Tiptoe through the Startups – 2
1 Oct 2006 0 comments. tbs.pm/2115
The story so far:
Looking back to the days before 24 hour television swept the concept away and wondering what a younger ITV viewer might make of traditional daily startup routines from the fifties to the seventies, we let Roddy Buxton (born 1975) loose in the Transdiffusion archives. Having sampled in his first ‘dig’ some daily ‘startup routines’ from before he was born and from regions other than his own – he now presses on with his second dive into our cardboard boxes on a journey of cultural discovery!
Part Two: “Another Country”.
‘The past is another country’ it is said – and judging by some of the older examples in the archive that is indeed true. Though there is no mystery; it’s an understandable ‘other country’ and it’s actually we who have changed…
Granada’s ‘pan north’ weekday service (1956-68)
The supposedly legendary Granada March begins with an amazingly drawn-out fanfare as the ‘Picasso’ tuning signal jumps into view. With the vivid contrasts of 405 line VHF monochrome this would have been dramatic.
There were, it seems, two tuning signals used in the North during this era. One for Granada’s weekday service and a marginally different one used by ABC at weekends. Why this is so is not clear as both only had very subtle differences.
The march rather suddenly fades out mid- way and the legally required regulator’s ‘Authority Announcement’ is made.
On screen the Granada arrow symbol trade mark, the ‘inverted dipole’, appears with the actual company name on almost ‘nursery style’ square blocks. The sudden fade down and just as sudden fade back up seem amateur by today’s standards of vision and sound mixing, but in the largely caption driven environment of the day there was presumably little choice.
At the end of the march appears a clock with a mellow ‘clouds’ backdrop. This truly was a station ‘on the air’!
Channel Television (1974)
Having family living in the Channel Islands I did manage to catch a fair amount of this station in the 1970s, but in their colour era.
Channel was the last of the ITV stations to convert to a full colour service. Colour finally arrived on the Channel Islands television sets in 1976 – a mere 7 years after the ‘big 5′ ITV stations had started the process!
This slow roll out to outlying regions was presumably due to tight budgets for transmitter development and the necessary studio refurbishment. Cost of the latter fell on the franchise holders and Channel Television was the smallest programme contractor of all.
The start routine up I am seeing dates from 1974 – just before colour arrived. Again, no expensive animated content but a static IBA caption summarising ‘transmitters in service’ accompanied by a very grand sounding march, World Power.
The legally required ‘Authority Announcement’ is sandwiched between this march and a further theme called Five By Five. Both are heard over the IBA Transmitter list. A list, it must be said, of one transmitter. Ah, the indignities of being the smallest company in the network!
Five by Five sounds essentially as if lifted from a feature film score and the station’s long lived 5-Hexagon ident is played at its conclusion, each hexagon apparently representing one of the main islands. We mix to the Channel clock, a mechanical-looking timepiece and bold looking even in monochrome.
For a small and under-resourced station this routine manages to convey an impression of substance. No mean feat on a tiny budget.
Yorkshire Television (1976)
Seeing this startup in colour for the first time ever was a wonderful novelty. As child I lived on the border of two ITV regions, receiving ATV on our swanky new colour set and Yorkshire Television on the black and white set that had, classically, been relegated to the dining room.
This arrangement was particularly useful when there was something on one station you didn’t really want to watch. There were more regional variations and local ‘opt-outs’ in those days and ‘multi channel television’ could be created in the home by judicious use of extra aerials and ‘out of region’ viewing. Children became the experts at this and often taught the skills to their parents!
The startup routine I unearthed dates from 1976, more than 6 years after the introduction of colour, and is a novelty to me. Historically, it is from a period shortly after the legendary transmitter swap from Anglia to Yorkshire, for the citizens of Lincolnshire to be ‘better accommodated’ into the regional ITV structure.
The transmitter at Belmont was newly broadcasting the YTV service, adding both Lincolnshire and North Nottinghamshire to the coverage area. This is here demonstrated on screen in a proud new coverage map displayed during much of the the opening march.
This daily march routine always seemed very abrupt to me as a child, conveying a military ethos which also seemed to be reflected in the Yorkshire Television logo and fanfare of the day. Again there is no moving content but this seems normal for the time. It is hard to imagine the extended use of static captions for minutes on end being acceptable to the more fidgety and flighty viewers of today!
Interesting in this context to discover that the only moving YTV logos known are the original monochrome animation used from launch in mid-1968 to the end of black and white production in November 1969, and a coloured animation that was part of the title sequence to the quiz show “3-2-1″ – with the YTV ‘Chevron’ taking off like a rocket!
It seems to have been only in the late 1980s that animation of the YTV logo became the norm – and even then, only in their own area and never on a networked show!
Over the last fanfare of the rousing Ron Goodwin march arrangement we see the YTV clock presented in a very dark-looking yellow on a black background. This clock also showed the date. While not a new innovation (Thames Television used the idea in 1968) it would no doubt have seemed innovative at the time.
This daily routine was used for a number of years and became very popular among its viewers. When the music was replaced in 1982, petitions were organised for its reinstatement but they were not successful. A daily march had had its day!
Associated Rediffusion (1955)
Another offering from A-R: I found this a bit of a rarity. It should be noted ‘for starters’ that during the early days of ITV some stations used two different daily startup routines, one for daytime programming and another for evening use, closedown from 6 to 7pm being the normal habit in the mid fifties. This ‘toddlers truce’ was an agreement between television companies and The Post Office, the then government ministry regulating broadcasting, to get the nation’s children to bed without tears after television’s equivalent of ‘Children’s Hour’. What seems over-intrusive and paternalistic regulation to us today was just seen as ‘thoughtful planning’ at the time!
The daily opening music used here for afternoon transmissions in London on weekdays had originally been heard in the Margaret Rutherford feature film ‘Blithe Spirit’ and reminded me instantly of the ‘classic film days’ we ran while I worked as a projectionist for the ‘Odeon’ cinema chain. It seemed a perfect fit for afternoon viewing in 1955.
The A-R star logo or ‘Adastral’ appears during the sequence purposefully spinning, though the purpose is implied rather than stated. ‘Diffusion’, one supposes, of the rays and thus by metaphor the station’s output.
At the foot of the caption we find the words ‘Channel 9′. This comes from an era when channel numbers related to transmitter frequencies rather than a numerical sequencing of national networks.
Finally we see a clock of startlingly different style to the heraldic version used in the evening transmissions. This is in a sunny modern kitchen style and is at once both informal and curiously demanding of attention. This is as a result of an almost indescribable ‘sun ray effect’ emitted from the clock face as the second hand progresses.
This astonishing clock looked to me like something that could have been used in the BBC’s later Playschool programme. Its rotating centre seems based on an extended model of the A-R star, and curiously has no clock hands as such but squat arrows almost ‘clipped on’ on to the perimeter of a smaller white circle placed within the clock face. An astonishing piece of modern art the fifties and I suspect both trail blazing and unpopular with those of conservative taste. Indeed it does not seem to have lasted long.
This was evidently ‘ultra nouveau’ as a design concept in 1955 but does not appear to have outlived the end of the short daytime transmissions of the era, when the first financial crisis hit this pioneering ITV contractor later that same year. The heraldic evening clock seems to triumph over the ‘kitchen moderne’ version and holds the ring for a further nine years.
Somebody in the company evidently disliked it.
Men In Evening Suits – 1, Trendy Housewives Nil.
Next month, Roddy concludes his journey through the Transdiffusion archives.