Reading Evening Post cover
From the Reading Evening Post for 30 July 1968

BROADCASTING licences are reviewed every six years by the Independent Television Authority. The major shake-up, which comes into effect today, 13 years after the start of ITV, is a severe warning to the various independent companies that there is no room for complacency.

The very fact that the oldest independent company of them all, Rediffusion, has not retained complete control of London’s weekday programmes is an indication that licences will not automatically be renewed.

Today, it has merged with ABC TV, and as from now your programmes from Monday to Thursday [sic] inclusive are coming to you by courtesy of Thames Television

At a Mansion House luncheon, the service was launched in the presence of figures prominent in London’s Government and business, in London’s music, art and sport, and in the nation’s Press and Parliament which reflect the life and power of the capital.

Speakers included the Lord Mayor, Lord Aylestone, chairman of the ITA, Sir Philip Waster [sic – Warter], chairman, and Howard Thomas, managing director of Thames Television.

Eamonn Andrews introduces recorded highlights of the luncheon at 11.30 tonight. Andrew Gardner describes the scene and talks to some of the distinguished guests present at the Mansion House.

At the weekend – Friday [sic] through to Sunday – programmes will be controlled by the London Television Consortium (London Weekend). This is the company that attracted Michael Peacock away from the BBC and has David Frost as one of its star men.

Then, as in the past programmes made by regional companies will be fed into the schedule for the London area.

Coronation Street, for instance, will continue from Granada, as will University Challenge, What the Papers Say and other well established programmes.

But there will be additional material from the north – from Yorkshire Television. For the territory up there has been divided down the Pennines: Granada hold the rights for the county of the red rose, Yorkshire Television – the company that attracted Alan Whicker away from the BBC – for the county of the white.

Hughie Green and Kenneth Horne
Hughie Green and Kenneth Horne

It was 18 months ago that Lord Hill, then chairman of the ITA, announced plans to change the face of ITV.

The richest and most sought after prize was London. The contract winners were announced first over a year ago.

Lord Hill said of the London weekday contract “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 ihe Authority to offer the possibility of a company of real excellence.”

Unlike Thames Television, there will be no opening ceremony for London Weekend Television. And unlike other companies there will be no station symbol – just the name.

London Weekend Television is backed by an impressive line-up of television professionals: men such as Aldan Crawley, Michael Peacock and David Frost.

Of this company Lord Hill said: “Of the applicants for the weekend, the London Consortium impressed us most, particularly because of its creative talent.”

At a recent luncheon in London, managing director, Michael Peacock promised: “There will be a lot of charges in your weekend viewing. New shows, new faces and new times to remember”

Well, what is in store for the viewer?

Max Bygraves, Tommy Cooper and Frankie Howerd
Max Bygraves, Tommy Cooper and Frankie Howerd

Thames Television



Frontier: New adventure series set in the North West Frontier when the British Army kept the peace in the Asian equivalent of the Wild West.

90-Minute Dramas: Three plays adapted by William Marchant from short stories by Noel Coward. Already in production, Star Quality, starring Glynis Johns and Robert Hardy, to be followed by Bon Voyage and The Kindness of Mrs Radcliffe. A new adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous Frankenstein by Robert Muller and an adaptation of Uncle Silas the ghost story by Sheridan Le Fanuare planned.

Premiere: Live, one hour television dramas will be presented through October with top directors, distinguished casts and writers.

The Sex Game: Romantic 60-minute plays. Trials and tribulations of lovers who ultimately merge to live happily ever after.

The Mind of Mr. J. G. Reeder. Adaptations of Edgar Wallace stones starring Hugh Burden and Willoughby Goddard.


The Tyrant King: A London adventure for children. The first modern colour film TV serial made in Britain for children.

The Queen Street Gang: A new children’s adventure series in which a professor is captured by criminals and rescued by the Queen Street Boys, a highly organised gang, led by his own son.

Once Upon A Time: A series of 15-minute programmes in which celebrities will tell classic or original stories to a children’s audience.

The Sooty Show: Harry Corbett, Sooty, Sweep and the rest of the gang in a children’s entertainment series recorded at The May Fair Theatre.

Pinky & Perky: A series of 15-minute shows featuring the famous puppets Pinky and Perky and their colleagues.


Best of Enemies: Situation comedy written by Vince Powell and Harry Driver about two members of Parliament: a young Labour newcomer to the House of Commons and a wily old Tory. Tim Barrett and Robert Coote star.

Father, Dear Father: Patrick Cargill stars as the divorced father of two very highly nubile mini-skirted teenage daughters with Sally Bazely as his literary agent and good friend.

Comedy Tonight: A season of six new comedy plays written by top authors including Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney, Vince Powell and Harry Driver and Dave Freeman.

Sid James: A new series, as yet untitled, written by Vince Powell and Harry Driver, starring Sid James.

Horne-a-Plenty: Comedy-Revue starring Kenneth Horne assisted by Sheila Steafel and Kenneth’s friends, which might well bear an amazing resemblance to the radio series Round the Horne.


