For the last time… 

3 May 2021 tbs.pm/72806

It was a shock. It hadn’t even been imagined. The ITV companies had all presumed they had a degree of permanency. If they did anything truly wrong, then they might be booted out at some point. But it just wasn’t likely that they’d be told to leave just because there was a better offer on the table from someone else.

All of this especially applied to ITV’s flagship station, the first commercial television company, the founder of the network, the company that had kept the others afloat during the first precarious years when the finances were rocky. The backbone of the ITV network was Rediffusion, and they’d been told to get out, reduced to a mere 49% of their replacement, with no more say in the programmes or the future of Independent Television.

The injustice of it. The company most able – repeatedly – to meet and beat the BBC at its own game, replaced by a fluffy weekend company from the provinces.

 

 

Presentation managers try to see the bigger picture. They don’t interfere in the minutiæ of presentation, leaving that up to their talented transmission controllers and continuity announcers. But in the 1960s, a time where rules were important, they did try to make sure that the diktats of the Postmaster-General, the regulator’s regulator, were strictly followed. One such rule was the handover from the owner of the transmitters to the programme company each day. A registered piece of music was to be played, and an announcement mentioning the Independent Television Authority and the transmitters in question or the region, plus the name of the company, must be read out. These were usually recorded to tape in order to ensure they were the same every day, day in, day out. And they always were. But…

 

 

TVTimes announcing Rediffusion's last day

The Rediffusion daily start-up music, Widespread World of Rediffusion, was popular with viewers. It made it into the TAM ratings – not the top 10 or anything, but its presence was obvious. Did people notice the handover announcement in the middle when they put their TV sets on 5 minutes early in order to catch the music? Probably not – it’s the type of thing that washes over most people, especially when it’s the same announcement every weekday.

But today is Monday 29 July 1968 and today is different. The head of presentation at Rediffusion, Neil Bramson, wanted to mark the day just as much as his staff did. For this was Rediffusion London’s last day. After the usual Monday off-peak and early-peak programming, much of peak time would be devoted to celebrating Rediffusion’s programming accomplishments. The day was starting early, thanks to a cricket match ITV were covering. Presentation would still like to do something a bit different.

Chief announcer Redvers Kyle, like Neil Bramson about to transfer to the new Yorkshire Television in Leeds, also wanted to do something. He was rostered on to the late shift, but 5 minutes in the continuity studio before programmes began got his voice spliced into the standard music, replacing his ordinary handover announcement. The rest of the announcing team were dispersing. Muriel Young went to Granada as head of their children’s output. Jon Kelley, rostered on the early shift that day, went back to acting. Howard Williams got a staff job at Radio Luxembourg. They would be replaced by voices previously only heard in the midlands and north of England – David Hamilton, John Benson, John Edmunds, Philip Elsmore, Sheila Kennedy.

 

 

From tomorrow, those new voices would be sitting in the same seat, speaking into the same microphone, looking into the same camera, in the same studio, in the same building as Bramson’s team. Only now it was to be Geoffrey Lugg’s team, the announcers would welcome people to Thames Television, and behind them would be a Manchester-drawn sketch of London.

So this was it. For the final time, this is Rediffusion.

 

 

The unregulated closedown – the General Post Office was as uninterested in the handing back of the transmitters at the end of the day as it was interested in the handing over of them at the start – was a time for more effusive goodbyes.

 

 

But the really powerful message of the day was right at the beginning.

 

With thanks to Darren Brian Renforth and Geoffrey Lugg.

You Say

8 responses to this article

garry simpson 3 May 2021 at 6:37 pm

I am confused by this. Did Yorkshire Television start early owing to The Test Match?

ROGER BANKS 4 May 2021 at 11:50 am

Brings back happy memories,Have been a sound engineer with ITV now for over 50 years,I still do the odd day for them,but it is nothing like the days of Rediffusion,Londons television.

