Tory-Weighted Programmers For Britain’s Comm’l TV Spark Rumpus 

29 November 2018

From Variety for Wednesday 3 November 1954

The first three contractors who will provide the programming for Britain’s forthcoming commercial television network were named by the Independent Television Authority last week and the announcement sparked a political rumpus which will have repercussions in the House of Commons this week.

Two of the three contractors are prominent Tory newspaper groups and this has caused some concern in political circles that the programs may be politically weighted in favor of one party. As a result, within a few minutes of the announcement, questions were tabled in Parliament by Ness Edwards, former Postmaster-General in the Labor government, and by Christopher Mayhew, who has appeared on a number of BBC-TV features. Unless there are adequate government assurances the Labor opposition is likely to force a debate and make the issue a vote of confidence in the government.

Of the three contractors, only Granada Theatres has been named on its own. The other two contractors are in association with newspaper groups. Broadcast Relay Services, who operate a rediffusion network throughout the country, will function in association with Associated Newspapers who own the Daily Mail and a chain of provincial sheets. The third contractor, Maurice Winnick, will work in cooperation with the Kemsley newspaper group which controls the Sunday Times and a powerful string of daily and weekly papers throughout the country.

Local Sensation

The omission in the preliminary announcement of two powerful groups, both of which had made formal application, created a local sensation. One of these is headed by Norman Collins, who has been a powerful advocate of commercial television over since he left the BBC some years ago. His company, Associated Broadcasting Development Corp., was formed a couple of years back and, in conjunction with its associated outfit, High Definition Films, is operating a production center at Highbury Studios. The other company is the newly formed Incorporated Television Program Co, of which the directorate comprises a string of top show biz names including Prince Littler, Val Parnell, Lew & Leslie Grade, Phil and Sid Hyams, Harry Alan Towers and Suzanne Warner. It is possible that these companies will be mentioned in a subsequent announcement.

The formal announcement from the Independent Television Authority said that contracts were being offered to the companies named but it is understood that the contractors have not, so far, been given any indication of their financial commitments, nor of potential revenue. At a recent advertising conference, a spokesman suggested that the commercial time would cost around $1,500 [US$14,000 in 2018 allowing for inflation] a minute plus production costs; but inside the industry it is reckoned that the advertiser will have to pay considerably more for his time. As much as $5,000 [$47,000] a minute has been mentioned, in some quarters.

With the news of the program contractors comes reports of an attempt to speed up the start. The ITA is now hoping to get the first three stations in London, Birmingham and Manchester operating by next August.

The three program contractors have, between them, companies with an authorized capital exceeding $25,000,000 [$235m]. Broadcast Relay Service has a capital of $8,960,000 [$84m]; Associated Newspapers have $11,480,000 [$108m]; and Granada Theatres, $5,880,000 [$55m].

Harold Myers (1912-1994) was Variety’s European entertainment trade chief from 1948 until 1968, and was then a representative for the newspaper in Japan and Australia until his retirement.

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