The year 1966 will undoubtedly go down in the nation s history books as the year of the Big Freeze (wages, workers, for the use of) and of the Economic Blizzard not to mention Rhodesia. For Rediffusion Television, too, it has been quite an eventful year as this review shows.
The year 1966 started with political praise being heaped on the head of ‘This Week’ when the programme celebrated its 10th anniversary on January 6. A publication to mark the event carried messages of goodwill from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberals. Later that night a programme title ventured into the realm of the astrologer with what at that time seemed an amazingly rash prediction… The World Cup – England to Win?’ Then on January 31 the first of a new series called ‘The Rat Catchers’ started to win predictably high ratings.
In between, however, had come the death of a member of the board of directors – Sir Bracewell Smith, a former Lord Mayor of London, chairman of Wembley Stadium and an honorary vice-president of the Football Association. February brought yet another award to the company when ‘Children of Revolution’, the Intertel production on young people growing up in Czechoslovakia, won a Silver Dove from the International Catholic Organisation for Radio and Television (UNDA) at the sixth Monte Carlo International Television Festival. Another award came the next month when Hughie Green and Michael Miles received a joint special award from the Variety Club of Great Britain at the Show Business lunch on March 8 for the continuing popularity of their programmes.
March 31 once again saw Studio 9 as the hub of the ITV network when everybody went into action to cover the General Election.
Mr Wilson was given ‘A View from the Bridge’ shortly after on April 4 with the transmission of Arthur Miller’s play. Meanwhile the ITA announced that its present three-year contracts with the programme companies would be extended until the end of July, 1968, as no decision had been taken on whether to extend the ITV service.
A flurry which was to extend for quite a few weeks hit the Wembley studios when the first of the colour ‘Hippodrome’ series went on the floor on April 19.
In the business world, company chairman John Spencer Wills became the chairman of The British Electric Traction Co. Ltd, on April 21, following the death of Harley Drayton.
On May 9 the first of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ series was transmitted. Pride, gluttony, sloth, avarice, lust, envy and wrath subsequently achieved the distinction of all getting into TAM’s Top Ten.
Three days later the first of the adult education series ‘Royalist and Roundhead’ was screened. While not hitting the Top Ten, it rose high in the opinion of educationalists.
May also saw the drama section of the club take over Studio 9 to stage ‘Ring Round the Moon’ and achieve high audience ratings. Meanwhile Fusion made its own dent in the award stakes by receiving a certificate of merit in the British Association of Industrial Editors’ contest, a top award of excellence in the International Council of Industrial Editors’ competition and the Block and Anderson Cup from the British Direct Mail and Advertising Association.
The International Television Federation – Intertel – reached the fifth anniversary of its foundation on June 14. Behind it were 34 programmes and a coveted 1965 Peabody Award for making ‘the first continuing contribution towards international understanding through television.’
Also in June came an award for ‘Stage One Contest – Caroline’. This children’s programme won the Munich Prix Jeunesse.
The Mountbatten series also made news in June when it was announced that this exclusive story of the life and times of Lord Mount-batten would be made in colour.
July started with the news that the first episode of the ‘Hippodrome’ series on July 5 had gone straight to the top of Neilsen coast-to-coast ratings when screened by CBS in colour.
This was the month of the World Cup which England won on July 30 and which stretched the joint resources of BBC and ITV in providing coverage for the world. Rediffusion contributed its share of equipment and executives.
The day after the final at Wembley historians gathered at Television House for a conference with ‘History on TV’ as its theme.
August 1 brought the first programme in ‘The Informer’ series which regularly knocked on the doors of the Top Ten during its run.
The month was shadowed by the death of Bernard Rickatson-Hatt on August 7. He had been on the board of the company since July, 1958. A former Guards officer, he had been editor-in-chief of Reuters, adviser to the governor of the Bank of England and to the Bank of London and South America on public relations.
In September came two club events. On the 10th there was the annual sunlit sports day for the children of club members at Shepperton and on the 17th the football team took part in the TV Cup knock-out competition. For the second year running the Rediffusion XI lost to Scottish, the eventual winners.
On September 21 it was announced that Sir Richard Thompson was joining the board. A former M.P., he has held various government appointments.
A conference for educationalists was held at Wembley on September 22 at which, for the first time, teachers were allowed to produce their own programmes in a television studio. September 26 saw the start of the new autumn schedules with 15 new programme presentations, the sequel being six out of TAM’s Top Ten for the week. As part of this schedule the first production of the new Rediffusion Films Ltd was transmitted on September 28 – ‘Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn’ with James Mason and Jill Bennett. The Frost Programme’ series also started later that night.
Appointments in features came in October. First there was the announcement of the appointment of Barry Westwood as producer of the networked Thursday edition of ‘This Week’. Then, on October 27, it was announced that James Butler had been appointed head of features from November 1.
During October and November, three joint Rediffusion/Talent Association productions under David Susskind passed through Wembley to be recorded in black-and-white and colour for America.
On November 8, it was announced that the present series of ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ would end on December 23.
On November 11, the announcement came that managing director Paul Adorian had been appointed managing director of Rediffusion Ltd. John Spencer Wills, chairman of both companies, relinquished his managing directorship following his appointment as chairman of The British Electric Traction Co. Ltd upon the death of Harley Drayton.
The annual general meeting of the company was held at Wembley on November 28 and at it, the winners of the 1965-66 Golden Stars were presented with their awards. Independent Television presented ‘A Royal Gala’ before the Duke of Edinburgh at the Palladium on November 29 in aid of the CTBF and the Bowles Rocks Trust.
From December 7-16, an exhibition of the work of graphic designers was held at the Upper Grosvenor Galleries.
Finally – and still to come – is ‘The Royal Palaces of Britain’, the joint Independent Television and BBC production on December 25.