Here comes the big new era 

12 October 2020

and the same old faces


Yorkshire begins Monday; Thames begins Tuesday; LWT begins Friday; Tommy Cooper, Bob Monkhouse and Frankie Vaughan feature


Daily Mirror masthead

From the Daily Mirror for 27 July 1968

THE Big New Era promised for ITV starts on Monday. That’s when the first of the new companies — Yorkshire Television — goes on the air.

And when new shows start and old ones vanish.

All this is the outcome of the great razz-ma-tazz shake-up Lord Hill arranged for the ITV companies.

Whether we’ll get exactly what Lord Hill intended, only his Lordship will know. And he’s not likely to tell. For having taken TWW off the air, carved Granada’s area in two and taken the London weekday contract away from Rediffusion, Lord Hill washed his hands of the whole business and went off to run the BBC. With a chuckle, I suspect.

Since then the new Big Five contractors have been at work organising their schedules.

And for the record here’s the rundown: Thames (London, weekdays); London Weekend (from 7 p.m. on Friday and the whole of the Saturday and Sunday): ATV (Midlands seven days a week); Granada (west of the Pennines, seven days a week); Yorkshire (seven days a week).

The Independent Television Authority is expecting great things from the new Network Planning Committee.

“We don’t suggest it will happen all at once,” their spokesman admits, “but we do expect the new arrangements to strengthen the viewing, give it even wider appeal and make it less stereotyped. The sports coverage will be better and stronger too.”


Dickie Davies

Richard Davies hosts World of Sport [London Weekend]


Fine words. Great expectations.

But just how different will next week’s viewing be?

As far as I can make out weekday programmes will be very much as before.


Eamonn Andrews

Eamonn Andrews [Thames]


The impact of Eamonn Andrews with his first nightly week-day show on the ITV network will be nil.

This is because Eamonn works for the new Thames Television set-up, the company that’s giving Londoners an early evening news magazine for the first time. Eamonn’s in charge. But the show is for Londoners only.

All the other companies have had similar programmes in their own areas for years.


On the other hand, David Frost’s three shows — produced by London Weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday — will be networked.


David Frost

Frost on Friday [London Weekend]


And so will Eamonn’s late night interview Thames TV show — on similar lines to his old Sunday night offering — when it starts on Thursdays in October. So nothing new here.

When Michael Peacock, former boss of BBC-1, put in for the London Weekend contract — with Aidan Crawley, David Frost and others — he promised the ITA there would be Sunday night plays. And no films in peak times.

Different? Revolutionary? Not really. ITV ran Sunday night plays for ten years… and dropped them when the ratings fell. And what’s happened to those films now the group has won the contract? Well, they’re being shown from 7.30 to 9 p.m. Right bang in what I consider the mass viewing period.

The importance of all this is that it’s Peacock’s Programme Pattern which has been accepted by most of the network for your Saturday and Sunday viewing — with those two David Frost shows, both live, thrown in as well.

One man has stood up to Peacock in all this and rejected his programming.

This is ATV’s Lew Grade. He alone among the ITV programme chiefs, will not be showing a Sunday night play to Midlanders. They’ll get it on Saturday instead.

Odd-man-out Mr Grade has gone further. He’s screening his films at a different time … he’s taping David Frost’s Sunday show so that he can show him 50 minutes later than anyone else … and he’s showing X certificate films late on Saturdays.

All this is rather upsetting to the ITA who have been striving to get the companies to show the same programmes at the same time.

But ATV say they know their viewers’ likes in the Midlands better than anyone else. They maintain that audiences do vary. And so do viewing habits.

All the present programmes are set tor the next three months.




Audience returns will be studied carefully and the viewing ratings will prove which of the two systems is right — the Grade routine or the Peacock Pattern.

But there is one thing both men believe in very much. And that is what is known in the TV business as the “Inheritance Factor.”

This means planning of programmes so that early evening shows will attract audiences and then keep them for programmes later in the evening.

Before moving into ITV, Peacock proved that, in this sphere, the independent channel lagged behind the BBC by winning bigger audiences than ITV on Saturday nights.

Apart from this difference of opinion over the different weekend image, Granada’s Sidney Bernstein, Howard Thomas of Thames and Lew Grade — all old hands at the network game — are hoping for some bright new ideas in SITUATION COMEDIES to come from the newcomers.

Compared with BBC, this has always been ITV’s weak spot.

Now, however, the London Weekend team includes Frank Muir, an acknowledged expert in this field.

But although ATV has lost its hold on the network pattern of weekend viewing it doesn’t appear to have suffered much in terms of VARIETY production output.

At the start of the new schedules Michael Peacock’s Weekend team will be providing light entertainment on Saturday and Sunday evenings. But ATV will move in later — with twelve Saturday and twenty-six Sunday shows. Just the same number as London Weekend.


The BBC outbid the ITV companies for 126 British Lion FILMS. They were offered to ITV first … and ITV bid £850,000 [£16m in today’s money, allowing for inflation]. Then the BBC stepped in with £1,200,000 [£22m].

Even so, the ITV companies between them have stacked up a massive collection of more than 1,000 films including such smash box office hits as “Dr. Strangelove,” “From Here to Eternity,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

With the curtain just about to go up, TV folk are predicting the end of the big showbiz domination of ITV now that ATV are out of London.

But there are only a limited number of top line entertainers available. Tom Jones may be in Mr. Peacock’s opening show but he will be back with Lew Grade later. As for NEW STARS

Tommy Cooper finishes “Life With Cooper” for the old ABC company tonight, only to return on Tuesday for Thames.


