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 1970s. On other pages: 1930s-1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s.


BBC Genome schedule for Thursday 30 April 1970

An important month for radio - the BBC's policy paper Broadcasting in the Seventies had just taken effect, which meant further-reaching changes than those of 1967. The aim was to give the four networks more distinct identities, and involved moving plays, discussion, and some quizzes and comedy from Radio 2 to Radio 4, and moving classical music off Radio 4 and onto Radio 3. The plan also resulted in Radio 3 finally losing its (daytime) Music Programme and (evening) Third Programme banners; while the Radio 1 schedule had been tidied up a bit.

Over on the telly, and BBC1 was now transmitting on 625 lines in colour, and was using the first version of the famous 'mirror globe' ident. Nationwide - not in colour - had launched the previous September, presented by Michael Barrett, but only on Tuesdays to Thursdays. Basil Brush had gained his own series, with help from Derek Fowlds. Dependable as ever, it was preceded by Blue Peter, which had also yet to make the move to colour.

Later in the evening, Top of the Pops had recently been given a new look and an unprecedented 45 minutes. Presenter Tony Blackburn said: 'I think pop music is a lot more tuneful now than it has been recently'. There was no avoiding the Party Political Broadcast - it was broadcast on all three channels at 9.00. This meant The Main News shifted from its usual 8.50 time to 8.45 on this day. It would become the Nine O'Clock News from September of this year.

Elsewhere this week, the Saturday evening repeats of Dad's Army we know today had already been established; however Saturday teatime really belonged to Doctor Who, which was starring Jon Pertwee in his first series as the Time Lord. Radio 1's weekend schedule belonged to bearded DJs - Kenny Everett, Noel Edmonds, John Peel, Pete Drummond, Mike Raven and, of course, DLT.


BBC Genome schedule for Tuesday 5 October 1971

Black-and-white televisions were still very much in the majority, so neither BBC1 nor BBC2 had any qualms in giving over an hour-and-a-half each to showing monochrome films.

Nationwide was apparently also in black-and-white, and only running from Tuesday to Thursday (this situation was rectified in September 1972). So this meant on Fridays Tomorrow's World was shown at the incredibly early time of 6.20; on this day it was the Galloping Gourmet in a series made in Canada. On BBC2 the fledgling Open University was taking up only 25 minutes of daily airtime - again in glorious monochrome - although there was a longer three hour session on Sunday mornings.

There were no comedy programmes at all on this day, but classics airing this week included Steptoe and Son on Monday BBC1, The Goodies on Friday BBC2, and Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii! on Saturday BBC1. Not so well remembered sitcoms were Now, Take My Wife... starring Sheila Hancock on Monday, and on Friday Under and Over, starring The Bachelors (yes, the sixties Irish balladeers).

On BBC1 there was Quiz Ball on BBC1, a general knowledge quiz for soccer stars and their celebrity supporters. Last thing on BBC2, and Late Night Line-up was given a break tonight to make way for one of its own spin-offs, the newly launched music show The Old Grey Whistle Test. Bob Harris was not yet on board, so it was Richard Williams and Ian Whitcomb who introduced the likes of Cat Stevens and The Jack Bruce Band.

Not just on television, but 'progressive' music was breaking new ground on radio as well this week, with Sounds of the 70s now extended to two hours every night on Radio 1. Tonight's first edition included music from T-Rex, David Bowie, and Sandy Denny and Home. Sounds of the 70s also had the advantage of being broadcast on FM, but not yet in stereo - only Radio 3 had this added benefit until 1972. Incidentally Radio 3 this week began its own half hour rock programme on Saturday evenings, believe it or not. Stereo Rock featured records introduced by Manfred Mann, including the Rolling Stones.

There were more changes to the nation's favourite this week, which saw the Radio 1 Club rested (but it would be back one year later in a new teatime slot), and Johnnie Walker move to lunchtimes.


