Tonight’s Yorkshire Television… in 1968 

29 July 2018 tbs.pm/67156

  • Yorkshire Television joins the ITV network this Monday morning, having bought the day from Granada, both companies seeking a fresh start at the beginning of the week. Meanwhile down in London, Rediffusion was not feeling so benevolent, so Thames was to launch on the Tuesday.
  • Therefore, in an answer to a very specialised pub quiz question, two Yorkshire Television idents were seen on Rediffusion London, but, as will become apparent, no Rediffusion idents appeared on YTV.
  • Whilst every ITV company coming on for the first time in the 1950s and early 1960s had done something to celebrate their launch locally, the launch of Harlech on 20 May 1968 had come to define how it should be done in the new era… and how it shouldn’t.
  • YTV follows Harlech’s pattern of opening with a senior figure dipping the chief announcer into a bowl of blancmange, showing highlights of that later in the evening, running a documentary about how they came to be a new ITV service, then having a star-studded variety spectacular to welcome the new viewers.
  • What YTV stops short of is the debacle of Harlech’s opening night variety show, which was networked, just to make things worse, and so bad that no other ITV company bothered taking YTV’s First Night; in London, Thames didn’t even bother trying to do one.
  • Harlech’s launch show had been pre-recorded in Bristol the night before. The staff then went out and got riotously drunk, leaving themselves no time to properly edit the tape. The decision to bike the tapes over to Cardiff for play-out, rather than doing it by wire, left even less time to do anything with it, so it went on air little more than hurriedly strung together rushes. The national viewers, looking forward to a huge spectacular with Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, instead watched something that contained several awkwardly framed shots including the back of one performer, and one star who sang a song in part one, and then sang it again identically – for it was the same tape – in part three.
  • It’s up to you whether you think this was all caused by drink or whether the ex-TWW staff decided to sabotage the new Harlech TV.
  • Back to Yorkshire. Absent today are chief announcer Redvers Kyle and head of presentation Neil Bramson, who are both to be found in London, serving out the last day of their identical jobs at Rediffusion. This means that early YTV had a very Rediffusion-like look, just as early Thames reflected much of ABC’s practices.

  • HRH opens the new studios in Kirkstall Road, Leeds, at 11.45am. These were the first ITV studios to be built specifically for 625-line colour, which is why the footage of the opening survives this way. However, the programmes were all down-converted to 405-line black and white for transmission, which is why archive footage of YTV programming from before November 1969 generally survives in black and white.
  • Another reason is that the studios were not complete when they were opened, with work continuing for quite some time. For some audience shows, according to ABC’s Geoffrey Lugg, it was easier to use a recently vacated very much black-and-white studio complex in Didsbury for the first few months.
  • Tim Brinton does the commentary for the opening ceremony, fresh from doing similar presenting jobs for ABC. Brinton would later be a Tory MP from 1979 until 1987. He died from Alzheimers in 2009.

  • Yorkshire’s first network offering was something of a scoop – The Ashes from Headingley cricket grounds, which had previously been exclusive to the BBC. The commentators include Michael Parkinson and Sir Leonard Hutton, a former England captain and one of the most revered names in cricket.
  • Cricket being what it is, there are a number of breaks to fill. YTV stays on over the lunch break to show two programmes for small children – tall children can go to BBC-1 – with Sugarball standing out for the slightly racist description and both having Jess Yates, the not-father of Paula and future presenter of YTV religious shows, as producer.
  • We’re back to the cricket at 2.10pm, and then the TVTimes gets all weird. It’s unlikely that YTV showed just five minutes of The Ashes at 4.10pm; Jess Yates is back again at 4.15pm with Diane’s Magic Book, but that did not last an hour and four minutes. That show, a rival to the BBC’s Jackanory with the twist that the storyteller is herself a child, was 14 minutes long. So the start time is probably wrong. Unless YTV did indeed do just 5 minutes of cricket and came back at 4.30pm for more, or there was a different children’s programme or programmes between 4.30pm and 5.19pm, then the start time for Diane’s Magic Book should be 5.05pm – which is a bit late for a show aimed at primary school children.
  • At 5.19pm – and if you’re in at 5.20pm you’re too late – comes Anglia’s The Survival Game. Yorkshire and Anglia had a close working relationship at first, mini-networking each other’s local programmes, forming a joint marketing organisation, Trident Anglia, with Tyne Tees and generally being very pally. Then, suddenly, in 1974, this came to a flying stop and the two companies’ management were barely on speaking terms for quite a while.
  • What happened, of course, was that in 1974 the Belmont transmitter, which had happily been transmitting Anglia to Lincolnshire but also much of Humberside and South Yorkshire, with programmes easily received, at least on VHF, in central Leeds, switched to YTV. This certainly made sense to viewers in and around Yorkshire, but less so for those in north Norfolk who switched from getting news from nearby Norwich to getting it from far away Leeds. The switched also helped YTV, which also had a giant UHF overlap area with Tyne Tees in northern Yorkshire, and were struggling financially with balancing their network requirements against their being the smallest of the Big 5 companies by quite a margin. For Anglia, this switch represented a loss of about a third of their advertising income. The resulting bickering in ITV would harm the system for the next few years.

