In a new series of articles, Roddy Buxton examines the contents of some cardboard boxes in the Transdiffusion cellar, and finds something of interest to new readers...
If you were to ask any child today what ITV region they lived in, the chances would be that you would get a very blank look and an answer such as Don't know' or ITV1'.
Turn the clock back to 1975, the year I was born and you would be more than likely to get ATV, Thames, Southern or even Granadaland.
So what is the difference? The answer is channel identity and how it was presented.
Nowadays the brand is a screen style for a specific channel devised by consultants, brand managers and graphic designers.
In 1975 the on screen identity promoted a television company as a company first, a broadcaster next and familiar source of entertainment third. The channel identifier was still usually the trademark of the company holding that particular franchise. The logo was usually decided by in-house graphics designers and normally created with a modest budget. The final 'go ahead' lay with the top management and sometimes even the board of directors. Each station had their own unique identity.
Turn the clock back 20 more years to 1955, when ITV opened in London and the trade mark of the company holding the franchise was considered of critical importance. ITV was the first station to compete with the BBC, so it's presence had to be felt.
My interest in television began in what must have been late 1978/early 1979 when my parents purchased our first colour set. I was not interested in the programmes but what came on before, in between and after them. On ITV in particular there seemed much variety in the graphic work. With 15 stations in the network, variety was the watchword.
Younger people today are now often quite unaware that 24 hour television is a relatively recent idea in the UK, and that television once closed down each night and re-opened the next morning. Indeed in the first 17 years of ITV the broadcasting hours were limited by government to about 7 hours a day with slightly longer at weekends and so programmes generally did not start until the late afternoon.
The daily reopening of each station was a formal affair, handing transmitters over from the broadcasting authority to the regional franchise holder on a daily basis - with Test Card and music between spells of programming. This handover usually consisted of a so called 'tuning signal', logo slides or animations, 'voiceover' announcements and in some regions a very short film. Typically this might be a few fragmentary moments of local scenery morphing into the broadcasting company trademark on screen.
This was accompanied by a specially composed or selected piece of music; no expense was spared here, with fine British composers like William Walton, Arthur Bliss, Eric Coates, and Richard Addinsell pressed into service with commission after commission. It was a piece of music defined to reflect the image of the station and perhaps the cultures of the area it served.
This music, typically five minutes in duration and heard several times daily would usually reach some climactic orchestral chorus towards its end and the television company trademark ('symbol' or 'ident') often animated, would fly into view to impress the identity on the viewers.
The introduction of 24 hour TV at the end of the eighties saw these imaginative Start-up and Closedown sequences vanish overnight. These stop frame animated sequences ended up as a dusty film tins in the archives and in came the computers, outsourced brand managers' and a steady take over of television company Presentation Departments by marketing 'experts'.
Today it is a given that the role of presentation is to raise the ratings by using the space between the programmes for trailers, promotions and film clips. In days of old it was the channel image itself that was the target of the promotions.
Luckily this magical world of old style television presentation is not lost forever. It has been painstakingly preserved by the team at the Transdiffusion Archives - who have amassed an almost complete collection of traditional daily opening routines from all the ITV regions from 1955 to 1988.
Access to this treasure trove, at the invitation of the commissioning editor, was finally a chance for me to actually see what TV was like in other areas of the country than my own, even before my time! Here's just a few of the gems I found in the archives.
One of the first daily opening routines to feature on ITV, this comes complete with a voiceover from legendary Movietone News' announcer Leslie Mitchell.
All of the start-up' sequences of the day began with a tuning signal. This version uses ITA Tuning Signal 2. It was later replaced with the more familiar so called Picasso style tuning signal design that many middle-aged people will remember from childhood. The lack of symmetry in the latter makes it rare in television graphics.
It is also interesting to note that the start-up sequences were very formal on-screen and featured virtually no moving images apart from morphing company logos and clocks.
The A-R startup featured a rotating Associated-Rediffusion ident and the company logo - a star known as the adastral'.
The sequence ends with the A-R clock, named 'Mitch' after Leslie Mitchell who commissioned it. It is very grand looking timepiece, worthy of a mantelpiece in a stately home at least. Perhaps that was the image they wanted to put across?
Anglia Television (1965)
Anglia Television is remembered by most viewers over twenty for it's long lived company symbol, the famous silver knight on the horse. Dating from 1959, this was the first of the ITV idents to be produced using a 3D model and certainly the first to use a hunting trophy found in a silversmith's shop in Bond Street!
The Anglia Knight was one of the longest-serving television trade marks, and became well-known far and beyond its own region. Sale of the Century, Survival and Tales of the Unexpected would have seemed naked without it - and did, once the trademark was superseded in the late eighties.
In reality the Anglia knight stands 3ft tall. It is on display at the East of England Archive in Norwich. It belies its size on screen.
