How we fell in love with regional telly. Contributors including Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson and Martin Bell remember the early days, and suggest what the future holds.
Browse content similar to Regional TV: Life Through a Local Lens. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Switch out, regions.
'This is the story of how we fell in love with the brave new world of regional telly.'
I launched into this new industry feet first. It was wonderful.
Nobody was there to tell you, you were doing it wrong.
-Anyway, this is Susan Hampshire.
-My friends call me Lottie Tea Set.
-This is my little friend.
-Who I hope is going to sing for us.
'After shaky beginnings, millions tuned in
'to see their world as never before
'and watch formats that broke the TV mould.'
I don't suppose you expected to see me on a rock 'n' roll programme.
'For more than 50 years, regional TV reported on local stories,
'and has been a launch pad to a new kind of fame.'
How often do you have a bath?
'Local stations built a bond with their viewers
'and placed them centre stage.'
-Do you think women should wear trousers?
'As the BBC and ITV battled for ratings,
'how real was this portrayal of regional life?'
You could do anything in regional broadcasting.
The network centres were like Tesco. We were the corner shop.
Contestant number 12, Miss Rotherham Advertiser...
'As the viewers lapped it up,
'the broadcasting world was turned upside down.
'As regional telly basked in its golden age, it faced a challenge that would threaten its existence.'
Here we go. Stand by.
'It's early evening, more than seven million viewers are tuning in
'to the BBC and ITV, for one of television's highest ratings genres,
'regional news, features and weather.'
Time to join the BBC's news teams where you are.
Hello, and welcome to Look North.
'This is the BBC's Look North from Leeds.
'Christa Ackroyd and Harry Gration are famous,
'but only in their native Yorkshire, where the programme is broadcast.'
While most of us basked in the holiday sunshine...
'They're not the only ones
'who found fame through the lens of regional TV.'
This is Plymouth where, according to a London fashion promoter,
the men are more fashion conscious than the women.
'Regional television has produced regional television stars.'
You could say they were big fish in a tiny pond. That didn't matter.
They were still big fish.
And they won the war with this.
That kind of fame was inordinate.
Huge numbers of people watched the show.
In the chip shop, you'd have to fight your way out!
Perhaps slightly fewer top people holiday at Frinton today.
It was extraordinary. The moment you arrived at Liverpool Street station,
and got off the train, you were nobody again!
People felt that there was a kind of an ownership because you worked on local telly.
You were walking down the street, they would stop you and talk to you and ask for your autograph.
On one occasion, I was in a supermarket.
Some bloke said, "Are you that maid what works on the telly?"
I said, "Yes." He said, "I never did like you!"
Right. Stand by.
This is the BBC television station at Alexandra Palace.
'Regional voices were seldom heard on the TV in post-war Britain.
'There was only one national service and it was run by the BBC.'
It was quite establishment.
Presenters tended to be upper middle class
with received pronunciation.
That was something that they, I think, felt was a strength.
We now proudly present an item with a rather more serious face,
Cervantes' hero of classic Spain, Don Quixote de la Mancha.
The moment of the Queen's crowning is come.
'The coronation in 1953 only confirmed the BBC's authority.
'Millions tuned in on their new TV sets to watch history unfold.
'But the BBC's monopoly was about to be challenged by a new force.
'A second channel would be launched in 1955.
'It would be different from the London-focused BBC.
'Independent television would be run on a regional basis
'by companies who'd make money from advertising.
'As well as making programmes that would only be seen in their region,
'they'd provide shows for the new ITV network.'
There was a great fear amongst
particularly the elder statesmen in the BBC, but also political circles,
Here is the new Band-Aid strip with new Super-Stick.
'Establishment fears of vulgar American culture were to be allayed.
'The network would be regulated.
'The BBC saw itself
'as the high church of public service broadcasting,
'but as the first ITV region went live in London,
'Auntie was less than holy.
'She played dirty.'
The roof's collapsing! For God's sake, Grace, come back!
They took their most listened-to broadcast, the Archers.
One of the most popular characters, Phil Archer,
had married this gorgeous wife of six months.
And they killed her off in a terrible fire
while she was rescuing her horse.
A poor attempt, but it worked.
The headlines the next day were "Grace Archer dies".
'The BBC stole ITV's thunder but it faced a dilemma
'as more companies went on air.
'Should it ignore these TV upstarts or should it go regional, too?'
This is the BBC television service.
'The Beeb entered the race and targeted news as the battleground.
'The BBC regions tried to get on air before their rivals,
'but the style remained very formal.'
Switch out, regions. Switch out.
Smokeless zones in northern towns and cities...
..a great Midland estate to be broken up...
'And in the northeast of England,
'the BBC's news show felt more Hertfordshire than Hartlepool.'
And here is Lucinda Lamp.
-I went yesterday to Whitley Bay
to see how and why
all the...Scots people
went there each and every year
for the Scots week celebrations.
I took some photographs. Look at that one, for instance.
Those two ladies sitting there enjoying their holidays.
