The inauguration of “Southern Television” 

23 November 2020

Next Saturday’s Opening Gala Variety Show



Reading Mercury masthead

From the Reading Mercury for 23 August 1958

“SOUTHERN Rhapsody,” a gala hour-long variety show, will herald the opening of Southern Television on Saturday, August 30th. From its Southampton studios, this seventh independent television station to open in Britain will cover an area of 3,500 square miles [9,065km²] and an estimated population of approximately two-and-three-quarter million. But its first programme will be seen by millions of viewers on the network throughout Britain.



“Southern Rhapsody” — the title is taken from the station’s identification music specially composed by Richard Addinsell — will be introduced by wit and man-about-town Alan Melville, who has devised and written the programme.

He will present Gracie Fields, lovely French singing star Line Renaud, pianist Clive Lythgoe and the Bournemouth Girls’ Choir. And there will be a surprise appearance in the form of a famous, glamorous personality.



From the luxury Cunard liner Caronia, which docks at Southampton in the early hours of the 30th, Berkeley Smith, head of outside broadcast, will introduce a gay dance sequence by Lionel and Joyce Blair and their dancers against the setting of the night sky of silent cranes and derricks over Southampton Water. He will take viewers right into a party aboard ship to which many famous people who live in the south have been invited. Viewers will meet briefly such personalities as Uffa Fox, Kenneth Horne, ex-boxer Tommy Farr, Sir Donald Wolfit, Sir Alan Cobham, J. B Priestley, Brenda Bruce, Katie Boyle, Gilbert Harding, Prince Littler, Flotsam, Peter Twiss and Billy Butlin.

Sequence from the Caronia will end with a song by the handsome young recording star Gary Miller. From the opening of the show the atmosphere of the south will be highlighted when Alan Melville reads a prologue against a filmed montage of the area showing the Wellsian-like equipment of the great Fawley Refinery, stately homes like Petworth House and the rural atmosphere of Devizes Market.


People line up in front of a row of outside broadcasting vans

The Southern outside broadcast fleet


During the programme there will filmed extracts from some of the acts in the summer shows at the famous resorts along the coast — Tommy Trinder and Anne Shelton from Southsea, Frankie Vaughan from Brighton and Charlie Drake from Weymouth.

A specially-invited audience will watch the show from the studio floor. Among these will be Mayors and Mayoresses from boroughs in the Southern Region, Sir Ronald Matthews, of I.T.A., and Sir Robert and Lady Fraser, of I.T.A.

Music for the show will be provided by the S.T.V’s [sic] Director of Music, Eric Winstone, and his Orchestra. The programme overall will be produced by Albert Locke with settings by Reece Pemberton.

All this is a prelude to Southern Television’s plan to give the fullest possible coverage to the many interesting events continually going on in the south.



Will Reach Large Area Of Berkshire


TELEVISION viewers in Reading and Berkshire will be among those who, lor the first time, will be able to receive two I.TV. programmes. This is because they will be on the fringe of the new Southern TV service, which begins on August 30th.

The places able to pick up both services, like Reading, Guildford and Crawley, will mostly receive one station stronger than the other.



Dizzying view down from the top of a transmitter

Looking down from Chillerton Down

This was revealed on Tuesday by Mr. P. A. Bevan, I.T.A.’s chief engineer, at the “open day” on Tillerton Down, [sic] Isle of Wight, of the 1,250 foot-high [381m] transmitting station which will serve Southern TV.

It was disclosed that I.TV. chiefs are now confident they can provide a second national service without viewers buying new sets.

The programme companies would use frequencies similar to those being used at present, but the Postmaster-General has yet to decide whether the B.B.C. or I.TV. will run the second service.

Within the next two years I.TV. will come within reach of about 96 per cent. of the population of the British Isles. Four stations are due to open next year covering North-East England, East Anglia, South-East England, and Northern Ireland. Three more stations are planned for the following year, covering south-west England, North-East Scotland, and the Carlisle district.

Southern TV. will serve nearly three million people in an area bounded by Weymouth in the west, Newbury in the north, and Brighton in the east. The reception of test transmissions has been most favourable.



❛❛Russ J Graham writes: A cautious welcome for Southern Television from the Reading Mercury, a rival for advertising income in the area. The most interesting point in what is otherwise a rewrite of Southern’s press release is in the second section, where “I.TV” have a plan for launching a second service using 405-lines.

One can only assume that this would be on UHF. It’s quite a simple process to shift signals from UHF down to a spare VHF channel at TV set level, assuming the line standard and everything else remains the same.


CRT television with a converter box on top

East German VHF 625-line television set with a UHF to VHF converter on top. Image: Sebastian Wallroth, Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-3.0


This happened a lot when the public service broadcasters of northern Europe started second channels – the first channel remained on VHF, the second channel started on UHF. A converter box shifted the local UHF transmission down to a free VHF channel on your pre-existing TV set.

But both the first and the second channels in those cases were in 625 lines (France and Wallonia are an exception here). It was virtually impossible to convert a set from one line standard to another, especially going up in the number of lines. This proposal therefore must be for 405 lines on UHF.

When the rest of Europe is on 625 lines, even in black and white on VHF, not joining them seems a good way to get left behind in terms of technology and receiver manufacture. It’s certainly not what the television retailers of the UK wanted: they were seeking to sell new, upgraded 625-line sets and didn’t want people to struggle on with their 405-line models. They were the ones with the government’s ear: when the time came to award a second television service, it was on UHF in 625 lines. And it went to the BBC.

You Say

4 responses to this article

Jeremy Rogers 23 November 2020 at 3:13 pm

There was enough capacity across the whole of Band III (Channels 6 to 13) to accommodate two programmes across much if not quite all of the UK. This is at a time where the ITA assumed it was entitled to get the whole of this, even though the BBC was also angling for it for a second service.

In the end only limited use was made to get a separate service for South Wales, and for infill where the BBC Band I reception was below par especially from Sporadic E in the summer.

mark walford-groom 17 March 2021 at 12:08 pm

i have a 45 single record of the opening speech of southern television ,have no idea what else is on it ,not played it since the 1970s

Mrs Sheila Jones 6 May 2021 at 4:06 pm

I was a member of the Bournemouth Girls’ Choir when the Choir appeared at the opening of Southern Television in 1958. I have found online a short black and white recording of part of the rehearsal for that programme. I did not know this had been made. In those days shows went out live. It was very interesting watching it after all these years. I was 25 at the time and am now 88. I remember Gracie Fields was very pleasant and talked to us.

Susan Knights. 26 April 2022 at 5:40 pm

I too was a member of the choir, singing at the opening. What a thrill to see the rehearsal film just now. I would love to see a recording of the show if there was one. I was 13. Everyone was so friendly…..I remember lots of it as if it was yesterday, even the corridors we walked down and the excitement of seeing ‘famous people’ passing us in them. My twin sister and I were next to each other during the show, singing with Gracie Fields. Happy memories! My twin is Jean and our maiden name was Lomas.

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