The Goons
The Goons

Already announced are two one hour specials starring Tommy Cooper; The Max Bygraves Show; Liberace in London; An Evening with Jack Benny, in which comedian Jack Benny conducts and stars with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall; a comedy concert with Victor Borge; The Frankie Howerd Show and, of course, The Goons, a half-hour radio show for television starring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe.

Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks! returns for a new season and The Eamonn Andrews Show takes a completely new look when it comes from the May Fair Theatre in the heart of the West End.


Today: A live, dally topical entertainment and information show about people and places in and around London with Eamonn Andrews.

Robert Kee Reports: A series of monthly 45-minute documentaries on important issues of the day.

Applause! Applause! A series of six documentary programmes on great stars of variety and the music hall including Grade Fields, Max Miller, George Robey, Sid Fields, George Formby and Lucan McShane.

Magpie: A weekly magazine programme for children, Forty minutes of information and entertainment plus the serial story of Captain Fantastic.


Ballet For All: A series of six half-hour programmes to help bring appreciation of this unique art to a wider audience.

So You’re Going on Holiday: An in-depth appreciation of the countries of Europe – the historical and cultural background behind the holiday facade.

The Tools of Cookery: A new series in which top TV cook Philip Harben demonstrates the importance of using the right tools for the job in the kitchen, from knives and saucepans to ovens and mixers.

World of Crime: Eight new programmes which examine specific cases of the victims of crime in Britain and North America.


A new ten-minute series entitled Last Programme – this will be shown seven nights a week, London Weekend Television will show the series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


A new series starring Patrick Macnee and introducing Linda Thomson [sic – Thorson] as John Steed’s new partner, Tara King.

Among the successful programmes which will carry on in the new schedules are This Week, Armchair Theatre, Hullaballoo, Callan, The Eamonn Andrews Show, Sexton Blake, Opportunity Knocks!, and Public Eye.

So far as London Weekend Television is concerned plays return to Sunday night; David Frost has three shows; and there is an abundance of comedy to suit all the family. Concerts by Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Benny Goodman are planned. So are productions of the Beggar’s Opera and Benjamin Britten’s The Golden Vanity.

Saturday specials are planned to broaden the range of cultural programmes. And sports fans are catered for with Sports Arena on Fridays and World of Sport on Saturdays.

All we have to do is wait and see.

About the author

Chris Reynolds wrote for the Evening Post in Reading

7 thoughts on “The new look

  1. Sir Philip Waster! Ho ho! Michael Bentine looks different in that Goons picture. Interesting Thames ommissioned a serioes named after one of BBC2’s early kangaroo mascots. “Best Of Enemies” lasted just five episodes, with the last transmitted nearly a year after its debut.

  2. Harry Driver is mis spelt Hurry Driver in this article
    I was amazed to discover Kenneth Horne did two short seasons of Horne A Plenty in 1968 after Round The Horne series ended.
    alAccording the BBC Genome and Wikipedia Kenneth Horne was barely off both BBC and ITV in the last two years of his life, and chaired 20 Questions on BBC radio. He had a quiz on BBC1 called Top Firm which used Yakety Sax by Boots Randolph (used by Benny Hill on his Thames series) as it’s theme. He advertised Macrae kippers (Hip Hip Macrae!). BBC Genome of course only indicated INTENTIONS and it is possible others stood in for KH as his health declined It is possible he overworked in his last few years before he had a fatal collapse at a TV awards ceremony in early 1969, just short of his 62nd birthday. I wonder if Benny Hill was brought over to Thames in 1969 as a consequence of KHs death?

  3. The untitled Sid James sitcom was his last, Bless This House which ran until 1975.
    Other shows were The Mind of J G Reefer, Father Dear Father, Applause Applause a documentary about past British entertainers of which Gracie Fields was the only living performer in 1968 The Avengers with Linda Thorson, who is the only 1960s side kick to Steed.. I also recall Public Eye, and Callan. Great days even though they were on Granada rather than Thames.
    For the nippers, of which I was one in ’68 there were BBC refugees Pinky and Perky to and Sooty, Sweep and Soo and a Yorkshire snake called Ramsbottom. Harry Corbett’s wife did panda Soo’s voice and last but not least MAAAAGPIE, ITV Thames groovy alternative to Blue Peter. which began on BBC TV a decade earlier, and still going unlike Magpie whose mascot Murgatroyd was still only 12 when stuffed . Ah well ever mind.

  4. I must correct the mention of Linda Thorson who in 2021 is Steeds last LIVING sidekick of the 1960s Joanna Lumley is still alive but she was in the New Avengers from 1976.

    1. Are you counting Julie Stevens as an 60’s Avengers sidekick, as she is still going in her mid 80’s?
      (Her daughter, who works in Midlands local radio, flagged it on Twitter last year!)

      1. Very sorry its taken eight months to reply Julie Stevens I remember but not on the Avengers. I don’t remember Honor Blackman either but Channel 4 showed some pre Emma Peel episodes some years ago Blackman and McNee made a hideous record called Kinky Boots which both parties probably wished forgotten!

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