You can see how they're enjoying their holiday. Freezing cold!
'On the commercial channel, Tyne Tees couldn't have been more different.'
# There's no business like show business... #
'ITV stations were offering a broader variety of programmes.
'Along with the news, there'd be razzmatazz.'
# ..maybe standing out in the cold... #
There's no business like show business and Tyne Tees Television
introduces 60 minutes of stars and features you'll see on your screens.
'The stardust wasn't surprising.
'Many new ITV owners, like George and Alfred Black at Tyne Tees, were showbiz impresarios
'and knew how to put bums on seats.'
# Bobby Shafto's gone to sea with silver buckles on his knee
# He'll come back and marry me Bonnie Bobby Shafto... #
This was the ultimate in glamour.
We had dancers, famous comedians, beautiful ladies.
It was like Hollywood come to Tyneside.
# He'll come back and marry me
# Bonnie Bobby Shafto. #
Newcastle had never seen anything like that.
I don't think we did another one, but it was really impressive.
'As each ITV station launched, the fanfare got louder.'
Hi. Welcome to First Night...
'There'd be no stopping this television juggernaut.'
# Yorkshire Television has been born Yeah! #
'The landscape was now dotted with BBC and ITV transmitters.
'Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had their own services.
'In England, TV signals didn't always respect traditional borders.'
The Tyne Tees region was a massive region.
It overlapped into Yorkshire. It went right up to the borders.
In that group, several different cultures
and programmes that reflected all that
were lapped up by people all over the region.
'Border TV's signal crossed more than county boundaries.
'It straddled two countries.'
Our transmitters, they plonked one in Caldbeck and one in Selkirk.
They managed to reach the places that other transmitters couldn't!
We had Stranraer on the west coast, 100 miles from Carlisle where the studio base was.
We had Berwick-on-Tweed out on the east coast.
We had Kendal in the Lake District, then out to the Isle of Mann,
then Scotland, Robbie Burns and Walter Scott country.
It was a crazy area to serve.
'As each region went live,
'ratings wars broke out.
'In East Anglia, the BBC's Look East and ITV's About Anglia
'were fighting for the loyalty of a million viewers.'
We were aware that many more people
were watching Anglia Television than Look East.
It was better resourced and it had a popular anchor man, Dick Joyce.
We were playing catch-up all the time.
First there's the news, the local news, all about Anglia.
The nerve centre at Anglia House will receive news 24 hours a day.
There'll be that hot story that'll send the stills photographer
scuttling for his camera
and the film unit scorching off to bring back the pictures.
We arrogantly thought the BBC was a complete joke.
We thrashed them to bits.
And I think the ITV stations did actually do very well.
When I was at the BBC, the Director General was Sir Hugh Greene.
He watched Look East and he was so appalled
that he sent the editor of Panorama to the BBC in Norwich
on a weekend, to instruct us in the basics of television.
I suppose we were a bit hurt, but we had to admit he had a point.
'England was becoming more urban, but viewers in East Anglia
'were treated to a more cosy view of daily life.'
We were not chasing eloping heiresses
or catching footballers in scandals, it was very genteel.
It was Miss Marple-ish.
It was another England that has gone completely.
I'm in Cambridge,
in the rooms of a man whose face is familiar to millions of viewers,
Dr Glen Daniel of Cambridge University.
Once a fortnight, he'll be introducing a programme called Town And Garden.
Let's find out something about it.
-Dr Daniel, this is a beautiful city.
-It most certainly is.
Tell me about Town And Garden. Won't the programme be high-brow?
No reason why it should be.
It'll vary from scholarship to the lightest form of entertainment, sport and drama.
You will see rowing on the river and cricket.
You will see theatre, the Footlights and the Marlow.
We hope to have excerpts of them.
'It seemed everyone wanted a job in television.
'There'd be more than tea-making duties for one student from Oxford.
'The restoration of historic buildings of Suffolk
'gave David Dimbleby one of his first TV moments.'
This is the Guildhall at Lavenham.
It was built in the time of Henry VIII and became the centre of the cloth trade in this town.
It's where the merchants used to meet to wrangle over prices and settle their wage disputes.
The extraordinary thing is there's not just one of these,
but a score of them in the same state of preservation.
I'm trying and find out about the people who live here
and about how they've managed to preserve the town so well.
-Have you been doing this work long?
-About 40 years.
-Do you build many modern houses?
There's no call for them in Lavenham.
-People like the old stuff.
-I don't blame them.
Thank you very much. I'll let you get on with the job.
'David Dimbleby wasn't the only cub reporter tackling weighty issues of the day.'
I see from this that the 8.30 from Liverpool Stret arrives at 1111.
But it doesn't. It's running later.
And there's not even a special announcement to tell the public.
What do they think? Do they enjoy the pleasant surprise?
'David Frost would become the master of the probing interview.
'He honed his skills with a much more gentle line of questioning.'
-What do you think of the fact that the trains are later?
-Well, it's slightly inconvenient.
I get here five or ten minutes later.
That puts me five or ten minutes later throughout the morning.
