The ITV Story

From the TVTimes for 30 October-5 November 1965

THE pace grew faster as the deadline approached September 1955, opening night for ITV. In the haste, clashes between unions and management were inevitable.

At Shepperton Studios, filming of a series of one hour dramas stopped when it was found that a director was not a union member. Then the Musicians’ Union threatened a strike over pay.

Camera operators struck a few days before opening night, and in ITN all “dummy runs” came to a temporary halt.

Conscious of the slogan “Never Baffled” he had given ten company, Captain Tom Brownrigg, General Manager at Associated-Rediffusion, (now Rediffusion), quickly sorted the problems.

The unions were as anxious as anyone to make sure everything went well. They had a big stake in Independent Television.

Despite the difficulties, a wide variety of programmes was being prepared. Drama producer Cyril Coke began working with the late Macdonald Daly, the dog expert, on a series of pets programmes that proved to be among the most popular of ITV’s earlier shows.

Transatlantic favourites such as I Love Lucy and Dragnet were bought; the Grade organisation searched the world for top talent for the new variety spectaculars.

Orson Welles went round the world for ITV, taking a personal look at its problems and its pleasures.

Suddenly, it was opening night…

Despite the glittering success of that night, ITV’s troubles were just beginning.

“The following day every thing seemed to go wrong,” said Neil Bramson, who was in charge of the master control.

“We were still operating with much temporary equipment because the manufacturers had not been able to deliver everything in time. And there were gremlins.”

Things were not eased for Cyril Coke when Customs refused to allow Orson Welles to bring in a film of his travels. He turned up at the studio with a substitute unedited and without commentary.

“We simply can’t do it.” said Coke.

“Don’t worry, son,” replied Welles grandly. “You roll the cameras and I’ll talk as we go along.”

“But the timing!” protested Coke. “I’ve got to bring the commercials in on time!”

“Never you worry, son! We’ll manage it.”

It could be done but it couldn’t be done in time. Welles was still giving voice to his commentary when Coke had to cut him off.

Welles stormed out, threatening never to work for ITV again.

Compere Leslie Mitchell said: “One basic trouble was that many of our staff were inexperienced. One young producer, handling his first programme, suddenly froze in his seat and could neither move nor speak.

“Everything was going haywire when I woke up to what was happening. ‘Cue two!’ I yelled (‘cue camera number two’). He responded and the programme was saved.”

ITV’s troubles in those early days went much higher. Suddenly it was facing a financial crisis.

People were slow to convert their sets to receive ITV programmes and, with only two companies to take the initial strain of the heavy capital and running costs, losses mounted.

Suddenly it was opening night for ITV drama producer Cyril Coke (above) whose problems got worse when Orson Wells (main photo) stormed out after being cut off while still talking

“I had forecast to my fellow directors that we must be prepared to take losses of at least £3 million before Independent Television was likely to begin making a profit,” said Paul Adorian, managing director of Associated-Rediffusion.

“Those of us who had faith were rewarded eventually.” Captain Tom Brownrigg said: “We had lost £3$ million and looked like losing more.

“A firm of advertisers came to me and said: ‘Look, we’ve got a successful show running in America which we sponsor there. If you let us put it on here, we’ll guarantee to buy a;l the spots surrounding it.’

“’No,’ I told them. ‘If I did that, I’d be allowing sponsored television.’

“Then, a big company came along with a proposition which would have turned the tide earlier. They wanted a pattern of broadcasting which meant giving over almost an entire evening’s commercials to their products.

“’We’ll pay you £1½ million,’ they said. ‘Your sales chaps have sold some of this time to a few little advertisers — so you’ll just have to tell them their time is cancelled.’

“’You mean, I’d have to break faith with some small advertisers to accommodate you,’ I said. ‘Well, I’m sorry!’ And so I let them walk away with that £1½ million.”

The faith of Adorian and the courage of Brownrigg were rewarded.

As other companies sprouted and ITV transmitters began to beam their programmes over a wide area of Britain, more advertising revenue flowed in.

The costs of making programmes and operating studios began to be spread over the growing number of companies. Within three years ITV had turned the tide.

The stage was set for the time when there would be 14 programme companies giving 97 per cent. of the population alternative programmes to the BBC.

So ends the beginning of the ITV story.

