Saturday, 27 October 2012

"After the count down to a new channel ends.. A new countdown begins..." Channel Four at 30

So Channel Four is thirty, looking at its midriff pinching it and wondering why it has got larger in the past couple of years, granted there are some good shows still on the channel now such as Peep Show and the excellent Friday Night Dinner. But apart from that, its got a bit bland and a bit beige. From this young upstart wanting to rip down the conventions of television though its entertainment and music, focussing on programmes for different sections of society, breaking new ground as it went. Everyone has their memories of the channel and how its developed, both the good and the bad.

I can think of several shows which would stand out and would be the ones everyone thinks about when asked about Channel Four. But the gems in their schedules were just as good, for instance Superchamps, a mini We Are The Champions with quadbikes excited me enough to send loads of empty packets of Smiths Crisps to get a poster of the show. The power of television, eh? Chips Comic containing Andrew 'Son of Sir Harry' Secombe as a dog, a thought which might have sprung out a conversation saying 'Do we think this is mad enough to work?' They were the only channel in this country to show Worzel Gummage Down Under, to revive Quizball as an American Football game, introduced the country to wheelchair basketball long before the 2012 Paralympics.

Four in its self could be said to be a slice of life, sometimes maybe the butt of other jokes as the wheelchair basketball on a Saturday morning didn't get enough viewers to register on the RAJAR ratings. But it was a place where it could be tried without people noticing at all, much like other output involving disability such as 'Boom' and 'Hand in Hand' were allowed to take place, some people would say it was worthy television all of this but if it wasn't for Channel Four would these programmes have even been commissioned. At one time Four was the goto place for minority groups such as the Gay and Lesbian community, even offering a programme for the trade unions on a weekly basis. The purpose was there to cater to these communities  but to the casual viewer, it offered something else like a window outwards to show what was happening in the real world apart from the one usually on television at the time. Channel Four offered social realism always and pushed it as reality with later on reality becoming entertainment.

Over the years, the channel can claim that it started off the careers of some performers and it can be said it finished off others as well. Saturday and Friday Night Live showcased so many different acts who went on to carve careers of their own and into the new millennium The Friday/Sunday Night Project launched Jimmy Carr and Alan Carr into the spotlight. But for that it also launched Justin Lee Collins too as well.. The clipshow started here, with its countdowns as well both with 'The 100 greatest..' series of programmes copied and copied over and over again by other channels as well the domain of the late Richard Whitlely. The first face on Four may not have been bombastic, but in the way the first controller Jeremy Isaacs put it " I wanted that first night schedule to be typical of what night to night the viewer could see on Channel Four." With a documentary of Max Boyce meeting the Dallas Cowboys, the television film premier of 'Network' and also the first Film Four production 'Walter' starring Sir Ian McKellen this was what Four would be about nightly including the news at 7pm as well.

This is the alternative that television needed, but for long time it was a yes and no situation with Four. In the 1960's the frequencies for the VHF transmitters were worked out with a spare slot for Channel Four to go into. Now, BBC 2 had launched in 1964 but the Conservative government of that time had promised the spare capacity to the then Independent Television Authority. Come election time the Tories lost power to Harold Wilson's Labour Party and with this the tune changed so the new government wanted the BBC to run the service instead, the problem was that the BBC presented their case by putting how much money it would cost to set up 'BBC3' and also to increase the licence fee as well to cover it. Either way they were stuck, so by not giving the frequency to either the BBC or the ITA, it laid dormant for many years as governments changed like the seasons. Though slowly after the second 1974 election discussions were held to see what type of form a fourth channel could be. What came of it was a television foundation much along the line of what PBS had done in America, but in 1977 when  the Annan Report was published and a white paper written that an 'Open Broadcasting Authority' would take over the control of the channel with a notional date of 1979 or 1980 for a launch.

With the Tory Goverment committed to the idea of Channel Four, they had to go through with it and handed responsibility to the IBA for the channel to be set up. Such as a lot of things have changed in the last thirty years, the channel itself has changed. For the better, maybe... But in the end if it wasn't Paul Coia welcoming us to Channel Four nearly thirty years ago this week, we wouldn't have had children saving up empty crisp packets to get a poster, eh?

Monday, 22 October 2012

"Thank you for watching.. Ceefax 1974-2012" Its influence and its legacy..

