1956 – losses reach £3¼ million

1956 – losses reach £3¼ million

Pioneering proved to be a pretty unrewarding business financially. The lack of any other ITV area with whom to network, slowness in the conversion of sets to receive the ITV signals and caution over the new advertising medium in some circles, combined against the new arrival. By December, the chairman had to report to the company’s general meeting ‘substantial losses’. By the end of one year’s operations the company had lost £3¼ million.

Despite this, Associated-Rediffusion continued to set the pace. On January 6, a bright news magazine programme was launched to create a new standard in television journalism. It has been doing so ever since, for the name of this programme was ‘This Week’.

On the staff side, 1956 saw two major appointments – Paul Adorian was made managing director and John McMillan came in as controller of programmes. With Capt. T. M. Brownrigg as general manager, the management team was complete.

Then came a further major gamble. Losses were continuing to build up. Yet, such was the group’s faith in the outcome, a deal was concluded on August 23 with Associated Newspapers for British Electric Traction (on behalf of itself and Rediffusion) to buy four-fifths of the Associated Newspaper interest. Subsequently the remaining one-fifth was acquired.

In September, Studio 9 was opened in Television House. Little was it realised then that it would become the nerve centre for ITV’s coverage of general elections and Royal Weddings. Nor could anybody envisage how many of the world’s leading statesmen and politicians would appear before its cameras for ‘This Week’ and ‘Division’. Meanwhile, in February, the ITA’s Midland transmitter had gone on the air. This meant the setting up of networking with ATV. The audience was slowly growing and by October, a million sets could receive ITV programmes in the London area. But the losses mounted.

It was at this troubled time that the board – conscious of its responsibility to provide a comprehensive public service – took the decision to pioneer again by providing the first television programmes for schools in Britain and the Commonwealth.

A Show Called Fred

‘A Show Called Fred’ pioneered in its own way in 1956. Among those in it were (left to right) Valentine Dyall, Graham Starke, Kenneth Connor and Peter Sellers, together with The Alberts (back and right). Spike Milligan added to the madness.

1961 – an ominous forecast and colour

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’

1963 – ‘The Lover’ scoops the pool

1963 – 'THE LOVER' SCOOPS THE POOL

This was the year when Harold Pinter’s ‘The Lover’ won more awards than any other television play. It had had a background of controversy when it was screened on March 28, but there was no controversy among the judges in September when they awarded it the Prix Italia for TV drama in Naples. Then came the deliberations of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors . . . best script of the year – Harold Pinter; best actress of the year – Vivien Merchant; best actor of the year – Alan Badel – all for ‘The Lover’. On top of that, Joan Kemp-Welch, who directed the production, won the award for the most outstanding creative work. In addition, Peter Morley and Cyril Bennet, joint producers of ‘This Week’ at that time, won the award for the best production of a factual series. There were plenty of other excitements in 1963. They began on January 9, with the play ‘Darkness at Noon’ about which one critic wrote: ‘I have seldom seen the talents of cast, camera work and thought working so well together on television to mix horror and compassion so vividly’. This was followed by ‘Black Nativity’ winning a special U.N.D.A. award at the Monte Carlo Festival. The citation said: ‘The ecstatic performance given by the artists was made possible by brilliant camera work, lighting and choreography’.

In June, the documentary ‘One Man’s Hunger’, made as a contribution to the World Freedom from Hunger campaign, was shown to delegates at the World Food Congress in Washington.

Then on August 9, a new type of programme crashed into life to bawl lustily from the start. ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ had arrived to give television debuts to such groups and singers as The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Donovan, Manfred Mann, Dusty Springfield (as a solo artist), Marianne Faithfull and Lulu.

Next an audience of no less than 250 million had a chance to hear British voices raised in a different way when Associated-Rediffusion’s cameras covered the England v. the Rest of the World soccer match at Wembley in October for the match was relayed to 23 European countries. Finally at the end of the year, Capt. T. M. Brownrigg retired as general manager and John McMillan took over.

Alan Badel and Vivien Merchant in a scene from Harold Pinter’s ‘The Lover’.

‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ continued the pioneering trend set by earlier programmes such as ‘Cool for Cats’. Most of this country’s, and indeed the world’s, leading pop groups and solo artists have appeared on it. Left – Freddie and the Dreamers; top – the Applejacks; bottom – The Rolling Stones.

1965 // FROM TRANSDIFFUSION