The last big plum in the present commercial TV
Daily Express, 17 December 1959
As with many obvious gaps in the geographical coverage enquiries were
made to the ITA long before the plans for the South West of England
were announced. The main delay came from the difficulty in securing
sites for the two transmitters required, permission for which was
granted in mid 1959. The franchise was offered on 14 October 1959,
and attracted applications from 12 new organisations, as well as Southern, TWW and
Associated Rediffusion (which always seemed to
apply for anything!). The 12 groups were narrowed down to 5, and
ultimately the one drawn together by Peter Cadbury was picked.
Peter Cadbury seemed to have drawn his support locally, and amongst
all persuasions, ranging from the Lords Lieutenants and County
Councils, to the local TUC, Red Cross and St John Ambulance Brigade,
and last, but not least the author Ted Willis and Billy Smart's
Circus. The only stipulation on the new company of Westward was that
they would be required to cooperate with any company who might in the
future be awarded a Channel Islands appointment.
When Can We Start?
Cadbury wanted a start by November 1960, but the Post Office claimed
it could only supply the links by August 1961, although the
transmitters themselves would be ready by February. Cadbury and his
board decided that they would act as if they were going to start in
March, and recruited staff and equipped their purpose built studios
with that in mind. The Postmaster General was lobbied intensely, and
a date of 1 March was finally conceded. However, this in the end had
to be reneged upon, with late April being the earliest possible.
Cadbury was annoyed at this date, as it co-incided with just about
the worst time for advertising revenue, but managed to get four
months rental deferred until the end of the licence period. Despite
storm and floods, when the Stockland Hill site was
awash with mud, the April 29 start date was maintained.
There was a very grand scheme of local promotion, with a travelling
exhibition covering 23 locations, which cost a total of £30,000. It
also co-insided with the introduction of Television Advertising Duty,
a windfall tax designed to trim the profits of the larger companies
(everyone having by now forgotten about the risks and large losses
these companies had been exposed to at the beginning).
As for the opening night programmes there was nothing spectacular,
and very little local. No opening ceremony, it was networked
programmes until 23:00, when Hello from Westward was shown, a tour of
their studios. Then the epilogue from the Bishop of Exeter.
There was a significant overlap with TWW in
the eastern part of their transmission area, adding up to about
200,000 people. TWW looked for advertising
in Weymouth and Exeter; conversely Westward painted them as a Welsh
company, with no right to any viewers south of the Bristol Channel.
In the end the ITA had to call for a truce, which lasted, albeit uneasily.
The Derry's Cross television studios ended up costing over
£500,000, much more than originally planned. An operating profit in
the first year of £100,000 went nowhere, and by September 1962 debt
had risen to £175,000 and the company announced there would be no
dividend (by contrast with TWW's 110% one!).
Locally the audience was remaining far more loyal to the BBC than had
been experienced in other areas, but this was the time of the Equity
strike. They sought a rebate on their rental, and a reduction in the
hours of local production, but got neither. The only way out was to
cut their costs to the bone, with their own productions reduced at
times to road and weather reports. The cut of 25% of technical staff
resulted in a strike which threatened to go nationwide, until the
ITCA managed to find jobs for most of the displaced staff at other
companies, with Westward taking a few of them back.
Cadbury was already dividing his board; some found him too
flamboyant, taking too many decisions himself from London without
consulting them in Plymouth. He was still talking of expansion, this
time into Southern territory. In 1963
his complaints were somewhat proved right, when a survey put his
potential audience at 20% less than the original ITA figures, gaining
them a back-dated rebate of rental, and reduction in network charges. By
late 1963 there was even prospects of the company producing a small dividend.
Through the 60s
The poor performance didn't stop an application against Westward in
1963, and in similar circumstances
by Tor TV in
1968, but unlike the fate of their long adversaries TWW
they were reappointed both times.
There was no time lost attacking the TWW replacement Harlech, with the epithet of a `Welsh Company'
sticking a bit harder this time, even to the extent of them gaining
viewers in Wales who wanted to avoid programmes in Welsh.
The early 1970s were relatively uneventful. Westward was as flash a
company as ever, but it continued to make good contact with its local
community, getting the best marks in a poll for the friendliest station
(it also was thought to be the most amateur, something to be less proud
of). As the 1981 franchise round came up however the whole company fell
apart. Cadbury had managed to get on the wrong side of the Chief Executive
of Plymouth City Council, the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police,
and the IBA, the last because of the abortive airline `Air Westward'.
Lord Harris, a director, argued that Cadbury was no longer an asset but a
liability and should go, and persuaded the rest of the board to sack him.
There were two problems here: Cadbury still owned 60% of Westward voting
shares, and the staff lodged a petition for his reinstatement. This was
hardly the best background to be going to the IBA for a new franchise
period, and it was no surprise that the contract was awarded to
TSW, even though they were led by a 33 year old
with little experience of running a TV station.
TSW took over nearly all the old Westward
staff (but not Cadbury) and took over the responsibility of broadcasting
in August 1981, although this was under the name of Westward until the
formal launch of TSW on 1 January 1982. How
TSW became effectively `son of Westward' will be
described on their pages.
Caradon Hill 12V 29/4/61-31/12/81
Stockland Hill 9V 29/4/61-31/12/81
Huntshaw Cross 11H 22/4/68-31/12/81
Caradon Hill 25H 22/5/71-31/12/81
Redruth 41H 22/5/71-31/12/81
Stockland Hill 23H 13/9/71-31/12/81
Beacon Hill 60H 19/3/73-31/12/81
Huntshaw Cross 59H 5/11/73-31/12/81