Sunday, 24 July 2011

ATV In The Midlands (1955 - 1982)


Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British Television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982.

The company was formed from the merger of the Associated Broadcasting Development Company, known as ABDC and under the control of Norman Collins, and the Incorporated Television Programme Company, known as ITC and under the control of Prince Littler and Lew Grade, two Show Business agents.

Both companies had applied for a contract to become one of the new ITV stations. ABDC won the contract but had insufficient money to operate it; ITC failed to win a contract, mainly due to a perceived conflict of interest resulting from the existing business operations of Grade and Littler. By the time of the merger ABDC were well advanced with their plans whilst ITPC planned to operate as an independent producer selling their shows to the new network contractors.

When financial problems hit ABDC the governing body of ITV, the Independent Television Authority invited Grade and Littler to join the ABDC consortium. This provided the money required and put Littler and Grade in real control of the new company, effectively sidelining Collins.

The new company was originally known as the Associated Broadcasting Company (and therefore ABC), but Associated British Corporation's parent company, who wished to call their station ABC and also ran a large chain of cinemas under those initials, successfully sued for prior ownership. The name change took place after ABC had been operating for three weeks; the new name chosen was Associated TeleVision Ltd, producing the initials ATV. The company's logo, originally designed for ABC and tweaked for the newly renamed ATV was a "shadowed eye", which was inspired by the CBS logo and reputedly designed by Lew Grade on a transatlantic flight back from the US. The logo is one of the most recognisable in broadcasting.

ATV (as ABC at first) began broadcasting in its own right on Saturday 24 September 1955 (after jointly presenting the network's opening night on Thursday 22 September). The name ATV was first seen in London on Saturday 8 October 1955. The company had won two ITV contracts, the weekend contract for London and the Monday–Friday contract for the Midlands. The latter service opened on 17 February 1956, with ABC providing the weekend programmes.

The new company ran into further financial difficulty due to the staggering losses of the first two years of ITV and the start-up costs. The London weekday contractor Associated - Rediffusion shouldered some of ATV's losses and further funding was achieved by selling shares in the company to the Daily Mirror newspaper. The company structure was changed several times until 1966, when ATV and ITC both became subsidiaries of the Associated Communications Corporation (ACC), formed by turning the old structure on its head. This marked the point where Lew Grade advanced from being the greatest influence over the company to taking actual control.

ATV's main impact on the early ITV service was in the field of Variety and Light Entertainment.

In the contract and region changes in 1968, ATV lost the weekend franchise in London to the new London Weekend Television, but its Midlands contract was renewed for the full seven days instead. The weekday/weekend "split-service" ended in the North and Midlands with the 1968 franchise round, continuing only in the London area. At this point the company renamed itself as ATV Network Limited.

In 1969, in readiness for colour broadcasting in the UK, a large new 'state of the art' television studio known as ATV Centre was built off Broad Street, near the centre of Birmingham, to replace the former Alpha Studios in Aston, run in partnership with ABC, the other franchise holder in the region.

The Broad Street site was in use until 1997 although two of the production studios had been 'mothballed' in the early 1990s as demand for production studios fell. The former ATV Centre is currently in the process of being demolished to be replaced by the Arena Central development. The Alpha Tower will survive as it is a listed Building.

A documentary about the Broad Street studios complex has been in production since early 2007. Entitled 'From ATVLand In Colour' (referring to the nickname used on Tiswas, and the building being purpose-built for colour broadcasting), the documentary features presenters, actors, announcers and behind-the-scenes staff talking about their time working in the studios, and the programmes that were made there. Contributors included, Chris Tarrant, Shaw Taylor, Jane Rossington and Bob Carolgees. The documentary series was released by Mace Media Archive for Central Britain on Monday 19th September 2011.

During the 1970s ATV had received much criticism over its lack of local programming, particularly for the east of its region; such critics held that any local shows had a Birmingham-centric focus.

In 1981 the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) decided that ATV's lack of regional programming and production (it had a major studio centre at Elstree in Hertfordshire, a legacy of its London contract and well outside of its Midlands franchise) was hampering the region, so it insisted that the new applicant for the franchise be more clearly based in the region and have separate facilities for the East and West Midlands.