So there we have it then.. Pages from Ceefax has bowed in the UK after 38 years on the air, but without sounding Monty Python-ish but 'What has Ceefax ever done for us?' Since 1974 it was been the BBC's go to service for news, information, sport and weather. Though it was so much more then that, notice anyway and Ceefax would have had its influence in some way or the other.

Starting off with the internet, without Ceefax it wouldn't have been proved that graphical information could be passed through a system to allow the most number of people to receive it as once and be able to look up what they wanted when they wanted to, plus also social media too it gave viewers the chance to write in about opinions and other to reply back to them for them to be published for viewers to see them. Isn't Facebook, Twitter and many other social networks not just a bigger version of this? 

How about television itself? For a start it gave channels another programme for free and rolling news service without the need for presenters, before a time of thousands of channel people would look to see if anything had actually happened since the last news bulletin, plus sports fans as well looking to see the latest football results on a Saturday afternoon, how about the cricket scorecards which would tick over all day during the summer.

Away from the actual information side, Ceefax provided the graphics need by shows for a easy solution with out going to the trouble of producing title sequences. Three of a Kind was a case in point, with this fast style which epitomised the early 80's lust for new technology as the faces of Tracey Ullman, Lenny Henry and David Copperfield were made into teletext art to introduce them plus also 'Gagfax' which pretty much like the jokes on the Fun and Games pages could supply a quickie joke without the need for filming it. Though Ceefax was also used to create the title sequence of the BBC's Formula One coverage, giving it almost an video game type of look adding to the excitement of what was going to follow during the race. 

Every noticed on a BBC game show like Bob's Full House or Every Second Counts when they give away a teletext television set as a prize there's always a Ceefax page of the show's title, they even though of that but of course this lead to secret Ceefax pages not advertised on the title page, they were like a welcome surprise to anyone who found them plus with the engineering page too. It may have been an Aladdin's cave at times, but its like the engineers wanted the pages to be found by the young presentation enthusiast. One marvel I always wondered at was the Advent Calender around Christmas time counting the days to the big day. The sheer detail of what the programmers were able to achieve with such simple technology amazed me, plus also by using the reveal key, a new surprise always waited each day.

If it wasn't for page 177, I wouldn't not have known what was on television that night and as a young child this was amazing to learn what other regions were watching plus also it taught me to read as well. Knowing what BBC North West would have instead of 'Hey Look That's Me!' also how would I know what Spotlight was in the South West and also why in London and the South East they didn't have any regional news before Play School. These small details were important to me, knowing that Ceefax could provide them daily was something of wonder.

The origins of Ceefax came from an idea cooked up in the late sixties, when it was talked about having a static page of information put up on screen during closedown to show Farmers Markets prices or the Financial news such as what the FT share index was doing. So engineer Geoff Larkby and technician Barry Pyatt, were its brainchildren to be able to come up with a text transmission system. Its brief from then director-general Hugh Carlton Greene, was it should be like one page of The Times. An early system called 'Beebfax', with Beeb being a popular nickname for the BBC. It was trialled internally at the BBC  by sending scans of Christmas cards throughout the BBC. But the system was unpopular owing to the sheer amount of noise the equipment made which operating, though Pyatt tried improved the system by using printed circuit boards, it was shelved with Larkby retiring and Pyatt leaving the BBC.

The announcement of the Ceefax system was in October 1972, as that time engineers were developing a subtitling system for deaf viewers. Test transmissions were trialled between 1972 and 1974, building upto its launch on the 23rd of September 1974 when thirty pages of information were broadcast to sets which could receive its signals. This made other broadcasters sit up and notice to develop their own systems such as the Independent Broadcasting Authority to create ORACLE, which started in 1975. But over times as more and more countries adopted teletext, a universal system was settled on in 1976 with them using it to create their own versions of Ceefax and ORACLE.

But now that technology has moved on, most teletext service have been adapted to a new digital television standard or been converted to something new such as the BBC's red button service trying to keep as many of the old Ceefax numbers as was physically possible. Ceefax bowed out at 6am on 22nd October 2012, nearly forty years to the day that the original was first announced. With a simple thank you from the duty announcer on BBC Two, it was gone from our shores. Some versions will be kept for BBC stations abroad such as BBC World. For what influence it had over all those thirty-eight years, it was our first port of call for breaking news, it gave us ideas of what to cook, it made us laugh with daft book titles and it revealed itself to the public as a part of everyone's lives...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

It was forty years ago... Came along a whole new raft of shows... Its the daytime television all-star band!

