Tonight’s Granada TV Network… in 1965
19 Apr 2017 4 comments. tbs.pm/12081
The TVTimes tells us what was on Granada Television on Easter Monday 19 April 1965. Things worth noting…
Bank Holidays were an interesting element of television scheduling in the sixties. With major ITV companies at least, for any holiday occurring on a Monday we get to see a rare example of how a weekday contractor acts when it gets to be on air longer than the usual basic seven hours a day. This would be of no curiosity value with Saturday and Sunday contractors who began at or before lunchtime most weekends and had an established pattern of programming. For most citizens a Bank Holiday Monday feels like a buckshee Saturday while the Bank Holiday on Good Friday seems more like a Sunday.
The effect of this British calendar oddity on Independent Television scheduling was to find a weekday contractor copying what is normally to be found in a weekend company’s output. It was something of a chicken-and-egg situation and rather more the result of the limit to broadcasting hours imposed by the Postmaster-General than to the preponderance and availability of sporting events themselves on bank holidays.
As Lew Grade of ATV never ceased to point out, he carried sport on midland holidays (and on Saturdays in London) because it was all that he had the hours left for. With a free choice he would have preferred to place films and adventure series on Saturday afternoons and Bank Holidays but his allowed ration of permitted hours was exhausted by evening broadcasting. He had little choice but to use sport if ATV (in his case) was to be on air at all in the afternoon of a Saturday or weekday public holiday.
Periodic ATV appeals to the Postmaster General fell on pretty deaf ears as the General Post Office was (possibly rightly) determined to protect the BBC from a potential tsunami of ITV daytime broadcasting which the Corporation’s (then) licence fee income could not afford to match. In a country which was still scrabbling in the 1960s to increase lamentable postwar industrial productivity levels, there was also a persistent 1940s-style nagging fear among the great and the good – who made the regulations that society ran upon – that daytime television would cause greater absenteeism on the part of factory workers. As a result, most television output was felt to be be safer if confined to evenings and weekends. It is no wonder that for those who liked the test card and its accompanying specialist music, the fifties and sixties were something of a golden age.
The broadcast day on this pan-North Granada bank holiday Monday begins at 12.50pm with the ITN News. A Monday would not normally contain a lunchtime bulletin – a weekend would – and this helps to create a Saturday illusion. The ITV centrally planned sports provision ran from 12.55pm to 5pm. Unlike Saturday’s standard sports package which was by 1965 presented nationally for ITV by ABC Weekend Television under the new World of Sport branding, this weekday offering has the option for centrally provided events to be topped and tailed by a local presenter. In this case, the elements of the programme would be agreed nationally with no variation in timings from region to region but with generous ‘blank’ hosting slots for local presenters to use. Regions could dip into or out of the material offered, sometimes on a mix and match basis and on other occasions to a fixed timetable. This own-presenters option would likely be taken up by the likes of Rediffusion, Granada, Southern or ATV Midlands while the smaller companies who might not want the expense of mounting their own show based on the material provided, could take the Granada or Rediffusion feed in full, presenter and all. Smaller companies like Border and Tyne Tees would certainly have chosen this cheaper option. All this was a recipe rather different to the Saturday formula but the final outcome on screen would still feel properly packaged in a tightly run style.
In the Granada instance here, much is made of the programme being hosted from “Granada’s Manchester TV Centre” and the TVTimes says so in those very words. As if to emphasise the point, the entry even gives the programme title (Easter Monday Sport) the curious, if accurate, subtitle “…from Granada in the North” (in the company font too!) referring here to the contractor rather than the daily programme strand of the same name. This is all an astonishingly contrived way of saying “This is not World of Sport from ABC Weekend but something similar-yet-different-yet-strangely-familiar from us at Granada”. Playing these absurd mind games with corporate identity was a curiously big deal on ITV in the sixties.
The TVTimes layout gives an entry for each element of the programme, with event details in full in the main body and a guide to timings in the upper panel. This enabled frequent switching between events and returns to earlier events, giving the viewer a totally unspoken and unadmitted opportunity to work out their own schedule interlaced with their own choices from the sport on BBC-1 which was doing the same thing on the other side at the same time. (BBC-2 had not reached beyond London and the Midlands at this point). Many viewers channel-hopped in this way, though in an era before remotes keen sports viewers could be crossing the living room 10 or 20 times in an afternoon.
This sports selection is a real pan-network effort, with show jumping from Southern, motor racing from ATV Midlands, swimming and diving from TWW and horse racing from Tyne Tees – at that time branded “TTT” on captions. This showed a federal ITV working together at its best, in a deployment that most regular viewers of the era understood perfectly well. Almost 30 years later, the notion of a branding confused viewer was dreamt up by public relations executives as part of a faked “we all want to merge” campaign. The reality was that most viewers understood the network idea well, and indeed their own region’s place within it.
