24 May 2004 3 comments. tbs.pm/2004
Wales (West and North) Television – Teledu Cymru
West and north Wales: 1962-1964 (Bankruptcy, taken over by TWW)
All Wales (as part of TWW): 1965-1968 (Lost franchise)
How far does the principal of regionalism go? The ITA in 1955 felt that it could push it pretty far. Outside of the geographically well defined ‘Big Three’ regions – London, Midlands, North – the possibility that each transmitter, or group of transmitters, could have its own company seemed a good policy.
Booming Britain had ‘never had it so good’, and a new baby-boom generation was growing up under the watchful eye of Atlee’s post-war National Health Service and the welfare state, expecting us as a nation to go onwards and forwards.
That could apply to ITV as much as any part of British life. As the ITA sketched the probable transmitter map for the country, several things became apparent. Huge overlaps could not be avoided. Areas that considered themselves discrete entities to other areas would have to share a region or be divided into two or three regions. And Wales, that most distinct of ‘regions’, was going to be a problem.
After the main areas of England were catered for, the ITA turned to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. These areas were obviously the most separate from England – mainly as their population could not, under any circumstances, ever be called English.
In Scotland, to spread the risks, the northern area was separated from the populous midland area, which itself was divorced from the anglicised Borders and Scottished Northumbrian lands.
In Northern Ireland, one company with heavy responsibilities, covered an area divided by many things, few of them geographic.
In the Channel Islands, technical difficulties caused problems beyond those faced by the smallest of all companies serving the smallest of all regions.
In Wales, the ITA faced a daunting problem. Though the resurgent and welcome Welsh Nationalism visible in today’s National Assembly was still years away from become such a potent force, the geography of the region was a nightmare to be faced there and then. Transmitters need to be high enough to look down on the population they serve. Masts are limited by physics and practical considerations as to their size. In other words, a mountain is usually required.
St Hillary was to be that mountain. But any station put there to serve England would also serve the most populous region of Wales. Any transmitter serving Wales would also serve Bristol and Bath, as well as most of the western Midlands and west country.
It had to be this way, and TWW were charged with providing the first dual region from just one channel. The TWW General Service (as it would be later known) provided some Welsh-language material, some English-language Welsh material and some English-language western England material.
With the populous areas of south Wales served, the ITA could be happy with this compromise. Then the muttering began. Although south Wales had Welsh-language material available, and north Wales could gain access via fringe reception of specially-provided Granada Welsh-language programmes, the valleys of north Wales and the heartlands of west Wales could not.
The ITA was pressured by a consortium of Welsh-speaking businessmen into providing a north and west Wales region. The ITA asked the Conservative (in both meanings of the word) Postmaster General to allow this. As lobbying continued, the PMG agreed, but with strict provisos. This new service must not offer viewers in Wales a choice other viewers do not have. The service must schedule peak-time Welsh-language programming. The service must produce original material of its own without relying on more than 40% of programmes being provided by Granada and TWW.
These punitive and spiteful regulations were accepted, and the contract went to Wales Television Limited (later changed to Wales (West and North) Television Limited after objections by TWW in the south). Then, the transmitter network, on the highest mountains closest to Milford Haven, Pwllheli and Wrecsam, proved virtually impossible to establish. When Preseli (for Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and Cardigan) came on air in September 1962, so did Teledu Cymru.
It wasn’t to last. The delay in getting the Arfon and Moel-y-Parc transmitters running for Pwllheli and Wrecsam destroyed the morale and finances of WWN.
Free programming from the network, plus other support from neighbours ABC, Granada, ATV and TWW kept the ship – barely – afloat. Granada decided that self-help was the best help, and cancelled its Welsh-language programming. Rather than force Welsh viewers to WWN, this was the final straw for them, losing a valuable programming stream to relay.
In 1964, WWN died a painful death, despite help and encouragement from its siblings. To gain control of the territory, TWW offered a very generous package to shareholders, plus the promise of keeping the name on air. Teledu Cymru then outlived its parent for 4 years.
With little or no presentation left from the independent period before WWN was rescued by southern neighbour TWW, this ident has become best known for the station.
In fact it differs little from the original Teledu Cymru ident, save for sitting a little higher on the screen, a very slightly different dragon and less space between the name and symbol.
TWW’s branding – yet another way of displaying the name – makes a subtle appearance at the bottom of the screen. Its name was rarely spoken on air (if the announcers could help it), but was heard during the infrequent joint continuity on Sunday mornings, and in the run up to the closure of TWW in 1968.
The rounded tones of character actor and then-chief announcer of TWW list for us the pleasant-sounding Welsh transmitters of Teledu Cymru after the TWW take over and the coming on-stream of the south Wales transmitter for the service.
Ironically, had this extra VHF channel been made available to the late WWN, it might have saved them from bankruptcy. But then we would never have heard Ivor Roberts making such a lyrical announcement – and not as rushed as his TWW one.
Some authentic off-air continuity now, as the late Christine Godwin- leads us from ident to timecheck to the then-new News at Ten. Christine was also presenter of the “Croeso Christine” adult education series that taught Welsh to those viewers who had not grown up speaking it, by Christine herself learning it on screen. She was the only non Welsh speaker on the TWW announcing team, and wanted to remedy the fact!
The first headline, by the way, was the Cultural Revolution in China reaching a crisis point.