Not only at bedtime 

1 Feb 2003 0 tbs.pm/1891 Article text released under the Creative Commons Attribution license Media copyrighted Report an error in this article

In the first seventeen years of Independent Television, when programming was mainly an evening activity starting around 5pm (though programmes began at lunchtime on weekends) it was not only at bedtime that companies were faced with the need to “go off air” gracefully.

Schools programmes, periodic outside broadcasts of sporting events and occasional special transmissions of news events meant that blocks of daytime programming regularly occurred, after which a closedown until 5pm would be needed.

A typical day would have schools programmes from ten to twelve noon and again from two to three in the afternoon. There would sometimes even be a half hour closedown until an hour of horse racing in a mid afternoon transmission, followed by a further half hour closedown until evening programmes began at five.

It was not unusual for three or four opening routines to be used each weekday and for each period off air – a corresponding closedown procedure would be needed. On Sunday mornings a church service would be transmitted for the housebound, after which a closedown until about two o’clock would be normal. Test Card was not usually transmitted on a Sunday on ITV.

Daytime closedowns had their own set of rules and differed markedly from night time practice. This was one area where patriotism did not hold sway and there are no records of any companies using the National Anthem for daytime closedowns.

The common practice was to give some programme information, show a menu slide relating to later that night, give an exhortation to the viewer to “go and have a cup of tea” or just “put the kettle on” and then to: “join us again for our next transmission” – which might be an hour or more away.

This was making a virtue out of necessity of course, as “sending viewers away” was not what the companies were about. Law limited transmission hours however and this was the only way it could be handled. The announcer would say a quick “good afternoon to you” and the final verse of the station signature tune would be heard with clock mixing to company symbol over the final fanfare.

Practice varied from company to company – but the ten minutes of blank silence before the ITA test card appeared always gave a dramatic feeling of finality to the transmission.

Kif Bowden-Smith

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