Sound and vision 

12 October 2015 tbs.pm/7636

ASSOCIATED TELEVISION (LONDON)

Notional Date: May 1964
Announcer: Arthur Adair, Trevor Lucas
Music: Sound and Vision (Coates), used from 1955-1968 in London

 
This ATV London startup sequence, seen on Saturdays and Sundays in London from 1955 to 1968, was one of the stalwarts of early commercial television in the UK. The chosen theme by Eric Coates was a constant for 13 years and became strongly associated with the corporate identity of the company. The same daily theme was used in their Monday to Friday Midlands contract, though interestingly, the “Authority Announcement” was at the start of the daily opening music in London but at the end of the march in the Midlands.

In this special arrangement by Wally Stott, a three-note phrase was added to the start of the last verse, to match an animated form-up of the ATV company trademark on screen. This was seen as a tour de force in the rather under-developed world of television graphics of 1955 – the BBC had previously been rather unadventurous in this regard – and was a rather daring and impressive piece of corporate identity.

ATV set the standard for the on screen graphic movement of dynamic station identity symbols in the new network. Almost all ITV companies coming to air after ATV started were to copy the habit of a company trade mark “resolving into shape” on screen over the last verse of the customary orchestral marches that all chose to use, some commissioned specially. An ITV contractor without it’s own bespoke company march would have been seen as not “playing the game” in the world of station themes, at that time.

This piece, named Sound & Vision by Eric Coates but referred to internally on running schedules as ATV March fell fractionally below the minimum running length specified by the Post Office for station identification sign-on purposes. The start-up music had to be registered with the regulator – and not changed without a further registration. Many company themes were in daily use for years on end.

The tuning signal with ITA symbol and transmitter name were required to be displayed for marginally longer than was possible here; so to pad it out to the length required, it was often preceded by thirty seconds of test tone and sometimes the ATV gongs ident in sound only – not often heard at the start of ITV opening routines (though many years later, both Harlech and London Weekend had occasion to dabble with this formulation).

atv009

The thirty seconds of test tone (also used at one point by ABC Weekend TV in the North and Midlands) was dropped, after the presentation department agonised that this might cause viewers to turn the sound down and thus miss hearing the music until the picture changed; this would defeat the whole purpose of the sequence from the point of view of the company – promotion of corporate identity. These things were thought to matter desperately in an era of heavily restricted broadcasting hours and three or four identical startup sequences per day.

On ATV in the Midlands for example, there would be separate start up routines each day: for morning schools; lunchtime entertainment; afternoon schools; and evening entertainment. Indeed during the period of “Toddler’s Truce” (mandatory daily closedowns from 6pm to 7pm each evening) a fifth start up routine – same old tune – would be needed at 7pm. After each transmission the station would close down again – more marching music – prior to reopening maybe an hour later after a burst of testcard from the regulator.

This avalanche of company branding was both worried over and handled with kid gloves by presentation departments and regulators in turn. The regulations were stringent, with the Post Office insisting on transmitter identification on screen and the regulator insisting on the franchise licensing aspects.

In the two channel days of the fifties, before push-button television, rotary tuning dials similar to those found on radio sets meant that transmitter names were something the viewer had to be concerned about and finding them was something they had to contend with on a daily basis – thus the radiation of tuning signals just as programming commenced each day. Tuners could and did drift overnight. The slow pace of change in the Britain of the day meant that these procedures remained without much revision for the whole term of each franchise.

The new marriage of free enterprise and state regulation that Independent Television had embodied needed a clear image for the contractors, married to a sense of democratic licence by the authorities – and this early fancy dance of corporate identity was how these imperatives were projected to the public.

“We, the private sector, are permitted and restrained by YOUR representatives, the public authority, acting in your interest” was the subliminal message to be conveyed. ITV was a bold, new, potentially culturally ruinous experiment and created to be very different indeed from the BBC. As conditions changed over time, it is only a surprise that these rules lasted for over thirty years before the mania for deregulation deformalised the whole UK broadcasting environment. This was rather to the regret of some, who felt that deregulation would lead – as indeed it did – to a drop in some television standards, heavily camouflaged by technical advances and a multichannel broadcasting ecology.

The structure of the ATV march allowed for a neat switch to clock over the final thirty seconds of the sequence, with fifteen seconds of actual music remaining. This was ideal for the announcer to give a quick welcome and a time check and on (at last!) to the next programme of the day.

The final seconds of the piece were used for daytime closedowns, with announcers telling the viewers that “we’ll be back on air in thirty minutes” (or whatever it was) when the whole glorious rigmarole was tackled in full, yet again. For years on end. The late night closedown used the National Anthem of course (on all contractors except Granada, obviously).

In this weekend London daily opening routine, from early 1964, a pre-recorded Arthur Adair adds a daring “Good Afternoon to you!” to the formal licence announcement. Very non-standard and not really permitted but a bit of fun that nobody seems to have objected to!


