Southern get switched off 

27 June 2019


New TV company promises charity cash


Reading Evening Post masthead

From the Reading Evening Post for Monday 29 December 1980

READING and Basingstoke said goodbye to television services of their own last night when the race for the airwaves was decided.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority threw out a plan to set up studios and transmitting aerials in the two towns.

And it kicked out Southern Television which has been broadcasting to the area for 12 years [sic]. Instead it chose a new company called South and South East Communications – TVS – to take control of the cameras.



TVS – a group that includes a former Labour cabinet minister and a Tory MP – will take over from Southern Television on January 1, 1982.

The fate of Southern TV’s 600 staff and its multi-million studios will be decided this week.

Southern Television’s board, shocked at being throws out after 22 years, will hold a top-level meeting to decide whether to remain in action as a programme producer.

They will also have to decide what to do with their expensive studios. A sale to the new group is a possibility.


The Southern TV region in August 1959


TVS, which is the operating name of South and South-East Communications Ltd, is financially backed by European Ferries and the London Trust Company.

Its chairman is former Labour cabinet minister Lord Boston of Faversham.

TVS is offering a new studio in Maidstone and charitable trust run by Baroness Sharples, to support arts, sciences, and community projects in the region.

The group promise extensive news and current affairs coverage in every part of the region. Southern TV bad been criticised in the past for ignoring local issues.

And the victorious company has ambitious plans for children’s programmes, an area in which Southern TV – who make Worzel Gummidge – was strong.



The news [sic] group will make two series of six programmes preparing schoolchildren for a major theatrical or musical event, which will then be televised.

Baroness Sharpies told the Evening Post: “I don’t know what changes it will mean in terms of television.”

She said she will be in charge of a charity which will pump at least £100,000 [£500,000 in 2019, allowing for inflation] from the company’s profits to local good causes.

The IBA rejected a scheme to set up studios and aerials in Basingstoke and Reading from a company called Network South.

[Artist’s impressions]

Russ J Graham writes:

Cutting from the front page

Bashed out in a hurry

The most interesting part of this article is that it was thrust into the first edition of the Evening Post directly before the newspaper went off-stone (was transferred to the printing presses). To manage this, the original is typewritten and barely, if at all, edited, and effectively photocopied on to a space left on the front page. The page is a total mess because of it. And there’s no follow up or anything in-depth to be found elsewhere in that edition of the paper that day: there simply wasn’t the time to do anything. The manual nature of newspaper production of the time is now largely forgotten, especially in an age when newspapers themselves are dying – the Reading Evening Post itself closed at the end of 2014 – and we’re used to breaking news being instantly available to us in print on our phones, tablets and desktops. And yet, the announcement had been made the day before, so there were 24 whole hours available to come up with something better. But there we are.

The second most interesting part is that the poor journalist, tasked with making something from what is in effect a headline with no story to go with it, has only one contact they can reach: Baroness Sharples, who had been tapped up to be the figurehead at the top of TVS’s house charity. Sadly, Mrs Pamela Sharples has no information about what the new company was planning to do when it came to television, or the region, or anything else. Her baffled reply to the unseen question about it is delicious, and is repeated without shame by the paper.

There are, as one would expect in such a hurried article, a number of errors. I’ve tried to find any evidence at all that Terence Boston was ever a cabinet member. He was an MP from a by-election in 1964, then the general election that year, and the one in 1966, and lost his seat in the surprise defeat of Labour in 1970. But there’s no sign of him being in the cabinet. I’m happy to be proved wrong about this.[citation needed]

Finally, I love the idea of Network South wanting studios and aerials in Basingstoke and Reading. I’d assume the writer means transmitters rather than aerials (the two terms can be used interchangeably in some circumstances) but perhaps the plan was merely for microwave links to Southampton or wherever Network South planned to have its studios. It doesn’t strike me as a particularly good plan to walk into the interview with the IBA and demand they build a couple of new booster transmitters covering an area already in an overlap and to expect a reply other than “yeah, thanks for coming, we’ll let you know”.