Its 1972, in the country power is ebbing away plus on and off intermittently. Only five years from the first colour broadcasts and three from both BBC and ITV turning fully colour except in the areas yet to receive yet of course. But after the broadcasting hours had been relaxed for the first time since the mid 1950's, daytime television had arrived bringing a whole new world of programmes of soap operas, children's programmes, chat shows and also the basis for the start of a major sport on television as well.

Since the early 1960's, the only viewers who would be tuned into television during the day would have been schoolchildren, also the under fives watching that morning's Playschool on BBC2 plus those working in the television trade looking out for the latest service information. Beyond that the radio was the way of keeping people entertained whilst at home, but the   
whole theory of daytime television would come with the relaxation of broadcasting hours from the Postmaster General.

This new brand of programming would make personalities of familiar faces and allow new producers to try something different at a time when less viewers would be watching. It was said that it was television for housewives, the elderly, younger children and the unemployed which in fact was not the case with some of the early programmes made. I have covered about programmes for the under fives in an earlier blog, but let's see what else was going on in 1972 in a land beyond Homes Under the Hammer..

Surely though, the most famous has to be Emmerdale which of course is the all conquering soap of today well from about 1993 onwards that is when that plane crash happened of course. But away from planes dropping out of the sky and high on a hillside were the Sudgens, years before the Ewings came along with their oil, Annie and her family were the one number one family on television with the first episode concentrating on the funeral of her late husband Jacob who had left the farm to eldest son Jack who had been in London for many years and like in all good soap he turns back up on the day of the funeral but not going to the service. Over the months Jack sold his share in the farm to the rest of the family to keep it going as an ongoing concern. 

The programme stayed in its daytime slot until 1978 although Thames and Anglia kept on showing it in a early evening slot like Crossroads until the mid 80's. But this showed that new soaps could be launched and nurtured in the daytime hours, though other forms of entertainment were used to fill up the schedule. Light entertainment, a key part of the evening schedule allowed the variety performers a new place to show off their trade. With gameshows being created for them to both to present and also take part in as well. The biggest of the period was a simple one where comedians tried to outdo each other by telling jokes. Jokers Wild was created by future Kenny Everett scriptwriter Ray Cameron and also Mike King, first show in an early evening slot in 1969, the show was a part of the daytime line-up from 1972 with comedy writer Barry Cryer as its presenter, the likes of Arthur Askey, Ted Ray were captains in its early years but also up and coming comedians appeared on the show like Les Dawson later to captain a team, Ted Rogers another future Yorkshire Television gameshow presenter, Rolf Harris and even fresh from Monty Python, John Cleese turned up to tell some jokes all with the aim of winning a trophy of a jester holding the Yorkshire logo. Its may have not have been the most glamourous trophy on television but it meant a lot to the performers pitting their wits against each other. 

The series itself lasted until 1974 and in all Cryer presented seven of those series except in 1971 when Michael Bentine took over for a series, but gameshows were always great to see and later on the likes of Three Little Words took over the slot as the years went on. Though also chat and the magazine programme has been important as well. We take it for granted to see This Morning on our screens each and every weekday nearly all throughout the year. But one of the most remember ones came from the Midlands, Pebble Mill or Pebble Mill at One to give its full title mixed chat, cooking, gardening with entertainment much like a newspaper pull-out or a magazine. This form of show had not been seen on British screens before 1972, it was almost going along the original Reithan lines of the BBC to inform, educated and entertain. But its eclectic mixture made the show as good as it was, one minute Peter Seabrook could be telling you how to grow potatoes and the next a leading cook could be offering a recipe on how to use them. Meanwhile Bob Langley could be interviewing a guest who is in the news while Marion Foster could being sitting talking to Eric Morecambe whilst Acker Bilk plays some jazz. 

But the surprises came when a marching band would walk to the studio, the finish of a leg of the Tour of Britain cycle race finished at the studios or how about things coming through the air such as the Red Devils parachute display team landing but what about a Harrier Jumpjet landing next to the studios on a lawn. Who said the programme wasn't varied everyday? Other programmes own a lot to Pebble Mill at One which in one form or another lasted through until the new millennium with a gap in-between for the launch of Daytime Live, also from Pebble Mill.

