Tonight’s Granada TV… in 1966 

31 March 2019

It’s general election day in the United Kingdom. Harold Wilson had won the last election in 1964 with a majority of 4. This proved unworkable, as the Labour party had a small core of members who were opposed to Clause IV of the party’s constitution which called for the nationalisation of major industries.

The last major industry not in government hands was iron and steel – it had been nationalised by Attlee’s government but largely sold back to its original owners when Churchill came back into power. Wilson had pledged to reverse this reversal, but the 4 or 5 Labour MPs who were against nationalisation made getting an act through parliament to do this impossible. Wilson decided to go to the people, gambling that if he increased his majority even slightly he would be able to get his way.

The TVTimes for election week begins with analysis of the target seats of both main parties…

Throughout the special Election coverage ITV will use two computers to indicate the final state of the two main parties. A giant computer at Kidsgrove in Staffordshire will make almost instantaneous calculations. These will be fed back to a “slave” computer in the main studio to interpret the situation at any moment. But here is a ready reckoner for TV Times readers who want to be their own computer


Reader and Head of the Department of Politics at Newcastle University, who will be in the studio during the election programme to analyse the figures

LABOUR SEATS: if the Conservatives win all or most of the seats listed then expect…

FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE: Wellingborough Norwich South Narrow Conservative majority at least 10-30
Brighton Kemptown Oldbury & Halesowen
SECOND LINE OF DEFENCE: Doncaster Barons Court Moderate Conservative majority at least 25-70
Bury & Radcliffe Newcastle East
Watford Bradford North
THIRD LINE OF DEFENCE: Willesden East Wandsworth Central Comfortable Conservative win. Conservative majority at least 60-90
Darlington Hartlepools
FOURTH LINE OF DEFENCE: Dulwich Bolton East Big Conservative sweep. Conservative majority at least 80-120
Battersea South Rossendale
Liverpool Walton
FIFTH LINE OF DEFENCE: Keighley Liverpool Toxteth Conservative landslide. Conservative majority over Labour 120-180 or more
Acton Holborn and St. Pancras South
Northampton Manchester Wythenshawe


The “slave” computer will interpret the situation in the Election battle

CONSERVATIVE SEATS: if Labour win all or most of the seats listed then expect…

FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE: Reading Walthamstow East Labour majority at least 30-50
Eton & Slough Brentford & Chiswick
Southampton Test
SECOND LINE OF DEFENCE: Billericay Oxford Moderate Labour majority at least 40-70
Dorset South Hendon North
Sheffield Heeley Exeter
THIRD LINE OF DEFENCE: Bebington Comfortable Labour majority at least 60-140
Merton & Morden
FOURTH LINE OF DEFENCE: Bradford West Southend East Labour landslide. Labour majority over Conservatives 140-170 or more
Aberdeen South Bexley

Instant reckoner

THE first thing to realise is that, so far as the computers are concerned, this must be regarded as a battle between the two main parties in the General Election — Labour and Conservatives. For that reason, we are adopting military terms.

As you will see from my tables above, we describe as Lines of Defence the vulnerable areas — or marginal seats — which, on past form, are likely to declare early. Any breaches of these constituencies either way will provide an important clue to the final outcome of the Election.

For example: the First Line of Defence in the table shows five Labour seats held by very small majorities. The Conservatives MUST win seats like these if they are to form a Government.

The pattern develops through to the fifth Line of Defence. If the Conservatives have been breaching all the way, then it probably means a Tory landslide is in the making.

Similarly, the Labour attack on the Conservative marginal seats, as shown in the lower table, gives the Labour prospects.

In the end column, I show the likely majority if all, or most, of the seats in each particular category are breached by the opposing party.

It must be borne in mind that most of the constituencies that declare overnight are urban, where the figures come in quickly, and that the outlying rural and mining area results are not declared until the following day. This has been taken into consideration in calculating the expected majorities.

There is a tendency for the swing of votes in the towns, one way or the other, to be heavier than in the countryside.

In my tables, I have ignored marginal seats such as Preston North and Smethwick, which may be swayed by special local issues.

Hot seat man


FOR the second time in 18 months Alastair Burnet tackles this week the most exhausting job in television — chairing the overnight election results.

He will be fronting ITN’s marathon programme, announcing results as fast as they come in, introducing live reports from ITN’s men in the constituency counting houses, compering the comments of analysts, commentators and politicians in the studios in a programme with a vast countrywide viewing audience.

