1 Feb 2003 0 comments. tbs.pm/1887
In the years up to 1972, government restricted the number of hours per week that British television was allowed to broadcast.
The split of hours between the weekday and weekend contractors was more favourable to the weekend companies, as sports programmes, outside broadcasts, religion and adult education each had a separate additional quota of hours, above and beyond the basic allowance.
These types of programmes were an important staple of daytime weekend broadcasting in Britain at that time, with the more traditional entertainment programmes in the evening, leading up to standard closedown at midnight.
ABC, as a weekend contractor, benefited from this longer agenda, and transmission at weekends usually began at lunchtime on Saturday, for sport and outside broadcasts and mid-morning on Sunday for adult education and a religious service. On Sundays there was usually a further closedown from Noon until afternoon programmes restarted soon after two o’clock.
Transmission of Saturday morning cricket in the summer also lead to a lunchtime closedown for a period of years.
As a company with a two-day licence in the North and Midlands, ABC found it necessary to push their company branding hard in order to fight back against the five-day domination of the ABC regions by Granada and ATV. The policy was to promote the ABC Weekend name and identity at every opportunity.
The late morning closedown prior to restart around 2pm was an ideal opportunity for promotion of corporate identity. The adult education programme, religious service or sports outside broadcast would fade from view and the duty continuity announcer appear in vision.
There would be no commercials at this point – except occasionally after morning cricket – and the “station hosts”, as they were known on ABC, would welcome viewers to a short “preview session” of upcoming ABC programmes.
For two or three minutes viewers would be treated to a selection of trailers – things quite rarely seen in multiple during those years – and what amounted to a short advertising magazine for the network’s own product would be shown.
Trailers in those days consisted mainly of straight 30 or 60-second clips of upcoming shows – there was no budget available for specially created promotions. The noontime closedowns were the ideal spots for these mini-magazines.
Introduced by a familiar face and presented in an almost ‘conspiratorial manner’, they included gossip from the sets, news of the stars and personalities working in various ABC studios at the time – and items of viewers correspondence – a sort of miniature ‘Points of View’ mixed with a variant of ‘Watchdog’.
These promotional spots reached a high point in the 1960-64 period, when several minutes of promotion would be provided at every daytime closedown point. In the 1964-68 period, with trailers becoming more common and less of a novelty in the main evening transmission, the lunchtime promotional slots shortened again to a chatting face with – maybe – one trailer.
The roundup would end with a time check and injunction to the viewers to “go off and have some lunch” – and even a hint that the ABC announcers would perhaps be “popping to the pub” for the two hours before programmes resumed – something that the more puritan Granada and Associated-Rediffusion presentation departments would no doubt have viewed with complete horror!
A quick ‘goodbye’ would be followed by an elongated and animated ABC fanfare dent – thirty seconds long with the company symbol pulsating on screen, oozing corporate identity at very pore.
The station hosts, John Benson, John Edmunds, David Hamilton and Sheila Kennedy, became known to Northern and Midland weekend viewers rather as members of the viewers families would be viewed, as friendly and familiar faces welcome in the viewers living rooms.
On the permanent staff, seen every weekend and representing the station with a more human touch than the disembodied voices often heard during the week – they all became cult personalities in their own right.
The occasional ‘larking about’ and party tone adopted at Christmas was favourite feature with the viewers for many years. The announcers were ABC Weekend. That was the company’s secret.
The viewers and advertisers responded in droves – and the company was rewarded with unremitting success in its endeavours for almost thirteen years.