The Broadcasting Years

 

Southern began transmission in August 1958 from a converted plaza cinema in Southampton. This was a temporary home as a new complex was under construction in Northam, Southampton which the company retained until the end of its broadcasting period in 1981. The Dover VHF transmitter came into service in January 1960 providing viewers in Kent and East Sussex with Southern's service.

In 1961 a further studio was established in Dover to serve the South Eastern part of the region. The south east region was not originally part of Southern's franchise and was advertised by the ITA separately. Southern had this added to its broadcast area mainly because of it's commitment to build the Dover studio to provide a local news opt-out for viewers in Kent.

In 1968 the main studio complex in Northam was expanded in readiness for colour and the ITA commenced construction of the five main transmitters for the colour service:-

Rowridge and Dover (December 1969)

Hannington and Heathfield (November 1971)

Midhurst (December 1972)

The black and white 405 line service continued until the early eighties.

Right from the start, Southern identified it's region as being one in which an up-market approach was needed to gain viewers from the BBC, and programmes on the arts and items generally aimed at improving the quality of life for a diverse region featured prominently. This philosophy sporned the televising of selected Glyndebourne opera's and Jack Hargreaves Out of Town series.

Jack Hargreaves joined Southern before it went on air as a former broadcasting advisor to the national farmers union and eventually became controller of programmes. Although a respected presenter of Out of Town and the children’s strand "How" he was also instrumental in creating programmes for local viewers such as "Farm Progress" and the afternoon series "House Party".
Southern's flag ship local news programme was Day by Day which continued up until the franchise loss in December 1981.

 

Cliff Mitchelmore, Christopher Peacock and Trevor Baker

The eastern part of the region was served by the second half opt-out from Day by Day on Wednesday’s called Scene Mid-Week and a full programme in place of Day by Day on Friday's called Scene South East both produced from the Dover Studios.
As Southern's transmission area included much of the South Coast, the company had a unique asset, a floating OB unit called the Southerner was used to film events from local yacht races to Cowes Week.

The Southerner ( a former torpedo boat )

Although Southern Television had a prime franchise with high advertising revenues the company was always a minor player in the ITV network. It never gained the status of the bigger companies that dictated the Network primetime schedules ( Thames, LWT, ATV, Granada and Yorkshire) and therefore had to make programmes for a local audience with the hope of being able to offer them for network transmission. However, Southern was very good at making programmes for the gaps in the network schedule such as the Glyndebourne Opera's and children’s drama programmes such as Worzel Gummidge.

To offset this downside to their franchise position Southern formed SouthStar Ltd to sell their programmes to international markets and Southern Pictures Ltd to specialise in filmed drama productions such as "Winston Churchill, the Wilderness Years". This programme was pre-sold to international markets as well as being accepted for prime time transmission on the ITV network.