ATV Midlands Limited, a shell company created by ACC solely for the franchise process, applied successfully for the contract. As a condition of its award, ACC was forced to divest itself of 49% of the company, relinquish executive roles, sell its studios in Elstree and rename the company to demonstrate that it was effectively a new business.

Crossroads (UK) (1964) tv show photo

ATV stopped broadcasting at 00:34 on 1 January 1982. The new company's name was registered as Central Independent Television plc and the new logo, advertised as being a UFO, appeared six hours later, on 1 January 1982. Central inherited the studios at ATV Centre, Birmingham and ATV Elstree along with land that ATV Midlands had purchased for their new Nottingham studio centre. The new company also maintained control of ATV's news archive and regional programmes, plus programming already in production or being shown at the time of changeover; the rest of the ATV archive was sold on by ACC.

The new contract stipulated an immediate start for separate East and West Midlands facilities. Planning issues delayed construction at the Nottingham site so Central purchased an independent production studio in the city (at Giltbrook) to act as its East Midlands newsroom. Industrial action prevented this centre from being used however, with the new studios ready by the time it was resolved.

In 1983 the Elstree centre was sold to the BBC for an undisclosed sum. In 1984 the East Midlands Television Centre in Lenton Lane, Nottingham was opened by Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

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Life Magazine (April 21st 1972)

Life Magazine, April 21, 1972 - Charlie Chaplin with wife Oona
This edition of Life Magazine dates back to April 1972 and features interviews with Actress Candice Bergen and Prolific reporter Richard Merryman and details both their experiences with Charlie Chaplin, especially Merryman who interviewed the Actor back in 1967.

The Broken Penis Orchestra Testicle Difficulties (2006)

THE BROKEN PENIS ORCHESTRA, Testicle Difficulties was released in 2006 and is a US exclusive limited edition LP pressed on 150gram VINYL which sees Dick Flick return with his latest slice of switchback edits, rolling loops and maximum plunderphonics featuring samples from every imaginable source including TV, movies, songs, lectures, sermons and radio broadcasts, presented in high quality pasted picture sleeve showing images of uses for recycled testicles [fart suppressor and stress ball amongst others!])
The Broken Penis Orchestra,Testicle Difficulties,USA,LP RECORD,384966

1. Timothy Leary Dreams On His Death Bed
2. The Popes Post, Penis & Pussy
3. A Struggle For Supremacy Over The Axe Makes A Godd Man Humble
4. Fornication Under The Control Of The King
5. Easy Listening For Difficult People
6. The Whore Of Babylon
7. Ball Buster
The Broken Penis Orchestra,Testicle Difficulties,USA,LP RECORD,384966

"If Your Mansion House Needs Haunting, Just Call, Rentaghost" (1976 - 1984)

Sue Nicholls as Miss Popov.
Molly Weir as Hazel the Mc Witch.
Michael Staniforth as Timothy Claypole
Rentaghost was the excellent British kids TV comedy show, broadcast by the BBC between 6 January 1976 and 11 June 1984. The show's plot centred on the antics of a number of ghosts who worked for a firm called Rentaghost, which rented out the ghosts for various tasks.
The original cast of Rentaghost.
Molly Weir as McWitch, Sue Nicholls as Miss Popov.
Dobbin the pantomime horse and Edward Brayshaw.

The company, located in South Ealing, is run by Fred Mumford, a recently deceased loser who feels he can find work for ghosts whose lives were as failed as his. His first (and only) recruits are Timothy Claypole, a mischievous Jester with a comical lack of knowledge about modern technology, and Hubert Davenport, a delicate Victorian era gentleman who is morally shocked by the modern world. The ghosts work from an office, which they rent from Harold Meaker, who discovers the truth about them in the 3rd episode.

Over the course of several series, other characters were added: Hazel the McWitch, a Scottish Witch; Nadia Popov, a Dutch ghost who suffers from hayfever and telesports away when she sneezes; and the Pantomime Horse Dobbin, who first appears in a one-off Christmas special called "Rentasanta" and is brought to life by Claypole, who is unable to cancel the spell afterwards – thus allowing Dobbin to remain in the show for the rest of the run.

Another key figure is a ghost from the Wild West called Catastrophe Kate (cf. Calamity Jane), played by Jana Shelden, who is collected from outside a magic carpet shop in the Spirit World by Fred Mumford. The two ghosts are transported back to Earth on a flying broomstick, Catastrophe Kate having turned down the alternative of a flying vacuum cleaner. It is Catastrophe Kate who later introduces Hazel the McWitch to the regulars.

