Colour TV from Aberdeen today marks decade of Grampian viewing 

24 July 2020

From the (Aberdeen) Evening Express for Thursday 30 September 1971

TODAY Grampian Television celebrate their 10th anniversary with the introduction of colour broadcasting. Although the new colour service will only be available to people living in parts of Banffshire, Aberdeenshire, Kincardine, Angus and Perthshire, it is hoped that before long viewers throughout the area will be able to watch their programmes in colour.

The new equipment, which has cost more than £250,000 [£4million in 2020 prices, allowing for inflation – Ed], is among the most modern in the country and recalls that Saturday ten years ago when Grampian went “on the air” for the first time, bringing North and East Scotland their own television service.

The new company were very much a local enterprise, owned by hundreds of small shareholders in the area who wanted Grampian to make a contribution to life in North-east Scotland.

The station had new studios at Queen’s Cross, Aberdeen, which were the first to be built in Scotland for television.

Not only were the studios new, there was new equipment, new cameras and, among the staff, many young people who were new to television and who had to be trained in the skills of this fast-expanding industry.

With these young people were a number of “old hands” who had been born in the area but has been forced to move south to work in television. Key figure among them was Mr James Buchan, who had been appointed production controller with the task of making Grampian’s locally produced programmes reflect the needs of people in the area.


Grampian in colourThe choice was a good one. Jim Buchan had been born in Aberdeen and as well as having been Scotland’s first television producer, was one of the most respected figures in broadcasting.

Looking back, he sums up his approach like this: “Scotland is a wonderful country to live in, but much of the old is dying and needs to be rethought and rebuilt. Obviously Grampian have an important part to play in helping encourage new ideas.

“On the surface we are a douce [sober or sedate – Ed], genteel and rather dull nation, with an undercurrent of destructive, defeatist criticism towards things Scottish from people who think themselves sophisticated, and a wealth of apathy among ordinary folk.

“I felt it was our job to find out what was exciting in Scotland – and show it to be exciting – to look for red-blooded Scots who enjoyed being Scots.”

From the outset Jim Buchan was determined to make the people who took the decisions which shaped the future of this area aware of the needs and aspirations of the people who live here.

A succession of Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers was interviewed at length – and, for the first time, not on broad international topics but on the affairs of the North and East of Scotland.

In the first year “Country Focus,” a programme for farmers, was introduced and chaired by Mr Michael Joughin, which not only examined new developments in agriculture but also related them to the proce of food in the housewife’s shopping basket.

“Points North” was started to give people a chance to hear local Members of Parliament give their views on the decisions taken at Westminster and what their effect would be on this area. It also gave viewers a chance to put their own questions to these representatives of the main political parties.

We have always prided ourselves in the high standard of Scottish education and in 1963 Grampian became the first regional television company to produce their own regular programmes for primary schools.

The quality of these programmes was recognised when “Living and Growing” – the first sex education series for primary schools to be made in Britain – won the jury’s award in competition with the world’s top broadcasting organisations at the Japan Prize in Tokio [sic] is 1968.

This series for schools was accompanied by companion programmes for parents to let them know just what their children were being taught in the classroom. Too often parents today find that they can make nothing of their children’s homework because teaching methods have changed so quickly. Lessons learned from “Living and Growing” prompted Grampian to run a similar series for parents on the new ways being used to teach maths to infants.



This close relationship which has grown up between Grampian and local parents and teachers has resulted in North-east Scotland being selected as one of the areas where research will be carried out on a new American children’s series, “Sesame Street,” which will be shown this autumn.

But while Grampian have been producing these specialised programmes over the past 10 years, the greatest success in terms of the number os people watching has been in light entertainment. Here Jim Buchan’s policy has been clear – to produce programmes which are unique to the area and which are firmly rooted in our own traditions.

It is no part of Grampian’s job to make the kind of shows which are produced in America, London or Birmingham. These shows can be, and are. bought and shown by the company, but you cannot buy from outside a programme in the language or [sic] Buchan featuring music of the Highlands and North-east.


Series like “Calumn’s Ceilidh” have proved to be able to attract bigger audiences than “Coronation Street” not only here but throughout Scotland and Ireland.

The past 10 years have seen many changes. When Grampian started broadcasting they had a viewing audience of 98,000. Today the figure is 1,000,000 – stretching from Orkney to the Lothians. But without doubt the biggest change begins today with the introduction of colour broadcasting from the Durris transmitter, near Aberdeen.

Grampian have already spent £250,000 on new equipment and the company hope that it will not be too long before programmes are available to all their viewers.

