Tiptoe through the Startups – 4 

2 December 2006 tbs.pm/2128

Roddy Buxton plunges into the TBS archives one more time.

TWW – (1965)

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TWW’s start up music, first used in 1958, was the unwieldily titled ‘South Wales and the West Television March’. It had been composed by the legendary Eric Coates some years earlier under the original title ‘Seven Seas March’. He renamed it himself as part of the process of completing the commission. It was named after the consortium applying for the franchise (‘SWW’) and the original composers title stuck even though the consortium on getting the contract, was renamed ‘TWW’. Whether this re-use by Coates of an earlier work constituted cheating has never been satisfactorily decided but if you can’t plagiarise yourself, who can you? This is a repetitive, rumpity-pumpity march, not nearly up to the standard of his startup pieces for either ATV or the BBC Television Service. Even composers have bad days, it seems.

Nevertheless the piece became well known throughout the region and was even released on an HMV single by public demand – something probably unthinkable today!

ATV – (1972)

A second colour start up theme from “ATV” replaced Coates’ legendary ‘Sound and Vision’ in late 1971. The music is very bold, bright and loud,and is aptly named after the Chief Executive, as ‘The Sir Lew Grade March’.

There are elements of musical parody here and the ‘self importance meter’ is reading high. This music is almost a pastiche of the whole daily startup genre with a pomposity factor so great that one is forced to wonder who was playing a joke on whom.

It is indeed the only ITV startup theme written under a pseudonym (‘Aaron Aardvark’) and to this day it is not fully clear who the composer was. Why they needed a pseudonym is perhaps more obvious.

Towards the end of the piece of music, we cut from the tuning signal (which by then had become a list of transmitters in the region) to a static ATV symbol. It is a shame that this wasn’t an animated build up for what was one of the most well-known logos on British Television. The sense of grand occasion is almost overwhelming at this point. If the first programme was merely something for schools, the sense of anticlimax that must have followed would have been palpable.

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Over the last fanfare of the march we see a new digital experimental clock similar to that as used by Southern in the 1960s. This clock used mechanical rotating numbers and was short lived, soon being replaced with an analogue equivalent.

It was not until towards the end of the 1970s (as technology dictated) that ATV tried again, now with an electronic digital clock.

After a short announcement from familiar ATV voice Trevor Lucas we are presented with an animated but monochrome ident. This was a shortened version of their usual colour logo animation and was used in the seventies to start any black and white programme. We forget now that in the early years of colour, the odd monochrome programme still popped up in the late afternoon. We also forget that until late 1972, programmes only started in the late afternoon. How else did the Test Card girl become famous?

Scottish Television – (1975)

This startup routine begins unremarkably with a list of the local transmitters in service for the Central Scotland area.

The specially commissioned 1957 piece of music ‘Scotlandia’ was played (incredibly) by Geraldo and his Orchestra and reflected the image of the station and the area it served. Scottish folk tunes, laments and traditional songs in orchestral form, formed a reasonable if rather predictable medley.

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At the climax a slowly rotating ‘3D’ STV ‘illuminated name block’ appears. One wonders if the design brief included a nod in the direction of the BBC1 globe? It’s, er, a square world.

3D style idents were more expensive to produce than the 2D animations traditionally seen on film. Computer graphics didn’t really exist in this era. The closest you got were caption generators and BBC Micro equipment used for the Teletext service.

So 3D idents were usually produced from actual moving models. This seems odd to us now, but was normal for the time. This is a practice Central TV re-used in 1995 when they revamped their logo.

Was it a case with those stations who did use 3D idents that their screen image was of such importance that extra outlay was required to reflect that image?

It needs aesthetic self-discipline to judge the STV image of the time, by the standards of the day and not to dislike it because we can do better now. I am exercising that restraint.

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The background to the station clock appears festooned with continuous and very ‘of their day’ STV logos in bright orange. But of course. This was the seventies. Please do not adjust your set. This is a quite a sight, in style very similar to 1970s kitchen wallpaper. Enough said.

ABC Weekend Television – (1965)

A mid-1960s weekend start up for the Midlands.

Our final opening routine begins with the standard ‘Picasso’ tuning signal caption. It is

interesting to note that by mid 1965 these tuning signals no longer showed the transmitter name but instead the name of the region. This reflected the lengthening list of small booster transmitters being added to the network, to eliminate reception black spots and thus resulted in too many to still name on screen.

