Tonight’s ATV Midlands… in 1956 

24 May 2017 tbs.pm/12233

The TVTimes tells us what was on ATV in the Midlands on Thursday 24 May 1956. Things worth noting include:

  • The day starts at 4.45pm with the lost and forgotten soap opera One Family – possibly a repeat of Monday’s episode, or there were two a week… the world has somewhat lost track. It was 15 minutes long, a habit inherited from British radio soaps like The Archers and Mrs Dale’s Diary, and appears to have made no impact at all on popular consciousness
  • But then, this is 1956, and ITV as a whole is struggling to have any impact. London has been on air 8 months, the Midlands 3 months and the north west (pending the opening of Emley Moor in Yorkshire later) for a mere 3 weeks
  • None of this is helping the dire financial state that ITV is in at this point. Much of the strain is being taken by Associated-Rediffusion’s well-funded shoulders; but ATV in London is living hand-to-mouth. ATV in the Midlands is being run on a shoestring with none of the help its London sister was getting. ABC on the weekends in the Midlands and the north west (so far) has had a clear line drawn by its parent cinema chain: once losses reach £1m, the company will hand back the licence. Only the new Granada is confident, but its losses were being (illegally, technically) underwritten by A-R in London. A-R would do very well out of this arrangement when ITV went into profit at the end of the decade
  • The valuable pre-peak period of 6-7pm was still required to be closed by the Postmaster-General, for both the BBC Television Service and ITV, to make sure that nice middle class parents could get their children to bed without an argument. The exception was live sport, within a very strict definition of the term, which could be shown out of the permitted hours – if the companies could afford to do so – and through part of the “Toddlers’ Truce” closed period. Here ATV sticks in half an hour of the cricket, probably from Granada. No advertisements were shown, although the time allowed could be parleyed elsewhere
  • After the news at 7pm, Adventures of Superman appears. This series was made for syndication, which at the time basically meant for affiliates of ABC in the US, who were always short of material as that network struggled in what was clearly a two-network system
  • This was S01E21 of the series, made in black and white and first aired in February 1953 in the US
  • An hour and a half of ATV’s own material starts at 7.30pm… although the Independent Television Authority would later take a harder line and decide that made-for-export and made-abroad-with-a-guaranteed-UK-airing didn’t count as own productions
  • Thus Liberace’s show at 7.30pm wouldn’t count later; Jack Hylton “presenting” the pre-war favourite comedy-variety troop The Crazy Gang would
  • The Television Playhouse at 9pm – Reginald Beckwith’s Boys in Brown – is very very Associated-Rediffusion: bleak, bleak, bleak
  • The Independent Television Authority had not liked the “retreat from culture” (as the newspapers dubbed it) that saw ITV go downmarket as losses grew after launch. Meet The Professor at 10pm tries to keep them on side with a Tomorrow’s World-style general interest programme, albeit out of primetime. The series is largely lost and almost totally forgotten
  • ATV undoes the goodwill of Meet The Professor by shoving in an ad-mag at 10.30pm. These were illegal under the Television Act 1954, if you read that act very strictly. But the contractors argued that the main complaint from potential advertisers was that their monopoly made advertising too expensive. Ad-mags were a cheap entry point, especially for large but regional companies seeking to promote their wares. The ITA turned a blind eye until the Pilkington Committee signalled a crackdown was required in the early 1960s
  • Legally, there were 7 hours a day allowed for television in 1956. Even at the broadest definition of that allowance (which excluded live news items, sport and other programmes of social importance), ATV Midlands is only on air for 5¾ hours tonight: a clue to how awful the station’s finances were at the time

External links

  • See the rival BBC Television Service schedule at the Genome project.
  • You Say

    3 responses to this article

    Arthur Nibble 24 May 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Was the advert for TV Times a masked plea to buy more and put some much needed money into ITV’s coffers?

    You can buy a “Snoozy The Sea-Lion” paperback for £11.50 on the net if you’re so inclined.

    Jack Hylton’s programme uses the “Jokers Wild” tag several years before Yorkshire TV’s comedian panel show.

    Russ J Graham 24 May 2017 at 3:17 pm

    The plug for the next edition of the TVTimes in Thursday’s listings lasted well into the 1980s!

    Alan Keeling 24 May 2017 at 8:38 pm

    The first kids programme was also one of ITV’s early US imports, namely Hopalong Cassidy, today’s story comes from 1954 & was one of 58 episodes running from 1949 to 1954. 12 of the earlier episodes were, in fact, edited down version of Hoppy’s B-Western film made between 1947 & 1948.

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