Don’t forget the TV Times 

1 January 2004 tbs.pm/3397

June, 1961 – The biggest modern success story in the world of publishing – that was the basic fact about the TV Times, the magazine which was originally promoted by Associated-Rediffusion. Since May 1960 the TV Times had been run by a separate company called TV Publications Ltd, whose chairman was Associated-Rediffusion’s managing director, Mr Paul Adorian. TV Publications Ltd was also responsible for TV Express, TV Comic and TV Land for children. This article by C. E. T. Scott was specially written for Fusion, Associated-Rediffusion’s award-winning in-house magazine, and appeared in their June 1961 issue.

A record unparalleled in the history of modern publishing. That is the story of TV Times in a nutshell.

When Independent Television went on the air on Thursday, September 22,1955, the first issue of TV Times was already on the streets. The 300,000 copies on sale in London and the area covered by the ITA’s Croydon transmitter carried details of the gala opening night and the programmes to be screened for the next nine days by Associated-Rediffusion and the Associated Broadcasting Co. Ltd, which later became Associated TeleVision.

Gough Square offices

Our first headquarters were in a cramped, unattractive room tucked away on the third floor of a building in Gough Square behind Fleet Street, standing cheek by jowl with what had been the London residence of Dr Samuel Johnson.

We started there in June 1955, with the nucleus of what has now become a 120-strong team organised into a half-dozen or so departments in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton and Norwich.

There was only one way to reach our penthouse eyrie – a puffing, breathless climb up 86 stone steps. But that was the least of our worries. One of our biggest nightmares in those days was trying to get hold of information – and pictures.

We started off, for instance, with three ‘shots’ of Richard Greene as Robin Hood, so it didn’t take us long to run out of variations on that theme. But on this somewhat shaky foundation we built the library of nearly 90,000 pictures on which we can draw today.

They were experimental days for TV Times as well as for Independent Television. Ideas were thought up and often discarded, almost from minute to minute.

In those days we used the letterpress method of printing, which is the process by which your daily newspaper is printed. An early technique was for all ‘copy’ to be ‘proofed’ in columns, then cut up and pasted up on layout sheets to indicate to the printer the form in which we wanted it.

The TV Times art department

The TV Times art department

We had anxious moments when a little bit of paper was missing at the vital moment, which meant a frantic scramble among the ankle-deep snippets on the floor. Still, there was a certain amount of satisfaction for us when the last proof was finally passed for press and on its way by taxi to the printer.

Oh, we had our lighter moments, too. The Tower of London, for instance, was not, in those days, the only place to boast a ‘ceremony of the keys’. We had our own. The office rule was ‘Last man out switches off and locks up’. Often this ‘duty’ turned out to be a dead-heat between the editor and the deputy editor – now, by the way, the editor.

Then there was the problem of the heavy steel door in the corner of the office. It bore the magic words ‘Lavatory and Emergency Exit’, and as it was the only one it was a case of ‘counting the heads’ in the office and then making a furtive dash.

Seven months after London went on the air, in April 1956, the Midlands, with weekday programmes from ATV and weekend from ABC, gave us our second edition, and the third – the Northern, from Granada and ABC – followed less than a month later. In September, TV Times announced its first 1,000,000 circulation.

Shortly afterwards, Associated Newspapers ceased to play a part in the running of TV Times and this coincided with our first move – from Gough Square to Television House.

Stanley Naish

At this time, too, the first real executive and senior staff changes also took place with Mr Stanley Naish (above) being appointed general manager.

This change of home brought us into much closer personal contact with the world of television, and, for the first time, too, we had room to move about. (The secretaries were very much in favour; tea now came round on a trolley, and they didn’t have to make it over a tiny gas ring behind that heavy steel door marked ‘L & E.E.’.)

By the end of the summer of 1957 we completed a big switchover in our printing methods to the modern technique of photogravure, with all its many technical advantages. And by this time, too, the second million had been added to our circulation.

Twelve months in Television House brought accommodation problems again, and in April, 1958, we took over a complete floor in Bishop’s House, High Holborn, one of London’s streamlined new office blocks.

Southern Television meant another new edition for us in May, 1958, and in October of that year we topped our 3,000,000 copies. The Anglia edition, our latest, came out on October 23, 1959. Now our circulation figure is in the region of 4,000,000.

Our headaches, of course, have grown with our circulation. It’s not easy to convince programme companies that the whole process of producing one complete issue is spread over something like three weeks from first to last.

Nor is it easy to service six independent companies at the same time and hold a balance between their demands. Everybody, of course, would like to have the ‘cover’ every week. It is quite a job to see that they all get their fair share.

It is the same with feature space allocation, especially when the companies change over their seasonal schedules and perhaps a dozen or so brand new programmes come on the air.

Many famous people have written for TV Times, among them Peter Ustinov, the Right Hon. R. A. Butler. Dom Moraes, Princess Aly Khan, Arthur Miller, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Birkett, Dr Charles Hill, Lord Morrison, Yehudi Menuhin, John Braine, A. J. Cronin, Salvador Dali, Paul-Henri Spaak, Brendan Behan, Lord Brabazon, John Betjeman, Lord Woolton, Stephen Potter, Sir Kenneth Clark, Sir Vivian Fuchs, Cardinal Godfrey, Professor Lovell, the Right Hon. Ernest Marples, Sir Ralph Richardson, and personalities from nearly every walk of life.

Gerald Scheff

What of the future? I can do no better than quote our editor, Gerald Scheff (above), when he talked to his editorial staff on taking up his appointment at the beginning of this year:

“The objective is not only to sell the finest programme magazine in still bigger numbers; it is also to sell the aims and achievements of Independent Television as a whole and those of the programme companies we represent in particular.

“We will bang the drum even more strongly than we have so far about the attractions of the programmes we detail

“And we will also continue, and where possible expand, the policy of using the biggest names to write for TV Times.”

Going to press

Action in the sub editors’ department as the TV Times goes to press. Mr G. Clayton, the production editor, is at the top desk in the centre (standing in shirt sleeves).

Reprinted from Fusion, June 1961

A Transdiffusion Presentation

Report an error

Author

C.E.T. Scott Contact More by me

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Saturday 23 October 2021