Across town another chat show giant was just getting started on his career in chat. 1972 also saw the launch of ATV's Lunchtime with Wogan was presented naturally by Terry Wogan which went out on Tuesday afternoons, but if it wasn't for this experience who know that Terry would not have been a chat show host later on in his career but another chat show host was offering chat and discussion for Thames at that time pretty much what he was going to do for the BBC like Wogan did. He was Michael Parkinson and along with wife Mary he presented 'Good Afternoon' until the Beeb came calling and Mavis Nicholson took over and eventually took the programme to Channel Four nearly a decade later for the launch of their first ever daytime schedule. 

Though as we know now, daytime drama has always been important whether it be soap or serious drama and there could be none more serious then Granada's Crown Court, set over five days this was as real as television could get to life showing fictional court cases everyday with the verdict on a Friday. It was ground breaking television both showing what went on court day by day but how the legal profession worked as well plus also giving a start to today's well known actors including Richard Wilson, Jean Boht and also Casualty's Derek Thompson as well. It maybe strange to think but BBC's Doctors draw a line back to Crown Court for popular daytime drama. It was television not to miss and opened up the schedulers eyes to new possibilities for drama during the evening, if not for Crown Court would we not have had Rumpole or even Judge John Deed?

But what of the worldwide sport launched in daytime hours? A simple idea from Yorkshire Television to keep people amused during the day, the late Sid Waddell used as an opportunity to show off sports popular with the working classes on television, put into one weekly programme like a commoners World of Sport if you like. Thus, The Indoor League was created highlighting the best shove-ha'penny players, skittles enthusiasts but unbeknown launching a few world class sports stars along the way. For instance one of the biggest names in the Arm Wrestling competition was Clive Myers, to the viewing public best known for wrestling on a Saturday afternoon during World of Sport, he was the British champion at arm-wrestling and on the indoor league he became the champion thus rising his reputation with the public at large. Meanwhile in the pool competition, both John Virgo and Willie Thorne were having varying fortunes to win that competition though with the prestige won from that they would go on to become to of the best snooker players in the world. Finally the biggest development was the darts competition, this brought it out from the back rooms of the pubs and clubs and put it front of the viewing public who saw how good these players were, the likes of Alun Evans and Leighton Rees, ordinary men, extraordinary darts... 

The competition grew and grew as more and more players entered the tournament, ready to take on the Welsh wizards at their own game. It gave them exposure and fame, for Alun Evans even a mention in the Rovers Return as well! But spotting an opportunity, Sid Waddell kept this in his mind until he went to the BBC in the late 70's and along with a few others created the first World professional darts championship in 1978, containing most of the players who had played on The Indoor League, with them helping to grown the game through the 1980's and 90's to where it is today out from the Leeds Irish Centre into arenas filled with thousands of cheering for their favourite players. 

Plus daytime television has come full circle too, as The Indoor League is being shown during the daytime by ESPN Classic. We've come a long way in 40 years, but in some ways we're still happy to see top arrows during the day too...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Making a mockery of it all... The world of fantasy television stations and schedules

I have a confession to make here, I am a faker... No, get back up! Its not as bad as that! But I once was a part of the mock making community and a proud associate of the Afternoon Programmes Follows Shortly website, like many that I do know they had the same idea of making idents for companies past, present and future. Now I make no bones about this, as a researcher and a writer, now I write about shows and companies past and present here as you've seen over time. But part of me always goes back to those past days of making idents, OK so I drew idents in sketch books with felt tips but ask yourself when haven't done something similar with anything whether that be buses, fashion or anything involving design at all.

But when search through a few things I stumbled across a fantasy schedule which I made for the APFS website in 2003 of a notional TVS still being on the air at that time and of a Saturday schedule as I thought it should go. Some of you might say 'Totally wrong!' but its interesting to see how it actually developed in the real world and the changes which have happened since then that time.