  • Back to 1968. The Survival Game, a spin-off of Anglia’s hugely successful Survival natural history strand, was ITV’s take on the BBC’s popular Top of the Form. Both used schools in different regions competing against each other by videolink, with Anglia making use of, and acknowledging in the credits, the OB facilities of the schools’ local ITV company – in this case Harlech and Westward.
  • The local weather at 6.01pm – don’t be early! – appears to be four minutes long. Presumably much of this time was actually taken up with adverts to balance the lack of opportunity to show many during the cricket.
  • Calendar, presented by Jonathan Aitken of all people, goes out in the slot once held by Granada’s Scene at 6.30… which went out 6.35pm and to hell with the title. This is because they’ve nipped back to Headingley for more cricket in what, from tomorrow, would be Calendar‘s normal slot of 6.05pm.
  • The success of The Beverley Hillbillies – poor people being rich – had caused a number of spin-offs and rivals playing with the format. Petticoat Junction was poor people being poor; Green Acres was rich people trying to be poor; The Pruitts of Southampton was rich people actually being poor; and Meet Mona McCluskey was rich people pretending to be poor. The series was not a success and lasted one season on NBC in 1965-6.
  • Notably missing in tonight’s schedule is Crossroads, with YTV continuing Granada’s policy of not carrying the show. Thames launched without Crossroads as well, but since people had been following it on Rediffusion, there was a predictable outcry and u-turn.
  • Something neither Yorkshire nor Thames considered dropping was Coronation Street, even in 1968 the powerhouse for ITV that it still is today.
  • Another programme that was mandatory to carry was World in Action, the brilliant current affairs documentary series. Lord Hill of Luton, postmaster-general at the start of ITV and chairman of the Independent Television Authority at the time of the franchise decisions in 1967, has written of how Granada was the most troublesome of the ITV companies from the point of view of complaints, and how World in Action was the most troublesome of its programmes. Nevertheless, he believed that both Granada and World in Action were essential to ITV.

  • Whilst ITV avoided showing YTV’s First Night, the network took, and heavily promoted, Daddy Kiss It Better at 8.30pm. This hour-long play was by Peter Nichols, who would go on to be one of the nation’s foremost playwrights, and starred movie actor Michael Craig and comedic actress Dilys Laye, here playing against type, very successfully, in a drama. Many had questioned whether the era of the single play was coming to an end, especially with ABC’s Armchair Theatre leaving Sundays and about to peter out as a format under Thames, but the popularity of this drama proved there was still life in the concept.
  • Made in Yorkshire is described as “[a] film about Yorkshire and television – with a little about Yorkshire Television”. This is a very clever sentence, but since it included a clip of a BBC film about the building of their Manchester-provisioned Holme Moss transmitter and the rest was about YTV’s plans, not entirely accurate. Professional Yorkshiremen Harold Wilson and Fred Trueman make an appearance with professional Yorkshireman Michael Parkinson; sculptor Henry Moore had lost all trace of his Yorkshire accent and was based in the Home Counties, but remained proud of his Castleford roots. Leeds is now home to several of his sculptures and to the Henry Moore Institute, a centre for the study of 3D art.
  • News at Ten‘s lead story was HRH opening Yorkshire Television that morning – a subject of national interest not just to royal watchers but also to television viewers in general. Tomorrow’s ITN news would lead on the launch of Thames and the Lord Mayor of London’s speech at the accompanying event for similar reasons.
  • Transdiffusion’s Yorkshire correspondent reported that YTV’s First Night at 10.30pm was very much in the mould of Harlech’s offering back in May, but done properly this time. Frankie Vaughan was a huge star at the time, so quite a coup for Yorkshire, although his connection to the region was tenuous, if not nonexistent, as he was from Liverpool.
  • The Untouchables episode is ‘Elegy’, number 8 of season 4, first shown on ABC in the United States in November 1962. This suggests YTV took up this Desilu series where Granada had left it, although Granada had shown it in primetime.
  • Yorkshire Television end their first day on air at approximately 12.15am, with a regional weather forecast read by the duty continuity announcer. YTV carry on Granada’s policy – which seemed scandalous in back in 1956 but here passes without comment – of not doing a religious epilogue at closedown. Yorkshire do diverge from Granada practice, however, by playing the National Anthem – the lack of which had also seemed scandalous in 1956.

You Say

10 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 29 July 2018 at 11:16 pm

Smashing fayre as always. Any chance of critiquing the Harlech schedule for the day of their ‘spectacular’? I’d never heard of the debacle before.

Stephen Clay 30 July 2018 at 4:17 pm

I rushed home from school to this sequence:
Test Card D with the new ‘ITA Yorkshire Television’ wording and music; then, 400Hz tone for 5mins.
5 mins black level (no sound)
Newly worded Tuning Caption (Picasso) and march.
After 30 seconds, the first Authority Announcement went wrong – ‘Long pause….nday July the 29th’
At the start of the last verse, the vision switched to the new static YORKSHIRE TELEVISION symbol – different to the one on some schools programme previews at Easter.
At the end of the music came the new animated YORKSHIRE TELEVISION presents symbol, and official opening ceremony.

