Curtain up to-night on Midland ITV


It’s opening day for Aston. What will you be watching?

Birmingham Post
From the Birmingham Post for 17 February 1956

TO-DAY is the birthday of a new entertainment organisation in the Midlands, the independent commercial television service. It is a remarkable occasion for many reasons, for although television entertainment is no new thing, it is the first time Midland viewers have had the opportunity of sampling television-cum-advertising.

B.B.C. television, like Topsy, “just growed” from the only begetter sound radio; but commercial television has a more mixed ancestry and it inherits the qualities not only of radio entertainment but also of the cinema and advertising. It has near relatives in America and in other countries and an elder brother in the London service which has been in existence since last September.

Independent television comes to the Midlands after a five months run in London during which some experience has been gained by the promoters. For example, morning programmes have been abandoned and the resources of entertainment saved for filling the more popular viewing hours later in the day.

Under the dominion of the Independent Television Authority, two contractors are to provide the programmes for Midland consumption. Week-day entertainments will be produced by Associated TeleVision, Ltd. (ATV) and the week-end programmes by A.B.C. (Television), Ltd. (A.B.C.). Both these bodies will work in conjunction with the programme contractors engaged for the other regions of Britain and the programmes will be widely exchanged and “networked.”

The new entertainments will be welcomed as an alternative programme to the single B.B.C programme, and Mr. Philip Dorté, the Midland A.T.V. Controller, has made the point that co-operation between the two organisations exists to further the principle of providing an alternative.

Transmissions from the Lichfield station will open at 7.45 tonight with a ceremony televised from the Birmingham Town Hall. The opening speeches will be made by Sir Kenneth Clark, Chairman of the I.T.A., and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Alderman A. Lummis Gibson. This will be followed by a five-minute news bulletin, and then a variety show from the new television theatre at Aston Cross. The stars will be Bob Monkhouse, Denis Goodwin. Barbara Lyon, Tyrone Power and Richard Hearne (Mr. Pastry).

Boxing Contest

After a half-hour film in the Robin Hood series, starring Richard Greene, the “live” cameras will come into service to transmit pictures of the boxing contest at the Embassy Stadium, Birmingham, between Al Brown [sic] of Stepney and Johnny Mann of Birmingham.

Another film feature, an episode in the “I Love Lucy” series, will fill the short period between the boxing relay and the “live” transmission of the scene at the opening night ball at the Birmingham Town Hall.

At 10.40 pm, the Bishop of Lichfield. Dr. A. S. Reeve, will speak the Epilogue that will bring the first day’s programmes to an end.

This special occasion has been arranged by both the programme contractors, but on the following day the A.B.C. will take over and the usual run of programmes win begin.

Week-end Host

Janette Scott
Miss Janette Scott, the film star, who will take part in the first A.B.C. transmission to-morrow.

In the first A.B.C. transmission at 2.45 on Saturday afternoon will be Janette Scott, the young film star. A pleasant feature of the weekend programmes will be the presence of a “host” in the studio, an acknowledgment of the personal link between broadcasters and viewers.

This function will be performed by Edward Ward, who is well known as a B.B.C. commentator. He will present a feature entitled “This Day,” a retrospect of Midland events and personalities of the past.

A special film has been made of the Lichfield transmitter and the new Television Theatre at Aston, and this will be shown as an introductory feature. The rest of the afternoon will be filled by popular music on records, an advertising magazine and children’s features, with a short session from “ABC Sports Desk”, wherein news from current football matches will be given, with results at 5.30.

News and sports surveys will open the evening transmissions, and at 7.30 “live” cameras will gather “Hometown, Saturday Night” from the Leofrid Hotel, Coventry, when the local stars will include Phyllis Calvert, Billie Whitelaw and John Hanson.

Forty-five minutes of variety, starring Ruby Murray, David Evans and Tony Payne will lead on to Playhouse which will present “Last Reunion” by Kenneth Hyde, with Eric Portman in the lead.

An edited film of the Cup-tie match between West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City will be given with a commentary by John Bannister, and a news bulletin will end the day.

Film Scenes

Sunday’s transmissions will open at 2 p.m. with This Day, an anniversary programme. A special film report of the Midlands Amateur Boxing Championships at Birmingham Town Hall on Saturday will follow. The introductory edition of “Film Fanfare” will include scenes from new films, visits to studios, music from the films and personal appearances by stars.



Philip Dorté
Mr. Philip Dorté, the Midland A.T.V. Controller.

A magazine for women, and children’s features, including “The Adventures of Noddy” by Enid Blyton, a Western film, and The Adventures of Robin Hood will fill the time until the close down at 6 p.m.

News and features about Midland personalities will open the evening at 7.30, followed by “Moment of Fame” in which Edward Ward will turn the limelight on ordinary people in the headlines. “Sunday Night at the Palladium” will be compered by Tommy Trinder who will introduce the audience-participation show “Beat the Clock.” “Theatre Royal” at 9 o’clock will present “Bardell versus Pickwick,” with Donald Wolfit, Desmond Walter Ellis and Sam Kydd. An “I Love Lucy” episode and a record programme “The Jack Jackson Show” will lead up to the news and close down.

That is the pattern of programmes for the week-end, and the week-day programmes similarly will follow a well-defined pattern, including many serialised features. For example. “One Family” (The Armstrongs) will be screened every weekday at 4.45.

Plays, often on films, will be presented every day. Next week the drama features Include “Both Ends Meet” on Monday; “Cross Current” on Tuesday; “Mid-Level” on Wednesday; “The Egg,” by Stanley Mann, starring Emrys Jones, on Thursday; and “The Old Man of the Air” on Friday. The “Playhouse” feature for Saturday, February 25 is “Boy About the Place.”

For the rest the main features of the week on are are a glamour show, “Paris in Piccadilly” on Monday; “Strike a New Note” on Tuesday; “Double Your Money”, a quiz show, on Wednesday; “Jack Solomon’s Scrapbook”, and an Arthur Askey show on Friday.



Transdiffusion’s Russ J Graham writes: Several points stand out in this preview of Independent Television, chief amongst them being how “live” always appears in quotation marks. This is probably because at this point it’s still broadcasting slang and not in common use outside of the industry – especially in newspapers, which were determinedly old-fashioned, or at least very conservative, in their use of language.

The other is the instant differentiation between ATV and ABC in style. ATV’s contribution to the press release this has been rewritten from majors on the programmes, the light entertainment, the variety shows. It’s all about the shows, the shows, the shows.

ABC zooms in on Edward Ward, its continuity announcer, and how he will be there to guide viewers through the weekend’s programmes, as well as popping up with short features between the programmes and spots that can be easily hosted from the continuity studio. ATV has the theatre experience, ABC has the cinema experience; and for television they have reversed these roles, with ATV providing a service much closer to a cinema programme and ABC treating its weekend like a rolling variety revue.

As an aside, Johnny Mann beat Al Browne on points, whilst West Brom lost to Birmingham City 0-1 in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

About this author

The Birmingham Post was founded in 1857 as a daily newspaper. It switched to being a weekly publication in 2009 and now concentrates on business life in England's second largest city.

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