He will be doing so for nearly 14 hours — from 9.45 p.m. on Thursday to 5p.m. on Friday, apart from a few hours break early on Friday.

First forecast of the outcome of the election will be made by ITN’s computers within one minute of the first result being known. Its accuracy will depend on the voting pattern in the rest of the country being similar.

The strain, physical and mental, will be intense. But Burnet, an incisive 37-year-old, accepts it with the calm confidence of experience and knowledge of the subject.

In shirt sleeves, sitting at his executive-size desk, he told me of his election day— and night—programme.

“I shall be up about 7 a.m. on Thursday,” he said. “I shall read the final Opinion Poll forecasts in the newspapers over breakfast with my wife, at our home in South Kensington. After that I shall go and register my vote, for I shan’t have time later.”

A chauffeur-driven editorial car will take him to his office — he is editor of The Economist — before nine for a series of conferences. He has no appointments for lunch-time, so he will be free for a social lunch. Then he will go home to sleep.

He will be in the studios around 5.30 p.m. The programme will come from Studio Nine in Television House, Kingsway, London. There will be final rehearsals to test the smooth running of the communications system into which have gone weeks of work.

“We shall push through nonsensical results — such as a Liberal majority of 300 seats,” he said.

“After that I shall eat in the building and then go for a walk. It will be the last fresh air I shall get for about 24 hours.”

When the programme starts, Burnet will sit flanked by George Ffitch and Robert Kee, who will interview party spokesmen; William Rees-Mogg, who will comment on results, and Prof. Hugh Berrington, who will analyse the results statistically.

Burnet will call on them at appropriate moments during the night. He will also announce results, handed to him on slips of paper by the chief sub-editor. He will also announce live reports from key centres.

Four hundred correspondents will telephone results to the ITN studio, where they will be received by 25 copy-takers. News and results will also come in over 12 teleprinters.

He will not use “crib cards” or notes with background data. “Too slow,” he said. “It is quicker to rely on knowledge and memory. I have, of course, been reading up on the marginal seats.” He has also been appearing regularly in Election ’66.

But the pressure will be extreme. “The biggest bugbears,” he said, “are long-winded, slow-reading returning officers who take an interminable time to get to the figures one wants to know. While a returning officer on the screen is still going through his prologue, a reporter elsewhere will be yelling that this man is actually giving out figures, and slips bearing other results will be piling up.”

More than 60 ITV cameras will be in use in constituencies up and down the country.

In front of Burnet will be two monitor screens, one showing the picture being transmitted. the other the next shot it is proposed to screen. A master button will enable Burnet to signal to the director when he wants to put him self back on the screen with information.


GRANADA reporters in key Northern constituencies will be giving on-the-spot reports throughout the night. They include Mike Scott (Salford), Chris Kelly (Liverpool), George Reid (Derby) and Brian Armstrong (Leeds).

Man in charge of the Manchester nerve centre of the Northern operation will be Bill Grundy.

“At the last General Election,” he told me, “when George Ffitch was at Huyton, I was forced to cut him off three times while he was trying to tell a story. He never did finish it!”

Burnet expects about 20 results in the first hour, the earliest declarations including Cheltenham and the two Salfords. Up to 70 or 80 in the next hour, 100 in the next, as the pace hots up. The crunch is around midnight. Then come the recounts and cliff-hangers.

Burnet will carry, on through it all, fortified by tea and sandwiches — “smoked salmon, I hope” — and whisky until 3.30 a.m., when the overnight results end.

Well over £1,000,000 in bets has been placed with bookmakers on the election results — two thirds of it on a Labour victory. One firm took bets from 30 M.P.s backing themselves to win.

Then he will go to a nearby hotel and go to bed, after asking to be called at 7.30. In the morning he will read the newspapers’ coverage of the election story while he has breakfast in bed. Then back to Television House.

Quote from ITN Editor, Sir Geoffrey Cox: “We had some praise after the last election results programme for the good looks of the girls who brought copy to the front benches. I promise that this time we shall have even better-looking girls!”

Nothing will have changed in the political situation, though ITV will have been on the screen since 6 a.m. with a summary of overnight results and reports of reaction from foreign capitals.

At 9, Burnet will be on the screen again to start giving the results in the 220 constituencies to be declared on Friday. And he will continue until 5 p.m.