'We were black and white. We were on film. It was very clipped.'
Two years ago, the regiment was facing a recruiting problem.
The East Anglia Brigade compares recruiting very favourably
with any other brigade in the Army.
I was doing what I imagined were the accents of the officer class,
trying to be Richard Dimbleby.
'But in the north of England, a new army of recruits was taking regional telly in a grittier direction.'
My generation, the one that benefitted from an education,
where bright working-class kids could go to grammar school
and go to university freed up a huge area of bright working-class kids,
and something was going to happen.
'Parky's TV career started at Manchester-based Granada
'as a producer and reporter
'on the nightly news programme Scene At 6.30.'
The centre of fashion in tattooing is this shop in Liverpool.
It's owned by Sailor Jack. He's got 5,000 designs to choose from.
According to his publicity, he's got designs from politics, to erotics,
to religion to aesthetics.
'Like many others, Parky was recruited from newspapers
'and was exposed to a concept from Granada boss Sidney Bernstein that would transform regional news.'
He said, "I want to represent the people we're broadcasting to."
In those days, it was a revolutionary idea!
The bench mark nationally was the Tonight programme.
The next Tonight will be tomorrow night. Good night.
'With the urbane Cliff Michelmore and urbane Alan Whicker.'
And Fife Robinson chucked in as a bit of Celtic rough!
I think Granada,
with Scene At 6.30, they had wrote a style book.
It said we should not talk as though we had bananas in our mouths.
The tone should not be like Tonight,
which was like a bishop talking down to you.
We had to be like a bloke you'd met in a pub
and you were bursting to tell him how good Newcastle had been.
'Bernstein's master stroke was to create a brand that resonated with the common man.
'It was much more than a TV region. This was Granada-land.'
As we say in Granada-land, good night.
'It did create a loyalty among the viewers.'
This belonged to them. The BBC was a bit distant, a bit toffy.
Bit dressy-uppy. It hadn't really related. Radio had, not television.
It was a brilliant idea, and it worked.
'Granada created a new regional identity.
'Across the country, local news programmes were turning TV etiquette on its head.
'The viewers were now centre stage.'
A learned judge was heard to remark in the courts the other day
that he didn't understand "snogging" and it was explained to him by a nine-year-old girl.
Let's see how much the word "snogging" means to Mr Everyman.
-Do you know what I mean by snogging?
'I don't think we did a single news story'
without going out and doing the vox pop.
-What does "snogging" mean?
-No idea at all.
Asking anybody passing by, "What do you think about X, Y or Z?"
-Do you know what's meant by "snogging"?
-No. I'm afraid I don't. I'm a sailor.
Bosses always loved vox pops.
When they work, of course, they're wonderful.
-Do you think women should wear trousers?
I HATED vox pops. Absolutely terrible.
Cos they saw the camera and they'd all run away.
-When should women wear trousers?
-When they're doing the housework.
So I got this lady. I was about to say, "Mike Neville, BBC..."
She screamed, "No! NO! NO!"
And ran the entire length of the street,
screaming "NO!" at the top of her voice.
Everybody stopped and looked at me.
I was thinking, "I didn't do anything. I didn't!"
-What do you think of hot pants?
-Smashing. I'll get our lass a pair.
I hated approaching people. Not a good thing for a reporter to say!
I felt like such a nuisance. "Shut up!"
Is that all? Can I get on with work?
It was like pimping!
-If I give you a kiss on the cheek, would that be over-friendly?
'The more local faces you got on the screen, the more people to whom
'you gave the opportunity of 15 seconds of fame,'
the more people would tune in.
Would you say men are more fashionable than women in Plymouth?
Yes, I would.
The presenter on the box was on the street with you. This was quite a glamorous thing.
-You're on the telly, look.
-Yes, you are.
'That was important, interaction between broadcaster and community,
'especially in the regions.'
That's what made it theirs.
'But being seen and heard was only half the battle.'
They're not vicious criminals, what do you think?
-Ooh, don't take no notice of what they say.
-The best thing they do, look 'ere.
I did once get hold of an interpreter.
I had to find another Suffolk...Norfolk man
and say, "Can you help..." "What do you want, boy?"
"I'm finding it a bit difficult to understand."
"Oh, that's old Zachary! Oo-ee-oooo!"
He came down and it was wonderful, because they both were at it,
"Oo-ee-ooo" like this.
And after quite a long time, he stopped and said,
"He doesn't want to do it." LAUGHS
STRONG ACCENT: My old friend, Sam. Go on.
-Now, I don't know how 'tis...football...
some get £100...get a penny... but I...trolley.
I remember filming a sequence in a Liverpool pub
and we showed it
to the executive producer and he said,
"I can't understand half the words. We'll have to have subtitles."
I remember feeling terribly insulted
that he felt that should be necessary.
That was really part of the way which the BBC was,
the BBC nationally was.
-I wouldn't go at 'em.
Well, I've been asking Mr Green what he thinks,
and I'm sure I don't know even now!
