LONDON’S ITV takes on a new look this week with a change of companies, faces and programmes.
After 13 years, it’s fade out for ATV, the weekend contractors, on Sunday and Rediffusion, the weekday contractors, on Monday.
In come Thames Television with weekday programmes starting on Tuesday. And London Weekend Television begin an extended weekend period at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Just 18 months ago Lord Hill, then chairman of the Independent Television Authority, announced plans to change the face of ITV.
Rivals from industry, finance and show business submitted their ideas to the ITA to win contracts for programme areas. The richest and most sought after was London.
Lord Hill announced the contract winners in June last year.
Of the London weekday contracts, he said: “With our principle of programme quality in mind, we felt that Independent Television would gain benefit if the abilities of ABC and Rediffusion were to combine in providing the weekday service. The combination of these two companies seemed to the Authority to offer the possibility of a company of real excellence.”
And so ABC, who held the contract for weekends in the North and Midlands, and Rediffusion began merger talks. There were major difficulties. But the outcome was Thames TV. Company executives, at first worried, now agree to merit in the idea.
ABC were particularly strong in drama. Their Armchair Theatre series had won a big reputation. Rediffusion were best known for current affairs and documentary programmes.
So these departments were fitted intact into the new company. Other departments were dovetailed, employing the best talents from each company. Result: a new company “with a heritage of 13 years’ TV experience,” said an executive.
Thames starts its transmissions at 1.45 p.m. on Tuesday with a new identification symbol — the London skyline. With landmarks like St. Paul’s reflected in the River Thames.
The first programme is live coverage of an inaugural lunch at the Mansion House. The Lord Mayor will welcome the new company.
Managing director Howard Thomas says: “Our programme policy is: first provide London — Greater London and the Home Counties — with a weekday programme service of its own. One daily programme reflects what is going on in London.
“Second, produce programmes of national importance for networking. Thirdly, produce programmes of international quality.”
The London weekday programme Mr. Thomas refers to is Today, a daily live entertainment – and – information show about people and places in London. Introduced by Eamonn Andrews (who will also be returning to his own show — but on a weekday).
Some other major programmes to come from Thames include :
DRAMA: Plays adapted from Noel Coward short stories. The Sex Game, a series of romantic plays. Alarm, a series based on the work of the Special Service Section of the London Fire Brigade. And Frontier, a series set on the North West Frontier.
COMEDY: Series with Sid James and Kenneth Home.
FEATURES: Robert Kee Reports, a series of monthly documentaries, and Applause! Applause!, programmes on great stars of the music hall.
SPECIALS: Programmes starring Max Bygraves, Liberace, Jack Benny, Victor Borge and Frankie Howerd.
ADULT EDUCATION : Programmes on ballet, holidays, cookery and crime.
CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMES: The Tyrant King, a serial in which three youngsters hunt a villain in and around London. Sooty, Pinky and Perky and Once Upon a Time, 15-minute stories told by celebrities.
London Weekend Television starts on Friday at 7 p.m.
There will be no station symbol — just the company’s name. Nor will there be an opening ceremony. Unless Frank Muir uses one in his comedy series. We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, their first programme — at 7 and live.
London Weekend Television was brought into being by a group largely composed of TV professionals, like Aidan Crawley, Michael Peacock and David Frost (who will appear three nights a week).
Lord Hill said: “Of the applicants for the weekend, the London Consortium impressed us most, particularly because of its creative talent.”
Managing director Michael Peacock says: “There will be a lot of changes in your weekend viewing from August 2. New shows, new faces and new times to remember.
“The new look for the weekends offers something for everyone. Plays come back to Sunday night. David Frost has three new shows. There’s plenty of comedy and entertainment for all the family.
“Saturday specials will broaden the range of cultural programmes. Sports fans will have Sports Arena on Fridays as well as Saturday’s World of Sport. For the children, there is Knock Three Times on Sundays.”
Among the shows planned are concerts by Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Benny Goodman and Peter Nero. Productions of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and Benjamin Britten’s The Golden Vanity.
Of particular interest to Londoners will be Discovering London, an adult education series on the sights of the capita], and Roundhouse, a religious series presented before audiences in Camden Town.