Three giants 

2 March 2015 tbs.pm/6125

With 27 companies and almost 60 years of broadcasting under its belt, Independent Television has a very large number of familiar voices and faces that we have known and loved popping up between the programmes to keep us entertained and informed.

Across a regional structure, most of these people remained virtually unknown outside of their home company’s area, except when appearing on television in their own right as an actor or presenter or putting in a shift or two as relief cover somewhere else on the network. A name like Neville Wanless means a lot to many viewers in the Tyne Tees area, but step outside the region into Border or Yorkshire territory and you’ll get blank faces if you mention him. In each area and in each company there are local favourites, some of whom had a national profile. But three names always stand out in any list of ITV announcers – the three heroes of continuity, recognised in their time and by history as being greats in their fields.

Leslie Mitchell

 

TVTimes article announcing Leslie Mitchell's promotion to Head of Presentation at A-R in August 1956

TVTimes article announcing Leslie Mitchell’s promotion to Head of Presentation at A-R in August 1956

 

Leslie Mitchell launches Associated-Rediffusion on 22 September 1955, between British Grenadiers and Cockaigne

The original continuity announcer, the man who defined the role for two generations, was Leslie Mitchell. He was there at the dawn of the medium, introducing programmes and stars on the pre-war BBC Television Service. After television’s wartime hiatus he was back in 1946 to do the same job before jumping ship from the BBC in 1955 to join the new Associated-Rediffusion in London. His was the first voice ever heard on ITV. In 1974 he was Roy Plomley’s castaway on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs. The interview is preserved by the BBC. He died in 1985.

 

Leslie Mitchell makes the Associated-Rediffusion authority announcement before Rediffusion March (aka Music Everywhere), used 1956-1957

 

John Benson

 

Video of John Benson announcing at the start of The Eamonn Andrews Show courtesy of TvTimes1966 on YouTube

 

 

John Benson makes the ABC North authority announcement between Perpetuum Mobile and the ABC March, used 1959-1968

 

You need a good square meal, and Weetabix will provide it in the mid-1960s – and provide John Benson to do the ‘voice of god’ bit telling the housewife what to do.

The announcer’s announcer, the “herald of them all” according to Southern’s Christopher Robbie as he prepared to close that station for the final time, was John Benson. His voice was to become famous nationally thanks to its rich tones working wonderfully in a range of television quiz shows – it’s him saying “And now, from Norwich, it’s the quiz of the week!” at the start of Sale of the Century. He was ABC North’s chief announcer for many years, going freelance upon the establishment of Thames, where he was paid by the second to announce, and made a good living from it. He died in 1995.

 

Video of the titles of Sale of the Century courtesy of allenjeremy on YouTube

 

Redvers Kyle

 

Brief interview with Redvers Kyle in a December 1963 TVTimes

Brief interview with Redvers Kyle in a December 1963 TVTimes

 

Redvers Kyle makes the authority announcement for A-R in 1958 over the Associated Rediffusion March, used 1957-1964

 

We all know Redvers Kyle’s voice, even if we don’t know his name. The deep, chocolately tones with the unusual British-South African accent were much in demand for advertisements, voiceovers and even videogame characters between his arrival in the UK on the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company’s vessel ‘Pretoria Castle’ on 29 August 1952 up until his retirement in the 1990s. He was an announcer on Associated-Rediffusion under Leslie Mitchell, dabbled in music writing, and became chief announcer of Rediffusion London before going to Leeds to be chief announcer of the new Yorkshire Television in 1968.

 

Redvers Kyle makes the authority announcement (over Widespread World of Rediffusion, used 1964-1968) for Rediffusion London in 1965

 

Redvers Kyle makes the authority announcement for YTV in 1974 over Yorkshire Television March, used 1968-1981

 

Manifest of the Pretoria Castle, which Redvers Kyle arrived in the UK on in 1952

Manifest of the Pretoria Castle, which Redvers Kyle arrived in the UK on in 1952

 

Redvers Kyle announces for Rediffusion London in this tele-snap taken off-screen in a London hotel in 1966

Redvers Kyle announces for Rediffusion London in this tele-snap taken off-screen in a London hotel in 1966

 

Busy Bachelor, a piece of music written by Redvers Kyle and used by ABC as a start-up tune in the late 1950s

 

 

Redvers Kyle closes down Yorkshire Television for the night on Friday 10 August 1984

 

Redvers Kyle makes the authority announcement for YTV over Chris Gunning’s New Yorkshire Theme and introduces today’s programmes in 1982

You Say

8 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 2 March 2015 at 2:12 pm

Somewhere, probably in a voiceover booth, Colin Weston reads this and thinks “I coulda been a contender!”

Great article. I miss those halcyon days of continuity announcers.

Arthur Nibble 5 March 2015 at 9:12 pm

I love the little female laugh just before the ABC ident for “The Eamonn Andrews Show”. I take it that laugh was transmitted live?

I had to look up a couple of Eamonn’s guests as, to my shame, I’d never heard of Peter Moloney (Scouse comic) and Sir John Barbirolli (famous music conductor).

Kif Bowden-Smith 8 March 2015 at 7:45 pm

The laugh was a member of the studio audience and was caught on the incoming line from the OB unit, by mistake. The transmission controllers had probably opened the fader too early. It was a live broadcast as part of the two special weekends celebrating ten years of ABC Weekend TV in 1966 (520 weekends!). ABC Midlands was three months older than ABC North, so there were some celebrations in the February and some in the May.

Brandon Olson 19 March 2015 at 12:19 am

Because live programs in different ITV regions could overrun, was the phrase

“We now join [the program], already in progress”

ever used by an ITV company continuity announcer?

Russ J Graham 21 March 2015 at 1:31 pm

No. The schedules were co-ordinated so that anything running late would just push everything else late as well, although the BBC were notorious for simply dropping the late running item mid-stream and moving on to the next scheduled show!

The only exception to this was daytime weekday sport – horseracing, mainly – which was provided typically as a two- or three-hour block but individual companies would drop in as suited them, taking just the first or last hour, for instance. But even there, gaps were left for them to do so fairly cleanly.

The US habit of breaking into/out of programming with an abrupt cut isn’t one that has ever suited UK broadcasters.

Alan Keeling 22 March 2015 at 8:10 pm

A station announcer added that personal touch to programme schedules right through to closedown. TV is just not the same without in-vision announcers.

Robert Ross 15 August 2015 at 10:56 pm

Wow! At last! The Associated Rediffusion Start-Up called “The Associated Rediffusion March” with Redvers Kyle doing the intro!
This was the longest running Start-Up theme on any British TV station (1957-1964), and I used to rush home from school just in time to hear it! I even recorded it on tape using a microphone, but the tape didn’t survive! So I thought it was lost forever. But no! Thanks to Transdiffusion, it lives on – forever!

Joanne Gray 23 October 2015 at 5:50 pm

My brother-in-law’s father was a sound engineer for Yorkshire and worked quite a lot with Redvers Kyle.

Your comment

Enter it below