'By the late '60s, TV had overtaken radio in the popularity stakes.
'And one part of the schedule was doing really well.'
There was a sense, both from the ITA and from the BBC establishment,
that regional news is not that interesting.
People want to see national news.
If we look at the audience research,
people wanted to know what was going on in their area.
The fire started in a top floor social club in the centre of town...
'Viewers were watching stories that reflected how they lived.
'Camera crews were dispatched to all corners of the region,
'covering every inch of what journalists called "the patch".'
We're put this barricade up to stop lorries from coming up this road.
There's going to be children knocked down.
'But gathering the news was a physical battle.'
The Arriflex was the kind of camera that I would be involved with.
They're quite heavy.
There's a tripod. Guess who carries the tripod! The director!
They've got stuff now that almost goes inside your pocket!
'When the BBC's Look North launched in Yorkshire in 1968,
'it did so on the perfect news day.'
Good evening from Look North.
'Hundreds of homes were damaged, as the River Ouse rose 14 feet
'above its normal level.'
We're coping. I see the bread's eventually arrived.
The situation is getting rather congested with boats everywhere.
'Programme makers loved bad weather stories.
'One battle against the elements proved it could be grim up north!'
This job is different. It's the only part of the world where you can get thick fog with a howling gale.
You've got to experience it to believe it.
'The building of the M62, which linked Liverpool with Hull,
'sliced through the High Pennines.
'Man and machine were pitted against the bleakest of landscapes.'
It's no bloody joke working on the M62.
In winter, we're frozen to death.
In the summer, we do 12 hours and we choke with dust.
By the time you get home, it's quarter past nine,
have your meal, it's bed time and that's the end of the day.
'Britain's highest motorway would open up the north.
'Bad weather wasn't the only problem facing engineers.'
This building is scheduled for demolition. >
-Did you give them permission to...?
-Be off! Be off!
-Now, just a moment!
-Just a moment, sir.
-We have permission...
We have permission to come through this land.
-Who gave permission?
-The people on the site have permission.
-The people on what?
-The people on the site.
-I'm the owner!
'Regional programmes were getting close to the action.
'Local TV had found its feet.
'The biggest test came when huge stories broke.
'In 1974, the quiet of the north Lincolnshire countryside
'was shattered by an explosion at the Flixborough chemical plant.'
A generation of people will surely never forget
the worst single act of devastation in this country since the last war.
'28 people died and more than 30 injured.'
It was like something out the Blitz.
There's blown windows everywhere, glass all over.
It's even impaled right across the room into the table and chairs.
'Journalists descended on the scene, but the regional news programmes remained for days
'to record the aftermath.'
-Half the houses in the village with no roofs on.
-Across the road...
-..they're putting the roof...
-On farm buildings!
-The council's doing what they can.
-I don't think they're doing anything.
People seem frightened that the plant might be rebuilt.
If I was in Flixborough, I wouldn't want the plant there.
If we don't build it there, we've got to find somewhere else.
'Major disasters were few and far between.
'On quiet news days, the regional news magazines were hard to fill.'
The usual problem, we haven't got a major story.
We'll start with our friend, "Top story yet to happen."
'Producers had to show initiative.'
I used to try and put on items that were...
..a little more down-to-earth, racey.
I tended to say, when it came to me in the meeting and I was producer,
"What are we going to bore the people with today?"
Get the fire brigade out the way, get the police and politicians out the way
then let's get a bit of humour.
There was a freedom to do some fairly unusual stuff.
We might look back and go, "What was going on there?"
There really are some magnificent sights in Yorkshire.
One of them is Miss Mandy Silver
who is now training secretly at a Leeds night club
for an attempt next week on the world tassle tossing record.
It was post-'60s. It was an interesting time.
They were playing with the boundaries, seeing what you could do.
Miss Silver, toss some tassles for us, please.
'You could do anything in regional broadcasting.
'The network centres were like Tesco. We were the corner shop.'
It was a fast track of learning
everything you possibly could about television.
And so, it was a joy. I loved it.
'It was as if television then was a teenager,
'rather than the mature individual that it is now!'
We were a bit wild with some things, certainly quite experimental.
-Can I come and sit down?
-I brought you some beer.
-Isn't that nice?
Isn't that nice of you?
-Tell me, how long have you lived here?
-Over two year.
'I remember being sent off to interview a local tramp
'called Smokey Joe,
'who used to live on the main road through Cornwall to St Austell.'
How often do you have a bath?
-Ooh, I just get in the trough here.
-You just get in the trough?
Tell me why you live by yourself and don't team up with another tramp.
Oh, wouldn't do that. Takes a lot to look after yourself.
You've got this broad canvas of any kind of story you can imagine
which is a true reflection of the area in which you're broadcasting
and the people who live within that area.
'The demands of daily news were one thing.'
You're planning to bring the twist to Carlisle. Why?
'But getting to grips with popular culture was another matter entirely.'
All the popular music was in the northwest.
The Beatles were more or less our resident group.
I did the very first interview of the Rolling Stones.