OK we start with breakfast television, that first cup of tea and bowl of cornflakes wake up call

 Featuring news and weather at 08.00 and 09.00 (Central/ITN Co-production)

Right so, its come to pass that breakfast television is still on the air but now on a Saturday that ITV offers more children's programmes in that slot. Yes, its true they used to but also they had the regular magazine programme compared to the weekday version it was a like a pull-out from a newspaper at weekends. But I thought it would still exist in some form or the other, because everyone need news at 8am on a Saturday morning, right? Right?

0925The Sunshine Show
 Join Wes Butters and Becky Hunter for another fun packed Saturday morning where anything can happen and usually does! Featuring guests Ally McCoist and Harry Hill. (Central Production)
Ah yes, the Saturday morning children's magazine programme.. A rarer beast then the dinosaurs nowadays, you know I thought it would be there for ever much like children's programmes during the afternoon, but no.. We are subjected to something even worse then Ready Steady Cook now, repeats of Midsummer Murders for weeks on end. There are children's channels on Freeview and Satellite, but ask anyone as these programmes were a great start to the weekend, non thinking and entertaining. Who's awake enough to make some elaborate meal at 10am?  
Plus the presenters, Becky Hunter was in the Channel 5 soup Family Affairs at that time and had done some children's television in the past, which meant she'd be perfect for the female role... See Sarah Greene, Emma Forbes, Zoe Ball etc, etc. But who the funky norse
is Wes Butters, I think he was on Radio One at the time and now he's... Just he's.. I'm sure someone can provide the answer, maybe I was thinking along the lines of Noel Edmonds and Mike Read. Then again Chris Moyles went to Channel 5, did some stuff and went back to the radio...

1200ITN News, Weather
1210TVS News
1215On The Ball
 Gabby Logan is joined by Clive Allen and John Barnes to preview the first day of the new Premiership season. (LWT Production)

News, followed by sport. Natural enough for a Saturday, this was the time when ITV had just got the Premiership and of course there is Football Focus now but how long did Gabby Logan last until she high-tailed it to the Beeb? Clive Allen went back to Tottenham Hotspur to become a coach and John Barnes went through management until just coming to the media appearing as a pundit after going through Channel 5 as the host until they found Colin Murray and thought, can he do it? Well, haven't got anyone else...
1300World Of Sport
 Jim Rosenthal introduces all today's top sporting action including the final leg of the Round Britain Powerboat race between Plymouth and Southsea, Hants. Racing - At The Races from Sandown and Wolverhampton, wrestling from Doncaster Town Hall. With the day's results at 4.40pm. (LWT Production)

Right OK, I hold my hands up at this. Little did I know that eventually all Saturday sport would be focussed on live sport rather then bite sized chunks, well it was going that way at that time maybe wishful thinking trying to relaunch World of Sport but Grandstand was just about chugging along at that time. Racing was still very much a BBC thing at that time, but now it has gone all commercial with Channel 4 becoming the main racing broadcaster in this country even buying up the Grand National, well we wait to see what happens with that next year then...
1720ITN News, Weather
1725TVS News and Sport
 Rounding up all the day's news and local sport.

What he said...

1735The Pyramid Game
 Two teams compete for the top prize of £50,000 and for the celebrities there a chance of winning £5000 for their chosen charity, introduced by Paul Ross. (LWT Production)

Ah, the smell of a Saturday night gameshow and one where people aren't just bashing into foam rubber with a small man laughing all the time, plus £50000 too! Blimey, I was thinking big then! Maybe hindsight, but if they can bring back Catchphrase and they did bring back Family Fortunes with Vernon Kay of all people. But Paul Ross, come on! He was big back then! If wet, Danny Baker...
1810Search for a Star
 12 contestants aim for the top and try and become the star of tommorow. But its your choice who stays and who goes, as they get voted off one by one, presented by Bradley Walsh. (Phone lines open after the the show has finished) (Central Production)

Yes, its Britain's Got Talent before Britain's Got Talent! A twenty-five million pound royality check please Mr Cowell! The same concept as all of his shows, but with Bradley Walsh who now is the gameshow king with The Chase of course. Stretch it over 11 weeks, job's a good 'un! There's more revivals then you can shake a stick at here! Plus another Central production here, rather then some company which has only been set up by a comedian in the past two days for tax purposes..
1900Ultra Quiz
 Phillip Schofield and Tess Daly introduces a new series of the world biggest quiz from Brighton, in which 1000 contestants compete for the top prize of one million pounds, only if they can survive challenge of tasks set before them as the travel around the country. (TVS Production)