BBC Genome schedule for Sunday 24 September 1972

VAT was set to rear its ugly head on 1 April 1973, so BBC1 gave us a programme aimed at traders telling them what they need to know. David Bellamy gave us a preview of the autumn's educational programmes, and following Chigley we could watch Ken Dodd and his Diddymen. And on that evening was the first series of the long-running sea-faring drama The Onedin Line.

Over on BBC2, The World About Us unusually stayed at home to look at the different breeds of British pony. This was followed by the best bits so far of The Goodies.

Elsewhere this week, significant new shows on Monday night included Film 72 (London region only) followed by the 'new brain game' Mastermind. BBC2 still closed each weeknight with the open-ended discussion Late Night Line-up which had been running since its inception, but was soon to disappear. The same channel filled much of its daytime hours with Trade Test films for colour. Again, these had ceased by 1973.

Back on Sunday, Noel Edmonds was presenting the morning show on Radio 1, while something of a curiosity was Ed Stewart's Sunday Sport. But the big news was that Alan Freeman was to count down the Top 20 for the final time in The Last Ever Pick of the Pops! The following week, Tom Browne took over with Solid Gold Sixty.

Oh, and by the way, in the Burghley Horse Trials (coverage on BBC1), the horses were found not guilty.


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 24 September 1973

Exactly one year after our previous Telly Year, here's an example of an early 70s weekday line-up on BBCtv.

Prime-time BBC1 got under way at 6.45 with an episode of the sitcom Sykes, followed by Star Trek, and Panorama which stayed in its pre-9.00 slot until 1985. The second series of Mastermind was shown late night, but not for much longer - a sitcom starring Leslie Phillips, Casanova 73, which was presently airing on Thursday nights at 8.00, was soon considered too racy for pre-watershed viewing. Therefore it was swapped with the quiz show, plunging Magnus Magnusson into prime time where he remained for over two decades.

Besides schools programmes, there was more daytime output on BBC1 in 1973 than ever before. Sheepdog trials in Welsh featured on this day, but Tuesday afternoon viewers could see US shows such as The Governor and JJ and Petticoat Junction, while on Wednesdays Delia Smith appeared in her debut series Family Fare. Test card fans, though, could tune to BBC2 for most of the day to get their fix, the only interruptions being from Play School, and Service Information films which were usually shown at 10.00, 11.30 and 2.30.

Most of the schools output (with very precise timings) was still shown in black-and-white in 1973. According to the Radio Times listings, BBC1's flagship teatime show Nationwide was also still in monochrome - certainly many of the regional magazines still were, but as for the main programme, I'm not convinced... There was another nightly current affairs programme on BBC1 at this point, Midweek, shown late on Tuesdays to Thursdays.

The second series of Pebble Mill at One began the following week. And the Nine O'Clock News was a double-header, and not for the last time.

The two daily editions of Newsbeat had just launched on Radio 1. Noel Edmonds had shunted Tony Blackburn from his breakfast show to mid-mornings earlier in the year, while DLT looked after the lunchtime show for a holidaying Johnnie Walker. Terry Wogan and Jimmy Young had shifted from Radio 1 to Radio 2 - and who do we have broadcasting at midnight (on both networks) but one Simon Bates!


BBC Genome schedule for Wednesday 1 May 1974

Years before he played Timothy Lumsden in Sorry!, on this day Ronnie Corbett was starring in a less well-remembered sitcom. The Prince of Denmark was the sequel to Now Look Here, and saw Ronnie, playing himself, running a pub. His wife, Laura, was played by Rosemary Leach.

Afternoons saw an early incarnation of the daytime magazine format, The Afternoon Programme. Another innovation was what is generally acknowledged as the first 'docusoap' - The Family. Over 12 weeks the ups and downs of life of the Wilkins Family of Reading was captured on camera for BBC1. This was followed on this day by a Party Political Broadcast by the Labour Party - which lasted a whopping fifteen minutes, broadcast simultaneously on all three channels. 1974 may have been the year of two general elections, but this is inexcusable...

Doctor Who was the mainstay of Saturday evenings - Jon Pertwee was approaching the end of his reign by this point - while The Black and White Minstrel Show was still hanging on in there (amazingly it still had another four years to run). Meanwhile all Saturday morning viewers had to look forward to in these pre-Swap Shop days were the delights of Developments in Social Work and Chingachook and the Lone Hunter.