One man disagreeing with the opinion polls and bookies is clairvoyant Maurice Woodruff, who told TVTimes readers in December that the election would be a Spring one. In The London Palladium Show in February, he predicted a Conservative victory.

Then — “a stiff drink and settle my election bets.”

Then Burnet will be free to go home, with the prospect of spending Saturday morning in his office catching up on his correspondence.

It will be a gruelling 24 hours. But he is looking forward to his task.

Meanwhile, the job of producing ordinary television to fit around the politics goes on.

  • The Granada day starts at 4.50pm. Other ITV regions come on earlier, but Granada had long ago decided that the late evening was more lucrative in the North than late afternoon. They therefore used their daily permitted hours in a way that kept them on to gone midnight most nights, whilst other companies, who opened up earlier, were closing down not long after 11pm.
  • Granada in the NorthGIN – was an innovation that, as far as we know, has never been repeated elsewhere. The job of continuity was largely handed on to Granada’s local newsreaders, who would pop up before and after programmes to give bits of news and information before throwing to the next show.

  • Programmes proper begin at 5pm with Junior Criss Cross Quiz. Another innovation from Granada: a quiz show with both children’s and adult versions. The same set but different presenters were used; the adult version ran in primetime.
  • Popeye cartoons were generally about 5 minutes long, so Granada appear to have stitched together four of them for their 20 minute slot at 5.35pm. These cartoons were produced by King Features for syndication to US television stations, with 220 being produced by a variety of animation houses including the UK’s Halas and Batchelor. Mae Questel provides the voice of Olive Oyl; she was more famous for voicing Betty Boop in the 1930s.
  • Mickey at 6.05pm is a short-lived vehicle for Hollywood star Mickey Rooney, made for the US ABC Network in 1964. It bombed when placed opposite CBS’s The Dick van Dyke Show and was cancelled after 17 episodes. No doubt this allowed Granada to pick this up very cheaply.
  • The award-winning Scene at 6.30 at 6.30pm was Granada’s main local news programme. It actually always started at 6.35pm.
  • Every other local news programme on ITV was at 6.05pm, allowing primetime to begin at 6.30pm. Granada decided that their local news was a primetime programme in and of itself.
  • It was an amazing eclectic mix, with local news being read to camera followed by an interview with a visiting star – sometimes even superstars like Frank Sinatra and Richard Burton – then off to a filmed report fronted by Brian Trueman talking about an issue of concern to the North, then back Denis Pitts grilling an MP down-the-line from the Granada studios in Chelsea over divorce reform, then a musical number from one of the Mersey bands – quite often The Beatles themselves – before going back to a local news round-up. And it was all presented very informally, with the likes of Mike Scott and Chris Kelly chatting amongst themselves or to the viewer, sat comfortably on chairs and only rarely being behind a desk. There was nothing quite like it anywhere else on television at the time.
  • This eclecticism is shown by the programme requiring four directors to keep it running, with each one specialising in the different styles the show ran through each day.
  • It also launched some distinguished television careers, perhaps most famously Michael Parkinson, who started as a local reporter for the Yorkshire half of the Granada region. Executive producer David Plowright would go on to run Granada itself.

  • This being polling day, the one piece of news that Scene at 6.30 can’t report on is the general election itself. The law to this day restricts all reporting while the polls are open to simply noting that fact. No politics, no candidates and nothing that might influence voters one way or another is allowed.
  • The rest of the evening on Granada is basically filling time until the ITN election programme (actually produced by Rediffusion) gets going at 9.45pm. The polls closed at 9pm, but there was no point in filling that 45 minutes with speculation and rehashes of the campaigns.
  • ITV goes off air at about 3.30am, as there’s generally a lull in results at this point anyway – the borough constituency results are in, but the county ballot boxes are still making their way from various villages and market towns.
  • ITN is back at 6.30am, but with a more straight-laced news programme reporting on the results so far and looking back, thanks to packaged film reports, on the campaigns over the past 3 weeks.
  • The minute-by-minute coverage starts again at 9am, just as the county constituency results are coming in and as Northern Ireland begins counting. As the TVTimes notes, the situation could be very fluid. If there’s no majority for any party, or a tiny majority again for Labour, nationalisation is off the table. If there’s a large Conservative majority, we’re going to be going into the EEC; if there’s a small one, the Tories will be debating what to do for years.
  • However, if there’s a big majority for one of the parties, say Labour being returned with a 99-seat advantage, then there’s less to talk about. Enough to fill until 4.50pm, but no reason to interrupt Friday evening’s entertainment.

