On 30 September 1958, Independent Television (now abbreviated to ITV) finally reached the South of England in the guise of Southern Television which provided the new ITV service for Central Southern England (Hampshire, most of Dorset, parts of Surrey and Oxfordshire), with South-East England (Kent, Sussex) to follow in 1960 when the Dover transmitter opened.
Southern Television started its service using an old Southampton cinema (The Plaza) in the district of Northam as its main studio whilst a custom-built studio complex that was being built on land reclaimed from the River Itchen nearby. Once the new complex became operational, the old cinema was then demolished. The transmission area, although not as densely populated as Greater London or boasting a conurbation the size of Birmingham or Manchester, boasts a reasonably large number of viewers (4.3 million in 1976); the area is highly affluent and has a wide variety of industries including shipbuilding and tourism (the New Forest, Bournemouth, and Brighton are three of the top tourist areas in the region). Much of the population lives on or near to the coast, so water-based activities figure reasonably highly as well as countryside pursuits.
From Wikipedia: "Southern went on air on Saturday, 30 August 1958 at 5.30pm with the first playing of Southern Rhapsody, the station theme which was used to begin each day's transmission up until 31 December 1981, written by composer Richard Addinsell and performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with Addinsell conducting. The first presenter on air was continuity announcer Meryl O'Keefe (later to become a BBC announcer); her first on-air announcement was followed by an outside broadcast link-up fronted by Julian Pettifer (later an award-winning war correspondent) and a regional news bulletin read by Martin Muncaster. Other opening night programmes included a Filmed Playhouse drama entitled The Last Reunion, a preview programme called Coming Shortly, an episode of the American crime drama Highway Patrol and most notably, a networked opening night programme entitled Southern Rhapsody, starring Gracie Fields and the Lionel Blair Dancers, televised from the station's studios in a converted cinema in the Northam area of Southampton and the ocean liner Caronia which was berthed in Southampton docks."The aforementioned Southern Rhapsody also featured Una Stubbs as a celebrity dancer alongside Lionel Blair as well as the Bournemouth Girls' Choir.
(The following four images below are reproduced courtesy of Twitter user @southinview.)
Southern Rhapsody's outside broadcast onboard a liner (RMS Caronia, pictured top-left), and there was also a private launch party for Southern Television held at the Polygon Hotel in Southampton with Gracie Fields as a singing guest (pictured top-right). Sadly no recording exists of the actual opening night apart from some additional footage of the variety show recorded by a film camera in the studio.
The advent of Southern now meant that you didn't have to live in London or the Midlands to be able to watch popular programmes such as the ATV-produced Emergency Ward 10, as long as you had a television that was switchable between the two different VHF transmission frequencies being used, or a set-top box which did the same trick. But of course Southern produced its own programmes for the region such as Farm In The South, Come Gardening and The Living Word, among others.
Being on the coast, Southern Television needed a boat so that it could cover anything that happened on the water. "Southerner", a 72-foot long ex-torpedo cruiser, fulfilled this role admirably - it being well-equipped and big enough to tackle everything from filming a lone yachtsman to that annual sailing regatta known as Cowes Week.
"Southerner" was to prove very handy for covering such events as Francis Chichester returning from his round-the-world sailing voyage in the boat "Gypsy Moth" in May 1967.
Southern Television produced its own general entertainment shows for its local audience, including Swap Shop. This picture (from 1959) shows a woman who wanted to swap a gas boiler for a baby seat. Other regional programmes produced during the early 1960s included Beat Your Neighbour, Three Go Round (for teenagers, part networked), Home at 4.30 (for women), and Your Questions Please. By 1960 the Dover transmitter became operational, expanding Southern's coverage area to include the South-East of England.
The logo pictured here was generally in use circa 1963. Southern's target audience was generally the affluent middle classes which were perceived to be the 'big spenders' in the region as well has having conservative tastes. There was also a slight bias towards the interests of older people since the majority of the population of the South's coastal resorts were people who had bought retirement homes there. Southern-produced programmes from this period included Space, which dealt with all things related to the 1960s space race.
Pictured above is a Southern film crew interviewing members of the Hampshire Fire Service.