Oooh! A million pounds with Phillip Schofield on ITV as it should be and Tess Daly, who went over to Auntie Beeb of course to become Brucie's nurse maid of course.. No! She is one of the BBC biggest properties of course! But considering this, German television do huge shows all the time. So why not a programme on the scale of this and plus a bonus with it too! No singing or dancing!
2000Search for a Star result
 Bradley Walsh brings the result of the public phone vote to see who stays and who goes. (Central Production)
2030Harry Hill's Saturday Allsorts
 Join Harry and friends with fun for the all the family featuring special guests Darius Danesh and Leslie Ash. (LWT/Avalon Co-production)

Its Harry Hill's TV Burp everybody! What a killer combo too! Leslie Ash and Darius Danesh! Never did ever think that combination would ever work... Except in a Harry Hill sketch... Now, what are the chances of that happening!
2115ITN News and Sport
2130Tales of the Unexpected
 The Woman Who Lost Her Voice - Starring Lucy Davis as Tal, a young woman who is left mute by witnessing her family getting killed in a car crash. But Dr Susan Hamilton (Keeley Hawes) is convinced there is more to Tal then meets the eye. (Anglia Production)

But this I can say I got sort of right, quality drama on a Saturday night. Now it maybe like a Doctor Who story this, but what better then Tales of the Uexpected to bring the threshold up. So Jasper Carrott's daughter and Keeley Hawes sounds like a dream combination or I'm guessing I'd had a rather hot curry that day... Though the thought about a drama anthology seems strange now but doing a different story each week maybe a future way of reviving a strand of dram which has laid dormant for a long time.
2215The Big Match
 Matt Smith with analysis from Clive Allen, as they look back on the opening day's action of the Premiership including Manchester United V Bolton Wanderers, Arsenal V Everton and Portsmouth V Aston Villa. Plus all the goals from the rest of the day's games. (LWT Production)

More sport and Portsmouth as a top flight club... We can but dream nowadays...
2345The Half a Lager and Kebab Show
 Late night comedy, sketches and stand up featuring Jimmy Carr, Lucy Porter and the rest of the gang. (TSW Production)

The Steam Powered Video Company in a Devon pub then.. Jimmy Carr, small then big now... Lucy Porter, small but perfectly formed and most probably Russell Howard too with one eye on getting the lead or is hat just his lazy eye again?
0045The Hitman and Her
 Pete Waterman and new presenter Hayley Evetts aim to put the fever back into Saturday nights with great music, games and late night fun. This week the programme comes from Romeo's in Norwich. (Granada Production)

Yes, its a club night on the television so after half a lager and a kebab, dance it back up in a sweaty club! Pete Waterman needing more money for rolling stock then and some Pop Idol girl then... All the big hits and we're still talking about Pete here you know...
0130Weather, Closedown

Finally closedown then, don't forget to butter the table etc, etc... Now you could say that this is way off, there could be hints of a good schedule here but that was half the fun of being a mocker, coming up with new and interesting ideas but I am not ashamed of doing it at all. If it wasn't for that I would be doing this and thank goodness for that!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

"Everyone find a space on the floor.." Schools programmes and the way we learned...

About a week ago, my associate TellyCabbage when out looking for new and interesting things for my archive, when he found a set of booklets for the BBC Radio Schools Programme 'Time and Tune' ranging from the early 1960's upto the early 1980's. Now schools television is more prevalent in minds whatever age they are because of the imagery which they conjured up.  But BBC Schools Radio has been an equal partner to its televisual counterpart and some would now say more so with the radio service still continuing today albeit in the middle of the night like the television service as well.

The history of schools broadcasting starts at the beginning of radio in the UK itself with experimental schools broadcasts commencing in 1924 on the London station of the British Broadcasting Company (2LO) with talks by Sir Henry Walford Davies and E. Kay Robinson on music and natural history respectively. With Lord Reith's beliefs to 'Educate, Inform and Entertain' the education of the nation's children at heart, with the introduction of a schools service in 1925 to allow a broader curriculum to be broadcast.