Apart from current affairs, we were also bringing in this new culture.
# That boy
# Took my love away... #
Mick, we've had the normal Stones type reception for you,
girls swarming round the taxi, why do they do it?
-Is it a sex thing?
-Yeah. It's sexual. Completely.
'We didn't know we were living through a cultural revolution.
'My generation, we created, without knowing it, the '60s.'
We tilled the ground for it to happen. We were too old - I was - to take it all in.
It didn't really impinge much on Look East.
Except once, we did have a competition
and the prize was lunch with Cilla Black.
So we were obviously trying to reach out to the pop audience.
'Regional telly was capturing a new vision of England.'
Just as it, perhaps, preserved some myths about England, about its rural idyll,
because that's what regional audiences wanted to see,
it was also at the forefront of showing social and physical change.
The ways in which cities were changing was represented very keenly
by regional broadcasters.
The region could see that it was developing, that it was successful,
that it was clever.
That it was attractive. "Look at the beautiful landscape in Northumberland."
"Look at our wonderful ship building."
And the confidence as a result.
That's what regional television does for a region.
'And as regional TV's popularity grew,
'so did the profile of its news presenters.'
And first, hopefully, Diane Elms. No? Have we got the film yet?
'And they didn't come any bigger...'
It's been one of those funny days. Must be the royal visit!
'..than the BBC's man in Newcastle.'
Bear with us a moment. Radio Newcastle had this problem. They couldn't get the pictures.
No-one could compete with Mike Neville. He's the best presenter of a regional programme.
You had lots of rookie directors on these regional programmes,
where they pressed the wrong button.
Mike used to have to apologise to everybody and say,
"We've got an idiot producing this programme. What do you expect?"
We once had a letter from a lady following a break-down in the programme.
I was filling in, and she said,
"I was laughing so much that I burnt my husband's tea.
"When he got in, he was livid.
"Not that I'd burnt his tea but that he'd missed the break-down.
"Could you please repeat it?"
Which we did, frequently, but not deliberately.
People love that imperfection, you know?
I'd go into a pub the next day and they'd say, "Hey, mate! I loved that break-down. That was great!"
On dull news days, I've seen journalists longing
for a camera to go down or the Telecine to go down,
on the basis that you'd give Mike the freedom to extemporise.
He had the ability to talk like Sir John Gielgud.
But also like Jack the lad with a barrow down the market.
Mike Neville is a broadcasting genius.
'Mike Neville's iconic status in the northeast meant he was fought over
'by the BBC and ITV.
'Wherever he went, the audience followed.
'Producers gave him freedom and, on the Beeb,
'he was allowed to go to previously unthinkable lengths.'
A committee of us re-wrote the balcony scene from Romeo And Juliet in Geordie.
I was rather pleased, because I wrote the last bit.
Instead of "Good night, good night, parting is such sweet sorrow..."
I rewrote that as, "T'ra, t'ra.
"I'm sorry you've gorra go.
"If you canna see us tomorrow, will you ler'us know?"
I heard Shakespeare rolling over then.
'Mike Neville wasn't the only big name given free rein to develop his personality.'
In the Yorkshire Television area where I worked from '68 to 1975,
the big character was more complex, the big character was Austin Mitchell.
-Hold that position.
That's what you'll be like when you leave the aircraft.
'Yorkshire Television put presenters at the heart of the action.'
Feet together, ready for the impact.
'Austin had this amazing dichotomy.'
He'd say, "There's a thing about Robin Hood being from Wakefield. Not from Sherwood Forest."
I shouldn't be here at all.
I should be in Wakefield.
-Have you got any wrongs you want righting?
-A lot, love.
'Ten minutes later, he'd interview a member of the Cabinet.'
He might interview George Brown or Harold Wilson himself.
You just did now know where Austin's image really was.
I think that's why people liked him
because he came over as a big daft Yorkshire lump, and he wasn't.
'As technology evolved, presenters were freed up,
'placing Austin Mitchell at the centre of an unfolding tragedy.'
At 2.30 this morning, a sudden rush of water poured into workings
on the Flockton seam, two and a half miles from this pithead,
some 250 yards underground.
'The plight of seven trapped miners at the Lofthouse colliery
'near Wakefield, captivated the nation for almost a week.'
There were 32 men on that working. 25 escaped. Seven are still there.
It could be that the seven are dead or it could be, and it's hoped,
that they are trapped in an air bubble in which they could exist for 40 hours.
'Sometimes, reporters were at the scene for days.
'but the beaming of live pictures gave an extra dimension.
'Local news was reporting on events as they happened.'
What was a rescue operation becomes a recovery operation.
Coal Board officials see very little possibility, if at all,
that anybody could now be alive.
'The mix of light and shade was picked up elsewhere.
'The BBC's Nationwide wrapped itself around the local news shows
'and celebrated the regions.
'The relaxed nature of regional presenters was catching on.
'With the news programmes slugging it out, a new front opened in the battle for viewers.
'Documentaries could be seen on the network
'but longer local films that might only be seen in the region were also being made.
