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Sunday morning TV memories

Saturdays more forgotten partner in crime (June 2019)

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Riaz posted:
For a little perspective. Religious programming was a hangover from the days before broadcasting hours limits were lifted in 1972.

Schools, adult education and of course religion were exempt from the limits, and so religion was a huge way both BBC and ITV could fill hours for "free" without intruding into their ration of normal hours each Sunday.


1st January 1993 was really the start of the end of religious programming remits, especially for ITV under the new Broadcasting Act.

One would (or even should) have expected that the production of religious programming would be amongst the first to be outsourced to indies in order to improve the quality and diversity of the programmes themselves and to relieve ITV companies from the hassle of having to create such programmes themselves.

In a discussion from many years ago there was criticism levelled at the heavy bias of ITV religious programmes towards (Anglican) Christianity, and questioning whether it really was sensible for the smaller ITV companies to have the responsibility of producing a high proportion of religious programming due to the small number of people who follow non-Christian religions, along with non-Christian places of worship, in their territories, even though religious programmes were a rare opportunity for them to produce something for the network. It was then later argued that the only workable way to increase the variety of religious programmes and the diversity of religions represented would be for (the big?) ITV companies to outsource production to indies.

In hindsight, the start of the end of religious programming remits for ITV in 1993 partially diminishes the logic and rationale behind the 25% from indies rule. This is because it works best for programmes that:

ITV companies don't like to produce themselves.
ITV companies aren't very good at producing themselves.
Are low budget.
Are niche or specialist interest.
Are not very profitable for ITV companies.

Yes, it is interesting to think that broadcasting hours on television was "rationed" as it was put in the mid 1960s.

The argument put by people who liked the restrictions was "For every hour ITV was on the air they made money, for every hour the BBC was on the air they spent money" - and so the restrictions were to protect the BBC and to try and stop the over commercialisation of ITV.

In general practice until the late 1960s was that a 50 hour broadcasting week was the limit, divided into 7 hours per day Mondays to Fridays (35 hours) and 7.5 hours a day at the weekends (15 hours).

Outside of that religious programming, adult education, programming for schools, colleges, state occasions such as State Opening of Parliament, Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, Welsh language programming were all exempt, and so both the BBC and ITV used these exempt programming to fill the rest of their schedules.

Sporting events were covered by a separate quota. Raised every few years by the Postmaster General. In the mind 1950s it was 200 hours a year. By 1968 it was 350 hours per year. Unlike the other exempt programming, ITV were permitted to advertise during sport.

What a different broadcasting world it was back then. 19th January 1972 was the date the Heath government lifted all restrictions. Both the BBC and ITV gradually increased their programming through 1972, and in October 1972 it was the start of their new schedules, especially on ITV.
Steve in Pudsey
It seems that the ITV companies of the day took the Sunday morning church service seriously, even though it was making them no money and costing quite a bit in terms of staffing around the country to put on air. Looking at some of the LWT routine sheets on it seems there was almost always* a standby service available on VTR at LWT. I assume the ITA would not have looked kindly on the service falling off air with no back up? I don't get the impression that standbys against live shows were a common thing in the 70s.

Other oddities include HTV's church service OB working directly into LWT under the control of LWT's Transmission Controller on one occasion.

* (Not on 11th November for the Rembrance Service; possibly because it was a more high profile event and had more resiliant feeds?)
Hatton Cross
Wouldn't the Rememberance Day Centoaph coverage have been handled by ITN?

And/or pooled coverage shared with the BBC, so back ups would have in place
Wouldn't the Rememberance Day Centoaph coverage have been handled by ITN?

Something in the back of my mind thinks Thames's OB dept covered the Centoaph, (with an ITN production team) ?
In the early 1990s, for a few weeks, ITV tried a Sunday morning magazine programme, Sunday Brunch, hosted by Julian Pettifer and someone else. During it was Morning Worship, although at the start of the first one, Pettifer said "Viewers in the Scottish and Grampian regions will have their own service" Obviously, that Sunday Brunch was much different from the one today, and I think it dealt with topical items as well.

I'll also post this in the "programmes you remember that others may not" thread as well, see if anyone can remember it.
Steve Williams
Some might not know, but it was only in 1958 that both the BBC and ITV were allowed to air programming from 6.00pm-7.30pm on Sunday nights. The churches ensured the BBC and ITV didn't air any programming then on a Sunday early evening, to ensure people would go to a Sunday evening service.

They weren't just required to close down between six and seven on Sundays before 1958 - they were required to do that seven days a week, hence the Toddler's Truce. When it was lifted they were allowed to broadcast general programmes from Monday to Saturday, leading to the arrival of Tonight and 6.5 Special, but on Sundays it was quaintly referred to as "the closed period" and only religious programming was permitted (with the only exceptions being for events outside the broadcasters' control such as live sport).

Up until 1977, the God Slot filled the curious slot of 6.15-7.25, and as mentioned it applied to BBC2 as well, who would usually broadcast something aimed at younger audiences. In April 1977 it was cut in half and ran 6.40-7.15, and BBC2 was allowed to show something secular. BBC1 moved the religious documentary that had made up the first half of the God Slot to after ten o'clock, and it became Everyman, but perhaps surprisingly ITV continued to show a full hour of religion with their documentary series like Credo and Jaywalking remaining at 6pm, seemingly they decided it was more convenient for the schedule to put them all in one block. They finally moved the docs to lunchtimes in the mid-eighties.