The music was ‘Perpetuum Mobile’. This was not the Strauss composition but a fast piece of light music for strings – part dance, part march and part country melody.

This composition became so popular with the audience that when ABC moved to London in 1968 and became ‘Thames Television’ after merging their TV subsidiary with Rediffusion, the music was carried forward as one of Thames’ two consecutive daily startup themes. It became the only ITV opening tune in history to be used at one time or another in all the major English ITV regions. It had been composed in his spare time by Michael Roberts, an ABC staff member and probably became the second most-remembered ITV opening music after the Dankworth’s legendary ‘Widespread World’ piece for Rediffusion. When dropped in 1969 it was, after only six months absence, hurriedly restored by public demand and lasted Thames Television for another 13 years.

After ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ we hear the transmitter announcement and we end the sequence, and indeed our whole archive tour, with the equally legendary ABC Television Fanfare – composed for the company by Sir Arthur Bliss.

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This is the long arm of the thirties reaching into the fifties and sixties, but I mean that as no criticism. It has pace, presence and a presumption of permanence, for the broadcasting company using it. It is 45 seconds of sheer magic and again gives a sense of occasion that has been missing from ITV presentation since the advent of 24-hour television at the end of the 1980s.

The Archive

The Transdiffusion ITV startups collection, so lovingly and slowly built up over more than 45 years is a credit to all those involved with its planning, organisation and research and now its final use as a resource for media historians. I only looked at a handful of the startups in the library but could tell this was a resource of real value.

The fact that the archive was founded by groups of 1960s boarding school boys in ‘tape recording clubs’ throughout the country and all communicating by ‘tapes in the post’, is one of those things which can be labelled ‘amazing but true’. Could they guess the potential cultural significance of a collection of the sixty or more Independent Television daily startup routines that existed between 1955 and 1988?

These daily startup routines were not (in the main) retained in company archives by ITV themselves and at the time of the ITV50 celebrations, access to the Transdiffusion archive gave assistance to researchers planning celebration material for publication.

Did the schools children know what they were starting? We cannot say – but boy, are we grateful now!

You Say

13 responses to this article

Tony Currie 4 October 2012 at 5:55 pm

It’s all very well tracing history but sometimes it gets invented by someone along the way and the invention sticks. Abd I’m not surprised that Roddy disliked the visuals because they were not authentic!

STV never, never, never opened up with the revolving animation. That’s a Transdiffusion myth. For a start, to do so would have required a dedicated VT or Telecine machine and operator to be on duty every time there was a startup, and such resources did not exist at Cowcaddens until many years after startups were just a vague memory.

Secondly, the clock never, never, never appeared in orange. To create such an image would have required keying of two colours – orange and white, and of course no Scottish television station would have dared to use orange as it was a politically charged colour in the transmission area. But much more simply, the clock was generated by a very tacky industrial black and white camera put through a home brew colouriser, and that created a sort of washy white on blue, thus sticking to the St Andrew’s Cross colours that STV used from when it went colour in 1969.

TONY CURRIE

Senior Announcer, STV

1976 – 1987

Trevor Wilson 23 October 2012 at 8:53 am

Dear Sir’s

I wonder if Mr Currie is right about some of the things he said above because in one of the facebook groups he said that the ITA/IBA never used the greyscale you only have to look at the

test cards from the diamond one to the last one

that they indeed did use it.

thank you

Trevor Wilson 24 October 2012 at 9:02 pm

Dear Sirs

If you go to TV Ark you will find a start-up by

Mr T Currie of an ATV London 1964 but it’s wrong.

Because it’s say’s this is ATV Network they never

said that what they did say was this is ATV that

provides your Saturday and Sunday programes on channel 9 broadcasting on the London transmitter of the Independent Television Authority.

thank you

Tony Currie 19 December 2012 at 2:38 pm

Trevor:

1) The ITA never used a static full-screen greyscale. Of course it was used on test cards but not as a standalone image.

2) I have never contributed anything to TV Ark so whatever might be there in my name wasn’t sourced from me.