From Capt. Iain M. Tennant, Chairman, Grampian TV

WHEN Grampian began broadcasting to North and East Scotland in September 1961, all of us were very conscious of the responsibility being placed upon us. The area we cover is in geographical terms the biggest in the United Kingdom with a viewing audience which stretches from the Orkneys to the Lothians.

From the outset we were determined to identify ourselves with the area and ensure that our programmes fulfilled local needs. This has proved to be a challenging task. It has been achieved by having a clear programme policy which can best be summed up by recognising that Scotland does not live in isolation either from the rest of the United Kingdom or indeed from the world.

It is our job to provide the means for the people of North-east Scotland not only to debate our own problems and call to account those who take the decisions which affect us but also to look outward at other people who often have the same problems and aspirations and whose methods of approaching them have some relevance to us.

During the past ten years we have seen many changes. Industry has begun moving into the Highlands, tourism is thriving and, in spite of many setbacks, a new way of life is developing. There will be even greater changes in the next ten years.

We, at Grampian, are already in the midst of change, This week the Durris transmitters of the I.T.A. will begin broadcasting our programmes in colour and we hope that soon all our viewers will have the opportunity of watching in colour.

On behalf of everyone at Grampian, I would like to thank you all for your kindness and support throughout the years and wish you many more years of good viewing.


THE RANGE of a UHF transmitter is appreciably less than that of a corresponding VHF station, and it is for that reason that the UHF network will eventually amount to some hundreds of transmitters.

On the service area maps the limit of service from a UHF transmitter is generally shown as a contour corresponding to a median field strength of 70 decibels above one microvolt per metre. This does not mean that every home within this contour can expect to receive a fully satisfactory picture, or that no homes outside this area will receive good pictures.

Surveys suggest that well over 90% of homes within the contour should obtain satisfactory pictures provided that they have the appropriate aerial system; the figure will be lower towards the edges of the service area, and higher towards the transmitter.

Towns are included within the service contour if 70% of the populated area receives a signal better than 70dB (uV/m); for villages the corresponding figure is 50%.

The area shown on the map as a “principal” service area is one in which it is expected to provide a stronger signal than other stations within the ITA UHF network.

Supplementary areas are those farther areas in which the strength of the particular station, while possibly lower than that if an alternative station, is still expected to exceed the 70dB limit, and they are shown on the map as the limit of the service area.

It must be appreciated, however, that in any area shown as having a signal of adequate strength for worthwhile viewing there are sure to be pockets of poor or very poor reception. Frequently they are the shadow areas created by natural topography or man-made objects.

This station is part of the new UHF network transmitting 625-line colour and black-and-white programmes. The 405-line black-and-white only duplication of these transmissions for this area are radiated from the Durris VHF station on Channel 9.


Now in colour!


Russ J Graham writes: There’s a lot to unpack in these three articles, but we might as well start with Jim Buchan’s incredible attack on Scottish people. That he could write about “an undercurrent of destructive, defeatist criticism towards things Scottish from people who think themselves sophisticated, and a wealth of apathy among ordinary folk” in a promotional article celebrating 10 years – and the coming of colour – of his TV station is astounding.

In the modern world, one could see him very quickly deleting his Twitter account under a hail of righteous Scottish anger, a half-hearted apology being issued with the fingerprints of lawyers and PR people all over it and eventually his resignation letter being made public by Grampian hurrying to distance themselves from him.

But not in 1971, apparently.

The explanation for the UHF map is interesting for not bothering to hide the science. Today you put your postcode into a website and it spits out what transmitter you should be aiming for and what channels you’ll probably get. The science part is hidden in the database. Here it’s all on show, with an assumption that the reader, if he (and it’s aimed at men, this is 1971) is interested, will either know what decibels above microvolts per metre are or will go to the library and look it up.

It’s nice to see, finally, someone admitting that the range of UHF transmitters is rubbish compared to the VHF ones. This is usually not mentioned – at least by the BBC and the ITA – who talk as if everything will be the same next to printed maps that reveal they most certainly won’t be, even with a few hundred fill-in booster transmitters.

This official ITA map from 1969 shows in better detail what the little sketch in the article was banging on about.



The red line is the current (in 1969) service area from 5 VHF transmitters. The small patch of green is the proposed service area from 4 UHF ones. The official list of IBA transmitters from 1985 shows 7 main UHF transmitters, with over 60 lower-powered boosters in use or planned. Admittedly, this is partially to expand coverage into the sparsely populated north-west of Scotland, but many of the boosters are needed just to equal the coverage of Durris VHF.

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