Subsequent start-ups (and I think there was a second one on that day) had the full announcement ‘This is Yorkshire Television broadcasting from the Emley Moor and Scarborough transmitters of the Independent Television Authority’. The clock would sometimes be switched in half way through the last verse.

The clockface used was the same as the recreation elsewhere, but had a small chevron underneath instead of above a line at the top.

All 4 announcers appeared on the first day – Christine Acres, Peter Lewis, Ian Disdains and Brian Cullingford. (The studio had a light grey background – names superimposed in white – like ABC.)

The weather forecast was for Yorkshire and Humberside, and Yorkshire called its region the “county” – a bit tough if you lived in Notts or Lincs.

There were a lot of switching errors with programmes starting a few seconds late, and Yorkshire was badly affected by strike action.

Dave Rhodes 2 August 2018 at 2:25 pm

Fascinating stuff, thankyou Kif and Stephen – I saw the opening of YTV years ago at a Kaleidoscope ‘do’ but always wondered who was commentating.

Ian de Stains died late last year – bit more background on his career here https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2009/08/08/general/working-humbly-to-serve-everyone-2/

Brian Cullingford (like John Crosse a little later) was an ex-pirate radio chap, it seems – a bit of him here: http://www.offshoreradio.co.uk/audio/cullingf.mp3

Peter Lewis, of course, we know all about – but can anyone shed light on Christine Acres?

And how long did in-vision continuity last for? Did everything change with the switch to colour?

Kif Bowden-Smith 2 August 2018 at 5:01 pm

It lasted some months, perhaps till colour but I don’t know the dates. There is a persistent myth that they never had in vision announcing. It’s yet another wrong belief that won’t go away. Same for C4.
Problem is people automatically back dating the earliest things they recall, whereas in real life, it was often a bit different in the period before you remember.
Like endless futile arguments over which companies used the national anthem in the old days. The answer is simple. Everybody except Granada. Though Thames and HTV dropped it later.

Kif Bowden-Smith 2 August 2018 at 5:06 pm

I should add that Yorkshire dropped it later too.

Dave Rhodes 2 August 2018 at 9:14 pm

Thanks, Kif, for your detailed responses.

The Times and Guardian archives suggest Yorkshire went back to the Ashes between 4.30 and 5.19 – worth noting this was non-exclusive coverage, as Auntie had the full match spread across BBC1 and 2.

You may be slightly mistaken re First Night by the way – the newspaper schedules claim it was scheduled by Granada, Border, Tyne Tees, Anglia and Grampian – but there may have been a last minute change.

Stephen Clay 3 August 2018 at 12:30 pm

I hope you enjoy this:

The technician’s strike hit hard at Yorkshire – on their first Sunday (4/8/68), Emley Moor transmitted London Weekend Television all day. (I recorded their afternoon startup – Alec Taylor.)

The writing was on the wall for the announcers when I read in the paper that a BBC executive was moving to Yorkshire: One Monday in early November (11/11/68?), the announcers stopped appearing in vision, with the original team rapidly replaced by an all-male one – notably Redvers Kyle.

On 17th March 1969, I lost the signal (when the 1265ft Emley Moor mast collapsed). I had to wait until the 1080ft concrete mast was commissioned in 1971 to see Yorkshire regularly again, although it was now weak.
(The Sheffield relay was rushed into service by the ITA who transferred equipment from elsewhere (Newhaven?) after the mast collapse.)

The colour clock was orange on black with the chevron, and company name at the top above a line.
There was also a short period in the early 70s where the announcer would describe the day’s programmes in vision just before midday between the schools and children’s programmes.

Notes: Christine Acres – I don’t know – I have a recording of her doing a startup after the strike.
Ian Disdains – how it was spelt on-screen – went to BBC1 where he spoke very slowly – BBC style at the time!
I never saw a ‘form-up’ in the opening sequence – although it doesn’t mean there wasn’t one after I lost the signal – seems unlikely! I always thought it would go with the music – thanks for doing it!

Dave Rhodes 3 August 2018 at 1:53 pm

Cheers Kif – by the way, Yorkshire’s female announcer was Christine Akehurst.

According to Linked In, she left in January ’69, presumably at the end of a six month contract – maybe giving us a clue, too, as to when IVC was phased out?

Dave Rhodes 3 August 2018 at 3:29 pm

Thanks Stephen, for the additional background and dates. Very helpful and fascinating recollections.

Kif Bowden-Smith 3 August 2018 at 4:59 pm

Thanks Stephen. I did witness a form up in the start up several times using DX reception of Emley Moor from my home in Cheshire, but it was in mid 1969, which is why our vision recreation startup includes this for effect. The authority announcement includes Sheffield temporary transmitter so it was well after the main mast fell. Our vision recreations from Transdiffusion are always based on witnessed events and never on guesswork! Thanks so much for the invaluable information you provided. The November date you quoted was new to me and is most useful to know!

Your comment

Enter it below