Tonight’s Anglia TV… in 1966 

7 December 2016 tbs.pm/10517

The TVTimes tells us what was on Anglia on Wednesday 7 December 1966. Things worth noting include:

  • An hour of table tennis from ATV at 3.20pm is part of the 300 permitted hours per year of Outside Broadcasts over and above the 50 hours per week of normal transmission. This was designed so that the vagaries special events, sports fixtures and horse racing would not undermine the time available for normal evening programming. There seemed to be an insatiable desire for horse racing on television in the sixties and the advertisements allowed made it a profitable exercise for the companies. Table tennis, however, was fairly rare on ITV, and it was possible that the international nature of this tournament was seen as making it a more sellable space for adverts.
  • The closedown listed from 4.20pm to 4.33pm was under the 20 minutes minimum length that the regulations required for properly going off air. After a five minute full re-opening sequence the closedown would have theoretically lasted only 8 minutes. As this would clearly be absurd, we can assume that the station remained on the air for the duration and that an interval caption with light music was the reality of the situation. What the BBC called an interlude the ITA called an interval. The distinction between ITV intervals (requiring an unregulated start-up – with free choice of music used – on resumption of programmes) and temporary closedowns (leading to a regulated start-up with the registered station theme and an authority announcement) was one of the great consistency issues in the ITV presentation departments of the era. From today’s point of view, it seems like a debate about angels dancing on the head of a pin but in the regulatory environment of the sixties, it all seemed to matter desperately. How times change.
  • Reopening with local news headlines at 4.33pm seems unremarkable by today’s standards but then was an unusual commitment that few companies tried at this time. Granada had been latterly using this afternoon slot for great innovation in local corporate identity material and may even have expanded on an original Anglia idea. Such moves could be expensive, as extra scriptwriters and newsroom personnel would be involved in preparation of the bulletin and filmed inserts would add to the overall cost. This trivial tea time item was a bold undertaking for a local company but just the sort of thing that earned many brownie points with the ITA.
  • Romper Room at 4.35pm was an unusual programme. It was based on a US children’s show of the same name but was exported from American television in the form of a copyrighted format, with scripts, running order and props material for local television stations round the world to make their own version. This practice was to become common later and had already appeared in the world of TV quizzes, of which the Americans invented many. At this time however it was a fairly new innovation for children’s television. Four UK companies bought the format and developed their own versions based on the original US shows, but with local material added. Anglia launched the format in 1964, Grampian, Ulster, and Border followed, each developing the show for their own bespoke audience. Aimed mainly at toddlers and younger children, it had particular success on Anglia and Grampian Television.

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  • Like Southern TV, Anglia made a special effort to produce good children’s programmes. Nature Trail at 5.25pm was a case in point. An inter-school competition, with outside broadcast and studio elements, it was expensive but popular. The natural history angle was one familiar to Anglia viewers, with their widely exported Survival series having it’s own department at the station. This show became networked at a later date, when it was renamed The Survival Game and extensively reformatted.
  • About Anglia, the local news programme was on a bit of a good run at this time. The Anglia transmission area had recently been extended with the addition of the new Belmont transmitter on Channel 7. This gave the whole of Lincolnshire and part of Humberside (then Yorkshire) to the Anglia franchise. It was transferred out again in 1974 when Belmont was freshly attached to the Yorkshire franchise, but at this time Anglia saw itself as the company for the whole of Eastern England and not just East Anglia. With the Sandy Heath transmitter on Channel 6, sending signal well into the South East Midlands, and the likes of Cambridge, Northampton and Luton in the sales area, Anglia was on the cusp of a surge in profitability and spent more money on local programming than the minimum required. The company remained the ITA’s favourite middle-ranking ITV company for many years. The list of presenters and reporters on About Anglia was impressive and after their career stint at Norwich, some of the presenters (Bob Wellings, John McGregor, Christopher Robbie, Joan Shenton and Geoffrey Archer – no, the other one – went on to greater fame at other ITV stations and at the BBC). The programme consistently tied with Granada’s Scene at 6.30, Westward Diary and Southern’s Day by Day as the most watched local news programmes on ITV at that time.

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  • Granada’s University Challenge in the 7pm quiz slot was a rare combination of the popular and the cerebral. Decades later it had become the preserve of the intelligentsia and was sold by Granada to the BBC; but in 1966 it was still riding strongly as an ITV flagship programme – another thing to impress the ITA, which was the name of the game in those days.
  • An American import filled the 8pm slot – something that the ITA was generally unhappy with. Imports, it felt, were for outside the peaks and home material preferred by the regulator for mid-evening. What was only an eyebrow raiser at this point became a firm guidance line after the 1968 network changes.