The Anglia start up, as of 1965, again consisted of the familiar Picasso style' tuning signal caption, accompanied by Sea Songs by Vaughan Williams, the standard ITA announcement and the 'Anglia Knight' in silhouette. The Knight ident is accompanied by a special arrangement of a few lines from Handel's Water Music which was the station theme from 1959 until the the late 1980s. It is a novelty for me to see this familiar colour symbol in black and white!
Ulster Television (1978)
Anglia was the first with the Knight, Westward came second with their Galleon and Ulster had what resembled a silver TV set with a stick through it, with the familiar oscilloscope' logo embossed onto the metalwork of the television.
The music for this start-up (aptly named The Antrim Road) is in effect a military march which is perhaps intended to reflect the fact that marches are part of the Northern Ireland culture [or just that marches were popular for startups for some considerable time? --Ed] .
This sequence is from the colour era and does not feature any moving footage. For the duration of the march we see an IBA Transmitters in service list. Later we see an Ulster TV logo and clock, both with the familiar ITV blue background. No shiny TV set on a pointy stick on this occasion!
Harlech Television (1968)
In 1968 the ITV network underwent a major re-shuffle of licences and franchise areas. New companies were formed and and some transmitters were reassigned to provide a more local service for some viewers.
One of the new companies was Harlech Television (shortened to HTV in the early seventies) which covered Wales and the West of England.
I had remembered Harlech mainly as "HTV" from their later colour era, and always thought that their musical jingle' was strange. It was not so much a fanfare or something bold and brash but some obscure, mellow psychedelic sound
The jury is still out on what instrument this is played on: it has been suggested that it was a Hammond organ with a Leslie rotating loudspeaker. It was certainly an early form of radiophonic sound and features a delay-repeat effect.
The daily opening sequence begins with the familiar Harlech station jingle, a formal announcement, a classic style march' called Young Kingdom and the classic Picasso style' tuning signal caption.
At the completion of the music, we are treated to an extended version of the 'Harlech' visual logo.
The animation work for this ident is a masterpiece. Pink Floyd crossed with Gerald Scarfe and Yellow Submarine. It is a kind of mirrored mesh, shot through a kaleidoscope lens. From this extended animation the word HARLECH becomes slowly apparent through the kaleidoscope effect. It really has to be seen to be believed and was supposedly the talk of the industry at the time.
ATV Midlands - 1969.
Colour came to ITV in November 1969. ATV had taken over the full 7-day licence to broadcast to the Midlands region in 1968.
The whole image of ATV always seemed to be very bold, gallant and bright. It was this company that got me interested in Television presentation in the first place.
ATV was one of the key players in the running of ITV, providing a large percentage of network material.
One of my memories of ATV is that their presentation styles kept evolving and seemed to move with the times as newer technology became available.
The start up I reviewed here is from November 1969, shortly after the introduction of colour.
We see for the first time the newer ITA 'Flag' style tuning signal, with label 'ATV Network'. This was accompanied by Sound and Vision, their original, specially-commissioned 1955 company march. It was notably still in use 14 years on, reflecting the tradition of the time that opening routines should be a daily constant in the viewers' lives and that 'updating' the music was to be resisted! The target was for it to become an institution. The piece was composed by the legendary Eric Coates.
The so called 'ATV Zoom 2' ident features within the start up, but in this case underneath the Coates march rather than with the fanfare it was more famously known for.
At the completion of the startup we see the long-lived ATV clock, again designed in 1955 and still in use 14 years later, albeit now coloured in!
The clock was presented on a blue background with yellow typeface and was of the analogue style. In a moment of inspiration, the clock face design was produced using the shadowed half section of the ATV logo and placed the hands within the central circle.
Another rarity here is the ATV Zoom 2 ident version 1. This early colour version was identical visually to the later version 2 but the accompanying music was a different arrangement for a smaller orchestra.
TV mogul Lew Grade was not happy with the first version and ordered it to be rearranged and 'buffed up' to sound bolder and thereby hangs a tale!
But now, I must shake off the dust and return to the land of the living for another month. Join me again next time as we trawl the Transdiffusion cellars in Tiptoe through the Startups!
Roddy Buxton trained as a lighting designer for theatre and television, and worked for the ABC Cinema circuit as Chief Projectionist in Birmingham, then moved to the Odeon chain. Since leaving Odeon in 1996, he has run an electronics company with a friend, maintaining, designing and building equipment for bands. They also have a service maintaining equipment in cinemas for projection and surround sound. Between 1997 and 2000 he worked freelance for Central TV, repairing broadcast equipment, installing and customizing kit. "Sadly," he says, "I also spent a lot of time at Central in Broad Street, de-commissioning equipment when they shut it down."