Mendip mast opening – full colour plan 

3 February 2021

B.B.C. and H.T.V.



Wells Journal masthead

From the Wells Journal for 8 May 1970

A DOCUMENTARY programme on child authors in the West Country and a series of profiles of towns within the region are among the productions to be screened by HTV West after the new service is launched on May 30.

The official opening date of the new 625 line service from the Mendip mast was announced on Friday by the Independent Television Authority. Trade transmissions from the mast began on Monday.

Mr. Patrick Dromgoole, Programme Controller for the West Country, said the opening of the mast was the opportunity for which Harlech Television had been waiting since the company was awarded its contract in 1967.

“At last we have facilities to provide an exclusively West Country service for West Countrymen and we shall make the most of them,” he said.

Programme plans for the new service, which is to be known as HTV West, include a news magazine for the West Country, four one-hour plays, a series of profiles on West Country towns, programmes for women, an amateur drama contest that is due to begin in the autumn, and a beauty contest set within the region.


HTV West print advertisement



The Mendip mast, near Wells, is the tenth in the series of new high power UHF transmitters which now radiate ITV programmes in colour and monochrome to more than 60 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom.

Viewers without colour sets but using UHF-capable receivers will benefit from much improved picture quality.

The area reached by the Mendip transmitter will be roughly from Berkeley in the North to Chard and Crewkerne in the South, and from Devizes in the East to Minehead in the West.

The B.B.C. will bring colour television to the South West three weeks before I.T.V.

This was revealed this week by Mr. Francis James, South and West Information Officer for the B.B.C. He said that the B.B.C. 1 service would open from the Pen Hill mast on May 11. B.B.C. 2 colour from the Mendip mast has already been available for several months.


HTV West print advertisement

The following section is commentary from Transdiffusion's expert writers

Russ J Graham writes: Wales and the West of England was the Independent Television Authority’s first experiment in creating a “dual region”.

This was by force of circumstances more than anything else. There was nowhere to put a VHF transmitter that would serve the industrial south of Wales without it also serving much of the West of England, and vice versa. A marked reluctance by the General Post Office to licence two services in one area originally ruled out two lower-powered VHF transmitters. Then Wales (West and North) Television collapsed and was bought by the Wales and West contractor TWW. Suddenly there the reluctance faded away and TWW had two services – TWW on Channel 10, exclusively in English but with news and features about both Wales and the West, and Teledu Cymru on Channel 7, exclusively about Wales in content but programmed in a mix of English and Welsh.

This arrangement was not ideal and was also very complicated to organise internally and technically. It meant that TWW had three control rooms – one for Channel 10, one for Channel 7 and one for the former WWN transmitters in the north and west of Wales, allowing them to run adverts in Welsh and also to opt-out – although there’s no evidence they ever did – to serve just “Welsh Wales”.

When Harlech took over in 1968, UHF was on the horizon. In theory, this would simplify matters – the tiny range of UHF compared to VHF meant that lots of transmitters would be needed and they could be programmed more specifically. This meant HTV would have four control rooms: Channel 10 in English for South Wales and the West in monochrome – the ‘General Service’; Channel 7 and Wenvoe UHF in monochrome and in colour respectively and in Welsh and English serving Wales – originally Teledu Harlech but later rebranded to HTV Cymru/Wales; the former WWN area in monochrome and eventually in UHF colour, carrying the HTV Wales programmes but with opt-outs for advertising; and the new Mendip in UHF colour, carrying programmes in English specifically for England.

If you’re tying yourself in mental knots trying to work out what went out where and when, I can only make it worse for you by describing how the local news was organised: there were 15 minutes of news of Wales in Welsh and 15 minutes of news of Wales in English and 15 minutes of news of England in English. Between the services these were divided up so Wales got 30 minutes of news of Wales in both languages; the General Service provided 30 minutes of news in English, half for Wales and half for England; and the new Mendip area had 30 minutes of news in English about England (15 minutes of which was the General Service’s news in English for England). Each of the control rooms switched between services at 6pm and 6.15pm, picking and choosing which news programme they would show according to the location and language of the transmitter area.

This was a fraught nightmare and it was rare but not unusual for the ‘wrong’ news to start at 6 or 6.15 and have to be pulled and the ‘right’ news substituted – because while there were four control rooms, they were all one room, and there were no more staff than would typically be in a standard control room.

This was also expensive to operate, so it’s no surprise that as soon as possible the Channel 10 General Service and the Mendip service merged, taking HTV back into being a dual region… except for adverts, which could still be placed on any combination of General, West, Cymru/Wales and/or former WWN.

You’d certainly need to be at your best game working in transmission control at HTV.

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2 responses to this article

Darren Evans 7 February 2021 at 2:42 am

Very occasionally (perhaps because of continuity staffing reasons) HTV Cymru / Wales at closedown, when later than normal, did not always have the usual in-vision HTV Cymru / Wales presenter but had a generic HTV (non in-vision) continuity provided by HTV West.

This was most often Michael St John, who seemed to have difficulty in reading the time when the clock came up just before going off air. It was clear that it was HTV West because the announcer said “this is Michael St John in Bristol” when introducing himself at the start of the closedown sequence with an HTV (non-region) identification on screen.

Darren Evans 7 February 2021 at 4:57 am

It is surprising that since Mendip was an IBA site, the BBC started transmission of BBC 2 and then BBC 1 West weeks before the start of transmission of HTV West by the IBA.

Prior to the opening of the Mendip UHF transmitter, coverage of the West of England by the BBC was from their Wenvoe transmitter site for VHF radio and television services.

It continues to this day to be the transmitter site of BBC network VHF radio services to the West of England.

BBC Radio Bristol VHF was originally transmitted from Ilchester Crescent which also became a relay of Wenvoe for the BBC network VHF radio services.

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