be the impetus needed for the different companies to go their own ways for the rest of the evening. And how. Poking their heads up amongst the US imports scattered across the regions is Anglia’s famous Sale of the Century, ATV’s Crossroads, Thames’ The Benny Hill Show and some plucky local productions, such as Westward’s Late With Danton at 11:15pm. This was an opportunity for their weatherman, farming correspondent and general ‘personality’ Graham Danton to entertain the region by looking into consumer problems. This became a bit of a tradition in the South West, with the fearless Ron Bendell becoming the farming and weather personality for TSW and Westcountry. I suspect Ron got away with racier material than Graham, given that Ron once investigated a Plymouth strip club for Westcountry. I can’t see Westward permitting his 2003 expose of, erm, dog poo, either.

Other home-grown productions include the LWT sitcom No, Honestly with the nation’s favourite real-life married couple, Pauline Collins and John Alderton. I’m not totally convinced that a married couple playing a married couple are really doing that much acting, but they’ve also had long careers and been happily married for longer than I’ve been alive, so I should probably shut my cakehole. The (unlikely) sitcom version of Billy Liar , starring a young Jeff Rawle (his best-known role is probably the long-suffering George in Drop The Dead Donkey) was also shown in many regions that night, alongside the LWT drama Intimate Strangers, starring Anthony Bate, playing Harry Paynter, a man dealing with the repercussions of suffering a heart attack on his family and work.

How nice to see The National Clubland Talent Contest being shown to, erm, Border, Tyne Tees and Yorkshire, though. Understandably, Scotland didn’t want to move their local variety production Showcase for it, but I presume the other regions REALLY didn’t like Norman Vaughan, preferring to put on repeats from the ITC stable, or films from the US. LWT opt for their own Russell Harty, the reliable Shaw Taylor in Police Five, and Department S in order to avoid poor Norman. That’s showbiz, I suppose.

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8 responses to this article

Andy Worrell 11 October 2018 at 12:20 pm

It would be interesting to know what Channel Television would have been showing, as they are not included in the line up of ITV schedules.

Would they have taken Westward’s feed in its entirety, or would they have simply come on air at 4pm, joining the rest of the network?

Stuart Reid 11 October 2018 at 7:22 pm

Goodness, I was unlucky enough to present a show on BBC Radio Devon many years back, Graham Ranton was on after me, and was quite off-putting as he hovered behind me for the last 15 minutes of my programme, desperate to get started.

Arthur Nibble 12 October 2018 at 12:45 am

I’ve noticed in several recent elections that Northern Ireland results are usually some of the last to be announced, so maybe Ulster thought there was no need for a pre-election round-up as there’d be next to nothing to tell viewers about.

Dr Russ J Graham 12 October 2018 at 11:53 am

Traditionally, Northern Ireland doesn’t start counting votes until the Friday morning; however, in most constituencies at this time, the results were a foregone conclusion – they may as well have weighed them rather than counting them – so either way, there was rarely any election ‘news’ locally for UTV to report.

Neil Crosswaite 13 October 2018 at 6:36 pm

Without being disrespectful to the channel islanders, they don’t have seats in parliament so the election results programme wouldn’t have affected them at all.

Arthur Nibble 13 October 2018 at 10:38 pm

I hope that Ron Bendell special wasn’t scheduled just as you were tucking into dinner! :-D

Tina King 15 October 2018 at 2:04 pm

You have to remember also with Ulster Television, that 1974 was right in the heart of “the troubles”, where Belfast and Londonderry were liked bombed out cities. Elections were always key targets for terrorists, especially the IRA, and so counting overnight was not thought to be safe. The police and army instead required counting to commence around 9.30am on the following morning, so it could all be done in the daylight.

Victor Field 30 October 2018 at 6:18 pm

ITV’s “General Hospital” wasn’t based on the US drama of the same name.

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