'The Yorkshire Dales was a magnet for filmmakers.
'By the '70s, the BBC in Yorkshire was looking for a new way
'of showing it off.'
This is an exemplar, really, of regional documentary film-making.
What A Way To Spend A Sunday, a film by Sid Perou.
'While everyone else headed for the hills,
'Sid Perou and his mates donned wet suits and went for the caverns underneath.'
John Shepherd is from Liverpool, a trainee solicitor.
Shep's had one or two narrow escapes from drowning.
'Sid Perou was a former BBC sound recordist
'who later became a freelance cameraman.
'He took his 16mm camera into places where few dared go.'
The cave brings back very happy memories to me of past friends
who were involved in explorations but were, unfortunately,
caught out in a flood and drowned in the caverns.
I think this, personally, has made me a lot more cautious caver
as regards water and outside weather conditions.
One's got to be very conscious of what's going on at the surface,
although you can't see it after several hours underground.
You haven't a clue whether it's raining, but this is a factor you've got to bear deeply in mind.
'He had to take lights down there. It was a tremendous effort.'
It took over 26 weeks to film. They went back and back and refilmed.
Almost like a drama.
On reflection, it might not be a bad way to spend a Sunday after all.
'It could be said that Sid Perou was one of the first innovators
'in experimental adventure film-making.
'He was filming in dangerous and risky places.'
This was something that film-makers tried to copy.
'By going underground,
'BBC Yorkshire exploited what was in their own backyard.
'Tyne Tees went further for their take on one of the northeast's most important industries.
'The award-winning documentary Big Deal At Gothenburg looked at ship-building
'from the shipyards of Scandinavia where the Swedes were building vessels more quickly
'and with a fraction of the manpower employed in the yards of Tyneside.'
In this uncanny stillness,
a shipyard is at work, the world's most revolutionary.
'It was a wake-up call for the workers and the government.'
It's at least ten years ahead of anyone else.
The cost and time of this man is known as certainly as he knows
where any piece of steel is at any given moment.
With two other men, he's responsible for lifting
and coaxing all the steel through all its preparatory stages.
'The documentary captured a critical moment that ship-building was changing.
'British companies would have to change too to survive.
'Tyne Tees' film was shown locally and then networked.
'It also won an Emmy, TV's highest accolade.'
70,000 tonners extruded like sausages from the assembly hall
at a rate of 13 a year.
Good evening, and welcome to Border Television.
'Over in Carlisle, Border Television didn't have much of a record in high-end documentary making.
'England's most northerly ITV region had more sheep than viewers.
'The station's rising star was Derek Batey,
'a local ventriloquist who also trained as an accountant.'
We had one film camera unit. We had one sound man.
We had one lighting man, one director, one PA, one vision mixer.
We had a part-time make-up lady.
I'd say, "Border's a company of one of everything," but like a family.
'Multi-skilled Derek doubled up as a roving reporter and production manager.
'With a background in light entertainment,
'Derek was the perfect host for a talent show with an unusual title.'
Join us for the final of Cock O' The Border, 7.25 on Sunday.
I remember our butcher saying, "I saw that programme, Cock O' The Border, last Sunday.
"What a load of rubbish!" I said, "I'm sorry you didn't care for it.
"You won't be watching this week."
"I wouldn't miss it! It's fantastic!
"Every week we think it can't be as bad as last week, and every week it is!"
John and Jessie, nice to see you here in Castle Douglas.
'Derek had one big hit on his hands, a quiz show
'that tested how much husbands and wives knew about each other.'
If your wife is on the telephone to a friend,
does she say what she has to say and get off the line?
Does she have a real good chat? Or does she never telephone friends?
We haven't got a telephone.
-She wouldn't telephone friends.
-Does she go to phone boxes?
-What's she going to say?
-I don't know.
'The cash from Mr & Mrs helped the station branch out into more adventurous territory.
'In the Border region, big stories didn't come calling very often.
'It seemed they'd struggle to get a documentary on the network.'
There's Border Parliamentary Report.
We did Border Journey, a documentary looking at industries across the area.
We had two big interesting industries.
One was Sellafield, which was the original atomic power station.
The other was the knitwear industry.
Donald Campbell took over from his father at Coniston 17 years ago.
Now he and his team are back.
'Donald Campbell had set speed records on land and water.
'In the mid '60s, he chose Coniston in the Lakes for a new attempt.
'Border took a punt and followed Campbell's progress
'as Bluebird attempted to break the magic 300mph barrier.'
The antic-climax comes when the attempt fails to succeed.
You know the pattern will be repeated. The weeks go by.
Many a night, he came out of the boathouse,
did a half mile wander up the lake, then there was a puff of smoke
and that was it, back to the workshops.
A lot of people imply it's a death wish you've got.
A lot of people sit on their behinds and watch television,
but what do they know?
'Viewers would soon know lots about Campbell's quest.
'On January 4th 1967, he made another attempt to break his own record.'
