Granada knocked 

9 January 2019

The Strike by Granada technicians is now over, but its effects on the advertising industry will continue for some time. Peter Strawford, of Benton and Bowles, shows why.

From the Financial Times for 25 June 1970

The strike by the Granada technicians is now over, and the 27 days off-the-air means a loss of revenue to Granada of about £1m [£15.7m in 2019, allowing for inflation]. Not that Granada will actually lose that amount. At the top end of the tax scale it would automatically qualify for the 45 per cent, television levy and a lot of what’s left would be eaten up by the 47½ per cent. corporation tax.

However, as well as the parties immediately concerned in the dispute, and the exchequer, advertisers will also suffer a loss, because a prolonged dispute has an adverse effect on the long term efficiency of the medium.

This was proved when the new ITV programme contracts came into effect in mid-1968. The start date coincided (but not by coincidence) with a strike by ITV staff. There was, necessarily, a massive switch of viewers to the BBC, but when the strike was over, instead of a return to the normal share situation of about 60:40 in favour of ITV the majority of viewers stayed with the BBC for a time. Although there was some justifiable criticism of the new programmes, it was apparent that habit was the major factor.

ITV had a long slow haul to pull their viewing share above that of the BBC and have still not reached the level held prior to 1968. Possibly the most successful individual contractor has been Granada, regularly achieving audience ratings well above the network average. But now Granada has had a break in transmissions is it in a 1968 type situation once again and are there wider implications for the network?


There can be little doubt that Granada audiences will continue to be depressed for some considerable time after settlement. Viewers are by and large conservative; they get used to watching a particular channel or programme and usually some dramatic happening is required to make them break the habit. This is demonstrated in the normal day to day programming situation. A high rating popular programme at the beginning of the evening will ensure higher ratings for indifferent following programmes, unless, of course, the opposition manage to recapture the audience with an equally popular programme. Granada, therefore, will have an uphill trek to regain their share of audience.

Particularly vulnerable to a prolonged absence from the screen, are “continuing story” series such as Coronation Street. Again one only has to think back, this time to Emergency Ward 10. After a number of successful years Emergency Ward 10 had begun to look a little jaded, but was still returning above average ratings and appearing regularly in the top ten programme list. Then ITV actors came out on strike and Emergency Ward 10 was off-the-air for a number of weeks. When the programme came back after the strike its rating achievement was poor. There was a short-lived attempt to revitalise it as an hour long complete episode affair, and then it died.

Question mark

A Family at War on the cover of the TVTimes Midland/ATV for 28 November – 4 December 1970

Coronation Street is in a similar situation. Probably the most successful television series of all time, it is now in its tenth year and although, up to the time of the strike, achieving one of the largest audiences of the week, has lost its absolute dominance of the top ten. Rumours of major cast changes abound and in particular one that Violet Carson, who plays Ena Sharpies, is about to retire. A prolonged absence from the screen at this critical time must place a large question mark over its future, although, of course, it did survive the previous ITA strike, but with a reduced audience.

Another programme which is particularly vulnerable, but for different reasons, is “Family at War.” This serial has hardly got off the ground and it is particularly unfortunate that it should have left the screen, before viewers have had time to become addicted. It is extremely unlikely that this programme would be allowed to die and indeed Granada is prepared to mount a pre-launch operation if necessary, but it will now, almost certainly, have to settle for a lower level of ratings than might previously have been expected.

Both these programmes are produced by Granada and consequently were missing from the network as well as their originating area. Their network audience ratings, therefore, are also going to be depressed and advertisers must be prepared for another period of lower audience ratings, with a consequent loss in advertising efficiency.

Later industrial problems at Granada: a strike takes them off-air in February 1983

Peter Strawford
was an executive at Benton & Bowles, in 1970 one of the top 10 advertising agencies in the world. Its biggest contract was with the multinational Procter & Gamble. It became DMB&B in 1985, then BCOM3 after merging with Leo Burnett. It was bought by Publicis in 2002 and dissolved.

You Say

6 responses to this article

Joanne Gray 10 January 2019 at 10:19 pm

Funny that Family At War should be mentioned. I wasn’t born at the time the first series was made, too young to watch subsequent series. So, to my joy I discovered that Talking Pictures TV (Freeview ch81) is showing it on Wednesday evenings, followed by the Southern series Spearhead (little remembered drama about life in the Army – the late 70s/early 80s forerunner to Soldier Soldier) which also passed me by in my younger years.

Patrick Williams 14 January 2019 at 5:23 am

“A Family At War” — a TV series set in the City of Liverpool about the Ashton, Briggs, and Porter families, all born and bred in Liverpool and all bar one of the actors (David Ashton performed by Colin Campbell) spoke with a Liverpudlian accent.

It is important to emphasize “a” because the Liverpool accent does vary from one part of the city to another, particularly from working class dominated areas to middle class dominated areas.

Even Patrick Troughton popped up as Harry Porter.

garry robin simpson 17 January 2019 at 11:15 pm

So that meant viewers on Granada never saw The I.T.V. World Cup coverage or The General Election of 1970. The late Harold Wilsons Prime Minister seat was in a Granada consistincy.

Darren Hayward 12 June 2021 at 3:49 am

In that 1970 Election a number of Granada region seats were won by the Conservatives as a result of the strike

Paul Mason 22 October 2021 at 11:24 am

As a rare non soccer family we weren’t bothered about the Mexico World Cup but when BBC1 had football we would watch a blank screen with the music of Chopin and Debussy piano pieces. We didn’t have BBC2 as our Baird set was405 lines. One would THINK a royal death hhad occurred !

Paul Mason 22 October 2021 at 11:31 am

FAMILY AT WAR a maternal favourite. When me last episode was screened in 1972 a POWER STRIKE wiped it out . Luckily for mater Granada repeated it.

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