1957 – programmes for schools pioneered

1957 – programmes for schools pioneered

Despite the financial losses, there was no loss of the pioneering spirit. In February, an Education Advisory Council was set up to advise on schools programmes. The first of these was screened on May 13 under the banner ‘ITV goes to School’. Since then, the company has established the following ‘firsts’ in school broadcasting: the first science programme for primary school children (‘The World Around Us’, 1959); the first foreign language series (‘Chez les Dupre’, 1960); the first programmes for less able children (‘You and the World’, 1964); the first religious series (‘Crossroads’, 1964); and the first for infants (‘Finding Out’, 1964).

On September 19, 1957, the company also became the first to take out a £2 million policy on 2,000 guests. A galaxy of stars and distinguished members of the press, business and advertising worlds sailed down the Thames in a tribute to all those who had helped make the programmes of the first two years a success.

The company’s variety artists that year included Arthur Askey, The Crazy Gang, the Lyons family, Max Wall, Alfred Marks, Denis Lotis and Robert Dhéry. On the more serious side, the first screening of films made for television by the British Film Institute at the National Film Theatre in December included films made by the company’s features department.

There was a happier note at the second annual general meeting in November, when the chairman reported that the company was now operating ‘at a satisfactory profit’. Advertisement bookings were increasing and while the audience in 1955 had been under three-quarters of a million, it was now approaching 5½ million. The loss for the year was £1 million.

Greenhill Primary School class

In 1957 Rediffusion gave 100 television sets to schools in the London area. Now 2,150 schools and colleges can receive transmissions in the area out of around 11,400 in the whole country. Here pupils at Greenhill Primary School, Harrow, watch a programme in the ‘Finding Out’ series.

1961 – an ominous forecast and colour


‘Boiling up inside this little country is a situation that could make the quiet war into a loud war, shattering all our eardrums.’ … These words were used by the scriptwriter about the company’s first contribution to the Intertel series. It was called ‘The Quiet War’ and was transmitted in May, 1961. The subject was Vietnam.

Nor were domestic topics neglected, for in January ‘This Week’, which regularly brought the facts of life at home and abroad to the British public, entered its sixth year and so became the longest-running regular current affairs programme on British television.

Nor, indeed, were the staff neglected. In February, the company’s house magazine. Fusion, which is run by the staff for the staff, was placed first in its class in the world contest run by the International Council of Industrial Editors. Nor was adult education neglected. During the first half of 1961 ‘Chez les Dupré’ became the first adult education series to be transmitted in London. It was watched by nearly two million people a week.

In March, there was massive praise for ‘Laudes Evangelii’, a choreographic play in music and mime depicting the life of Christ. Also in March, ‘Jim’s Inn’, the most famous of all the advertising magazines, notched its 200th performance.

May saw Television Audience Measurement reporting that the London ITV audience had passed the nine million mark, and another Harold Pinter play – ‘The Collection’.

General manager, Tom Brownrigg, had created a motto for the company to live up to. It was ‘never baffled’. And in June, 1961, the staff were not baffled when they became involved in the first regular series of radio broadcasts by an ITV company. These were made from Television House to Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica during the West Indies Constitutional Conference.

To underline this ability to tackle anything – and to learn for the future – the staff mounted their own revue in Studio 5 in December, televised it in colour and screened the results nearby for other members of the staff to study.

‘The Quiet War’