Tonight’s Harlech Wales… in 1968 

30 August 2016

Television Weekly tells us what was on Harlech in Wales on Friday 30 August 1968. Things worth noting include:

  • After this, there are only 3 more editions of Television Weekly left before all the listings magazines (save for Channel Viewer) are swept away by the arrival of the relaunched TVTimes on 21 September
  • Television Weekly was inherited by Harlech from TWW along with the outgoing company’s studios, staff and equipment. Only the on-screen personnel and very senior management and board changed
  • Also inherited is Alan Taylor with his puppet Tinker in Tinker’s Tales at 4.25pm
  • And the terrible positioning of Crossroads, which runs at 6.35pm on most of the other stations that carry it: so far, Granada never has and Thames dropped it on taking over at the end of last month
  • Clubhouse at 5.20pm from YTV sounds a bit in the mould of Blue Peter and Magpie. It didn’t last
  • TWW’s news programme policy had tried to please all of the people for as little money as possible, with three news programmes: Y Dydd in Welsh for Wales, TWW Reports in English for the West and Wales, and TWW Reports on Wales in English for Wales. These were juggled around ingeniously, with the General Service (St Hilary channel 10) carrying TWW Reports for 15 minutes and TWW Reports on Wales for 15 minutes. In Wales, Y Dydd took the first 15 minutes and Teledu Cymru opted back in to TWW Reports on Wales for the final 15
  • Harlech have come in promising to spend more money on Wales. TWW Reports becomes Report and combines the two English-language programmes into one, still on channel 10. Meanwhile, Y Dydd in Wales now gets a full half hour with no swapping back and forth with the General Service. But how to cater for English-speaking people interested in news of Wales? A 10 minute bulletin for Wales in Welsh from the Report team is inserted at 6.50pm
  • These shenanigans are far more expensive than TWW’s old system, but probably serve the population better. The expense is what would eventually kill them and send Harlech back down TWW’s juggling route
  • The dual news service means people in Wales miss out on Wendy and Me at 6.30pm on the General. This import was a flop, lasting 34 episodes in the 1964-5 season. It marked the return of George Burns to television after the death of his wife (on and off screen) Gracie Allen
  • Instead of Wendy and Me, viewers of the Welsh service get one half of a Batman episode, which fits the available slot better
  • The split in Harlech is healed at 7pm for Opportunity Knocks!, freshly moved from its successful Saturday slot from ABC Weekend into a new weekday position from Thames. The 45 minute slot didn’t quite fit very well and it bobbed around the schedules, but it’s quixotic of Harlech to shove it on at the very moment Thames is handing over control of the capital to London Weekend
  • This is London Weekend’s first uninterrupted weekend, having been crippled by local strike action on their first weekend and knocked off air completely for the next few weeks by the national strike/lock-out
  • The LWT proposed schedule had not found favour with the more established ITV companies, including Harlech, who had been in the saddle since May. The programmes were thought to be of limited appeal outside of London (they weren’t of much appeal inside of London, for that matter) and drastically overpriced compared with the huge hitters the network was used to getting from ABC and ATV
  • The finances of LWT were based upon the idea that the 15 million people who rushed to watch the Palladium would watch whatever LWT put on instead – a ballet or an arts feature, say – because, well, obviously such people would watch anything. Additionally, the largely BBC-conditioned producers had no idea how the ITV system was financed and simply had fun spending piles of money on programmes of little interest. The problem was, if the other companies didn’t buy a programme off them, that programme suddenly had a 1/14th hole in its finances. If Granada, Yorkshire or ATV could put together something cheaper and more popular, the companies would buy that instead. Many companies also found they had no space for Thames programmes in Thames’s own slots… but they fit well replacing something overpriced and unwatchable from LWT, as with OpNox at 7pm
  • London Weekend responded to these pressures by dramatically collapsing in 1969
  • Peyton Place at 9.30pm on the General was excellent. It gets bumped to 10.30pm (overwriting another LWT offering) on the Welsh service by Y Rhyw Deg (The Fairer Sex), a chatshow that was more Houseparty than Eamonn Andrews
  • Felony Squad at 11pm ran for 73 episodes across three seasons from 1966. It seemed good at the time, but is unwatchable now after being perfectly parodied by 1982’s Police Squad!
  • All the imports tonight come from ABC in the United States. This is a coincidence

You Say

9 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 30 August 2016 at 2:08 pm

Oooh! It’s that nasty Alan Bradley from “Corrie” on the cover.