  • The adult version of Criss Cross Quiz makes its weekly appearance at 7pm on Friday, the Junior version have aired at 5pm yesterday.
  • All programmes today are either bought in from the US or from ITC, or are Granada’s own productions.
  • The Big Valley is a Western-themed soap opera from ABC in the US. It ran for 112 episodes over 4 seasons from 1965 to 1969 and guest starred almost every actor you’ve ever heard of.

  • The Liars was a very unusual piece of television. The same core cast would present four mini-plays each week, each different but all set in the 19th century. Even more unusually, the plays might be based on true events or they might be made up; the characters may be telling the truth or lying. And it was left to the viewer at home to decide what was true and what wasn’t. It ran for 13 55-minute episodes. This type of risky experimental theatre was the type of thing only Granada would commit to making a series out of.
  • What the Papers Say at 10.35pm always ran on Thursdays, but the election has shunted it to today.
  • Granada is off-air at midnight on the dot: they have the hours available to go past it, but the time after midnight officially belonged to ABC Weekend TV, so off they went.

You Say

7 responses to this article

Westy 31 March 2019 at 9:47 pm

A few names I recognise there, even though I wasn’t born till 71 & live in the West Midlands!

Alan Towers, later of Midlands Today, skateboarding duck & ‘pygmies in business suits’!

Mike Scott started off The Time The Place.

Chris Kelly went onto Clapperboard & later the Beeb’s ‘Food & Drink’. (Didn’t he become a producer?)

Bill Grundy, even though it wasn’t networked, the Sex Pistols incident has passed into legend!

Brian Trueman did stuff for Cosgrove Hall, notably on Dangermouse.

Jan Leeming, BBC newsreader, most recently in one of those Real Marigold programmes.

Wasn’t Peter Eckersley married to someone famous at the time? (Name rings a bell!)

Alan Keeling 1 April 2019 at 3:41 pm

Nice to see the Hopalong Cassidy first season of TV made adventures from its first season (1952), there’s no mention of a repeat, so it may be a first run for Granada. The TV version was made by William Boyd’s own production company and was first shown when ITV began in the London area in September 1955.

Alan Keeling 1 April 2019 at 3:51 pm

Another Western series in Granada’s 1966 March schedules was The Big Valley, a soapy series in the “Bonanza” mold, about a family headed by Barbara Stanwyck and featuring a young Lee Majors. Tonight’s episode is getting near the end of season one. This is one of a number of Four Star productions that have been shown on the Talking Pictures channel in the last few years.

Michael Coxon 1 April 2019 at 3:58 pm

Peter Eckersley was married to the actress Anne Reid. He eventually became Granada’s head of Drama.

Alan Keeling 2 April 2019 at 8:41 pm

In the US one-season sitcom, J. Carrol Naish has a regular role in the series as Hawkeye, an Indian chief, five years ago, Naish played a Chinese detective in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, a mid-Atlantic series for ITC.

Mark Jeffries 5 April 2019 at 4:29 am

And “Criss Cross Quiz” was an adaptation of the American format “Tic Tac Dough,” which had a successful run in daytime and prime time on NBC in the late 50s–until it was discovered that producers Jack Barry and Dan Enright were engaging in the same sort of outcome rigging that they did on their bigger hit quiz “Twenty-One.” Barry and Enright, having sold their company to NBC right before the quiz scandals hit, broke up and went their separate ways–and then in 1979, reunited and exonerated (and with networks strictly policing their game shows and a federal offence to rig a television competition), revived “Tic Tac” in a daytime version on CBS and a nighttime version in syndication. The CBS version was unsuccessful, but the syndicated version had an exceptional eight-year run. In 1990, Lord Grade’s ITC, which had Barry and Enright’s former syndication chief running its American operation, revived the show for a 16-week run that was unsuccessful for many reasons, including the selection of John Wayne’s son Patrick as presenter–a competent actor, but incompetent broadcaster.

Paul Higgs 22 July 2019 at 8:15 pm

Astonishing quote from the ITN chief, Sir Geoffrey Cox (on the Thursday listings page) highlighting the ‘praise’ ITN had received for the good looking girls who passed the copy to the male presenters!
”This time we’ll have even better looking girls”!
It really was a man’s world back then. Comments such as those were commonplace back in the day – but now appear as completely unacceptable and outrageously sexist.

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