Adam Painting, a local entrepreneur played by Christopher Biggins, frequently appears in episodes and tries, with limited success, to involve the ghosts in his latest business enterprise.
Anthony Jackson as Fred Mumford

When actor Michael Darbyshire (who played the role of Davenport) died in 1979, Anthony Jackson (Mumford) declined to appear in the next series, leaving Michael Staniforth's Claypole the sole original ghost; Davenport and Mumford's absences were explained at the start of the series by them having acquired permanent haunting jobs at a stately home. After Mumford's departure, the business was taken over by Harold Meaker and his wife Ethel, who suffered from the various problems the ghosts brought to their lives.

The long-suffering neighbours of Rentaghost are the Perkins, who think the Meakers are mad!

Michael Darbyshire as Hubert Davenport

Edward Brayshaw and Ann Emery.

Lynda Marchal (Lynda La Plante) as Miss Novak.

Only the first series of Rentaghost has been released on VHS and DVD. It is unlikely that any other series will be released, due to complicated rights. A number of actors are blocking the release because their contracts at the time did not include video royalties. Some of the actors have been offered small one-off payments that have been rejected, and several cast members (or their families) are unable to be contacted to grant consent. Two minor actors, who have since left the profession, have blocked a number of episodes, and they are unlikely to be shown. In addition, the programme included extracts from many copyrighted songs, often played in the background. Clearance of these is becoming increasingly costly for DVD releases.

Some master copies of Rentaghost episodes were thrown by the BBC archives in 1993 on the assumption that they were 'no use' and that examples of some other episodes were sufficient. However, BBC Enterprises had requested copies of the first three series a couple of years earlier and indeed they were showing at the time on UK Gold – these were later recovered by the BBC Archive.

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The XYY Man (1976)

The XYY Man (UK) tv show photo

The XYY Man began life as a series of novels by Kenneth Royce featuring the character of William (or Willie) 'Spider' Scott, a one-time cat-burglar who leaves prison aiming to go straight but finds his talents still to be very much in demand by both the criminal underworld and the British secret service. Scott has an extra "y" chromosome that supposedly gives him a criminal predisposition - although he tries to go straight, he is genetically incapable of doing so.

Royce's original books were : The XYY Man (1970); Concrete Boot (1971); The Miniatures Frame (1972); Spider Underground (The Masterpiece Affair) (1973) and Trap Spider (1974), though he returned to the character in the 80s with The Crypto Man (1984) and The Mosley Receipt (1985).

Regular characters included Scott's long-suffering girlfriend Maggie Parsons; British secret service head Fairfax; Detective Sergeant George Bulman, the tenacious policeman who wants nothing more than to see Scott back behind bars; journalist Ray Lynch; gay photographer Bluie Palmer and KGB chief Kransouski.

In 1976 the first of Royce's novels was transferred to British television by Granada TV, in a three-part adaptation with Stephen Yardley playing Scott. The adventures of Scott caught the public imagination and ten more episodes followed in 1977. He is often co-opted (usually through some kind of blackmail) into working for shadowy civil-servant and MI5 officer Fairfax (Mark Dignam - in the novels the name Fairfax is a codename, and the character's real name is Sir Stuart Halliman. In one episode of the XYY Man, he identifies himself as "Stuart" in a telephone conversation). Doggedly on his trail is his nemesis Bulman (Don Henderson) and his assistant, Detective Constable Derek Willis (Dennis Blanche).

When the series came to an end, the character of Bulman and Willis were considered popular enough to merit their own spin-off series,Strangers and later (without Willis, except for a cameo in an early episode) Bulman. Kenneth Royce also returned to his Bulman character, writing No Way Back (Hashimi's Revenge) in 1986, and later The Judas Trail (1996) and Shadows (1996).

Although the series depicts someone with XYY Syndrome as having criminal tendencies, actually there is no connection. This was reported by an early academic paper as a result of the conditional probability fallacy, and may have become conventional wisdom in the 1970s, but subsequent research has not found any evidence for it. The subject was also touched on in an episode of the BBC Science Fiction series Doomwatch, 'By the Pricking of My Thumbs...' (1971), written by Robin Chapman.


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