This article originally appeared in a somewhat different form in a different Transdiffusion publication in 2000. It has been republished with the addition of the animated ATV London start-up recreation by Dave Jeffery.

You Say

6 responses to this article

Les 12 October 2015 at 11:28 pm

Nice piece, and a classic opening. When membury opened in 1965, i was able to watch the two atvs. In late 1965, the stripey eye was used for the clock in the midlands, and the white eye was used for the london clock.

great time for tv branding, with rediffusion on weekdays also looking good.

n Hewit 14 October 2015 at 4:21 pm

Slight contrast to the Butterfly Photograph that use to greet morning viewers in the Midlands at the begining of the 1980’S.
However, despite following the ITA format, the company still seems able to project a little more humanity into the announcement, not to mention the all important chimes, well remembered as the prelude to Emergency Ward 10. In True professionalism the announcer includes a customer focused statement about the programmes and hoping that the London Channel 9 vewers enjoy them, which after all was what ITVs core business was about.No wonder ATV thirty years after its disappearance from our screens remains fondly remembered : True Style and Panache and from its approach, years ahead of its time in the field of Customer Service!

N Hewit 16 December 2015 at 4:00 pm

ATV’s role in providing suitable material for the Sunday evening God slot is legendary. The company seems to have had a particular Knack for communication’s style that gave the subject a contemporary relevance. As Well as Willy Wombat, I recall a subsequent series designed for teenagers in what appeared to be a church based youth club in the Middle of a Birmingham City Centre Building site, presumably the Bull Ring Redevelopment , or on reflection possibly the Broad St Site where the ATV centre was to be built.
One series prior to the company ceasing to have responsibility for London on Saturday’s and Sundays was Beyond Belief’ and in Keeping with the times it took a tongue in cheek approach to the subject. Viewers were left in doubt about its pythonesque approach at the start when as the opening credits started to roll a stained glass window appeared and then turned into a pin ball machine.
The end credits were always interrupted with a final punch line. The most memorable one was as follows:
two angels were depicted outside the pearly gates, one queried, “What’s wrong”? the other responded, “it’s this halo, its miles too big”; to which the questioner replied, “oh just take it along to St Michael dear, they’ll change any thing1″. At this juncture the music resumed with the credits and the line’ And what you’ve just seen on your screen is quite beyond belief!”
Response was needless to say mixed, Grandma did not really approve of the series, but mum, (a Sunday School Teacher), was more sanguine, she thought it was good that church people could laugh at themselves. Grandma was however far more reassured when Yorkshire’s Stars on Sunday became the early evenings main staple!

n hewit 12 January 2016 at 2:57 pm

The style of ATV seems to Continue, the Sunday January 10th edition of ITV’s Endeavour paid more than a passing hint to its ancestor. The series chronicles the early career of Inspector Morse at the less salubrious end of what was then Oxford City Police Force: Cowley. Morse started off as a Zenith production, which was in itself linked to Central Independent Television, the re-configured ATV post 1981. The main action focused on a typical 1960’s supermarket located in a deck access shopping precinct, so beloved of the town planners, although the store was fictitious a possible give away was the large window advertisement for Green Shield Stamps! The fictitious name of the supermarket chain wa Richardson’s, which co incidentally was Noel Gordon’s fictitious surname for the heyday period of the Drama, the late 60’s when it was said to be, ‘partially Networked’, the store was part of a family run business with branches in “Oxford and throughout the Midlands AKA ATV Land, presumably the area that didn’t see Mrs Richardson on the Telly also preferred a similar lack of choice of Supermarket, one that was more mutual possibly! The tone of the series is very reminiscent of an ATV Police series set in Rushden, Northamptonshire in the Mid 1970’s, known as the fictitious town of Broadstone; Hunters Walk, which brought more humanity and in my view realism to police officers in a Divisional station in the Midlands.

Joanne Gray 9 May 2016 at 4:12 am

I was wondering if video existed of a startup routine relating to the couple of weeks that ATV broadcasted under their original intended name of ABC? I realise that there wouldn’t be recordings of genuine footage, but has anyone ever done a recreation? It might be interesting to compare the two with slightly different logos.

John Radley 25 June 2017 at 3:07 pm

Just watched the ATV London startup recreation. Music quality and end animation excellent! However, although the announcer over the clock was indeed Trevor Lucas (I knew him) the announcer over the Authority Announcement was in fact Norman Tozer and not Arthur Adair. Also, as a viewer in London and the midlands, the London clock was the UPPER half of the double eye symbol and the midlands used the LOWER half. (as referenced by Les but still not rectified) Sorry to be picky but I do hope you will make the necessary changes!!

Thanks,

John Radley
Retired Transmision Controller.

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