Goodnight from TWW
1 Feb 2003 0 comments. tbs.pm/1888
TWW, more than most companies, was faced with the central question of how to represent two regions within their corporate identity which were not only regions but separate countries.
In no area was this dilemma more acute than in close downs where conflicting priorities for national anthems were evident.
The BBC had solved this some years earlier by judicious intercutting of Welsh and English imagery over a hybrid version synthesising the two countries’ anthems.
The last four lines of the Welsh anthem were segued by the BBC into the first three lines of “God Save The Queen” by means of a drum roll which enabled the orchestra to change key discreetly.
To the practised ear, this always seemed rather hasty, and by 1962 TWW had set out to look for ways of representing the two cultures without creating an artificial hybrid.
The obvious answer, not allowing for any sophistication, was to play both anthems in full consecutively.
However, at TWW’s launch it was felt that the joint transmission to two countries should be played as a corporate strength and not as a coverage weakness.
The fashion for pictures of the Royal Family inspecting regiments and opening supermarkets so successfully pioneered by Associated-Rediffusion was adapted by TWW into a new form to accompany the national anthem.
It was diplomatically essential for God Save The Queen to be heard last so that the Colonel Blimps watching in Bristol and the West could assure themselves that the preceding Welsh national anthem wasn’t the ‘proper’ closing down tune.
Accordingly, touristy film of Welsh scenes, with the inevitable slate mines, coal lorries and mist-clad mountains, climaxed in a camera pan to a distant set of flag poles.
As the Welsh national anthem finished, and a drum roll heralded the British equivalent, the camera panned from Dragon to Union Flag as the drum roll brought the colonel blimps to their feet in their living rooms.
As if short of additional visual material, the camera lingered over-long almost on the Union Flag before the seemingly inevitable shots of Her majesty inspecting yet more regiments and opening yet more supermarkets.
The final line accompanied a mix to portrait as Elizabeth II’s face closed transmission for yet another company.
TWW managed something its former rival, the later absorbed bankrupt WWN, never got the opportunity to do. In 1965 a second channel opened from the joint service mast at St Hilary in south Wales. This converted Teledu Cymru, WWN’s former brand name, from a language-based service into one more aimed at a specific geographical area.
This allowed TWW to finally complete an internal split into two shadow companies – TWW for English speakers in both countries and Teledu Cymru for bilingual speakers in Wales.
The most immediate effect of the extra channel was to allow TWW to continue the practice of joint nationality at closedown on Teledu Cymru, but revert to the conservative option of ‘British’ closedowns – with just God Save The Queen – on their newly-suffixed General service.
Daytime closedowns after schools or sports transmissions followed the customary practice of playing the last verse of the station start-up theme after final words from the duty announcer.
The inevitable Eric Coates clip emphasised the corporate identity of the company in a way the national anthems never could. We can speculate that without the overriding assumption that national anthems were compulsory at midnight – a product of the times, not a regulation – corporate identity could have been promoted over nationalism. It’s worth noting that the only company to depart from assumption that the playing of the national anthem was obligatory was Granada, and they remained in isolation from launch in 1956 until BBC-2 launched without a closing anthem in 1964.
Ironically, “South Wales and the West Television March”, a reworking of Coates’s earlier “Seven Seas March”, had an ending of such inflated grandeur that it would have put God Save The Queen to shame. As was customary at the time, this was an example of tradition defeating innovation once again.