The day he did it, we had cameras more or less stationed with him,
or A camera, the freelance,
who actually got the classic piece of film of the boat taking off
and crashing and killing poor Donald.
VOICES ON TWO-WAY RADIO
'Complete accident, I'm afraid. Over.'
'Campbell's fateful record attempt became an international news story.
'It also gave Border one of their most poignant moments.'
'As long-form programmes took hold,
'regional producers were allowed to experiment with new formats.
'They started to build shows around their local personalities.'
We've got some lovely Yorkshire scenes to look at
and some lovely Yorkshire people to talk to - three first-class Yorshiremen.
'The BBC's Savile's Yorkshire Travels might have a hint of Alan Partridge about it,
'but regional programmes weren't always what the audience wanted.'
The key example is when a regional interest programme
clashes with Monty Python and the regional station can opt out of the national programme.
That could create some criticism from viewers
who felt they were being patronised
and forced to consume a diet of regional interest.
They wanted to join the nation in the networked programmes.
South Kirkby Colliery there, folks.
And Scarborough, beloved Scarborough, great training ground.
'There's one show that started on local TV
'which would captivate the nation and become a worldwide brand.'
There's a question that very often comes up in pub quizzes.
Who was the first presenter of Top Gear?
It was me! Everybody thinks it was Jeremy Clarkson. It was me!
I was already working as a news reader,
doing a lot of driving and I was a motoring correspondent for the AA.
There are bad drivers. Some are women but an awful lot are men.
'Broadcast once a month, it was no accident that it was only shown in the Midlands region,
'a part of England that was built around the motor industry.'
It was about motoring issues rather than the toys for the boys now.
'Episode one was more about hot grub than hot rods.'
The meal that you had has cost you in this restaurant just over £2.
How does that compare with what you pay in Holland?
Well, I think about twice as much in Holland.
'Life in the fast lane was very much frowned upon.'
I used to drive a yellow sports car.
A woman driving a sports car is like a red rag to a bull,
certainly to the police who are looking for speedsters,
so I always drive at a steady 70.
-Ten miles an hour is rather splitting hairs!
-I will note that.
'Angela's stint with the driving gloves lasted a couple of series.
'London saw the programme had legs.'
At which point, the network thought, "This is a pretty good idea.
"Let's have it on the network."
The programme that I was asked to do in the regions again,
an idea from a regional producer, made by a regional production team,
was catapulted onto the network.
Just look at what's happened to Top Gear now!
That's where we end this first edition of Top Gear.
'A short drive down the M5,
'there was another programme breaking new ground.
'The BBC's arts show from Bristol offered an eclectic mix
'of everything hip in the West Country.'
I had my own programme, RPM, where virtually anything went
that I liked - architecture, pop music,
real ale was one of the first things that I did, rather stupidly.
# Whatever happened to the heroes?
# No more heroes any more... #
'The Stranglers were great for starters,
'but David Pritchard was about to find a new hero.'
I met Keith Floyd and said, "Come on this programme.
"I think you're really funny and I think the camera will like you."
He said, "OK, fine."
You put some wine into the rabbit and put some wine into yourself.
Cooking is meant to be fun, a bit like the bedroom.
'Floyd would prove to be more than a flash in the pan.
'David Pritchard decided to make a series focused on fish.
'He was hearing stories from the quayside in the southwest
'about the wasted catch that UK consumers wouldn't eat.'
This old fisherman said, "It's all very well holidaymakers coming here,
"but all you want to buy is cod, plaice and haddock.
"All this red mullet, all this cuttlefish, octopus, you won't touch it, will you? No.
"It all gets shipped over to France and Spain."
I thought, "Wow! Keith Floyd could really work with this material."
I said, "We'll do one programme." I was the commissioning editor at the time.
'Here was a larger-than-life maverick chef trying to educate the public's palate.'
The French are very discerning.
-The Chinese know all about it.
-Yeah, they buy large cuttlefish.
They dry them out and you eat the cuttlefish in with the curry stuff
they give you in their takeaways.
'The net result was an increase in our choice of fish
'and an increase in programming for Pritchard.'
I liked it so much, I commissioned myself to do another five!
So we did a series and then that got on the network.
That changed everything, really.
Changed the way food programmes were made, and all of that.
Also, it changed my life enormously.
'One of the strangest local TV successes came when one producer
'brought the tap room into the living room.
'Indoor League gathered some of the best saloon bar sports stars.
'It proved to be gripping television.'
Moments of tension. Moments that have made commentator Dave go lyrical.
'Pub athletes flocked to Leeds, enticed by the limelight and prize money.'
The first prize is a hundred quid for shove ha'penny, bar billiards,
skittles, table football and darts.
'It was a glimpse into a world where people played games in pubs.
'The programme was shown in the Yorkshire TV area but became a massive hit,
'picked up by the ITV network.
'One key to its success was its location and it wasn't a glitzy TV studio.'
The thing about a Working Men's Club is you have a few beers,
a game of dominos, but there are rules.
It's not like a pub. It's a member's club.
Most of the people who came were Working Men's Club people.