Southern's colour service commenced as soon as the ITV franchises were given the go-ahead to broadcast in colour from November 1969, initially just from the Rowridge transmitter serving Central Southern England (including parts of the Isle of Wight where the transmitter is based). Southern (as with other ITV contractors to varying degrees) produced programmes which were 'networked', ie. shown throughout the country. It considered itself to be one of the 'leaders' of the smaller ITV companies, that is those other than the 'big three' (later 'big five') ITV regions which produce the bulk of ITV's home-produced programmes.
Day by Day was the name of Southern's teatime news magazine programme which lasted until Southern lost its franchise at the end of 1981. Its brief was to provide local news in an entertaining manner, placing emphasis on the personalities if possible as opposed to the events. For several years, Day By Day's main presenter was Cliff Michelmore, who was familiar nationally due to presenting the BBC's Holiday programme amongst other things, though Day By Day featured other presenters within the same programme.
For anyone who's only used to seeing modern news bulletins either national or regional, watching an old edition of something like Day By Day that was produced more than 30 years ago for the first time comes as something of a culture shock because the programme's structure is somewhat different from its modern counterparts.
This difference isn't so much to do with what was culturally different 30+ years ago (if anything), but more to do with having to work around the limitations of technology that was available to broadcasters prior to the mid-1980s; electronic news gathering was still a very expensive proposition that only national news broadcasters could afford (and still had major restrictions), so longer form regional news programmes had to make creative use of what was at their disposal.
Because something like Day By Day was presumably intended to be visually enticing from the very beginning, the lead stories had to be something for which Southern Television already had film footage ready to show - there was no video tape used for news gathering at this stage - so to use a modern analogy, the beginning of the programme looks more like an edition of the BBC's Inside Out or The One Show as opposed to a modern regional news bulletin, namely previously well-prepared stories of local interest with some film inserts. (If they were also very topical then so much the better, but that wasn't always possible.)
This had to be balanced with a requirement to feature up-to-date regional news stories for which film wasn't yet available, hence a separate Southern News-branded news summary contained within Day By Day done in a traditional style, namely someone sat behind a desk reading the latest news stories interspersed with still photos and film footage (if available).
Therefore there usually weren't any significant blurring of the boundaries between news (namely, what happened today) and features (namely, what happened last week) that you would normally get nowadays with a regional news magazine programme like Meridian Tonight or BBC South Today; with Day By Day, the two categories were (more often than not) distinctly separate but part of the same programme. Other contemporary news programmes may not have adopted this particular style but the Day By Day approach was one particular way of packaging news in an appealing manner for a general audience whilst dealing with technological limitations.
At least from the mid-70s onwards, shorter news bulletins were given the title Southern News Extra, and in this particular case the presenter was Christopher Robbie.
Local news can mean quite literally that, being virtually "on the studio's doorstep". Footage of Mount Pleasant level crossing was used to illustrate the introduction of diesel traction to railways in the southern region. Mount Pleasant crossing is located within a short walking distance from Southern's studios; indeed a railway branch line used to run onto the land near where the studio is located. The barrier, lights and footbridge are still there today.
And of course there was coverage of local sport, with the inevitable inclusion of football (soccer) matches of local interest (full games as well as highlights) being featured as part of Southern's output. The success of Southampton Football Club including its 1976 FA Cup victory provided plenty of newsworthy events for Southern to cover.
As part of its public service commitments, Southern Television occasionally transmitted free promotions for charities, community groups and other related non-profit making organisations based within its franchise area as a "Public Service Announcement".
Also as a public service, Southern Television broadcast a "what's on" guide for weekend leisure activities such as craft fairs and exhibitions, etc., within its region, namely the appropriately titled Weekend. The two presenters shown here in this edition from 1979 are Trevor Baker, who was mainly famous for presenting the weather forecast, and Sarah Kennedy, who started her TV career reading the news for Day By Day and subsequently went on to become famous nationally for co-presenting Game For A Laugh that was shown nationally on ITV from 1981 to 1985.
When a generic ITV promotion was broadcast by Southern Television, they superimposed their own captions incorporating the Southern star logo on the various clips (examples shown above), as well as using their own voiceover; in this case provided by Brian Nissen.
