Drifting south 

24 May 2004 0 tbs.pm/1984 Article text released under the Creative Commons Attribution license Media copyrighted Report an error in this article

Joe Baldwin on the many changes down south

It’s well known that Southern, unhappy with the prospect of losing its franchise to newcomers South and South East Communications, basically stuck two fingers up at the IBA and tarnished its own memory with its tantrum-like leaving programme.

There was more behind the bid than that though. It was a double-edged sword. Southern would be spared the expense of building more studios to cover the new Southeast region, but then it would also die never to be heard from again. They were in a rut.

South and Southeast had expected to be merged in a shotgun marriage to enter ITV, in similar way to how Thames and Yorkshire were formed. However, they won the franchise outright, and quickly adopted the far catchier moniker Television South.

The company built new studios in Maidstone to supplement the ones in Southampton, and a logo was created – a multicoloured “flower of the south”, made up of 6 segments – similar to how the Central ‘cake’ would turn out. This was accompanied by the lettering ‘TVS’ in Clearface Gothic – a font used extensively throughout the company’s short life.

On 1 January 1982, TVS sprang to life with its new especially composed startup music – variously named but referred to in-house as ‘TVS Gallop’. Launching somewhere between film music and Carmina Burana without the choir, it was a brilliant piece, accompanied by a new IBA slide – the first on the network to feature a programme menu.

A new clock was brought in as well – mechanical, but cleverly concealed as such. It was the first clock to have the colouring on the faceplate itself, rather than electronically added on the fly. The clock contained no logo-just the letters TVS and the 6 colours of the logo, horizontal along the clock.

Continuity was upped at the new station too – a new continuity set was designed, with the colours banding round the studio, like in the clock, and a TVS logo set in stone on top of these. Later in the station’s life, a pink and blue arrangement was devised, with many glass flowers on a low wall behind the announcer. But by 1988 in-vision was gone from the south.

By the mid 1980s TVS had realised that it was rolling in money, what with the affluent coastal towns of the south being in its franchise area, and so used that affluence to push its programming on to the network. It had moderate success. Among its networked programmes were ‘The Real World’, a science programme, and ‘Number 73′, a children’s programme in a similar vein to the defunct Tiswas.

TVS had also realised that with all of its money, it could become a burgeoning media empire, and to prove the point, it bought Mary Tyler-Moore’s US production company – a move that would bring the company down. It also brought in a new ident, where the flower rotates to form the TVS letters and settles on a reflective background. The ‘new’ TVS was completed with a somewhat redundant change of name to ‘TVS Television’.

It is certain that TVS could easily have passed through the 1991 franchise round with flying colours. But MTM was a strain on finances. It was draining the company to such an extent that it was a case of when, not if, they would go under.

MTM was spun off as Blue and some restructuring took place. However, a desperate TVS had bid far more than any company could afford for the right to continue broadcasting – and the ITC had no choice but to hand the license to Meridian.

It is to TVS’s credit that they did not go out the same way as their predecessors did – kicking and screaming. The dignified ending show ended with a thank you to all of the viewers and shareholders for watching over the past decade. The flower rotated one last time, TVS came up and the simple legend “Thanks for watching” appeared.

Some sound disturbances appeared as Big Ben chimed (it was rumoured – but not proven – that TVS’s staff messed about with Meridian’s sound for the first 10 minutes due to sour grapes) and that was it.

TVS, the ITV contractor who wanted more, was dead. They kept going for as long as they could afford, but were eventually bought and broken up. An end very much the opposite of Southern 11 years before.

Joe Baldwin

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