Telly Years

In this section, we take a look back at sample BBC television and radio schedules from years gone by, with listings from the BBC Genome Project. On this page we look back at the 1960s. On other pages: 1930s-1950s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 20 January 1960

A typical day on the BBC's single television channel at the start of 60s; in October it was to receive a much-needed makeover. But for the moment, it was firmly stuck in the 1950s. The main BBC news was actually transmitted at 10.00 on this evening, forty years before it permanently took this timeslot, although in 1960 it was a moveable feast, airtimes varying between 9.35 and 10.05 this week. The early evening news was also transmitted in its current slot, 6.00, but over the next 16 years the start time would gradually move backwards. The 6.00 start was reinstated in 1984.

Patrick Moore was introducing one of television's longest running shows on this day, The Sky at Night, while the impressionist Stanley Baxter could be seen in the farcical comedy play The Amorous Prawn.

One feature of the 1960 schedule was the regular showing of programmes in Welsh, usually around lunchtime and sometime late night, on some English, as well as Welsh, transmitters. In 1960 it was Wenvoe, Holme Moss and Sutton Coldfield, in order to ensure the output was available to every viewer in Wales, and for the benefit of Welsh ex-pats. In 1962, after continued requests, Crystal Palace was added to the list. This pattern continued, though to a lesser extent, into the early 80s until all of the BBC's Welsh-language programming was transferred to Sianel 4 Cymru in 1982.

On radio this day, there was no pop at all on the BBC Light Programme - instead the day was made up of a mixture of light music, speech, comedy and drama.


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 4 December 1961

It may be more than fifty years ago, but no fewer than three of today's programmes are still running today (Blue Peter, Points of View and Panorama), and one has been revived (Come Dancing) - though with a very different format, of course.

Blue Peter was still on its original presenting team of Christopher Trace and Leila Williams; the show included 'Packi's Adventures' drawn and told by Tony Hart, while Chris and Leila brought us to J in the Blue Peter alphabet and showed us how to make a doll's house. The programme was still only shown once a week. Meanwhile at 5.45 Patrick Moore was making predictions about space research in 1962: will there be more unmanned rockets to the moon and planets? Will a space-station be launched? And will men try to reach the moon?

Winston Churchill's World War II memoirs formed the basis of today's programme at 6.25; on other days, shows in this slot sandwiched between the news and Tonight included Andy Stewart's White Heather Club, World Zoos, Pit Your Wits and Percy Thrower's Gardening Club.

Later on this evening, Sid James, having been cast aside by Tony Hancock, starred in his own sitcom, Citizen James. In this edition he turned his attention to 'the problem of the teenager of today'. Other comedy stars with their own sitcoms this week included Harry Worth, and Jimmy Edwards in The Seven Faces of Jim.

On Tuesday night Alan Freeman presented the game show Play Your Hunch. The legendary DJ had recently taken over Pick of the Pops on the Light Programme on Saturday nights - he would continue to present it, on and off, in various formats, and on various radio stations, for nearly forty years. Disc jockeys on the Light today included David Jacobs and Jimmy Young who, no spring chicken in 1961, was playing records for teenagers.

The Light Programme was a place for drama as well as music and light entertainment, and on this day Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley starred in an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story The Reigate Squires (which is set in what is an extremely pleasant town, or so I'm told...)


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 22 August 1962

1962, and BBC-tv's programmes were being introduced with an underwhelming ident showing a static map of Britain. The first version of the famous spinning globe would not be seen until the following year.

The popular Barry Bucknell showed how to remove a staircase and make a new front door in Bucknell's House. Younger viewers could enjoy helicopter adventures in Whirlybirds. And Points of View was on air with Robert Robinson some 30 years before his namesake Anne would introduce it.

A virtually pop-free zone on the BBC Light Programme - just David Gell's Pop to Bed - but there were two trips to the Radio Show.


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 9 April 1963

The BBC soap Compact was showing on this day, the twice-weekly story of life at a glossy women's magazine. It ran from January 1962 until July 1965 when it was replaced, briefly, by Park Lane, and then The Newcomers.

