Moving mountains 

16 July 2018

This article was corrected on 18 July 2018, as seen in the footnotes


Date: 1973
Music: Young Kingdom (Jack Trombey)
Swinging Strangely (Alan Parker/William Parrish)
Nobel Thoughts (James Harpham)


The mountainous nature of Wales has always presented a problem for getting higher frequency transmissions to the population.

At the start of Independent Television in Wales it was already known that more transmitters would be required to provide coverage than in any other region. The big transmitter at St Hilary in south Wales was able to cover the greater part of the principality’s population – as well as most of the west of England – but further transmitters were needed to catch the next biggest centres in the north of the country.

Despite VHF television have a very good propagation pattern, smaller booster transmitters would be needed to try to reach some of the towns in the centre of the nation, and to counteract the habit of radio waves reflecting between the sides of the mountains down into the valleys, producing a strong picture made up of dozens of reflections of the same signal and therefore unwatchable.

The arrival of UHF did not help. A far more delicate signal even before the addition of a tenuous colour overlay, the ghosting of the valleys, the line-of-site blocking of the mountains and the limited travel of UHF signals meant that dozens of small and medium power transmitters would be needed just to cover the main population, let alone the towns deep in the Welsh midlands.

For this reason, HTV’s opening is unique for having its Transmitters in Service slides on a carousel. Every other region could get by with just one slide, even as UHF boosters sprang up across the country. Wales and the West needed to accommodate 27 UHF transmitters – 7 high power ‘main’ stations and 20 medium and low power boosters – as well as 12 VHF ones – 3 main and 9 boosters.

And even then the three slides only hint at the complexities of HTV’s service pattern at that point, with the company running 3 and half services in total: HTV Wales in English and Welsh on UHF and VHF (and St Hilary VHF channel 7), HTV General Service in English and Welsh on St Hilary VHF channel 10, and HTV West in English only on the UHF services wholly within England. Additionally, the scars of history crossed the HTV Wales service, with the south Wales transmitters and the west and north Wales transmitters being two separate subnetworks for sales of advertising – there being little point in showing adverts for a car dealership in Wrexham to viewers in Cardiff and no market for a Swansea carpet retailer in Holyhead.

Today though it’s a schools opening with all the programming the same and no adverts being shown, and thus the 3.5 services are squashed down into just one on all transmitters, with the HTV symbol unmarked and Cymru/Wales, Wales or West notable by their absence.

The music was commissioned by Harlech (as it then was) for their launch in 1968. A suite was written, with opening, closedown and ident music all created and recorded by Jack Trombey (Dutchman Jan Stoeckart using one of his many pseudonyms), although the ident music went unused when Harlech got Robert Brownjohn, fresh from creating title sequences for the James Bond movies, in to create their ident and he came up with something so futuristic and en-point op-arty that a different musical accompaniment was required.

The ident music survived the change from Harlech to HTV and monochrome to colour in 1970, lasting until 1986.

  • An editing error left this article originally suggesting that the ‘waterfall’ ident music lasted until the 1990s. It was the logo that lasted that long; the music was changed in 1986. We regret the error.

You Say

6 responses to this article

Jerry Ralph 16 July 2018 at 4:27 pm

Any idea who provided the Authority announcement and continuity on this one?

Russ J Graham 16 July 2018 at 4:41 pm

It’s also a reconstruction (we had the script but not the recording), so the voice is Mr Rory Clark.

Darren Brian Renforth 17 July 2018 at 10:08 pm

Absolutely wonderful!
The General Service was primarily English with West and Cymru/Wales English language programmes. They did show Welsh language schools programmes however.

As late as 1972 some Welsh language peak time programmes were shown on the Cymru/Wales VHF 405-line transmitters only.

Mark Jeffries 18 July 2018 at 1:32 am

And “Young Kingdom” pretty much stuck around until TVam going off at 9:25, correct?

And did anyone at HTV considering redoing the ident music so there would be three notes at the end?

Mike Harris 18 July 2018 at 1:16 pm

The HTV ‘waterfall’ ident jingle was dropped in 1986. It most certainly did not survive into the 90s.

Russ J Graham 18 July 2018 at 1:45 pm

Corrected, with the side note that politeness costs nothing.

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