"We like to think of ourselves as a TV company that makes profits, not as a profit-making company that does television"
Alfred Francis, TWW Managing Director

"If promise is never preferred to performance then every television station would go on for ever"
Lord Hill

TWW History

Forming the Consortium

For the same technical reasons as the BBC had followed, a transmitter serving South East Wales would naturally cover Bristol in England. Several groups started out with the intention of applying, but ultimately only one major consortium emerged, headed by Lord Derby, who had campaigned for commercial television in the early 1950s as chairman of the Popular Television Association. The main associates were Jack Hylton, who was already packaging programmes for Associated Rediffusion, and Sir William Carr, owner of the News of the World. A small stake was held by the Imperial Tobacco company, based in Bristol. A large group of local people were signed up to the Board, and the ITA had no difficulty ruling in favour of them against the other applicants, who were all the existing companies.

The contract was offered in September 1956, although the ITA did ask for the financial involvement of NBC to be removed, and this stake was transferred to the Liverpool Post and Echo group. Nevertheless, NBC did advise TWW on transmission, programme planning, research, sales, advertising and promotion techniques.

Both ATV and Associated Rediffusion attempted to agree affiliation agreements. Wills offered an arrangement similar to the one they had made with Granada, where they would take a percentage of TWW's income, and also underwrite the profit level. This might have looked attractive, but it more clearly violated the requirement not to be financially independent as given in the Television Act. The eventual deal was struck with Granada, which made some sense, as they were already providing a service to the northern coast of Wales, including some programmes in Welsh.

Ten locations were surveyed for the transmitter, the final choice being St Hilary Down. This ran into planning permission trouble with the local airport, worried about dangers to air navigation from a 750 foot mast. These were dismissed after a public enquiry, subject to some conditions, but they had caused a four month delay. Further trouble with the aerial, of the same type that had caused problems at Black Hill in the end delayed the service until 14 January 1958 from studios at Pontcanna, Cardiff.

A Successful Start

The launch went well; after 3 months there were over 300,000 homes regularly watching. After this run-in period local production was required to increase to 15%, to include 200 minutes per week of Welsh that had been agreed.

The success continues, as the audience increased to 673,000 homes by the end of 1960. They were generally well thought of by the ITA, with their programmes and coverage of their split region receiving praise. Studios were opened in Bristol on 20 November 1960, with the best switching arrangements available, allowing the local news programme to be presented from each studio location.

To the rescue

Right from the start TWW had been providing programmes to the ill-fated WWN for little or no money, despite them really being competitors - their studios were less than a mile apart. They were approached by the ITA operating as matchmaker to take over WWN, and the offer made gave WWN shareholders £4.25 in TWW for every £6 they had in WWN. Although the ITA had specifically told TWW that this rescue did not guarantee them a post 1964 contract, Fraser had noted: `They can hardly be expected to buy WWN one day and be dismissed the next'. Indeed the takeover was effected one day after their licence renewal was granted. What was the real gain for TWW in the 1964 round was an additional transmission frequency from St Hilary, so that different programmes could be shown in English and Welsh at the same time to satisfy the different audiences.

  Opening of Channel 7 at St Hilary

The knockout blow

Although the TWW application in 1967 proposed some structural changes to the company it was very much a status quo proposal, standing on their record to date. By this time Jack Hylton had died, and the controlling power was seen to be the News of the World. Management of the company still resided in London, and although this did give TWW some operation advantages and prevented them appearing to favour one part of their region over another it did mean they could be attacked as not local to the region, although this was largely unfair. The consortium led by Lord Harlech was stuffed with two dozen or more local people, and like that of London Weekend promised `development and encouragement of artistic, cultural and educational activities', and were much more impressive at the interview. Therefore Lord Derby was told on 10 June 1967 that TWW had not been awarded the new franchise.

The fast exit

Derby didn't take the decision easily. Letters were exchanged in The Times, and many more privately, but Lord Hill was clear that Harlech had been considered to offer a better proposal for the future, and that past performance was not really at issue.

The ITA had placed the condition that 40% of the non voting shares in Harlech should be available to TWW if they wished. Derby declined, but did sell them the Cardiff and Bristol studios for £1.6 million, along with the stocks of programme material and unused film rights. They even sold the last six months of their franchise to Harlech for £500,000. A special dividend was paid to their shareholders, along with stock in the new company which took over the non-broadcast interests of TWW. It isn't fully known if the early eye-splitting logo used by Harlech was a favour to Dolland and Aitchison, one of the TWW (Enterprises) subsidiaries.


St Hilary   10V 14/01/58
St Hilary    7V 15/02/65 (for Welsh language programmes)
Presely      8H 26/01/64 *
Arfon       10H 26/01/64 *
Bala         7V 26/07/67
Moel-y-Parc 11V 26/01/64 *

* - date of WWN acquisition.

TWW Index Programmes Addresses ITW