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22 December 2015 tbs.pm/8241

CHANNEL TELEVISION

Notional Date: June 1974
Announcer: Arlene Watkins
Music: World Power (Simon Haseley, aka Simon Park); Five By Five (Richard Hill)

 

Channel Television, the smallest of the ITV companies, took to the air in September 1962. After a slow start, and somewhat against the odds, this tiny, well-run contractor prospered. It based its appeal on the Channel Islands unique heritage of part-British, part-independent (and part-Norman French) identity, and it quickly established itself as the voice of the islands. Its presence in the television field, as opposed to radio, was stronger in the sixties than BBCtv had been locally up to that point.

In terms of corporate identity, a small broadcasting station can often have a disproportionally strong presence in a particular community. Due to budget limitations, it often falls to presentation departments to keep the flag flying for the company’s presence. When cash limits mean fewer programmes, the continuity function is apt to be stretched to serve other uses.

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Whether announcers double as local newsreaders, give out ‘community noticeboard’ information or make a feature of children’s anniversaries (Puffin’s Pla(i)ce), it all adds to the identification of a television company with the community it serves. To this extent, a station as small as Channel was a rare chance to experiment with the type of rural small town broadcasting already common in the USA but still unknown in the more integrated, collectivist, national-media culture of the British Isles in 1962. Channel was unusual in having a franchise where it could write its own rules, as no pre-existing local radio station had been there to explore the market before them. The announcers of the day – like Betty Henwood and Arlene Watkins, the latter heard here – became local personalities in their own right.

Other small ITV contractors, such as Westward, Ulster, Border, and, contemporaneously from the same month in 1962, Wales West & North/Teledu Cymru, pursued the goal of complete identification with local viewers but Channel Television was the undoubted pioneer of this particular broadcasting skill, brilliantly painted here on a small canvas.

Channel productions were initially just local news and sports bulletins, a topical round-up (not every day) and a regular raft of special community announcements promoting fêtes, open days, local performances of all kinds and items of interest to tourists and visitors. It fell to the continuity announcers to head much of this output and they quickly became loved in their community.

In this context, even the station’s daily opening routine took on the mantle of a local ceremony. In the sixties, the normal Channel daily opening routine was two pieces of music with the ITA authority announcement in between, ABC-style. As ABC engineers had helped build and equip the studios and train staff in 1961-2, they may have imported the two-theme practice from Didsbury and Aston. Originally, the first theme was melodic and slow, the second, what else but yet another rousing march? When this routine was refreshed in the mid-seventies, the standard formula was maintained but the order reversed and new music selected. The rousing theme now came first, much updated and more like epic film music. The melodic piece was now heard second and led to the first programme. The Channel TV symbol followed, there was a cut to the clock (or sometimes to the announcer in vision) and the station was on-air for another day. It is the later of these two start up eras that was the more unusual in a number of ways.

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The Channel Islands was the last Independent Television region to be equipped for colour. This was partly due to the limits of cash available for the contractor to fully re-equip the studios with new cameras, consoles and switching equipment – not cheap at the best of times – but also to public sector cost constraints in extending and refurbishing the state-owned transmitter network. There were additional delays due to technical problems encountered in relaying the network feed from the mainland, originally from Westward Television but more latterly from TVS.

When ITV in colour finally arrived in the Channel Islands – as late as 1976 – the region had been the only one in the network to still be transmitting in black and white under the new post-1972 IBA regime. The mid-seventies “transmitters in service” caption listing only a VHF 405-line, Band III transmitter was the only IBA caption of its kind to be radiated to an IBA region, exclusively in monochrome, and the only time the IBA symbol went out in black and white with no colour duplication on an alternative UHF channel.


This article is based on another article by the same author that originally appeared in a slightly different form before 2000 as well as all new material. It has been published with the addition of the animated Channel Television start-up recreation by Dave Jeffery.

You Say

3 responses to this article

Ronnie MacLennan Baird 23 December 2015 at 6:39 pm

Shouldn’t the card have read “Transmitter in Service”?

Joseph Holloway 25 December 2015 at 7:53 pm

nice seeing a recreation of a Channel startup from 1974. and It’s also interesting to note that ATV in the Midlands also used Richard Hill’s “Five by Five” for a brief time in January-June 1975 before Johnny Pearson’s “Midlands Montage” was introduced.

Alan Keeling 9 July 2017 at 11:04 pm

As a note of interest, during a 1981 holiday on the island of Jersey, on the Saturday morning before next days departure, I looked in a TV dealers window to find the PM 5544 test pattern displayed on a colour set, the pattern contained the ident, IBA CHANNEL.

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