Other classics airing this week included the first in a new series of It's a Knockout on Fridays, and the inevitable Dad's Army repeat on Thursday. And over on Radio 1 you could hear Radio 5 on Saturday lunchtimes - Eric Idle's comedy series named after a station that would be lauched for real 16 years later.


BBC Genome schedule for Friday 28 November 1975

Both BBC television channels had received new idents around the end of 1974; BBC1 had a new blue/yellow version of the rotating globe, while BBC2's '2' went stripy. The word 'colour' had now been dropped from both symbols, although colour televisions were still in a minority in Britain; it took until 1977 for colour licences to exceed black-and-white.

The start of 1975 had also brought cutbacks in both television and radio. Afternoon programmes on BBC1, which in late 1974 had included Aspel and Company, Top Score and Dig This!, had gone. On BBC2, rather than transmitting the test card throughout the daytime, transmitters would now close down altogether from around 11.30am to 4.00pm. Trade test transmissions would then be shown until the first programmes in the evening. Most days saw BBC1 and BBC2 close down around 11.30-11.40pm, although they were allowed to stay up beyond midnight at the weekend (indeed, an unusually late 1.12am on this day).

The cutbacks in radio were more severe - Radio 2 went from 21 to 18.5 hours a day, and Radio 1 from 14 to just 9 hours a day. This meant both networks now received the David Hamilton afternoon show, and the likes of John Peel and Anne Nightingale were shifted from 10.00pm to 5.15 in January 1975; by the autumn Peel had been given his first daily show, for an hour at 11.00 each weeknight.

Television highlights on this day included David McCallum starring as The Invisible Man, and Eric Sykes starring as, um, Eric Sykes. On BBC2 there was a programme called Newsnight - but not the one we know today, that began in 1980; in 1975 it was a 15-minute news round-up with Richard Whitmore. Closedown actually was a programme - a nightly five minute reading.

And this particular week included the annual BBC Children in Need appeal. No, not a seven hour telethon - we didn't see those until the 1980s - but a five minute appeal with David Dimbleby, on Sunday teatime stuck between Anno Domini and Songs of Praise.


BBC Genome schedule for Saturday 23 October 1976

Before October 1976 Saturday mornings on BBC1 had been little more than a jumble of cartoons, language learning programmes and black-and-white films. Now in its fourth week, Noel Edmonds had revolutionised the BBC1 Saturday schedule with three hours of fun, swaps, phone-ins and music which (apart from the swaps) would set the tone for Saturday mornings for the next 25 years.

The textbook 1970s Saturday line-up continued right through the day, with highlights including Basil Brush, the 100th edition of the Generation Game, Messrs Corbett and Barker, and Parky rounding off the day. And this week's Doctor Who was the final episode of The Hand of Fear, which marked Elisabeth Sladen's departure from the series after three years in the role of Sarah Jane Smith.

Another long runner experiencing a change of personnel this week was Last of the Summer Wine, which saw Brian Wilde making his debut as Foggy in the first in a new series on Wednesday at 9.25pm. In fact, there was a whole new season of programmes this week, including the return of The Record Breakers, The Liver Birds and Ken Dodd's World of Laughter.

Doddy (now minus the Diddymen) was followed on Friday evening by series two of When the Boat Comes In, starring James Bolam and Susan Jameson, which chronicled the hardships of life on Tyneside in the 1920s. The programme would continue for several more years; meanwhile another series which would survive into the 1980s, the hospital drama Angels, was airing on Mondays in a weekly 50 minute slot; it would later change to a soap-style twice-weekly format.

Although colour television had now existed for nine years, monochrome licences still exceeded colour, and so BBC1 had no qualms in giving over much of Wednesday evening to a black-and-white film, Carry On Constable. BBC2 were a little more highbrow, though, and were currently halfway through the classic drama serial I Claudius.

