History

The last big plum in the present commercial TV set-up
Daily Express, 17 December 1959

History

Applications

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.

The Winners

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.

The launch

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.

Fighting TWW

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.

Financial Struggles

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.

Rocky Waters

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.

Transmitters

VHF

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

UHF(Main)

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

Westward index Programmes Addresses ITW