Introduction

The first ten years

Studio 2 at Wembley photographed this month during a transmission of ‘Notre Ville’, a programme for second or third year students of French. This studio was converted for television from a film studio when the company took over the former 20th Century Fox premises at Wembley.

THE FIRST TEN YEARS

This website has been produced to mark the first annual report by our chairman, Mr John Spencer Wills, of Rediffusion Television Ltd, the successor of Associated-Rediffusion Ltd.

It is now appropriate to look back at some of the highlights from the past 10 dramatic years. This is done, not with a yearning for the past, but as an indication of all that we have put into the development in this country of television for public entertainment and information.

Nothing is so dead as last night’s programmes. (Naturally we are gratified when they bring us praise. Equally when we make mistakes – and we are human so we have made mistakes – then we aim to learn from them.) But if last night’s programmes, and last week’s, and last year’s, and the last decade’s show a willingness to tackle the challenge that our appointment offers, then they can be taken as an indication that those to come in the future will be of the same mettle.

We could have filled a dozen booklets this size with our memories, but we would prefer you only to flavour the past and to know that we intend the future to be even more rewarding to our public.

Scroll through the pages of ‘The First Ten Years’ to see how the years that have gone have equipped us with the experience and know-how to deal with the next ten years.

Rediffusion Television Ltd, Television House, Kingsway, London, W.C.2. HOLborn 7888

Wembley Studios, Wembley Park, Middlesex. WEMbley 8811.

1955 – ten exciting months

Now back through the first ten years …

1955 – TEN EXCITING MONTHS

Never before in the world had a major television organisation started from scratch and got its programmes on the air in much under two years. In October, 1954, the contract for London’s weekday Independent Television programmes was awarded to Associated-Rediffusion Ltd, a combination of the resources of Associated Newspapers, The British Electric Traction Company and Rediffusion, the broadcast relay company. The first board meeting was at the end of November. That left 10 months before opening night on September 22, 1955. It couldn’t be done and if it were done it would be a flop said the Jeremiahs. It was done and it wasn’t a flop. Key personnel were recruited (January). Work started on altering the former 20th Century Fox studios at Wembley into TV studios (January). The lease of Adastral House, H.Q. of the Air Ministry since 1919 was obtained and the building renamed Television House (February). Future Productions Ltd was formed to make filmed programmes for the future (April). And from 4,000 applicants for jobs, 100 were picked for the first of two 10-week training courses at the Viking Studios (June). So right on time, on Wednesday, September 22, master control at Television House said ‘fade-up Guildhall’ and the joint opening night programme with Associated-Television was on the air. Next day, the company became the first to be responsible for a complete day’s Independent Television programmes. The start of ‘Take Your Pick’ and ‘Double Your Money’ right from the beginning attracted much publicity. Something else which did not attract so much attention was the formation of a special department of specialists to handle programmes for children. One of their creations was ‘Small Time’, which, like the quizzes, is still running.
Glenn Melvyn, Corinne Gray and Arthur Askey

1955… Arthur Askey, Glenn Melvyn and Corinne Gray appeared in ‘Love and Kisses’, a domestic comedy series. Other programmes during 1955 included a serial – ‘Sixpenny Corner’, 18th century melodrama – ‘The Granville Melodramas’, human problems with Godfrey Winn – ‘As Others See Us’, a feature series – ‘Our British Heritage’, talent spotting with Ralph Reader – ‘Chance of a Lifetime,’ a series on sport – ‘Cavalcade of Sport’, and ‘Dragnet’.

1960 – the world and studio 5 opened up

1960 – THE WORLD AND STUDIO 5 OPENED UP

At the 10th anniversary banquet of ITV, September, 1965, the Prime Minister, Mr Harold Wilson, pointed out that in 1939 a British Prime Minister had referred to Czechoslovakia as ‘that far away country of which we know nothing’ but that television now meant familiarity with the problems of Vietnam, Kashmir and Dominica. Back in 1960, Associated-Rediffusion had recognised this fact when the company had originated the idea of Intertel – an International Television Federation – to promote wider understanding of world problems. In November that year, broadcasting organisations in America, Canada and Australia – the major English-speaking countries of the world – united with Associated-Rediffusion to make and exchange documentaries with this aim in mind.

But entertainment and drama programmes generally require studios and in June the company’s directors and technicians were given the best equipped (and largest) studio in the world when the 14,000 sq. ft Studio 5 was opened at Wembley.

Before this, on March 22, British viewers were treated to something new in the way of television drama. It was called ‘The Birthday Party’ and its author was Harold Pinter. On July 21, they saw more of Pinter with ‘Night School’.

In September, ‘Rawhide’ was topping the ratings and ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ was captivating an average of 4,231.000 homes for Associated-Rediffusion.

In November, the high standard of the company’s sets for television productions was recognised by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors nominating Fredric Pusey the best television designer of the year.

In December, 1960, managing director Paul Adorian became the first Briton to be made a Fellow of the Institute of Radio Engineers of the United States. Also in that month chairman John Spencer Wills opened an extension of the Rose Bruford Training College of Speech and Drama. On the programme side at the end of the year, there was the Western ‘Wagon Train’ attracting floods of fan mail, the drama series ‘Somerset Maugham Hour’ attracting the country’s leading actors and actresses and the documentary ‘The Two Faces of Japan’ attracting ‘rave’ reviews.

‘Wagon Train’

‘The Birthday Party’

1965 // FROM TRANSDIFFUSION