Continuity Past – Leeds
3 Aug 2003 0 comments. tbs.pm/3383
In 1996 the presentation department at Tyne Tees was closed, ending nearly 40 years of announcements coming from the North East region.
Since the takeover of Tyne Tees by Yorkshire Television, the new parent company (Yorkshire-Tyne Tees) had been looking for ways to save money. Regional programming was often pooled between the two companies to the extent that the ITC even threatened the group with financial penalties if the situation did not improve. However the vast sums of money the two companies had committed during the 1992 franchise round had meant that cash was scarce, and little was done.
The axe had been taken to many parts of the company, and presentation was seen as an area for chopping, and in the mid-1990s, the company built a new state of the art broadcast centre in Leeds, doing away with the need for separate transmission facilities. It was to this centre that, in 1996 Tyne Tees’s continuity was to come from.
Not one of Tyne Tees’s announcers made the move down the road to Leeds. Admittedly, the remaining team was tiny at that point. It is rumoured that Bill Steel was offered a job there, but declined – the lack of any invision continuity announcements putting him off. A few years later, the same reason would be given by Colin Weston as part of his reason for not moving to Leeds when Granada’s continuity department closed.
The Leeds based centre was supposed to be state of the art, providing facilities for Leeds and Newcastle to share the same programming where necessary, and opt out when needed. The technicalities of the system meant that the two station’s schedules became very similar, each taking opt outs at the same time.
Continuity for the two stations was mostly separate. Moments before being needed, the announcer would pre-record their announcement for Tyne Tees, with Yorkshire’s being done line.
Even with this facility in operation, much of the time even this wasn’t used, and one generic announcement would go out between the two regions, often using the ITV brand as a way of providing one announcement for different programmes.
The technology was also very new and very tempremental. The wrong station ident would be shown here, the wrong announcement played there. Yorkshire bump breakers would be seen on Tyne Tees, joined frequently with along flickers of Yorkshire idents. Tyne Tees viewers sometimes told that North East Tonight was actually Yorkshire’s news programme Calendar! And perhaps the best example came once straight after Emmerdale, when, as the next programme was about to come on, viewers heard the immortal line: “Now on Channel 3 North East, Emmerdale!”
Expansion At Leeds.
With an expensive network centre that couldn’t cope with providing a service for two stations, it made complete sense that upon the takeover of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television by the Granada Media Group, continuity and switching facilities for Granada would be moved to the Leeds site. Not long after, programme switching from the independent ITV company, Border Television was added to the throng, although Border retained its own continuity team.
The equipment was upgraded from tapes to huge hard disks, and the chances of an error occurring increased dramatically. Viewers in the North East were now able to play ‘Spot the Granada logo’, as well as spotting all things Yorkshire based. Continuity facilities took longer to get upgraded, and often two stations would receive generic announcements, with the third getting a special one live. Most of the time though, all three shared the same announcement.
Generic station links proved to be a huge problem with the centre having to contend with three different idents all with different lengths. So it is not really surprising that a lot of dead air was heard after a jingle had finished whilst the announcer waited for the other two jingles to end. Whilst Tyne Tees and Yorkshire’s idents were of a similar length, available in 3, 6 or 9 seconds lengths, Granada had one short ident. The different timing tended to cause havoc, and Granada’s continuity was usually done live if separate idents were required. When all three shared the same announcement, Granada often had patches of dead air.
Regional variations across all three stations caused even more issues, with separate continuity often only occurring before the flagship news programmes of each station. In 1998, the cop out phrase “This is ITV from the heart of your region” started being used more and more in an attempt to provide links for all three stations that didn’t mention programme titles or station names!
In Autumn 1999, Granada Media spent huge amounts of money on a new system where announcers could record one announcement one minute before being played, another with 30 seconds to spare, and do a third live.
It even seemed to work for a few weeks, and it’s introduction was deemed pretty much essential when the Leeds centre took over providing weekend continuity for the still independent Border, as part of that companies quest to save some cash. Not long after, Border’s continuity department closed, and in 2000 the company was taken over by Capital Radio, and its television arm sold to Granada Media.
Even when the system does work, only three of the five Leeds based announcers actually use the system with the other two only bothering when they absolutely have to.
What this leads to is generic, inferior continuity for the four regions involved. Even when announcements are re-recorded for the individual regions, usually the only difference is the station name as the announcers just don’t have time to do anything special.
It is rumoured that the cost of all this amazing technology over the years has amounted to over £10million pounds, not including the costs of staffing.
In comparison, the Tyne Tees presentation department in the early nineties, had a budget of less than half a million, providing a locally tailored service with local staff.
In the aim of penny pinching though it all ended but whether the introduction of the Leeds centre has actually saved any money over the years is debatable. What is certain is that the quality of the presentation department had been run down for the sake of a few bucks.
Still, part of it would be irrelevant a few years later…
“Good morning, and welcome to a new look for us here on Tyne Tees Television…” The immortal words came from (then) announcer Nick Oliver, on March 8, 1998, when after 17 months, the Channel 3 North East logo was finally consigned to the dustbin.
Earlier on in the year, Tyne Tees celebrated it’s 40th birthday on air, with a very nice ident. During this week, a great effort was made by the Leeds based department to ensure that the majority of announcements mentioned Tyne Tees by name, and promoted its birthday programming.
Sadly it was only to last a week, and to hear the Tyne Tees name in idents continues to be the exception rather than the rule. So lets revel in it while it happens. Here’s one example from the 40th birthday week. The announcer is Maggie Mash, who was originally an announcer at Yorkshire, before the Tyne Tees continuity department was closed.