April 29, 1961: Westward Television starts broadcasting in South West England

Westward_identsWestward Television was the first ITV franchise holder for the South West of England. It held the franchise from 29 April 1961 until 31 December 1981. After a difficult start, Westward Television provided a popular, distinctive and highly regarded service to its region, until public boardroom squabbles led to its franchise not being renewed by the IBA. Westward launched the career of many broadcasters who became well known nationally, won numerous awards for its programming, and heavily influenced its successor, TSW.

The company’s first chairman was Peter Cadbury (of the chocolate dynasty) who had left the board of Tyne Tees Television to set up the company and bid for the south-west franchise, which he won against 11 competing bids. Cadbury named the company after the golf course at Westward Ho! in north Devon, where he played. Ironically, Westward Ho! was part of the region that found reception of the television signal most difficult, until the construction of the Huntshaw Cross relay transmitter in 1968. Westward’s region was surrounded on three sides by the sea, which was strongly reflected in Westward’s output and its company logo, a silver model of the Golden Hind.

Westward Television had a dual policy for its local programming: it produced a wide range of programmes of particular interest to the south west’s rural and agricultural communities, whilst simultaneously producing programming designed to stimulate its audience’s interest in new areas.

One of the best known programmes was Treasure Hunt, a game show presented by Kenneth Horne and Keith Fordyce, among others, which ran for fourteen years, and at one stage featured Jethro as the pirate co-host.

On April Fools Day, 1973, Westward broadcast a film about the village of Spiggot, which had boycotted decimalisation and were still using pre-decimal currency. Many viewers wrote to Westward in support of the villagers’ stance, oblivious to the date the film was broadcast.

Agriculture was an important industry in South West England during Westward Television’s franchise. Approximately 80% of land in South West England is in agricultural use (19.6% of England’s total). Westward TV had an Agricultural Advisory committee to advise the company on its agricultural output. For nine months of the year, Westward broadcast Farming News (later retitled Farm and Country News) on Sunday lunchtimes. Westward also produced an adult education series aimed at farmers called Acres For Profit.

On 28 December 1980, while the ITV network was showing Drake’s Venture (Westward Television’s two-hour filmed drama to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe, starring John Thaw), ITN broke into a commercial break to announce that ATV was to undergo major changes and Southern and Westward had not had their licences renewed by the IBA; the south-west franchise was awarded to TSW (Television South West). [Wikipedia]

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