Channel 62 

21 June 2018 tbs.pm/66753

CHANNEL TELEVISION

Date: 1962 (with some 1964 elements)
Authority announcement: Arlene Watkins
Continuity announcer: Betty Henwood
Music: Tomorrow the World and reprise (King Palmer)
Victorious Achievement (George Elliot)

 

Local television as an idea in the UK has been a total failure. Based on the principles of American television but ignoring the affiliation and syndication systems in that country, the Local TV experiment over here has seen the new stations go to the wall and consolidation down to a few poor examples become the norm.

There were two previous experiments with this type of hyperlocal broadcasting in the UK. Wales (West and North) Television – Teledu Cymru – failed under the weight of the requirements of the General Post Office, who were keen to see off a company that seemed divisive to their UK-centric view and also operated mainly in overlap areas with TWW, Granada, ATV and ABC.

The other was Channel Television. Like WWN, this was a company put together by local enthusiasts for the medium, seeking an outlet that served the population in reach of their transmitter but with little interest beyond that. Unlike WWN, they had the backing of the GPO and the other ITA contractors – something they had in common with Border, always teetering on the edge but never falling over it as Teledu Cymru did.

As they made their way on air, Channel were showered with the love that both they and WWN needed. ABC Weekend supplied programmes at a discount, engineering experience for free and a parade of managers who just happened to be on holiday in the islands and popped in for a fortnight or a month to help out.

Channel, against the odds, survived as WWN didn’t. The other ITV companies continued to smile upon them, rarely chasing up unpaid invoices. The ITA charged them for the use of the Fremont Point transmitter… but only a tiny percentage of the actual costs, whilst the Major companies were paying enough for the ITA to make a profit on their transmitters.

ABC Weekend’s influence on Channel was most clear in their sign-on sequence. It follows the ABC pattern of music-authority announcement-music, albeit with the second tune being a reprise of the first rather than a separate piece. There’s a long station theme too, typical of ABC at the time, but here extended beyond ABC’s indulgent 45 seconds.

The Independent Television Authority was considered by the Post Office and in law to be on the same footing as the BBC: it was the broadcaster; what it broadcast was up to the Authority and the Corporation, but the actual regulator and provider of the transmission links was the General Post Office.

As such, the GPO happily laid down rules – rules that they then largely excepted the BBC from following. The ITA was treated much as they treated amateur slow-scan television and ham radio broadcasters, with rules seemingly designed to ensure that the rules were followed rather than there being any reason behind them.

Amateur broadcasters were required to do station identification for three minutes every hour. Obviously this couldn’t extend to television, but a requirement of identifying the transmitter for three minutes at the start of broadcasting could be.

But what if a company took advantage of this and did something terrible like insert adverts in this period or editorialise or… whatever? Yes, the ITA banned that, as did the Television Act. But what if someone changed their minds? The GPO could only talk to the ITA, not the ITA’s contractors; could the ITA be trusted?

The answer was to limit the length of the opening sequence – which also had the happy co-incidence of limiting any claims for advertising hour averages over the day and thus reducing those awful, awful commercials. Anything more than – oh, let’s pluck a figure from thin air – five minutes was too much and open to abuse.

This start-up is from not long into Channel’s life. They’re not really interested in the GPO’s view: establishing themselves in the hearts and minds of Channel Islanders is more important. They exceed this arbitrary limit and would do for a couple of months until the ITA clamped down, fearful of provoking the GPO. This overlong startup routine was pruned at the suggestion of the ITA and rather than re-casting the whole sequence, the reprised element was simply dropped and the first theme cut short. This curiously ill tempered solution remained in place for a decade or more, with the first theme abruptly faded out in mid sequence and without explanation, bringing the daily routine to within the five minute limit required.

The shortened version, with its remarkable fade out in mid-theme, can be heard here:


We are indebted to Dave Jeffery for the recreated start-up sequence and stills above.

You Say

3 responses to this article

MediaHistoryNow 21 June 2018 at 6:16 pm

For a detailed account of early Channel Television as seen by an American journalist, you may wish to check out Martin Mayer’s ‘About Television’ (1972). A large section of one of the book’s chapters is devoted to Channel, which Mayer describes as the closest British equivalent of a small-market U.S. station.

Jeremy Rogers 21 June 2018 at 8:19 pm

51% of the shareholding of Channel was in the hands of a subsidiary of ABPC from 1965, specifically to prevent it from potential liquidation, as they gave it a guarantee. These shares were sold to CI residents and businesses in the mid 1970s.

Chris Bowden-Smith 23 June 2018 at 3:51 pm

Interesting to learn that. I knew ABC gave them material help but not that ABPC bought shares. Explains a lot!

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