I'm sure Harry Secombe propped up the last bastions of religious programming on ITV at least, he did Highway for best part of ten years which went out on Sunday nights and when that finished, it was replaced with (it says here) a Sunday morning programme. Apparently the dropping of Highway generated 1400 complaints.

That would be a piffling figure these days, of course. As mentioned the God Slot was dropped by ITV on the very first Sunday they were allowed, in January 1993. Highway continued at 2pm, which was actually the slot they were intending to move it to in the late eighties. LWT really wanted to drop the God Slot and when Weekend World ended in 1988, they lobbied the IBA hard to put its replacement Eyewitness in the God Slot and move Highway to early afternoons, but the IBA refused. So convinced were they by their argument, though (Eyewitness would be suitably edifying, moving Highway meant people could watch both that and Songs of Praise) they were sure the IBA would let them and had already planned Eyewitness, very much another attempt at a British version of Sixty Minutes, to be suitably bright and breezy for a teatime slot, but it ended up staying at lunchtimes in the same slot as Weekend World and as a straight replacement it looked dumbed down to the extreme and was a total flop.

Anyway, Highway was there in mid-1993, but in the autumn of that year ITV decided to put all their religious programming in a two hour block on Sunday mornings, from 10.30 to 12.30, with the Morning Worship at 11am sandwiched by a magazine show. A couple of similar shows went out in this slot, with names like Sunday Live and Sunday Matters, and indeed Sunday Morning with Secombe, which was very much son-of-Highway as it would involve Harry meeting people at the venue of that day's Morning Worship.

The two hour Sunday block lasted for a couple of years, I can't remember when it ended, but Morning Worship was later on its own again, before that was finally axed in 1998.

It ensured the Money Programme on BBC 2 against them both got a high audience (for BBC 2), and
for years the 'main event' evening schedule 'kick off' time for all three channels was 19:15

Indeed, and that's why I particularly enjoyed Sunday Strictly being at 7.15, with Countryfile before it even having a bit of a Songs of Praise vibe itself. Certainly Countryfile seems to fill the same kind of role as the first sign of impending doom that Monday morning is around the corner as Songs of Praise used to.

As well as bringing big audiences to The Money Programme, The God Slot also helped American Football take off in the UK as C4 showed it then. And of course Sky One showed The Simpsons there for many years, beginning when the God Slot was still in operation, which seemed quite exciting at the time. In Andy Gray's autobiography, published in the early noughties, Gray talks about Bryan Cowgill being involved in the early days of Sky and saying Cowgill's dream was showing football oppsite the God Slot, saying "it hasn't happened yet, but it would be massive if it did", seemingly unaware of the fact the God Slot hadn't been operational for about a decade at that point.

In Will Wyatt's book, he says that when the God Slot was abolished, the Beeb were considering moving Songs of Praise to an earlier slot at around 4pm, but the Governers were a bit uneasy about that so they decided to keep it where it was (albeit running 6.25-7) and in the end it wasn't too much of a hardship keeping it there, because it actually beat ITV on a number of occasions. Obviously they moved it earlier a few years later.

I think we're pushing it now to say 1989 was "not very long ago". Wink

Well, true enough, but it's certainly within the living memory of the people who bang on on social media about how kids telly was better "in my day".
It seems that the ITV companies of the day took the Sunday morning church service seriously, even though it was making them no money and costing quite a bit in terms of staffing around the country to put on air.

Were there terms and conditions in their PSB commitments that they had to live broadcast a church service every Sunday, and a different one every week?

During it was Morning Worship, although at the start of the first one, Pettifer said "Viewers in the Scottish and Grampian regions will have their own service"

I had wondered whether different ITV regions got to see different church services - such as STV, Grampian, Ulster, and HTV Wales having something local when everybody else got a C of E service.
Last edited by ttt on 2 July 2019 2:40pm
Religious programming on a main TV channel is a fraught and controversial subject. I have long held the following views:

1. Programmes should be more about religion rather than designed for people who follow specific religions. The main exceptions are coverage of religious events and celebrations.

2. The programmes should cover a multitude of religions rather than almost exclusively confined to Anglican Christianity.

3. At least half of them in terms of hours per week (after factoring out coverage of religious events and celebrations) should be designed in conjunction with the RS syllabus in schools in order that they can also be used as an educational resource by children.

In the heyday of religious programming on the BBC and ITV, programmes were nothing of the sort. Were the types of religious programmes we got to see primarily the decision of BBC and ITV bosses or was it a result of rules and restrictions imposed by the government and the IBA?
I remember 'The Hour of Power' on Sky One. Murdoch supposedly wanted it to be a permanent fixture on the channel and it was FTA.
steve brown
A few years ago,BBC 1 on sunday mornings would start with Open University,then a kids show,after we would get the Asian language show,followed by some adult education shows,and at around 12 noon,either a church service or the studio based Seeing And Believing
I forgot to mention earlier, the STV and Grampian version of "Morning Worship" was called "Sunday Service". There were a small number of occasions when they both took "Morning Worship", but that was only if that programme was coming from a Scottish church.

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