A results round up at 4.50pm brought the afternoon to a close at the time that weekday programmes normally started and the Granada In the North regional news feature, normally at 4.52pm (though always advertised as 4.50pm) was displaced to 5.00pm. It would have contained the Northern regional news headlines, local sports results and typically, a very short feature looking in more detail at one topical item. Other regions would have used the slot for local results. The Bank Holiday circumstances resulted in the displacement and shortening by five minutes of the usual Monday Seeing Sport feature for children.
The ten-year-old Robin Hood series was wheeled out for another repeat at 5.25pm and the rest of the evening looked for all the world like a normal Monday evening. Strong programming, with advert breaks no doubt fully sold – ITV was extremely profitable at this point – even with quotas of serious heavyweight programming being mandatory as far as the ITA was concerned.
The Patty Duke Show was an unusual and surprisingly successful American comedy series, with the star playing two roles – a parody of herself and an identical cousin from twin fathers. Though contrived, this conceit worked well, with one cousin streetwise and savvy and another sophisticated and demure. Both characters appeared together in scenes, so it was a special effects feast but done surprisingly well using Hollywood trick photography film techniques in an era before today’s computer generated special effects existed. It was carried off with great aplomb by the American ABC Network and ran for three years with over 100 episodes. Granada imported it with some ratings success.
Granada’s local news and topics programme Scene at 6.30 continued its long run at 6.30pm (still always at 6.35pm, curiously) and sustained its long standing reputation with the ITA as the best local news programme in ITV. It was certainly challenging and entertaining every weekday of the year, giving first big breaks to the likes of Michael Parkinson and Mike Scott. For trivia lovers, David Plowright, the Executive Producer, was brother-in-law to Sir Laurence Olivier, who had married Plowright’s sister, the actress Joan Plowright.
The long running networked (but not always simulcast) success that was All Our Yesterdays continued at 7pm having reached 1940 in its presentation of the news of 25 years ago. Hard to believe now that this transmission was only 20 years after the end of the war. Historical time now seems distorted at this distance. Adolf Hitler was still a figure familiar to older viewers at this point. The journalist Brian Inglis fronted the show and Bill Grundy was the producer. Grundy mixed producing and presenting during his consecutive careers with Granada, the BBC and Thames.
Coronation Street continued its run at 7.30pm (always known then as “The Street” and never “Corrie” – a nickname that was invented by tabloids some decades later). Note the TVTimes company production credit in the Granada house font. The eternal No Hiding Place rumbled on at 8pm, one of the most successful series that Rediffusion ever produced, brought back by popular demand after an earlier false demise.
The main news was at 8.55pm (News at Ten was still over two years away) and Stars and Garters at 9.10pm was a rare example of Rediffusion doing a variety or ‘night club’ style of show. Such material was usually left to ATV but here was Rediffusion dipping their corporate toes (successfully) into ATV’s water.
Play of The Week, also from Rediffusion at 9.40pm was the type of serious challenging play that ABC, Rediffusion and Granada specialised in. The synopsis refers to ‘a death on British Railways’ – one can only wonder what BR itself thought of that on a corporate level. This bank holiday seems nationally something of a Rediffusion evening, with the London weekday company securing the 8pm, 9.10pm, 9.40pm and 11pm slots. There was no doubt a balancing set of contributions from Granada and ATV on other evenings. Slots on the full network were divided up with great relish at this time. The networking system was in a fairly cooperative phase during this era but deteriorated in cooperation in the later seventies and eighties.
At 11pm, a very good adult education programme was disguised as a documentary series and thus not counted by the Post Office towards permitted transmission hours. Granada and Rediffusion were particularly fond of this nifty move and used the accumulated minutes to add to their sold advertising slots at other times, as commercials were not permitted during adult education. It was these aggregated minutes used elsewhere that paid the costs of the education programmes that made the extra sales possible. One can only admire that for all the profits, these educational slots remained of high quality and matched anything the BBC could do. ITV was at the height of its public service era; a unique blend of commercial funding with educational motive, albeit to fill compulsory subject quotas imposed as franchise conditions.
The last half hour from 11.30pm continued Granada’s almost obsessive commitment to “Granadaland”, with yet another edition of Granada In the North, their regional news, music and features strand. It popped up unannounced between many programmes on weekdays for one and two minute features and supplemented rather than replaced the continuity announcing. Granada was the only one of the then Big Four programme companies that was self evidently not London-based (although they had a London office, of course). This was what made Granada such a remarkable and singular ITV company. As one Granada executive put it “we aim to be the best commercial television company in the world”. During this era they were succeeding, with a combination of flair and innovation in programming that was never matched until Thames Television appeared some years later.