As time went on secondary schools were included and the introduction of foreign language learning, but they BBC found with that there was adult audience who also followed these programmes as well.  But as the twenties moved into the 1930's and with the outbreak of the Second World War, the regional services were merge together to form a single home service for children which lead to any confusion about the new service being a laid by special news bulletins to explain the circumstances which had led for the service to be united together. By 1942 it meant that half of Britain's schools were listening to the wireless for their education.

After the Second World War, the Schools Broadcasting Council was set up in 1947 to replace what had gone before, allowing a uniting council to regulate the broadcasts and to create a varied curriculum which meant during the 1950's, the radio was there to educate the nation's children. With varying programmes covering the core subjects of Mathematics, English both Language and Literature, the sciences as well as foreign languages. But by the late fifties such was happening else where, television was becoming the dominate force which led to Associated-Rediffusion setting up Britain's first television for schools in 1957. Though the television was still a luxury it meant that radio was still an integral part of schooling, the style of programme had slowly started to move on too, from the lecture into a programme which taught.

But the 1950's was the decade that many of the longest running radio schools programmes started in including 'Stories and Rhymes' for 7 to 9 year old children which ran until 1983, these series came back year after year allowing the schedules for both the Autumn and Summer school terms themselves, though it was the introduction of television which changed schools broadcasting forever, allowing things to be seen which would have been described on radio. The world around children had become alive, some people would have said at the time with television there was no need for a teacher at all, that pupils could have been taught through the screen itself. Of which these broadcasts became, a whole class watching the same thing at the same time. The BBC started television broadcasts also in 1957, realising it was a continuation of the Reithan values of it first ever director general.

As the sixties came into view and more ITV franchises came onto the air, it allowed franchises to concentrate on a more focused range of programming, such as the bigger franchises taking the major subjects and also regional stations especially such as Scottish Television, TWW and Ulster to produce programmes specific to their area and also in different languages such as Welsh or Gaelic. The BBC itself made high quality programmes sticking close to their public service values, though as the decade went on the style changed again to from a starched up formal style to education with presenters rather then teacher and processors at the heart of it. Therefore with television set getting cheaper, it allowed more schools to slowly swap over from radio to television and with the introduction of colour slowly and surely at the start of the 70's, the programmes had settled down into a pattern. Mixing the serious subjects in programme like Scene to others teaching maths in a new way by using the newer educational techniques of the time. With these new techniques being introduced by successive governments, the public service ethos was always there.

But it did have a strange effect which a lot of people will tell you about, that these programmes were becoming entertaining in which the actual educators couldn't guess. Programmes like Look and Read were becoming like mini-drama serials, You and Me was strangely entertaining leading to Lenny the Lion and later Basil Brush to teach young children to read. This was education breaking away from itself, even the adult audience at home were interested in the programmes, with How We Used to Live getting late night repeats on Yorkshire Television because the subject matter was interesting to the viewers. With an audience being recognised for television at that time of day, meant there was an appetite for programmes during the day which I will come onto in a later blogpost. 

For myself the first experience of school programming came during the 1980's with steady reliable show such as Stop Look Listen, You and Me and My World having been on since the 70's. The likes of Science Workshop brought their own brand of humour to the school room, which included David Hargreaves and Malcolm McFee but as the years went on and technology moved into their realm with video recorders, computers and laterly the internet. The room for these programme was not needed and given away to more daytime programmes overall, with BBC Schools moving over to BBC2 in 1983 and also ITV Schools moving over to Channel Four in 1987, much like using up the spare airtime like the Open University and latterly the Open College as well so schools could have a set pattern for children to sit down in front the television at a certain time. But as the video recorded came into use, there was no need for teachers to do that and just record a programme to be used at a later time.

As the 90's drew in, the more venerable shows were politely moved out for the schedule and with the introduction of DVD's and MP3's there was no need for them to be hardly on the television at all as they were shunted to overnight on both BBC2 and Channel 4, the deathknell came when Channel 4 withdraw and the BBC as part of the their public broadcasting commitment carried on but not producing new programmes.

So schools programmes came, conquered and went and to some they will not be missed but they have educated us at some point, entertained us when we have been sick and off school and even found a new audience at time so programmes can be put in their place. Does it educate, inform and entertain? It does in a way, we can be grateful for it and if it wasn't for the education which they gave us then the next generations of teachers... So everyone find a space on the floor and celebrate these programme for what they were....