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.

1958 – to Russia (and elsewhere) with love


The company has always maintained that its job is to provide good programmes in every sphere of television entertainment without specialising, and 1958 provided some excellent examples.

In January a major documentary reached the screens after months of planning and research. Called ‘U.S.S.R. Now’, it was a 60-minute feature on Russian life. The night after transmission, it was screened again for M.P.s in the Grand Committee Room at Westminster Hall.

In contrast, the company had been screening a trend-setting light entertainment show of music and dance called ‘Cool for Cats’. Its director, Joan Kemp-Welch, was pronounced the best director of light entertainment by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors. Drama came into the spotlight in September, when ‘Women in Love’, a series of four plays with leading European actresses, was screened. On the news magazine front, a ‘This Week’ feature on American tourists in Britain was declared the best foreign production by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Hollywood. Finally, 1958 saw ‘Macbeth’ produced especially for schools … ‘Twelfth Night’ (1959), ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ (1960), ‘Arms and the Man’ (1961), ‘Hamlet’ (1961), ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1962), ‘Medea’ (1963) and ‘Playboy of the Western World’ (1964) were to follow.

The entertainment as well as the education of children was not neglected. Indeed they were combined. In this year, it was decided to give children’s programmes a magazine flavour and ‘Lucky Dip’ was created for the network. As the years passed, the format for the magazine programme has changed to the ‘Five O’Clock’ series. Also introduced in 1958 were specially written dramas for children.

In 1958, too, the company was consolidating its policy of helping others. In March, scholarships were set up for pupils of the Central School of Speech and Drama, while in June £5,000 was given to the Friends of the Tate Gallery. The scholarships and gifts to the arts and sciences have continued ever since.

In July the shareholders received their first reward for their courage in supporting what the chairman had previously described as either a wild gamble or an act of faith.

Harold Macmillan visited the ‘This Week’ studios in 1958 to add his name to the long list of world figures who have appeared in the programme.

A scene from one of the six stories dealing with ‘Women in Love’ transmitted on Wednesday, September 24, 1958. George Sanders was the story-teller for this two-hour programme which marked the company’s third anniversary.