Alan Keeling 17 April 2014 at 8:23 pm

I have noticed that Westward TV startups have not yet been mentioned. I know about the colour startup, but I would like to know more about their black & white era startups, from 1961 to 1968/9.

garry robin 6 April 2015 at 2:57 pm

I live in the South of England. I am a 50 year old carrer,for my mother and brother, who are both very ill. My memories of Southern TV”s start up were Black and White untill 1969. Then Blue and White a digitial clock from 1972 untill 1979. Then Blue and White Southern Star IBA logo in Graphic and words and A clock with hands and face. When TVS won the franchise it was exactly the same [except for White letters on Black Background and The TVS start-up music The New Forest March. This continued untill June 1983 when TV am extended thier broadcast hour”s to 9.25am Meridian broadcasting [Which started in 1992. Has always been a 24 hour broadcaster,hence no start-up. I miss the old ITV Regional service. Disabled UK Carrer. GOD BLESS!

Glynis 30 June 2015 at 10:09 am

What was the music played at the start-up of Southern television each day, late 50’s or early 60’s accompanied by film footage of chiller ton down?

Russ J Graham 30 June 2015 at 11:55 am

The tune is Southern Rhapsody by Richard Addinsell, specially composed for Southern.

Joseph Holloway 7 July 2015 at 4:45 pm

as with ATV’s startup theme used to replace the longest-running “Sound and Vision” by Eric Coates wasn’t the “Sir Lew Grande March” used for their first colour startup in November 1969? (with the ITA flag symbol white and black halves)

garry robin simpson 23 October 2015 at 6:27 pm

Writing of Start up””s,why was the original ITA obsessed with a weekday franchise and a seperate weekend service for the same trasmitting aera? No wonder ITV got into Financial problems in 1958. i.e. ATV,ABC and of course THAMES/LWT. In reallity THAMES was a shot gun marrage with ABC. Also doesanybody remember the IBA coulour slides transmitted from 1969 until 1973. There was this girl and a parrot that used to scare the living daylights out of me! I liked Monday”s Newcomers and the IBA Egineering Announcemonts on tuesday. Produced at Hampton Court? Whatever happened to Hampton Court? Then B.T. Towers ending in 1990. From the New Forest GOD BLESS!

Russ J Graham 25 October 2015 at 3:08 pm

1) The ITA was required by law to ensure that the new ITV system not only competed with the BBC but also was competitive within the system itself. Each contractor was meant to compete for programmes, staff and advertising. Dividing the main regions into weekday and weekend contracts made that competition happen.

2) ITV was just getting of of trouble in 1958. Associated-Rediffusion had deep pockets and had kept the system running by keeping itself, ATV in London and the Midlands and Granada on air with subsidies of various types. By 1958, A-R was rolling in money, proving how wise they were to keep ITV going.

3) Thames was a shotgun marriage, arranged by the ITA, of ABC North and Midlands with the existing London weekdays contractor Rediffusion, in which ABC had the majority shareholding and dominated the new company.

4) No, I don’t remember those cards.

5) No, Hampton Court is Henry VIII’s summer palace, which was, so far as I know, not equipped for television transmission, unless The Doctor had visited. The IBA Engineering Announcements were produced at Crawley Court, Winchester, the headquarters of the IBA Engineering Department. When the IBA was privatised, the Engineering Department became NTL plc, which has since sold the transmission system and Crawley Court and all the transmitters are now owned by Arqiva plc (not to be confused with Aviva, Arriva, Activia or Artevea).

6) I don’t know what you mean by “B.T. Towers ending in 1990”. The BT Tower in London is most definitely still there, as are the other ones in the other major cities.

Keith Cunliffe 16 July 2017 at 10:03 am

The transmitter named Picasso tuning slides, Yes I have a full set as used in the late 50s and 60s and the later regional ones, and the ones with the contractors name, And some 40 odd start-up musics and anno’s collected when I visited all the main ITA transmitters from Fremont Point, to Mounteagle , a collection of over 170 original ITA slides,. All this will be destroyed when I die, as my family have no interest in this field at all. Keith.

Geoff Nash 1 August 2017 at 10:22 pm

GarRyanair Robin Simpson I do remember the colour ITA/IBA slides you mentioned,I’mean sure I recall them being book-ended with a caption acknowledging them being supplied by Kodak.

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