Saturday, 7 January 2012

Bring in the new... The 1980 South West England franchise battle

So here we are again, over the past couple of blogs I have looked at the 1980 franchise battles for the Midlands and the South/South East. This time we go down to the South West to find out how a red Ferrari and plans beyond their station were to cost a franchise and how a company came before their time to help them out.

1961 and the sixties have started, the ITV system had extend pretty much to how we knew it in 1980 with nearly all the franchises having been launched by then. Peter Cadbury, he had left the board of Tyne Tees to bid for the South West franchise with him taking the name from a golf course. But the company had been profitable throughout the 60's and the 70's, though the Chairman worked in London, the companies secretary's office plus the accountant's department and the sales department were based there too. They have maybe been ruled from London, but Westward was a happy company. With his weekly flying visits in the companies' aircraft, also by a blood red Ferrari, yacht or helicopter. So extravagance could be a hallmark of the company, apart from that, their record in local programming was a good one. Taking an interest in varying interests both close to the region such as farmng and also other arts as well.

Their expanded interests had included Air Westward, giving businesspeople a direct route to Europe to attend their meetings from Exeter airport. But this seems like the straw that broke the camel's back. Over £1.3 million was used from the company's own profits on the permission of the authority. Though Peter Cadbury thought their should be bigger then their area, courting Bristol and the Mendips as part of the territoriality joint HTV in the West and Wales area. 

By 1979, he had managed to get into feuds with the local authorities and constabulary when buying Lyneham House, an estate in Devon. By being in the area, he thought that this may placate the authority when came around to the 1980 Franchise battle. 

So it was obivious that the IBA were looking to chance the franchise to another company with two leading candidates looking to win the franchise. 

"In a dark, dark room..."

One was WCT, known as West Country Television who had Simon Day, a property developer, farmer and Conservative politician, whose own father had been defeated by Peter Cadbury for the original franchise tender battle in 1961. He formed the group with two men who had been in ITV, both in the management side and the production side. From the business came Anthony Gorard, who had been the managing director of HTV between 1967 and 1978 with highly reguarded success. From the programming side came Bill Ward, the former ATV director of programmes whose career had spanned over forty years in producing sports programming and light entertainment programmes. They were named Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively, with usual local dignitaries and also Julian Mounter, who Cornish roots made him a great candidate for Programme Controller as well as having launched Westward Report in 1973 and at that time, he was the editor of Thames Reports as well.

This mix of personalities under the slogan of 'The Best For the West!' made it a mixture which could be good for the South West in theory. But their rivals were to find something different in itself...

WCT had promised to take over Westward's studios but TSW were to build a new one and TSW claimed they would make over ten hours of local programming per week compared to Westward's eight and a half and WCT's seven. 

TSW's board included two Deputy Lieutenants of both Dorset and Devon, but Sir John Colfox, the deputy lieutenant of Dorset named as Chairman had to withdraw through health grounds and replaced by Brian Bailey, a man well served in serving on different boards of organisations such as the TUC and also serving a Somerset County Councillor since 1966, plus his experience had been in broadcasting as well, having served on the BBC's advisory board for the South West. So his experience was valuable to any new group intending to bid.

Though the force behind the bid was Kevin Goldstein-Jackson. A flamboyant man in both style and dress, in his early thirties with degrees in philosophy, sociology and law plus with experience in business and journalism as well. His experience in television production had come from spells in Hong Kong, Oman and also at Southern as well. Though in his style, his middle name moniker 'Goldstein', he had chosen to show solidarity with Israel. His approach was to name himself Joint Managing Director and Programme Controller, the right hand man on the Managing Director side was to be Peter Battle, whose experience had come both at Anglia and Southern.

In-spiring viewing...

The IBA had been impressed what Goldstein-Jackson could bring to the party both in programming and also by Brian Bailey as well. Though it was said they were less so in the management below them. But something had impressed the IBA to give them give them the franchise. Such was their aim, they were allowed to buy Westward in 1981 both the company and the studios, so such a need of building a new studio complex. They were ordered to keep the Westward name, to save viewers getting confused by the early change.

So at 11.58pm, Westward came out of Scottish's Hogmany show to make the changeover with a comedy starring Peter Cook to become TSW's first show at midnight. Though the actual launch would not be until the next day when TSW came out of ITV's schedule of the Disney movie 'The Black Hole' for their launch show presented by Lennie Bennett, so what may seems like a lavish attempt to launch the franchise seemed like Southern's effort of the previous night. Maybe self referential, but with ITV in the 80's, this was a new ITV ready for the new decade...

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