I am tempted to name my PhD thesis ‘Southern Television: the Monochrome Years.’
It all began with the need to carve a thesis topic from hundreds of boxes of Southern Television documents. It is nigh on impossible to condense over two decades of company history into one book; like Goldilocks, a good student has to figure out a topic whose scope is ‘just right.’ I could’ve stratified my sample of documents by genre (say, children’s TV), by topic (such as technological innovations) or by person (for instance, a case study of Jack Hargreaves).
Had I done that, however, I would have missed out on the fun of my current methodology – AKA: making it up as I go along.
OK, that’s a little unfair. I initially capped my research to the years preceding Southern TV’s switch to colour for practical reasons – pouf! 900 boxes of evidence magically becomes 300 boxes of evidence! However, I soon realised that this seemingly arbitrary distinction between regional-telly-in-black-and-white and regional-telly-in-colour has more to it; the available evidence is entirely different. The Southern Television document collection contains thousands of production documents and scripts, but only really from the 1970s. Documents pertaining to the black and white years are far more fragmentary and behind-the-scenes in nature: memos, minutes, letters, policies, etc.
Therefore, my thesis deals with those topics that can be explored satisfactorily through those documents. I’ve eschewed discussions of form and content in favour of tech specs, policy changes and the early development of key shows.
Frankly, this is more fun than endlessly rewatching crappy video copies of the same three programmes from 1974 (or whatever). I’d also argue that from an archival/historical perspective, this approach relies more on hard evidence than subjective interpretation. But mostly, it’s just more enjoyable.
However, I felt a little bereft while procrastinating over press clippings from the day Southern Television switched to colour, on Saturday 13th December, 1969. I may just have to include these as a postscript, should my meandering mess of a thesis ever proves to be publishable.
Robert Lilmay, ‘Approach of a New Decade and Southern Goes Over to Colour’, Basingstoke Gazette, 12 Dec 1969, p. 35
Southern Independent Television will sign off from the Sixties and greet the next decade in a manner appropriate to the exciting age in which we live – and reach a landmark in its 13-year history which which can seemingly never be equalled. For this month Southern goes over to colour.
‘Southern Goes Over to Colour’, Portsmouth Evening News, 13 Dec 1969, p. 3
Today is Southern Television’s C (for colour) day. At a cost of £2 1/2 m. a new complex of studios in Southampton was geared to transmit colour at 10 a.m. this morning.
WM Hill, ‘From the Weekend’, Southern Evening Echo, 15 Dec 1969, p. 3
Colour is beauty plus detail equalling reality.
‘Southern Joins the Colour Set’, Kent Evening Post, 15 Dec 1969, p. 3
The completion of colour transmitter installation work at the Rowridge, Isle of Wight, and Dover stations, means that Southern Television joins ATV, Granada, London Weekend Television, Thames Television, Yorkshire Television and Independent Television News in colour programming on the ITA network.
‘Colour Evens the Score in a Clash Between New Rivals’, Southern Evening Echo, 13 Dec 1969, p. 3
It’s a full colour weekend after all. With Southern Television’s official “C-day” comes surprise news that BBC-1 is swinging on the rainbow, too. / The news is a genuine surprise because BBC engineering men have been gloomily saying for weeks that they were lagging behind at the Rowridge (IoW) transmitter.
WM Hill, ‘Colour with a Bang’, Southern Evening Echo, 12 Dec 1969, p.3
Southern Television has burst into colour… almost literally. […] At 10 a.m. tomorrow there are the three home-grown programmes – “Wheel of Fortune”; “Out of Town” and “Houseparty”, just to start the new era. First Southern face on the colour scene will be that of their chief announcer Brian Nissen and the familiar Southern symbol will appear on a background of cobalt blue.
‘Black Start for Colour T.V.’, Kentish Observer, 16 Dec 1969
Colour television is here. On Saturday Southern I.T.V. started regular transmission in colour, but many were disappointed. […] For, despite the colossal deposit required – £60-£90 according to size – on colour sets, there is a desperate shortage.
‘Southern and STV Colour’, The Stage: Television Today, 18 Dec 1969, p. 9
With the introduction of colour on Southern and STV last Saturday, there are now 30 million people within range of an ITA 625-line UHF colour transmitter.
Gosh, it was a brave new televisual world! I may have to begin a sequel: ‘Southern Television: The Polychromatic Years’!