TVTimes #1

The Palace gets the new TV

BUCKINGHAM PALACE is to get the new TV. The order has gone out that all sets at the Palace must be capable of receiving Independent Television programmes when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh return from their Balmoral holiday.

The Royal family have always been keen viewers and now — at the turn of a switch — they will be able to see the star-studded, vigorous shows produced by the London programme contractors.

A member of the Palace staff told me: “It is inconceivable that the Royal family, interested as they are in public affairs, would not have at their finger-tips an alternative TV programme.”

The Duke’s quiz

And I hear of an interesting conversation the other day between the Duke of Edinburgh and Sir William Becher, M.C., Associated-Rediffusion’s cricket adviser.

They were opposing cricketers in a charity match, but cricket was by no means the only topic discussed.

The Duke proved to be intensely interested in Independent TV, quizzing Sir William for much information on the subject.

Says Sir William, the former Sussex and Wiltshire cricketer: “The Duke has a typically modern, democratic brain and always shows terrific interest in anything that is new and enterprising.”

At the Palace, Sandringham, and Windsor, the Queen makes a point of sitting with Prince Charles and Princess Anne to watch the children’s programmes.

U.S. looks in

“Not that I would say a word behind her back-” Or what do you think the young gossip seems to be saying? Can you find a better title for this picture? Watch next Saturday’s “Week-end” programme.
AMERICAN TV people are agog to learn about British Independent TV — and the point that interests them most is our completely new approach to the advertising “spots.”

Eighty TV editors, from newspapers in all parts of America, have just flown home. They have been touring the British TV studios and are now reporting to their readers what they have seen.

From the questions they have been asking in England, it seems that many people on the other side of the Atlantic are envious of our advertising plans.

You see, in America, the advertisers sponsor the programmes themselves: for example, a soup manufacturer sets up a special department to produce plays for TV.

But in England the programmes are completely independent — time is sold to advertisers rather like a newspaper sells space alongside the news.

And that, think many in America, is a better idea than the “sponsoring” system.

Cool kids

PRESS photographers at the filming of a “Noddy” programme urged that children should appear in the pictures with the puppet.

So producer Quentin Lawrence phoned to his wife Margaret (“Ming”) at their Hampstead home: “Bring the kids — quick.”

Duly Mrs. Lawrence arrived with “Tiny,” aged four and Christopher, aged five. They had the time of their lives posing with Noddy, their favourite story-book character.

It was a very warm day and I wondered how “Ming” had managed to keep the children so clean and tidy.

“Well, I had to hunt for them,” she said. “And when I tracked them down they were clean already. They were completely naked, standing in the spray from the garden hose.”

Pat knows

IF pretty Pat Fender, a commere of Morning Magazine, ever has a cricketer to interview she’ll be asking questions to which she already knows the answers.

For dark-haired, 25-year-old Pat is the daughter of P. G. H. Fender, skipper of Surrey’s cricket XI for eleven years.

She plays cricket occasionally herself, and helped to “put on the map” a women’s cricket team in New York last year when she was acting, announcing, and commentating for American TV.

She is unmarried and lives with her parents in a little street behind Park Lane.

Miss Fender has this confession to make: after giving the subject long and serious thought, she considers that cricket is NOT a woman’s game.

Still in harness

WHAT a surprise for the great Dan Leno if he could see the Granville today.

The Granville is the old music hall at Walham Green, London, which Leno helped to found and where he appeared regularly. Now it has been bought by Associated-Rediffusion and converted into a modern television theatre.

But the best has been retained. For example, the walls of beautifully painted tiles are still there.

The flooring was ripped up, though. And under the carpeting one of the workmen found a golden guinea.

Oh, my nose!

NOSES are very important, and the nose of Orson Welles is no exception. He pays it great attention.

Sometimes he gets a little exasperated, hides his own beneath a false nose. Asked why, he once replied:

“I hate my nose — it stopped growing when I was ten years old.”

Baby grand

OWING to rebuilding at Television House ABC’s “Week-end” programme has a temporary studio too small to contain a grand piano.

“It would have meant us all standing out in the street to do the programme,” explains producer Stephen Wade. “An upright was not suitable so we sent our musical director, Leslie Julian Jones, round London trying out miniature pianos.”

Says Leslie, who writes a sketch for the programme as well as playing the piano, “It took a long time, but at last I found one small enough — and it also had the right tone for television.”