Russ J Graham 4 May 2021 at 1:39 pm

@Garry: No. The new contracts started on Tuesday 30 July. Granada sold their Monday (east of the Pennines) to the new Yorkshire Television so that each could have a proper fresh start on the Monday.

Rediffusion, however, declined to sell their last day to Thames, so had that single Monday on air before Thames took over on Tuesday.

Arthur Vasey 5 May 2021 at 1:56 am

I have no memories of Rediffusion as an actual broadcasting company – I grew up in north-east England and I think I was about two years old when all those franchises changed – for me, Rediffusion was a company that put a little white box on a window ledge which connected to a specially-adapted telly via an odd-looking cable – you could just listen to the telly and not watch it – no actual pictures, but audio only – the box thing had channels with letters on from A to O, I recall, in a place I was in – although, up my way, only A to F were used – it was called “piped TV” – the channels you got varied, depending upon your location – I think the headquarters was based in Billingham – how they were able to get Yorkshire Television up there, even with the slightly ghostly reception was quite a feat – you couldn’t always pick it up in parts of North Yorkshire!

The channels were tuned to the following, with no user modifications available:

A – BBC Radio 4 VHF;

B – BBC Radio Cleveland (as it was called then);

C – Tyne Tees

D – Yorkshire – choppy reception – replaced by Channel 4 when it started in 1982;

E – BBC 1

F – usually BBC 2 – but, in the 70s, they were off the air during the day and relayed Radio 1 in downtime and – for some weird reason when they had a blank screen, you got Yorkshire in picture only, which seemed rather odd – one day, someone must have mucked about with the tuner and we got Radio Tees all day – a bit weird, getting ads on BBC 2 – Radio Tees being the local commercial station at the time!

From about 1984 or so, Rediffusion was one of the first companies to launch true cable television – although they only had limited channels – Sky Channel (now Sky One), Music Box (an early version of MTV), Screen Sport, The Children’s Channel (those two timeshared) and, for a bit extra, TEN – not the number 10 – The Entertainment Network – The Movie Channel – showing films that had already been on in cinemas and released on video, but not yet premiered on normal television – used to be five years between a film being at the cinema, then coming to telly – there was no video rental much before then – you had to wait five years minimum – some even longer, if at all!

Eddie Hutchinson 5 May 2021 at 12:54 pm

Interested in some more details about Redvers Kyle. Is that a Yorkshire TV backdrop behind him? It looks like the pattern made by the early part of the black and white ident Yorkshire used before changing to the one-dimensional colour chevron, during the brief period when the company used in-vision continuity. Also, what was Redvers’ timeframe between finishing the last night at Rediffusion and then heading up to Leeds to start (belatedly) as chief announcer for the new franchise?

Russ J Graham 5 May 2021 at 4:44 pm

@Eddie: No, the picture of Redvers is from 1964, taken in a London hotel by Kif himself. The cyclorama background vs the chevron form-up is pure coincidence!

No idea when RBK officially started at YTV. He’d certainly secured the job before Rediffusion went off the air, as Bramson had got in at YTV early and hoovered up everybody who wanted to continue working (ABC had made it clear that they would be doing the presentation for the new joint company). He’s unlikely to have appeared on the Tuesday – no train to Leeds until the early morning milk train at 4am and he’s unlikely to have bothered with that slow clattering run – but it must have been quite soon as we’ve got correspondent reports of him being at YTV dating from immediately after the strike.

Eddie Hutchinson 12 May 2021 at 9:07 pm

Laurie West literally spitting out his last announcement for Rediffusion there.

Darren Brian Renforth 27 May 2021 at 3:05 am

Arthur Vasey’s recollections are similar to my own. I would have been 2½ years old at the time. I remember relatives in the Walker area of Newcastle upon Tyne having Rediffusion. Younger people won’t believe we had to get behind the windowsill at the back of the set to change channels.
The service closed in the early’80s. As with many households north of the River Tyne who couldn’t receive ghost free pictures from Pontop Pike, aerials sprouted up for Bilsdale.
A fantastic article indeed Kif.

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Liverpool, Thursday 29 July 2021