Sorry, daft question, but on what days was “OpNox” transmitted on ITV regions during Thames’s reign? I’m a bit confused, as I’m guessing viewers in certain regions would have fewer days to get their postcard votes in (and, indeed, counting towards the final tally) if the show was shown some days later than on Thames. I can only remember the show from 6.45 to 7.30 on a Monday.

Also, why are there stars sprinkled within certain programmes’ listings? Is it just to use space up?

A well known fact but here goes – “We Have Ways Of Making You Laugh” was the first programme London Weekend tried to transmit, but a strike saw the plug pulled just before the first live edition went ‘on air’.

“Thingumybob” was LWT’s first sitcom, with a theme tune written by Paul McCartney.

I find it interesting that the two completely Welsh programmes have everything about them written in Welsh except for Harlech’s production credit.

Kif Bowden-Smith 30 August 2016 at 5:01 pm

Thames experimented with OpNox on Mondays for some years and also on Thursdays at one point. This was a nationally networked time and was usually simulcast by all companies – except Harlech, who pretty well had a free hand to move things around in Wales at least, in order to meet their required quota of peak and semi peak time programmes in Welsh.

This was a Post Office requirement, for faintly political reasons and imposed upon the ITA to enforce. It meant viewers in Wales often saw mainstream items at odd times (Such as “World In Action” at 11pm when everyone else saw it at 8pm after Coronation Street) This was so that Welsh language material in peak slots could be accommodated.

As the Harlech General Service (South Wales & The West of England) followed the London pattern more closely, it was the viewers of Harlech’s Wales / Cymru service that often missed out, as the scheduling managers couldn’t fit a quart into a pint pot. This was the single greatest reason for S4C being launched 14 years later. Schedulers were desperate to stop local viewers missing out on “nationally” networked items. Appeasing Welsh politicians only came second in the later planning of S4C.

“We have ways of making you laugh” is so well remembered for the strike action that lost the London Weekend opening night, historians forget that the later episodes of the series did actually go out..

Nigel Stapley 30 August 2016 at 6:34 pm

“This was the single greatest reason for S4C being launched 14 years later…Appeasing Welsh politicians only came second in the later planning of S4C”

I don’t think I agree with this analysis, Kif. Although such concerns were undoubtedly present (as they had been since the opening of TWW and BBC Wales), and the sense of deprivation felt by monoglot viewers outside of the coverage of St Hilary Ch.10 General Service was often voiced loudly, it should surely be borne in mind that, by the time that a Welsh-language 4th channel was being seriously considered in Whitehall in the late 70s, the days of the HTV (as it by then was) General Service were numbered anyway as the UHF services had become preponderant and the issue had become secondary.

It may have been used as the main reason by those who finally made the decision to set up S4C, but that was probably only a fig-leaf to try to avoid the contention that the Conservatives (who had, let us remember, promised such a channel in their 1979 election manifesto, only to renegue on it months after taking office) had given in to pressure from a groundswell of activism by ‘extremists’ which, if not assuaged, would almost certainly have given rise to substantial direct action and unrest. I’m sure that that point was made very firmly by the trio of Great & Good (Cledwyn Hughes, Archbishop Williams and Gwilym Prys Davies) when they met with Willie Whitelaw. I’m also fairly certain that Wyn Roberts (ex-TWW, remember!), who was a minister in the Welsh Office at that time, would have had a word to the same effect.

Richard Jones 30 August 2016 at 8:16 pm

Informative piece but I would query whether or not there was any difference between TWW’s news policy and Harlech’s. Y Dydd was always transmitted just after the ITN News and this continued from it’s first transmission in 1964 until its demise in 1982. In general its length was determined by the filler used to make a gap between it and the News from Wales at around 18.50. This could be a half hour sitcom or a 15 minute travelogue filler… or Batman when Harlech began transmissions. This practice continued just as TWW had done until the advent of colour, in April 1970.

