Independent Television Service for Wales and the West 

23 October 2017 tbs.pm/2020

ALBUM ITSWW

Independent Television Service for Wales and the West (ITSWW)
South Wales and Western England (ITS-South Wales and the West): 1968 (Temporary)
Wales (ITS-Teledu Cymru): 1968 (Temporary)

 

Twice forgotten

The period from March to May of 1968 saw one of the most remarkable and short-lived franchises in the history of Independent Television. Only the ill-fated Associated Broadcasting Company of 1955 (later renamed ATV) seems to have had a shorter life.

When in June 1967 the ITA had announced the intended changes to the ITV structure and franchises to take effect more than a year later, the most dramatic news had been the loss of the Wales and West contract held by TWW. After some months fighting the decision, the board accepted the inevitable and vowed to carry on providing a reliable programme service to the area until the end of the contract period in July 1968.

Although a condition of the new incumbent’s licence would be that all technical, office and engineering staff of the old company should be taken on (the standard ITA practice at the time), it was becoming obvious that the new contractor, Harlech Television Limited, intended to dismiss all the on-screen personnel of TWW, and launch with a fresh team. This later turned out to be a strategic miscalculation by Harlech, which did more to alienate local viewers than to give a fresh image. These intentions had a marked effect on TWW morale, and programme production became more difficult as the Winter of 1967-8 wore on.

Early in the new year, as the TWW share price traded ever lower, it became obvious to the TWW board that more money would be realised for the shareholders in the eventual winding up of their company if they were to sell the last part of the old contract to incoming consortium. This would give some underpinning to the now-weakened share price. TWW’s accountants advanced this plan, and the ITA, who thought it would bring more stability to the situation, backed it.

Iris Jones

It was calculated that the profit after expenses that TWW might have made would be about £100,000 per month – a considerable sum in those days – and that the earliest that TWW could reasonably exit would be around the end of February 1968. It was agreed to sell the last five months of the contract to Harlech for just under half a million pounds, and this figure was announced as the lead item in TWW Reports, the daily news magazine, in late February. It was axiomatic in those days that viewers had affection for their local ITV company, and TWW was no exception.

This left one problem for the Harlech Consortium. They were not yet “in the saddle” and would be forced to launch their promised new service using “in the can” TWW productions – hardly ideal for a replacement franchisee.

Incomer Harlech suggested an ingenious solution. They would receive all advertising revenue from the handover date, but would pay TWW’s staff to continue making local productions for a further five months. During that time Harlech would be preparing its own programmes, using the same studios and staff, for launch proper in the summer.

This gave Harlech the opportunity to recruit a new set of on-air staff members in the background and not take on the TWW screen talent that it intended to dismiss on launch anyway. The TWW on-screen staff were given a loyalty bonus – in some cases double their existing pay rate – to dissuade them from leaving early.

⬆︎ Bridging the interim period

❝What of the immediate future? TWW will cease to operate on 3rd March. For three months after this date, Harlech, under the title “Independent Television Service for Wales and the West”, will continue with the same programmes as planned. Changes will be made to counter fluctuations in ITV audience levels.

❝As far as the advertiser is concerned, the current TWW rate card remains in force until 29th July and existing bookings will be serviced by Harlech.

❝During this interim period both the advertisers and the viewer can be certain of receiving a completely efficient service. And towards the end of May, when the Harlech symbol appears, people will begin to realise that television far from kills conversation, it creates it.❞

The service would require a temporary name, and the literal “Independent Television Service for Wales and the West” was chosen.

The cordon sanitaire that was thus created between the end of TWW and the start of Harlech was somewhat undermined, however, by the ex-TWW staff who ran the service using Harlech’s money. They insisted that in the can TWW productions, of which there were many, would still carry “TWW presents” and “TWW production” captions. This may have left the viewers in a confused state, as a new service appeared to be presenting productions from the long-standing local contractor.

To cap it all, the TWW in-vision announcers were retained by the interim set up, giving a superficial impression that little had changed. This was an irony, and referred to in the local press as “TWW’s revenge”. In the event Harlech realised that the confusion was not helping, and brought forward their own start date to late May. The interim service lasted just under three months, before it was forgotten by history.