There was a touch of Southern sparkle given to its presentation around Christmas time, with this special "Colour Presentation" featuring bluish-white sparkling stars commonly used during the festive season.
And if those sparkling stars weren't enough to generate Christmas spirit, there was inevitably some festive in-vision continuity to get viewers in the mood for watching what Southern and the ITV network had to offer viewers for the occasion, even if most television viewers ended up watching something on on the "other side" instead like The Two Ronnies.
One of Southern's most famous television programmes was Houseparty, an afternoon show aimed primarily at women that was shown locally to begin with then part-networked (one programme a week). It featured the sort of items expected to be found within the covers of a "magazine for women", such as cooking, knitting, crafts, and general gossip. The studio was arranged so as to resemble a living room and the regular 'guests' rang a 'doorbell' when they arrived after the programme had started, often bringing items of interest with them. It may have been a rather 'phoney' idea but the show was popular; it only ended when Southern stopped broadcasting, though Meridian revived the show for a brief time with the daughters of some of the original cast, in 1993.
A networked children's programme produced by Southern was the popular How, which set out to answer simple questions that frequently involved studio-based demonstrations. Although the series finished when Southern lost its franchise, the concept was revived and updated in the 1990s as How 2 which also featured original How presenter Fred Dinenage; someone who has long been associated with the Southern ITV region and who now presents the local early evening ITV1 news programme Meridian Tonight. Other 1970s networked children's programmes from Southern included Brendon Chase, Flockton Flyer (1976-77), Freewheelers (1970-72), Midnight Is A Place (1977), Noah's Castle (1979), and Now For Nookie (1981).
Another popular networked series for children produced by Southern was Runaround, a quiz where children answered general knowledge questions by running to stand on one of three platforms on the studio floor, with each platform representing one of three possible answers to the question. Pictured is quizmaster Mike Reid (later to star in EastEnders) next to a joke-telling robot called Metal Mickey, and the year is 1980.
Television graphics prior to the late-1980s were still relatively unsophisticated; the weather forecast being a case in point, with the forecast often being just read by a presenter whilst a simple caption like this one is displayed.
Probably the most popular and well received programme Southern has ever made was Worzel Gummidge, a scarecrow that came to life (played by Jon Pertwee). The one big regret that many people had over Southern losing its franchise was the demise of this programme, 'No more Worzel Gummidge!' moaned children (and adults) in large numbers. Old episodes were to be later repeated on the soon-to-be-launched Channel 4, together with another popular and long-running series devoted to the countryside, Out of Town.
Regional television provides a facility not just for regional advertising but for region-related messages and information such as the provision of contact numbers for parents wanting to know whether or not their local school was open during snowy weather conditions as Southern did during the winter of 1980-81, or in this case a message from the Ford Motor Company in relation to them wanting workers to return to their shifts at the Transit manufacturing plant in Southampton on 27 May 1981.
Southern (rightly or wrongly) never seemed to think that it could ever lose its South and South-East England ITV franchise to anyone else, so it was a major shock to the company in 1980 when it lost its ITV franchise to a new company - Television South, or TVS. And It's Goodbye From Us was Southern's final programme on its very last day and watching this programme rapidly becomes a surreal and rather unsettling experience.Bear in mind that the other two franchise changes weren't as dramatic simply by virtue of their circumstances being different; TSW had already acquired Westward Television earlier in 1981 so the New Years' Day 1982 changeover consisted merely of a rebrand and a new set of programmes, and the Central franchise was a reorganised ATV so likewise it was just a cosmetic makeover and a new set of programmes.
However, despite the new franchise holder TVS making use of the Northam studios and most of its existing ex-Southern Television staff, Southern Television as a company was still very much in charge on 31 December 1981, and for that reason alone there was a real sense of bitterness and uncertainty in the air that night as And It's Goodbye From Us was broadcast.
The programme had the somewhat obvious inclusion of a variety of clips taken from Southern productions, but there was also a somewhat incongruent song and dance routine included presumably to provide some form of entertainment for the viewers at home. And music from the Bournemouth Sinfonia provided a dramatic backdrop for the nights' proceedings, especially as the end of the programme drew near as if Cinderella's carriage was about to turn back into a pumpkin. Which, in a sense, it was.