Kif Bowden-Smith adds:

The very early 1980s were a growth time for British microelectronics. Reading was one of the centres of that, particularly around the application development campus of Britain’s largest computing company, ICL.

For that reason, it was not a surprise that a declaration of independence should be made for the area by a contender for a franchise that covered – just – that town. If nothing else, the potential for advertising revenue from there must have made it seem like a real opportunity for Network South – the ILR station for the area, Radio 210, had made a good profit from Reading’s position as the UK’s Silicon Valley.

What Network South didn’t know – and the IBA seems to have guessed – is that the National Enterprise Board, the UK government body charged with investing in high tech industries, was not popular with the new Conservative government. The NEB was slowly crushed down to little more than an investment management body, with no powers to direct how its money was spent. The result was Britain’s high tech industry joining with the rest of our industry at the time and shrinking dramatically.

What may have seemed on paper to have been a good idea – a local opt-out for a dynamic part of the region – was, by the time the actual winner TVS launched, a complete non-starter, transmitters and aerials and whatever be damned.


You Say

4 responses to this article

Roland Griffin 12 March 2020 at 4:38 am

“I’ve tried to find any evidence at all that Terence Boston was ever a cabinet member.”

The most probable cause of the journalist’s error is that the journalist thought that an “assistant government whip” (held by Flight Lieutenant Boston from 1969 through 1970) was a cabinet position, which was as high as this Labour-in-name-only career politician ever reached. After becoming “his lordship”, he ultimately ditched his Labour Party affiliation.

Harald Stelsen 3 July 2023 at 8:04 pm

“But there’s no sign of him being in the cabinet.”

The Lord Boston of Faversham was Minister of State for Home Affairs (United Kingdom) from January 3rd 1979 through May 4th 1979.

This has never been a position with membership of the government cabinet to the best of my knowledge, being ranked as “mid level” underneath the Secretary of State for the Home Office.

I suspect that the reporter mistakenly assumed that a person being appointed as a government minister was synonymous with being appointed to membership of the government cabinet. Many, if not most, of the readers of the newspaper would probably make the same mistaken assumption. (Stands ter reason dunnit, government minister means one of the cabinet.)

This position of Minister of State for Home Affairs (United Kingdom) under the present administration of the ruling party has been left vacant since November 2022 so must not currently considered to be of great importance to the functioning of the Home Office.

David King 10 July 2023 at 1:23 pm

Regarding the Network South application for the South and South-East franchise, starting 01/01/1982, there was a BBC South programme (Report South: Fight for the Franchise) aired in 1980 in which Dr Tom Margerison, of the group, outlined its proposals.
It seems, as suggested above, that there was never a proposal to provide services down to a town or city level but to the coverage area of the main transmitters, Rowridge, Hannington, Midhurst, Dover, Heathfield and Bluebell Hill.
Dr Margerison said he had seen the city stations in the US and had wanted to try a similar thing in the UK with local main transmitter-based stations. The idea would have been to have one regional company looking after the supply of commercials, pan-regional and network programming and then five local stations providing around five hours of programming a week to their areas.
The local companies would be “Wessex TV” from Rowridge, “Thames Valley TV”, from Hannington, “Southdown TV” from Midhurst and Heathfield, “Thanet TV” from Dover and “Estuary TV” from Bluebell Hill.
If the idea had been adopted for the start of the new franchise, a considerable amount of re-engineering would have been necessary. At the time, there were two transmission feeds out of the Southampton studios. One to Rowridge and the other to Dover via BT Tower. Hannington and Midhurst took their feeds off-air (RBL) from Rowridge, while Heathfield took its feed off-air (RBL) from Dover. An SHF link was used to supply Bluebell Hill from Dover.
The proposal from Network South seems to be an extension to what would later become micro-regions set up by some ITV companies in the 1980s and 1990s for commercials and news. Certainly, TVS was able to feed Hannington with separate commercials and a news opt-out from the late 1980s and Meridian were eventually able to split three ways for news, occasional local programming and four ways for commercials in the 1990s.

Darren 22 April 2024 at 11:32 pm

I would have thought that Southern would have kept it’s franchise on condition that it merged with the eventual winner TVS with the European Ferries shareholding

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