ITV Emergency National Service

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The ITV Emergency National Service was the management response to the near-complete Independent Television technicians' strike immediately after the 1968 franchise changes took effect.[1]

During the national ITV technicians' strike of August 1968,[2] the individual companies were off the air for several weeks and an emergency service was presented by management personnel with no regional variations. This was the first time that a uniform presentation practice was adopted across all regions.[3] This did not happen again until ITV's first few days back on air following the technicians' strike of 1979, which blacked out the channel for 75 days.


All programmes played during the service were repeats or had been pre-made for forthcoming transmission. Other than continuity, there was no live material.[4] The programmes were transmitted from the ATV switching centre at Foley Street in London, while a team of ex-ABC announcers based in both Teddington and Foley Street provided presentation.

The announcing team for the special service was mainly David Hamilton, John Benson, Sheila Kennedy and Philip Elsmore, who would all continue as Thames announcers when the regional services restarted at the end of the strike.[5]

The service was mounted at short notice after several days of blank screens. The management team behind the emergency service had needed to create a quick and simple Independent Television national presentation style. The term 'Independent Television' was chosen for the 'temporary national station' (the term 'ITV' was relatively little used until the 1970s) and a range of simple, text-only captions was provided.

No station symbol was used – the ident was simply the name in upper-case characters. A clock was borrowed from the ABC studios at Teddington and the ABC triangle on the clock was mostly covered with tape.

Tuning signals[edit]

On the first day of the service, an insert of the local 'Picasso' tuning signal was tried along with a local start-up tune before switching to the national output. On day two, a London 'Picasso' and national theme was used. From day three, a networked tuning signal was used. To avoid confusion over regions, the ITA provided the Foley Street centre with a copy of the blank 'Picasso' containing no regional identifier. A version with the words 'Independent Television' was commissioned but did not arrive until the final few days of the service and was only used briefly at the end of the period.

Daily opening music[edit]

This short service was not wholly consistent in presentation, and opened on some days with Picasso card and ident, whilst on other days only the ident card appeared. A march (Here Comes The Band by Robert Farnon, which also featured in The Prisoner) was chosen as the daily opening music.


With a national service being provided, all advertising spots needed to be sold on a national basis. Therefore, a new rate card was introduced, charging £2,000 for 30 seconds of advertising time before 7pm and £3,500 after 7pm.

Prior to the strike, a 30-second advert in the London region alone would have cost £1,200. Although large national companies benefited from the lower rates, local companies who had previously advertised in their relevant region only were unable to do so during the Emergency National Service.[6]


  1. ^ Bowden-Smith, Kif Strike Service Archived 2009-05-10 at WebCite Vision On, 1 January 2002, accessed 1 June 2006
  2. ^ Carmody, Robin The Bradshaw of Broadcasting Archived 2009-05-10 at WebCite Off the Telly June 2000, accessed 1 June 2006
  3. ^ Alyett, Glenn Strike Out Archived 2007-01-23 at the Wayback Machine Talk of Thames, 2005, accessed 1 June 2006
  4. ^ Hesford-Booth, Andrew Emergency measures Ident 24 May 2004, accessed 1 June 2006
  5. ^ Beaumont, Ian No Logo Inside TV, 1 January 2002, accessed 1 June 2006
  6. ^ Davis, David (1968-08-06). "ITV cuts advertising rates in attempt to reduce losses". The Times. p. 19.

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