I have to say that as kids we loved having Crossroads at 4.30 and it was an ideal programme with which to enjoy a cup of tea and a snack – it was popular with parents, too, who got peace for half an hour when the kids arrived from school.

One more point, too easily forgotten, is that Welsh language programmes were and are a basic right for Welsh speakers and within the framework of the sixties and seventies they were squeezed onto the schedule as time and advertisers permitted. HTV in the seventies showed far less Welsh language programmes in peak viewing than Teledu Cymru had done and most, except Yr Wythnos were shown after 10.30. Wales hardly ‘missed out’ on Wendy and Me, as it was not the most successful sitcom ever. On many evenings there were no Welsh-language programmes to be found after Y Dydd on HTV and Heddiw on BBC Wales. S4C was every bit about pleasing Welsh speakers as it was about appeasing politicians, although this was admittedly a factor.

Alan Keeling 30 August 2016 at 8:51 pm

Regarding “Golf Tip of the Day”, this 5 minute programme, hosted by Dow Finsterwald, a famous US golfer of the 50s & 60s, was made by ITC’s US counterpart & my research tells me that the series was, in fact, filmed in colour. “The Baron”, was an ITC thriller/adventure series produced during 1965/66 & one of their early colour series.

Geoff Nash 31 August 2016 at 8:52 am

I remember well into the colour era “Crossroads” being slotted in at 4.30 on Southern and Thames (when they did eventually pick it up). Rediffusion also ran it at 4.30 for a while but it eventually found it’s way to 6.05 in the absence of any regional news output. As a child I objected to it interrupting the children’s programmes, “Small Time” and such being shoved to 4.20 then having to wait until 4.55 before they resumed. At such points we often flicked the dial to “Jackanory” and stayed with BBC1, a possible reason for Rediffusion moving “Crossroads” to it’s later slot.

“Opportunity Knocks” eventually settled into a regular slot (on Thames at least) at 6.45 on Mondays which was taken by “The Kenny Everett Video Show” upon OpKnocks demise in 1978.

Richard Jones 2 September 2016 at 11:33 am

By the way, Arthur Nibble the English language production credit and programme info disappeared with the end of the Television Weekly – I always found it to be a bit of a strange affair to credit the company in English!! The credit then became ‘Cynhyrchiad Harlech’.

Paul Mason 5 September 2016 at 4:55 am

As a child I had some faint recall of Welsh language programmes on Granada which I learn was because our TV was tuned to Channel 9 in Liverpool, which is only 16 miles from the border. These vanished and Welsh programmes were confined to BBC1 lunchtime BBCs Welsh news was Heddiw (Today) whereas ITVs was Y Dydd (The Day),or later Newyddion.
Opportunity Knocks was on Granada on Mondays. Peyton Place started on Granada about 4pm on 21/09/1970 and ran for a couple of years or so. At gunpoint Granada took Crossroads as an early evening slot but at 5.15pm
Returning to the Welsh news programmes I spot Martyn Lewis, was he the later ITN newscaster?.

Paul Mason 5 September 2016 at 5:08 am

One horrifying event from my childhood involves the lunchtime Welsh news on BBC1. I was off sick from school and my younger sister had just started. It was 21st October , 1966 and the news was live from the village of Aberfan. Being Welsh we couldn’t understand what had happened but all we saw was a vast amount of rubble and people searching for any survivors. 144 perished in the coal tip landslide which destroyed the Pantglas Junior School.. Those children were the same age as me and my sister. One thing that chills me rigid is the thought of our equivalent family, one child off sick and the younger sister in school. There but for the grace of God etc. Had the tip slid an hour earlier, or eight hours later, or even a day as the 21st for a Friday, we would not be coming up to the 50th anniversary of that harrowing tragedy, which was covered by the BBC, TWW and ITN. RIP to the innocent ones.

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