Cameras point at a stage

Cooper at Large [Thames]


Bob Monkhouse signs off his last Golden Shot for ATV tomorrow, returns on Monday for Yorkshire.

Frankie Vaughan, in Yorkshire’s opening show on Monday, pops up again in a similar programme for Thames on Tuesday.

New talent? New faces?

That Network Planning Committee ought to have done better.



❛❛Russ J Graham writes: Clifford Davis doesn’t know this – although the clues are there – but London Weekend’s first night is not to be. And within a week or so, ITV itself would be off, replaced by an emergency national service. Once the strike and lock-outs were over, the rest of ITV would start to look much more carefully at Lew Grade’s plans and London Weekend’s programming would start to drop out of peaktime on Saturdays and Sundays, with some unloved highbrow arts material being shoved into late night weekday slots even by such highbrow companies as Granada.

Davis is close to an epiphany when he mentions the “Inheritance Factor.” He credits Michael Peacock for using it successfully at BBC-1 in the last few years, where he presided over a schedule that practically sang. After Grandstand, it was a non-stop ride of entertainment – Juke Box Jury, Doctor Who, Dixon of Dock Green, a popular film, Norman Vaughan, Dick van Dyke, The Troubleshooters, and live music, to quote just one Saturday night in spring 1966. ITV really struggled to come up with anything that could make a dent in that powerhouse.

Whilst the BBC-1 Saturday schedule had weakened a fair bit by 1968, Peacock knew what he was doing there and should’ve easily carried that forward into his new berth at ITV. But he was a BBC man through-and-through. He was used to sitting behind a desk, deciding what programmes would be on, and then telling the heads of department to go and make them.

The ITV process was far, far different. For a start, there was no big pot of licence money to apportion to each show. Instead, each programme had to be self-accounting, running up a debt that advertising sales would then pay off. Three quarters of the cost of an individual programme would be covered by the rest of ITV… but only if the other companies bought the programme. And if they bought it but then shoved it into late-night weekdays to burn it off, London Weekend were not going to get the full amount they were expecting.

Promoting London Weekend shows was hard. The other ITV companies chose what they promoted and when, and could big-up an important programme throughout the week. Whilst there were a couple of promotion slots available to London Weekend on Thames on Thursday evenings (and vice versa on Sunday evenings), this didn’t allow a big build up. The viewers were likely to not know a show was there to be seen in London; outside of the capital, the viewers might not know it was there at all.

This set up a vicious circle for London Weekend: their shows weren’t making money, so they had less money to make shows. They responded to this in the way all ITV companies in this position have done throughout the network’s history: almost collapsing dramatically, then hurriedly scheduling light, fluffy, popular fare to bring in the much needed cash.

For London Weekend, this strategy worked. But it cost Michael Peacock his job.


❛❛Kif Bowden-Smith adds: Yet again I find myself surprised by how a newspaper television critic can fundamentally fail to comprehend how the industry they cover is organised.

Clifford Davis seems to believe that the purpose of the ITV contract changes was to replace the on-screen talent, suddenly finding a whole raft of hitherto undiscovered stars in the making and putting them on television to replace the existing popular entertainers. It’s as if ITV was the world’s largest version of Opportunity Knocks! and overnight the hugely talented, time served, brilliant stars like Tommy Cooper and Bob Monkhouse could be made redundant and replaced by up and coming Bobby Glassworks and Pete Webbing of 17 Quarry Road, Rochdale, and still the viewers would tune in. It’s impossible to imagine who Davis thought was waiting in the wings poised to start their new careers.

The franchise process was never to do with stars, and precious little to do with actual programming. Instead it was a way of freshening up the management of ITV, removing board members here, adding new ones there, sending producers and directors from Manchester to Leeds and from London to Birmingham – a game of musical chairs for the senior people in each company that was facing a change, but not one for the Tommy Coopers and Bob Monkhouses of the world.

You Say

3 responses to this article

Steve Gray 12 October 2020 at 5:02 pm

Hello, good afternon and, er, yeah.. : )

Anyway, the editorial part to this article provides some context for LWT’s decision to go ‘controversial’.

The strike had, arguably, made t.v. channels the subject of the news, with the effect that the off-camera story became – perhaps – more important than the content of the programmes.

The tone of the article suggests that t.v. people had decided that ‘things going to plan’ was no longer enough, in itself, to get ratings; there had to be a ‘sense of danger’.

By this point, comics had long been subverting the conventions of t.v. from ad-libbed responses to a fluffed line, all the way up to pre-conceived false endings and parodies of channel presentation.

What is, arguably, new is that the anarchy had begun to encroach into more serious programming, with the effect that something that doesn’t – can’t ?- go wrong is considered boring. Enter the Yippies.

I would Bob Monkhouse’s almost situationalist way of presenting The Golden Shot springs to mind as what happened next – is it all going to fall apart ? What’s he going to say and/or do if it does ?

Alan Keeling 13 October 2020 at 11:16 am

Many Midlands viewers were disappointed at losing ABC TV’s great weekend schedules and having to put up with ATV’s drab weekend and weekday schedules from the end of July of 1968.

Steve Gray 2 November 2020 at 11:53 pm

Hello Alan,

On the subject of ABC being replaced by something people might be less happy with, I wonder what the mood was in the north-west, around Granada coming in to do the week-end ?

I believe Kif was in the area at the time, he might have some recollections on it.

Were viewers in Yorkshire sad to see Granada go ? In a sense, they had a bigger change-over, with both their old contractors leaving the air-waves.. Indeed, did they have the biggest change of all ?

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