Cost restraints at Radio 1 meant that it had to join forces with its sister station at times, so listeners were treated to the likes of Radio 2 Top Tunes with the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra playing the station's most popular songs. How times have changed...


BBC Genome schedule for Monday 9 May 1977

Ten years after colour transmission had begun on BBC2; but four out of the eight schools programmes on this day were still being shown in black-and-white.

It was Badger Watch all week on BBC1 for ten minutes each night before closedown. For the first time, we were told, infra-red cameras would give viewers a unique opportunity to observe a colony of wild badgers. In contrast, BBC2 offered an hour of surreal and bizarre comedy - but both were repeats, Monty Python and Spike Milligan.

Other programmes of note this week include Saturday's Bruce's Choice, in which Mr Forsyth bowed out of the Generation Game (first time round anyway); and a show perhaps more associated with the 1960s, Z Cars, was still going, with its final series showing on Tuesdays at 8.10. The Queen's Silver Jubilee was marked with a series of plays on Tuesdays at 6.50, under the banner Jubilee, reflecting life in the last 25 years.

The Radio 1 schedule remained largely static, although Johnnie Walker had departed in 1976 to be replaced by Paul Burnett on the lunchtime show. Meanwhile, relatively new recruit David 'Kid' Jensen stood in on the teatime show; and John Dunn had settled into the equivalent Radio 2 slot which he would occupy, one and off, for the next two decades.


BBC Genome schedule for Thursday 16 March 1978

Tomorrow's World marked its 500th edition with a special in which William Woollard, Michael Rodd and Judith Hann speculated on everyday aspects of the far future. Top of the Pops featured Legs and Co and its own orchestra, while on Blue Peter it was late period Noakes and Purves. Earlier in the day Bob Hoskins was teaching literacy in On the Move. BBC2 viewers could watch Living in the Past, which followed a year-long experiment in which a group of young people lived and worked on a replica of an Iron Age settlement.

It seems there was more news and current affairs on the two BBC channels in 1978 than there is today. In addition to the three, albeit shorter, main bulletins, there was also Nationwide and Tonight on BBC1, and Newsday and Late News on 2 on BBC2. The last three, however, had disappeared by the time Newsnight started, in 1980.

Radio 1 had managed to regain the five hours it lost in 1975; it still had to join up with Radio 2 for the evening programmes meaning shows like Country Club and Folkweave sitting incongorously alongside the likes of John Peel. The good news was that by the start of next year Radio 1 would be broadcasting its own output from early morning to midnight every day of the week; Mike Read and Andy Peebles would be the new recruits.

Noel Edmonds would shortly hand his breakfast show over to Dave Lee Travis, while Simon Bates had taken over the morning slot from Tony Blackburn in late 1977, complete with the Golden Hour. He would hold onto it until 1993.


BBC Genome schedule for Friday 7 December 1979

It's Friday, it's five-to-five, it's Crackerjack!!! Yes, it was the Stewpot era of the popular kids show. On this particular day, the star guests were Showaddywaddy. It would be another five years before the last Crackerjack pencils were given away.

There was no Friday edition of John Craven's Newsround in 1979, as this wasn't introduced until 1986. And there was no morning television at all for BBC1 - schools programmes had finished for Christmas, so there was plenty of test card action on this day. Afternoon viewers (on English transmitters only) were able to see an episode of the long-running Welsh-language soap Pobol y Cwm - which is still aired today on S4C.

Radio 2 had gone 24 hours with gentle music and chat through the night in You and the Night and the Music. The Radio 1 schedule saw the perennial Friday favourite Roundtable which continued until 1992. Long gone is the 9.50pm edition of Newsbeat. Unfortunately some of the extra airtime Radio 1 gained a year ago would be lost just a few months later.

Back to telly, and evening BBC1 saw David Bellamy Up a Gum Tree, and later the period drama Penmarric. BBC2 was airing the cult Japanese show Monkey, but then gave us 25 minutes on how to improve our badminton technique. Very strangely, BBC1's recently revived Points of View was only airing in the South East - were they the only whingers then? But the most bizarre thing must be Arthur Scargill presenting his own chat show on BBC2!

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