In an unguarded moment, Howard Thomas, MD of ABC Television, no doubt giving vent to his frustrations over the rocky relations with ATV London, stated “ATV is a television station. We are a broadcasting company”.
Lew Grade’s reaction is not on record, but the pleasure of Rediffusion in landing yet another series of ABC’s The Avengers can only be imagined.
It was company policy that the weekends should be balanced and contain something for “each member of the family”. Adult education on Saturday mornings, highbrow arts for late Sunday lunch, family programmes for Sunday tea-time and even a concession to ATV’s priorities with ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’. Educate, inform, and entertain was an axiom that could have been applied to ABC as much as the BBC.
In a political move curious by today’s standards, ABC pressed the Authority to allow them to extend broadcasting hours for the sole purpose of creating more adult education material. At a time when the Open University was no more than a twinkle in Harold Wilson’s eye, ABC, in association with ATV, chose to spend more on programmes where no advertising was permitted.
Though the costs were partly softened by the permitted extra averaging of peak advertising time, it is doubtful whether ABC, or indeed ATV, ever made money on these programmes. The dividend was, however, the ethos of public service bestowed on the company by the ITA’s evident pleasure at these developments.
ABC did for adult education what Associated-Rediffusion did for schools programmes – to establish the network firmly in the public service ethos.