An Expert Writes

  • 1/14/2009 07:26:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

As may have become clear to anyone having stumbled over this blog, we're hardly experts when it comes to assorted matters televisual. Some might say, as a blog based wholly on the medium of television, that might well be a bit of an Achilles heel, but we'd cheerily counter that our collective enthusiasm, spirit, moxie, general doughtiness and willingness to make stuff up is enough to see us through. As such, we're always delighted when someone who Actually Knows What They're Talking About sees fit to help us fill in a few more spaces in our mental sticker-book of TV knowledge.

Step forward one Tony Currie, author of "The Radio Times Story" and listings magazine polymath. After reading our whimsical wander through the world of TV Times programme icons, he quite excellently popped into the comments section with the following background story to the lo-fi monochrome illustrations:

"The "icons" (Billings stock blocks) originated with "Radio Times" in the 1930s. Originally they were individually commissioned pieces of art to illustrate specific programmes, but over the years some got used again and again.

After the war, when "Radio Times" split into seven regional editions there was a problem with making the billings fit - if the London Home Service had a two hour concert of an evening and the N.Ireland Home Service had six half hour programmes, then there would be quite a space disparity. This was often solved by filling the space with graphic blocks - 'fit to fill' if you like.

Now since Associated-Rediffusion's original "TV Times" was perforce a "Radio Times" clone, and since it cost money to commission, take, process and print actual photographs, it was a heck of a lot easier to sling in stock blocks. As other ITV regions came on stream with their own programme guides ("TV Guide" for STV, "Television Weekly" for TWW, "The Viewer" for Tyne Tees, "Look Westward" etc etc) they ALL did the same thing. Different artwork for each magazine of course, but they all had "showbiz", "classical", "news" blocks.

The ones you reproduce (from the later all-UK "TV Times" created in 1968) look like the early to mid 70s, and of course there WAS a "Coronation Street" block. And by this time, with a "TV Times" for each ITV region except Channel, the blocks' purpose became the same as the original "Radio Times" one - to ensure each region's page had no white spaces."

Of course, now it all seems so logical. Thanks for the helpful info, Tony. Anyone wishing to pick up a copy of The Radio Times Story would do well to try here, here, or here. Those wishing to try before they buy might like to know it also be previewed via Google Books.

At this point, we'd like to add a joke along the lines of "Other (books about) listings magazines are available", but we're not entirely sure there really are any others still in print.

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