Take it from me, the kings of darts will steal your hearts.
They were used to this environment,
but they were also used to having quite a boozy jolly audience
cos everybody brought their hangers-on.
A star of the sliding small change, so is Alan Brown,
star of the Durham shove ha'penny league.
I've seen him play before. Alan Brown is really rubbing it in.
One o'clock, lunch time, nationally.
Five million viewers, mainly in pubs.
His skittle playing has deteriorated in the last minute.
That's a better one! That's a flopper!
It tickled me to have made telly stars out of coal miners,
steel workers and... let's be blunt, some lads who neither worked nor want.
'Time was called on the Indoor League but its legacy lives on.
'Televised darts are still with us.
'Indoor League producer, Sid Waddell, is the national voice of the sport.'
It was what regionalism really is about.
It was a Geordie with a sense of humour
who played all these sports, badly.
But I was All Yorkshire Champion of shove ha'penny!
'While you couldn't deny the popularity of Indoor League,
'not every programme was as well received.
'At the Beeb, local staff felt the heat from bosses in London.'
Regional television was always threatened!
It was a bit like Swan Hunter, the shipyard.
There were always threats of redundancies, cuts,
less programmes, shorter programmes, it was ever thus.
Nationally, they thought the regions were...
poor cousins, country cousins.
We were treated, to an extent, as country cousins.
People in regional broadcasting are sort of like sand fleas,
you know, compared to the great emperor penguins
of Television Centre and whathaveyou.
Probably a pretty bad analogy, but you get my drift.
I think there was an element within the BBC
that was really quite patrician,
that felt that the regions were amateurish.
BAGPIPES PLAY, DOG HOWLS
We attempted things in regional broadcasting
that weren't, you know, our finest hour.
We've come to the pierhead to see how people,
to paraphrase Gerry Marsden, bellow across the Mersey.
-You reckon you were heard in Birkenhead?
'Viewers may have been swinging in their 60s,
'but the cosy relationship with their local TV station was to take a new twist.
'The 1979 ITV strike was arguably the catalyst for a chain of events
'that would shake regional broadcasting to its core.
'Technicians wanted a 25% pay rise.
'For almost 11 weeks, ITV screens were blacked out.'
This really sowed seeds of the demise, if you like,
of television as it had been evolving.
It raised questions about the model of broadcasting.
We see this with Channel 4, which pioneers a new way of working.
'The new channel would become one of many to challenge ITV's advertising strangle hold.
'Regional telly was increasingly seen as expensive.
'It was cheaper to make one network blockbuster
'than regional variations.'
There were 15 regional programmes.
Slowly, like any other business,
the big boys started to swallow up the little lads.
Eventually, people counted their money against each other and the big boys won.
'In the '90s, the BBC also searched for efficiencies
'and concentrated regional output on news, politics and current affairs.
'By the noughties, the remaining big ITV companies started to merge,
'and ultimately became one PLC.'
If we look back to the '60s and '70s we had a clear sense of Tyne Tees,
Anglia and Granada and the Midlands and the South.
We knew where these regions were. It's much more muddied now.
'With broadcasting rules changing,
'ITV was allowed to ditch the bits it said didn't make money.
'Regional output hit the cutting room floor, leaving ITV with a core service of local news.'
We have lost that wonderful curve of mixed programming
that reflected the region's talent and achievement and history.
And now, it's gone.
We are gradually, gradually losing our contact with our region
because we don't have that visual representation of it
on a regular basis.
"The network" has become the all-important god.
'Regional telly still pulls in the viewers.
'But the fight to keep them is intense.'
Spare a thought for shopkeepers in Sheffield who are cleaning up after flash floods.
'The transmitters from the '50s and '60s defined regional television,
'but the world below has moved on.
'TV no longer has those boundaries and viewing habits have changed.
'In a digital world, regional telly faces challenges
'from global media giants and plans for super-local TV.'
Naturally, you're thinking, "What of the future?"
'Is there still a case for viewing life through a regional lens?'
Globalisation makes the case for regional television much greater.
People want to...want to feel part of where they live.
Television's a way of showing them what part they are.
People in Leeds and Manchester don't think like people in London.
They have a different point of view, different accent. That's important.
That needs representing because it's often very creative.
We can learn, one from the other.
Regional television will never die.
It will just take on an entirely different guise.
Good morning, sir.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
This is the story of how we fell in love with regional telly. Contributors including Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson and Martin Bell describe the excitement and sense of adventure that existed during the very early days of local TV. In the late 50s and early 60s viewers were offered a new vision of the places where they lived. ITV and the BBC took advantage of transmitter technology and battled for the attention of an emerging regional audience.
The programme makers were an eclectic bunch but shared a common passion for a new form of TV that they were creating. For more than half a century they have reported on local stories. The early film-makers were granted freedom to experiment and create different shows and formats, including programmes that would later become huge hits. Regional TV also acted as a launch pad for presenters and reporters who would become household names.
But just how real was this portrayal of regional life? And how will local life be reflected on our screens in the future?