At the end of the programme with the orchestra playing dramatic music (not Auld Lang Syne as TV Weekly's 1991 franchise report suggested), the studio lights slowly dimmed so that only the star logos at the back were visible, then the Southern Colour Production end logo appeared. A pattern of stars in the universe was superimposed on the caption as the picture quickly turned black and white with only the star logo remaining on the screen, then the star logo rotated as it slowly shrank down to a tiny size before disappearing altogether; the guitar ident jingle also had an added long echo at the end. A very emotionally-charged end to a long-serving ITV franchise.
So why did Southern Television lose its ITV franchise? Most likely there were three reasons; firstly, Southern's shareholding structure may have given the IBA some concern as to how committed it was in terms of serving its region effectively, and any doubts went hand in hand with the second reason, namely that TVS promised to invest in new studios for the South-East region at Maidstone and a new Television Theatre within the region; this investment was a massive improvement over Southern's relatively small Dover premises, even though Southern had also intended to build new studios at Maidstone and later on sold their land to TVS at a good profit so they could do likewise.
The third reason is perhaps slightly more tenuous but Southern seemed to be stuck in a time warp when it came to serving the region's audience; it was a very conservative broadcaster which still appeared to be stuck in the 1950s despite some quality programming and was nowhere near a match for a broadcaster like LWT or Thames when it came to the production of light entertainment or comedy programmes. (And neither was Westward, but it had more of an excuse not to, being smaller.) Southern's perceived arrogance ran to its initial franchise renewal application only being 16 pages long, which the IBA politely rejected and told Southern to come up with some more details. TVS promised something radically different, therefore this argument along with its significant regional provision promises won the day.
After it finished broadcasting on 31 December 1981, Southern continued to market its programming to other broadcasters and briefly dabbled in film production but could never replicate the success it had when owning an ITV franchise. A sad end to a successful company, but what has happened to Southern Television and associated programme assets since its demise?
The "Southern Television" and star symbol trademarks are now owned by TV producer Nic Ayling who acquired the trademarks in 2004 and he also owns the rights to some of Southern's archive programming, but the ownership situation with Southern's archive programming in general is much more complex. Endemol owns the rights to certain Southern programmes such as How, Worzel Gummidge, and Churchill: The Wilderness Years courtesy of its previous acquisition of Australian producer Southern Star (no relation to the original Southern Television), and Renown Pictures have some master tapes including the 2" VT masters of Runaround and a fair number of drama series (Flockton Flyer, Noah's Castle, Rogue's Rock, etc.). Indeed Renown Pictures have reissued lots of Southern drama productions; more details available on their website. Richard Price Associates has the rights to Brendon Chase and Children of the New Forest, and EuroArts has the rights to Southern's opera productions and Music In Camera; a selection of Southern's Glyndebourne opera productions produced since 1972 have been issued on DVD.
Just to complicate things even further, bear in mind that there are two different series of Out of Town; one set of DVD's contain programmes reconstructed using film footage, which shouldn't be confused with the original programmes. Nearly all of the original programmes were previously considered to be missing presumed lost forever, but some of them were recently rediscovered and are now commercially available in a DVD box set from Delta. Several cans of Out of Town-related film (amongst other broadcasts) are stored in the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA) based at Plymouth; itself created from the 'ashes' of another defunct ITV contractor (TSW). The estate of Jack Hargreaves (who was also a Southern director) holds at least some of the rights to Out of Town, and 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Jack Hargreaves' birth. An original edition of Out of Town was included as a bonus extra on The Dream Factory DVD produced by Meridian Broadcasting (now owned by ITV plc) in 2004.
Southern's news archive belongs to ITV plc and so do many Southern regional programmes; film prints and tapes for much of the latter are housed in the Wessex Film Archive. Various film inserts for Southern Television programmes are with ITV plc (via Yorkshire Television) along with original master film prints for certain series like Worzel Gummidge. Also bear in mind that some programmes especially those produced prior to the mid-1970s like Little Big Time were never retained therefore no longer exist, though the final edition of Little Big Time does exist in the form of some home film footage.