Strike Service 

7 September 2015 tbs.pm/1734

INDEPENDENT TELEVISION (August 1968)

Notional Date: August 1968
Announcer: Sheila Kennedy
Music: Here Comes the Band aka Toronto City (Mancini), used August 1968

During the national ITV technicians’ strike of August 1968, the individual companies were off the air for several weeks, and an emergency service was presented by management personnel with no regional variations. This is unique in the history of ITV, in that it was the only time that a uniform presentation practice has been adopted.

Pre-recorded programmes, all repeats or ‘in the can’ for forthcoming transmission, were run off from the ATV switching centre at Foley Street in London, while a team of ex-ABC announcers based in both Teddington and Foley Street provided the presentation. The announcing team for the special service was mainly David Hamilton, John Benson, Sheila Kennedy, John Edmunds and Philip Elsmore, who would all continue thereafter as Thames announcers. All appeared in vision, though not always at start-up.

The service was mounted at short notice, after several days of blank screens, and the management team needed to create a quick and simple presentation style. The term ‘Independent Television’ was chosen for the ‘temporary national station’ (the term ‘ITV’ was hardly in use in those days and a range of simple text-only captions was provided. No symbol as such was designed, but a sign with the station name sufficed. A clock was borrowed from the ABC studios as Teddington, and the ABC symbol on the clock (only partially) covered with masking tape.

On the first day of the service, an insert of the local asymmetrical “Picasso” tuning signal was tried along with a local start-up tune before switching to the national output. This did not work well and on day two a London Picasso and national theme was used. This Picasso caused further confusion to viewers who thought they were watching the ‘wrong’ region.

From day three onwards a nationally networked tuning signal was used. To avoid confusion over regions, the ITA provided the Foley Street centre with a copy of the blank Picasso card containing no regional identifier. This rarity was used for two weeks and was unique in the history of ITV start-ups. A variant copy with the words ‘Independent Television’ was commissioned from the graphic designers but did not arrive until the final few days of the service and was only used briefly at the end of the period.

This short, unique service in August 1968 was not wholly consistent in presentation techniques, and opened on some days with Picasso card and ‘wipe to ident’, while on other days with ident card only. A rousing Farnon march was chosen well in the start-up tradition, so the ghost of Eric Coates would have been proud.

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This article originally appeared on Transdiffusion before 2001. It has been republished with the addition of the animated Independent Television August 1968 service start-up recreation by Dave Jeffery.

You Say

11 responses to this article

Alan Keeling 24 May 2014 at 8:50 pm

That 1968 “strike”, was [on the whole] both interesting & exciting, from the point of view of the emergency schedules & also the substituted start-ups provided. I myself, was disappointed, when the strike was over & normal scheduling returned.

Arthur Nibble 7 September 2015 at 9:10 pm

Lovely to see this start-up. Sorry for what will be a daft question, but was the march used by any other ITV company at any time?

Kif Bowden-Smith 9 September 2015 at 11:43 am

Hi Arthur!
No it wasn’t and it was picked exclusively for this temporary National service run by management and radiated from the Foley Street networking hub in London. If you think the piece sounds a bit familiar, it was once used as a piece of background music in an episode of “The Prisoner”, but this is coincidental. You may have heard it there.

gary adelman 13 September 2015 at 11:07 am

where can i watch granada tv first night broadcast may 1956.can you help.

Russ J Graham 13 September 2015 at 3:08 pm

I believe none of it was recorded and thus none of it survived. This is usual for the vast majority programming prior to videotape becoming available cheaply.

Kif Bowden-Smith 13 September 2015 at 3:49 pm

Granada’s first video machines arrived in Manchester in 1958 from Ampex of America. Before that, very occasionally things were committed to film but that’s rare.

garry robin simpson 23 October 2015 at 11:52 pm

About 30 mins of Granda”s opening night was on you tube. With a presenter who clearly had too much to drink! How long did this strike last for and did this mean no ITN?

Russ J Graham 25 October 2015 at 2:46 pm

It lasted just over a fortnight (covering three weekends).

Jerry Ralph 31 October 2015 at 1:29 pm

@Dave Jeffrey – Is there any chance you could make a 16:9 version of the Picasso? It makes a great Windows wallpaper on my old 4:3 monitor, but the laptop gives it sidebars…

n hewit 18 November 2015 at 3:27 pm

I can remember this vividly, if I recollect correctly it occurred at the time of the franchises changes, we thought it was because Granada Technicians were as usual kicking up a fuss about changes to their conditions, on this occasion working at weekends. I was mistakenly under the impression that it was Thames TV we were watching from the appearance of our former Weekend TV in The North presenter, David Hamilton, (or Diddy David Hamilton as Ken Dodd referred to him as on his early Saturday evening show from ABC, from which I concluded with my dad that ABC was now Thames!
Personally I preferred the programmes which were like the ABC ones and was quite sad when our television ceased to come from what I thought was Thames, as I remember we started watching a Sunday night series like the Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe but were left in suspense were the children seeing an evil looking vegetable, because Granada did not continue this seriel, come to think about it Auntie Jean and Tingah and Tucker Wednesday afternoon slot disappeared about the same time, whilst that other ATV presentation Rupert the Bear failed to materialise, it had been transmitted for some time on other regions before Granada consented to transmit, perhaps there was some political objection to the news paper in which the original cartoon strip was published : oh those Angry Young Men in the North!

Brian Renforth 23 August 2017 at 10:37 am

I remember a strike during 1975 I believe. Following an advert for the Co Op was the Tyne Tees clock with the wording replaced by “ITV”and the announcement, “This is ITV”. “The Six Million Dollar Man” followed this.
Around this time both Tyne Tees and Yorkshire were off the air with apology captions on screen. Tyne Tees came back on air within a few days but Yorkshire remained off air. Surprisingly they then relayed the programmes of Tyne Tees Television including the, “Today at Six” news programme. It’s the only time, to my knowledge an ITV region took its programmes from another area. This continued until the strike at YTV was sorted.

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