The grammar of television 

1 January 2002 tbs.pm/1749

ATV/IBA authority card

In memories of the history of post-war British TV presentation it is probably the daily start-up routines of Independent Television which are now revered the most by those viewers of the time who took an interest in the framing of the TV output.

These were icons of their day and probably represent the ‘holy grail’ of television presentation, showing as they do, not just the development of graphics, continuity and theme music but changes in the priorities of television as each decade passed. This reflected changes in society and the slow decline of paternalism as a broadcasting style.

The original chroniclers and archivists of this phenomenon were as unlikely a group of people as you would expect to find studying media policy.

Groups of boys from boarding schools in the 1960s took an interest in an aspect of broadcasting that most adults of the day regarded as ephemeral. As part of the activities of ‘tape recording clubs’, a popular pastime of the day at these schools, a number of such groups across the country ‘got together’ and formed The National Radiotape Network (NRN) for the exchange of audio recordings.

At that time, an upsurge of youth interest in the broadcasting industry had been caused by the phenomenal success of offshore or ‘pirate’ radio stations based on ships at sea. These were anchored off the British coastline to avoid the radio licensing laws that maintained the BBC radio monopoly of the time and it became cool for teenagers throughout the UK to exchange audio tapes of different offshore stations.

Granada's 5 day contract 'Cloud' clock

This activity soon spread to recording regional television networks and thus the first permanent records of continuity output – never saved by the broadcasters themselves – were made.

Continuity – the bits before, between and after the actual programmes reflected the ethos and priorities of the television companies of the day, which in turn gave a snapshot of media style in Britain at the time.

The first thirty years of Independent Television from 1955 to 1985, saw a period of diversity, plurality and variety in station names, branding styles and regional commitment that faded rapidly when 24 hour television and looser regulation later appeared in the late eighties and early nineties

The archive put together by these pioneering British school children – kept going for several years after they became adults – now forms the basis of a unique historical resource, a series of websites and study material.

In Vision On we return to the item of presentation that caused the archive to be established back in the mid-1960s – the daily start up of ITV contractors.

We present the images on this microsite as both a tribute to the unsung TV staff of the day in British television presentation departments, and of the initiative of a group of 1960s British boarding school children – and the teachers who encouraged them – without whom this part of television history would be forgotten.

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