77 days, two start-ups

The Independent Television Service for Wales and the West started on 4 March 1968 with two pieces of music by Trevor Duncan, Psycho Waltz and Psycho Shuffle, separated with a recording of Ivor Roberts making the authority announcements.

After a week, something changed: the two pieces of music were replaced by Syd Dale’s At Pepe’s Place and Trevor Duncan again with Bored With It for the rest of the Service’s run until it ended on 19 May 1968. The reason for the change isn’t clear, but how it was achieved is: they simply played the first two tracks on the other side of the existing Boosey & Hawkes LP.

The interim service carried on with both of the former TWW services under the names ‘South Wales and West’ and ‘Teledu Cymru’ – the latter having been the name the existing on-air name in that region. For the interim period, both names were prefixed with the new phrase “Independent Television Service”. Thus the new ‘ITSWW’ (the initials were never used on air, and mainly served as an abbreviation used by the newspapers) was operating two channels known as ITSSWW and ITSTC respectively. What the viewers made of all this was anybody’s guess, but extensive press advertising was taken out to explain the arrangements to those viewers deemed to be interested.

A temporary ident was designed, with four white horizontal bars shooting towards the viewer, electronic music, and the name revealing itself a line at a time. The old TWW clock was retained, as were the in-vis announcers. With TWW production captions on the local programmes, it seemed as if TWW had moved to another region, and the new local incumbent was presenting programmes from them sent over the network. It was a short lived and unsatisfactory arrangement, but provided those ‘in the know’ with a fascinating glimpse of a behind the scenes struggle.

Linda Lee

When Harlech Television launched its own identity in late May, viewers must have been more startled still, as it was “all change” for the second time, and this time with new screen personalities.

ITSWW has been written out of the history books (Bernard Sendall’s complete history of the ITA’s operations makes not one single mention of the service), and is all but forgotten now. Only stills from the time even prove that it existed, along with a few tape recordings and some broadsheet corporate advertising.

On Screen


TWW makes its exit in 1968, with a close-up of the sign above the stage door and a superimposed TWW Production symbol. But they’d be back, quicker than anyone thought – the next day, in fact.

Part of the form-up for the simple Independent Television Service ident. Depending on where you were, the final white ‘slat’ was replaced by ‘Teledu Cymru’ for those in the former Teledu Cymru area and ‘for Wales and the West’ for those within sight of St Hilary’s VHF channel 10 broadcasts.

Of the captions above, the first (captured from the form-up) was used for joint continuity on Sundays; the second is part of the Moel-y-Parc, Arfon, Presely and St Hilary channel 7 (Teledu Cymru) ident form up; and the third is a still ident caption used during out-of-vision continuity in the Welsh Service area.

Caught whilst forming up is the St Hilary channel 10 ident, offering the superbly literal “Independent Television Service For Wales & the West’ – notice that England needs no name-check in the 1960s.

The main ident form-up, recreated by Dave Jeffery. The four bars zoom towards the viewer; then disappear one at a time to reveal the wordy title of the service – in this case, the Wales version.

Here is the news. English-language news changes from being ‘TWW Reports’ to the simpler ‘Report’.

Ivor Roberts (DX reception)


This article was original published on 24 May 2004. It has since been substantially revised for this republication.

You Say

1 response to this article

Bill Everatt 24 October 2017 at 7:46 am

An absolutely fascinating read Kif, thank you very much for publishing this. I would have been eight years old when this replacement service was launched and I still remember it very fondly. Indeed it must have been the very first day coming on air; the kids’ programmes included a cartoon series called “Rocket Robin Hood” – which I thoroughly enjoyed.

From what I remember, we were treated to some ‘new’ shows that were not on TWW, and disappeared when Harlech took over. As mentioned in your article, and in previous postings I’ve made, my whole family were not impressed with Harlech. Given the choice we would have wanted TWW back, but of course reversing a decision is unheard of by both media companies and regulators. No matter how stupid it is or makes them look!

When I’m next in Cardiff, I must remember to spend some time in the Library looking up the Western Mail TV listings for March to May 1968.

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