Overkill examined the arms race, and asked whether there was any hope for a beginning of nuclear disarmament. On a lighter note, Eamonn Andrews presented This is Your Life, and Jimmy Young hosted his music programme, The 625 Show. The 625 referred to the timeslot, not the number of lines on the screen, as with BBC2's many '625' programmes a year or so later. BBC1, of course, would remain in 405 line monochrome for some time to come.

The fifty minutes of children's programmes today seems rather underwhelming - a repeat of a film from Hungary, and For Deaf Children, the predecessor to Vision On, in which George Ogilvie and Julian Chagrin told some stories in mime.

It was the Easter holidays this week, so the BBC showed Out of School, an opportunity to see example from BBC's schools television output. Then following the usual Welsh programmes at lunchtime, and the news, was an early example of daytime television in Living Today, which featured various cookery, gardening and fashion items. And rounding off the day's programming, Roger Delgado read from the New English Bible, some eight years before he would become television's favourite villain - The Master!


BBC Genome schedule for Thursday 22 October 1964

Early days for BBC2, having launched the preceding April. It was available only to viewers in London, and then only if you had a television capable of receiving UHF broadcasts. Apart from a morning showing of Play School, it was generally on air only from 7.30pm.

Although having been renamed BBC1, the channel was using an symbol which simply stated 'BBC' - not much of a problem considering for the vast majority of viewers it was the only BBC channel. As for programmes, Blue Peter and Top of the Pops survive to this day, while the predecessor to Top Gear, Wheelbase could be seen on BBC2.

Tune into BBC1 at 10.45pm and you get news; switch over to BBC2 at the same time and you get news. So much for the alternative.

Over in radio land, the nearest the BBC got to a pop music network was the Light Programme. Here, the only true 'pop' programmes were Twelve O'Clock Spin and Top Gear (nothing to do with cars). You could also find Radio 4 stalwarts The Archers, Any Answers? and Woman's Hour. By this time the Light had become the first radio station to have hourly news bulletins, oddly on the half-hour, a tradition continued by Radio 1 to this very day.

Thursday nights were the night for Top of the Form - the TV version at 6.30 and the radio version at 7.30.


BBC Genome schedule for Saturday 3 April 1965

Morning television was non-existent on this day - in fact, apart from Watch with Mother, it was virtually non-existent all week, there being no schools programmes due to the Easter holiday. When BBC1 finally did wake up, it was for coverage of the Oxford v Cambridge boat race, introduced from Putney by David Coleman. (Radio sport at this point was covered by the Third Network with Sport Service).

Following David "Hello there" Jacobs with the latest pop releases voted either a Hit or a Miss, it was time for the good Doctor, William Hartnell, in episode 2 of The Crusade, one of the many Doctor Who episodes which sadly no longer exists. Hartnell's successor Patrick Troughton was this Sunday guest-starring in Dr Finlay's Casebook. Then Dick van Dyke was joined by Mary Tyler Moore for his 'hilarious' comedy series, followed by Margaret Lockwood's drama series The Flying Swan, which also featured her daughter Julia.

Petula Clark, who was now mainly pursuing her show business career in France, joined Billy "Wakey Wakey!" Cotton (who also had a Light Programme version of his show on this day), while later BBC1 traced the career of the 26 year-old Hollywood actress Natalie Wood.

Saturday was rounded off by the successor to That Was The Week That Was. Managing an even longer title, Not So Much a Programme More a Way of Life retained David Frost for a similarly satirical series, though this was broadcast three times a week, Friday to Sunday, and quickly ran out of steam. Having begun the preceding November, it would last one more week.


BBC Genome schedule for Friday 11 March 1966

Proving that splitting programmes around the news is not a recent phenomenon, the new series of Dr Kildare was showing in two parts, although to be fair, it was two separate episodes. The early evening magazine Tonight had vanished the previous year; however its presenter Cliff Michelmore was not out of a job, as he was now anchoring 24 Hours, the nightly current affairs show which ran until 1972. This was followed by the consumer magazine Choice, which seems a strange choice of viewing for 10.45 on a Friday night; then what in retrospect must seem a landmark edition of The Sky at Night, which examined the possibility of a manned landing on the moon.