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  • The main news of the evening still ran from 8.55pm to 9.10pm – a full fifteen minutes – with the advertised 9.10pm programme invariably starting (nationally) at 9.12pm. It was pretty standard for the TV Times to round down these times by a couple of minutes. Another eyebrow raising practice – even About Anglia at 6.05pm really began at 6.08pm most nights). Advertisers throughout the country were well pleased at this permanent and ongoing sleight of hand in the listings department.
  • The skill of ITV’s first golden age from 1964 to 1968 was in balanced evenings with something for every taste, every night. It rather trounced the staid BBCtv scheduling on the other side. The Cinema magazine programme with Michael Scott was both popular and long running. Other presenters included James Cameron and George Melly; and the programme was never far from the TAM ratings top twenty. Another boon for regular advertisers.
  • Intertel Presents was another long running ITV project, which appeared most years with a handful of top class documentaries made jointly with overseas broadcasters. Some time earlier, Rediffusion in London, ABC of Australia, CBC of Canada and NET of the USA (which would be replaced by PBS in 1970) had formed a joint committee to produce an annual documentary each, giving a series that could be transmitted quarterly. Some of the American NET productions were made in association with Westinghouse (“Group W”) and all were of a remarkably high standard. This particular edition was a high profile affair, with Alistair Cooke being commissioned by Lord Windlesham of Rediffusion to write the narration. It was an award winning factual programme of high quality and studied the history of the post-war Anglo-American alliance. This was a programme of the type you would not find on ITV in peak time today but was fairly common in the sixties due to quotas of programme types that ITV companies were each required to produce as part of their contractual obligations. This sort of genre requirement was swept away in 1990 as part of the deregulation mania of the post-Reagan/Thatcher world. Its loss was an engine of ITV’s later decline in the world of public service and factual programming, with such material as survived the cull being moved to late night slots. The Rediffusion productions in this series were of substantial quality and had high budgets, flowing from Rediffusion’s lifelong mission to be the BBC with adverts.

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  • The eclectic parade of evening material continues with sport at 10.40pm and a recorded relay of an international football match. This came from Amsterdam and was no doubt produced by one of the Netherlands network contributing organisations – but is here credited as an Independent Television Presentation, a euphemistic way of taking credit for someone else work.
  • After a further news round-up at 11.25pm the weekly ITN magazine Reporting ’66 took to the air with a half hour of material that had been too lengthy or too heavy to fit into the standard bulletins. This show had replaced the earlier Roving Report and ITN Reports strands, and was folded into the new, extended News at Ten some eighteen months later. This was public service television with knobs on – and continued to solidify ITV in the public mind, as every bit as substantial as the BBC at that time. The 1964-8 period was one of the two ITV golden ages, with the Thames- and Granada-led golden age of 1975 to 1985 to follow.

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You Say

6 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 7 December 2016 at 1:23 pm

Rosalyn Thompson (Miss Rosalyn) was well qualified for presenting “Romper Room” – she’d previously been a nursery nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Could have been so different, though – Esther Rantzen also auditioned for “Romper Room”.

Though not in this particular edition of “About Anglia”, another famous alumnus of the show, as mentioned in a recent article on this bespoke site, is Judy Finnigan.

Arthur Nibble 7 December 2016 at 4:40 pm

“Combat!” was an ABC (USA) production, depicting the tribulations of an American squadron in France during World War II. The showed lasted 152 episodes from October 1962 to March 1967.

Westy 7 December 2016 at 8:31 pm

Police Call editor Michael Hollingsworth?

The same one that hooked up with Anne Diamond years later?

Paul Mason 11 December 2016 at 4:06 am

Cinema did have many presenters but the most regular was Michael Parkinson until he went to BBC1. Clive James.was another later presenter. ITV dropped the show handing the type of show to Barry Norman’s “Film (year number)”.
Anglia’s most famous contributions were Survival, and Sale Of The Century. The former was more lauded than the latter! (Nicholas Parsons is still going at 93, on BBC Radio 4s Just A Minute)
ITV still does the odd serious documentary but not as frequently as the past. Alistair Cooke was to present BBC Radio 4/World Service Letter From America from 1946 until close to his death aged 96 in 2004. He also presented a BBC2 series called America in 1972.

Alan Keeling 13 December 2016 at 8:12 pm

The Robin Hood adventure at 5.00, comes from season 3 (1957/58) with Gordon Jackson amongst its cast list, whilst the US wartime series, Combat, also in its 3rd season (1964/65) has Warren Stevens in its cast.

Alan Keeling 21 December 2016 at 8:59 pm

Nice to see Christopher Robbie on the About Anglia news team + continuity announcer for the region.

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