The Sporting Week – Behind the Scenes 

18 April 2022 tbs.pm/74997

 

Television & Radio 1982 cover

From Television & Radio 1982

World of Sport is presented for the ITV network every Saturday afternoon by London Weekend Television from its studios near Waterloo on the South Bank of the Thames.

It is a live programme of more than four-and-a-half hours, although many of the items may be pre-filmed or pre-recorded, and its compilation requires detailed planning in long-term proposals and last-minute adjustments.

Programme material derives mostly from three types of source: overseas items may come in from the satellite, on land-lines and on pre-recorded tape; from this country, network companies provide live pictures from events taking place in their own geographical areas; while LWT’s own cameras cover the scene from the capital.

The outline of major events is known about six months before transmission, while the very latest that decisions about billed items have to be made is three weeks in advance, when TVTimes goes into print. However, stories are sought right up to and during air-time.

World of Sport‘s team is headed by John Bromley, who is also Chairman of ITV’s Network Sports Committee; many of the major events are networked outside World of Sport time, and it is at this level, and at that of Network Programme Controllers, where decisions are made about such items as golf tournaments, world title boxing and world and European swimming and athletics.

In negotiating for material specifically for World of Sport, John Bromley is assisted by the programme’s editor, Stuart McConachie. Apart from getting British rights in major transatlantic sports events like the Superbowl American football match and the Indianapolis 500 motor race, their dealings have produced the lighter-hearted items which have become so much a part of World of Sport‘s character. Acapulco cliff-diving, barrel-jumping on ice and the world lumberjack championships have enlivened many a grey winter’s afternoon. Not only are such items sometimes billed for broadcasting; they also provide a store of stand-by material which fills in those gaps when the weather does its worst and causes scheduled events to be cancelled.

 

Courtesy of Old School Retro Junk 1980’s

 

Most of the other overseas material comes from ITV’s participation in Eurovision, which, in turn, links with Intervision from Eastern Europe. The spectacular ski-ing pictures and those remarkable mobile shots from the Tour de France are testimony to the expertise of the European technical crews.

However, very few of these pieces are delivered in the form in which they eventually are seen. Recorded either at World of Sport studios or abroad, they are shaped to the particular lengths and style needed for the programme. American commercial breaks, for instance, are much more frequent than those in the United Kingdom and are heavily ‘trailed’ by the US commentators. These moments have to be edited out, without disturbing the flow of the programme.

 

A camera on top of an estate car

Bob Batchelor behind LWT’s ‘roving eye’ prepares to record another race meeting at Kempton.

 

John Bromley

Controller of Sport at London Weekend Television, John Bromley.

It is the preparation of such pieces, the organisation of the live outside broadcasts, and the groundwork on promotional inserts and magazine slots for ‘On the Ball’ which take up most of the World of Sport team’s working week.

Typically, the week begins on a Tuesday with the programme meeting. For this a five-page document has been produced itemising the estimated on-air time of all the spots in the show, where they are coming from, and who is responsible.

Dickie Davies is there to work out in principle what he is going to say on Saturday, while Andrew Franklin, the programme’s deputy editor, chairs the meeting.

The programme’s director is Patricia Mordecai who will be responsible on the day for the visual content of the show and for making sure that all the sections knit together. At this stage Pat’s concern is that she knows precisely what the editorial team is planning; that it is technically feasible; and that it will look good on air.

The team then sets to work on its allocated tasks. Richard Russell, the assistant editor, also carries a responsibility for the wrestling, which is now recorded in advance to allow viewers to see the best of the contests. But chiefly he ensures that bought-in material is on its way in the proper format. Andrew Franklin keeps an eye on midweek racing. Tony McCarthy, editor of ‘Sports Special One’, is on the look-out for new events and can be heard regretting that so few hopefuls actually turn out to be feasible TV projects. ‘I call myself “the abominable No-man’” he says.

 

A woman works at a keyboard

John Tyrrel reads the racing results while Carole Chessun taps them out on the electronic caption generator.

 

Later, one of the editorial assistants, Robert Charles, may have to telephone LWT’s airport shipping agents to discover, for example, whether a customs ‘go-slow’ will prevent the video-tape from America arriving in time for the projected editing session. The ‘On the Ball’ team chase the latest soccer story, in the hope of being able to use the new lightweight Electronic News Gathering (ENG) unit, which will mean literally up-to-the-minute coverage for the viewer.

 

A man works in front of a bank of monitors

Director John P. Hamilton studies the bank of monitors at Kempton.

 

Patricia Mordecai could well be with Terry Griffiths, the graphic designer, who is in charge of the titles, part captions, backing captions and promotional captions. The visual style of the show and the clearest stylistic presentation of information are particularly vital to a long and complex programme and their preparation is a time-consuming business. Fortunately, some of the donkey-work on-air has been taken over by the electronic caption generator, a sort of typewriter which creates instant lettering on the screen. It is operated by, among others, the unit’s secretaries, Carole Chessun, Derrin Ottaway and Dinah Quinnen.

 

Horses racing

One of the fruits of the week’s labours: racing from Kempton Park brought to the screen for the enjoyment of thousands of viewers.

 

A man with a microphone and two TV monitors

In the midst of the action – racing commentator Brough Scott.

On Thursday, most of the editing will normally have been taking place, while Friday is spent on the detail of the script, the ‘spinning symbols’ – the revolving ‘S’ at the top of the show – ENG stories and setting up the promotion which goes out after ITN.

The unit has split up again on Saturday. In studio five are the cameras, which have been working on other LWT programmes during the week, the editorial staff, the sub-editors and the typists who are responsible for providing Dickie Davies with the latest news. In the control room, Patricia Mordecai sits surrounded by monitor screens and the means of communication with the otherwise invisible outside world – the OB’s (outside broadcasts) from round the country, the out-of-vision reporters, the videotape and film areas waiting to be cued into the programme.

The morning is spent in rehearsal, making sure that everyone knows what is expected, perhaps running through areas of the show that seem likely to present special problems. There is then just time for lunch, taken by all staff in their working positions in case any last-moment adjustments have to be made.

 

Two men work at a caption generator

Caption preparation is an essential element of the programme which rarely gets the recognition it deserves. Here, Derek Holding (left) and Joe James put together the racing tips.

 

At 12.30pm the titles are rolled and a live show goes on the air. From then on, for all concerned, it is mostly a matter of concentration, making sure that the week’s preparations pay off, though there are always moments where improvisation is the key when events are cancelled or over-run or a big story emerges unexpectedly. Success goes back to the ‘slottings’ at the start of the week which have provided a framework that is both detailed and flexible and to a team whose many parts – involving co-operation with the entire network – put together one afternoon a week to create a very distinctive programme, with a character all its own.

 

Control room

Saturday’s programme all ready to go on-air. In the control room with World of Sport‘s director Pat Mordecai (centre) are senior vision mixer Daphne Renny (left) and production assistant Jilly Pearce.

 

Seven people around a coffee table

Tuesday’s production meeting, and the World of Sport team meet to prepare the groundwork for Saturday’s programme.

 

A man with a headset and binoculars

World of Sport’s principal race reader, Graham Goode, all set to report from the day’s racing at Kempton Park. In the background is floor manager Ken Hounsom.

 

Dickie Davies on set, Brough Scott and Charles Fawkus at an OB

Top: World of Sport’s popular presenter, Dickie Davies, in the studio for another edition of Saturday’s programme. Right: Brough Scott with Information Adviser Charles Fawkus.

 

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