During the hiatus between Tonight and Nationwide, a miscellany of programmes appeared in the early evening post-news slot. Today it was Film Preview, which would appear to be a forerunner to Barry Norman's long-running Film series. This was followed by BBC1's twice-weekly 'soap' of the period, The Newcomers.

The seeds of Look and Read were being sown in a story called 'Tom, Pat and Friday', which was airing under the Merry-Go-Round banner (what would later been known as Zig Zag). A daily dose of Jackanory had brought the start of children's programmes forward to 4.45. Then after Crackerjack younger viewers were invited to write in with their views on television in Junior Points of View (the adult version aired on Wednesday with, no, not Robert, or even Anne, but Kenneth Robinson).

Elsewhere this week, the classic BBC1 Thursday schedule was already in place, with Tomorrow's World doubling up with Top of the Pops, at 7.00 and 7.30 respectively. David Jacobs was our commentator for the eleventh Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night, which was followed by the infamous satire show BBC-3.


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 21 November 1967

BBC2 had finally burst into colour, although it was still only 'Launching Period'; the full service would begin shortly. One of those colour programmes, Horizon, still runs today; another colour show Crossword on Two is long since forgotten.

Over on BBC1 - staying monochrome for another two years - and Harry Worth was starring in his own comedy series. The 5.50 news bulletin was preceded by Magic Roundabout; funny to think viewers would only be able to see this colourful show in black-and-white until October 1970!

Most of BBC1's daytime output was taken up by either the test card or schools programmes, which at this point were introduced by the BBC schools pie chart. However those tuning in at 12.30pm on Thursday, though, would have the pleasure of watching Pig Farming Today.

It was just a few weeks into the 'swinging new radio service'; Radio 1 had begun on 30th September with Tony Blackburn's Daily Disc Delivery. The network also brought us three chances a day to win a transistor radio in their 'exciting new crossword game' Crack the Clue. We were also promised Jimmy Young, on both Radio 1 and Radio 2, would be singing us some songs.


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 29 April 1968

In the late 1960s, short news bulletins, and the lack of an early evening current affairs magazine (Tonight/Nationwide) meant that there was plenty of room for programmes to be shown at time where we would now expect to find the news. So on this day, we had the pub quiz show Quiz Time, Gentlemen, Please! at 6.15; the same slot on other days saw the likes of Whicker's World, Going for a Song and The Monkees (whose crazy antics had just moved to Thursday from their usual Saturday slot).

There was plenty of current affairs later on, though, with Robin Day's Panorama and Cliff Michelmore's 24 Hours on BBC1, and the first colour news programme, Newsroom, on BBC2, which had recently moved to a mid-evening slot.

But comedy was not forgotten on this day - The Dick Emery Show, which had been first shown on BBC2, was repeated on BBC1, while the anarchic comic Marty Feldman began his new colour series on BBC2.

The fledgling Radio 1 had to suffer the two problems of lack of funds and needletime restrictions, meaning frequent join-ups with Radio 2, and various 'live' music progrmmes, such as Radio One O'Clock, featuring the likes of Johnny Howard and his Band at the Orchid Ballroom, Purley.


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 19 February 1969

A typical late 60s line-up on BBC2 Colour and BBC1, still in monochrome until November 1969.

Gardeners' World survives from this day - unfortunately the same cannot be said of Tomorrow's World. Meanwhile, the early evening 'soap' The Newcomers was running in a twice-weekly format on Wednesdays and Thursdays; Z Cars took the same slot on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The afternoon sequence of children's programmes had been extended again, and now normally started at 4.20 with a repeat of that morning's Play School (a pattern which continued until 1985). Strangely, though, we were denied our second daily fix of Big Ted and Jemima on Mondays until 1972 - the Monday slot was usually taken up by teacher training programmes.

As for news, only BBC2 had a news programme longer than fifteen minutes. BBC1's answer to News at Ten, the Nine O'Clock News, started in 1970.

Radio 1 was eighteen months old years old, and listeners could hear the Radio 1 Club at midday, with a different DJ in a different town each day. On this day David Symonds was in London with John Peel, who was 'introducing a group he's done so much to bring to the public - Tyrannosaurus Rex'.

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Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation