TV centre is probably the most exciting in the world

Leonard Mathews, ATV General Manager (Midlands). Aged 51. After war service he joined the BBC, initially in sound broadcasting. but later transferred to BBC TV. Joined ATV in 1955 as head of the company’s Communications Department. Later becoming Assistant Technical Controller. In 1962 he was appointed Head of Special Projects which involved him in space-age work in transcontinental TV communications. He was appointed ATV’s Midlands Controller in February, 1965. In July, 1967, he was appointed to the board of ATV Network Ltd., and assumed the new title of General Manager (Midlands).

ATV has been serving the Midlands since the start of Independent Television in this area in February, 1956. Covering the licence periods from 1956 to 1968, ATV provided a service between Monday and Friday in the Midlands area and in London during, the weekends.

In the Midlands ATV provided its programmes from the Aston Studios of Alpha Television Ltd., a joint company formed between ATV and ABC Television.

These studios have given admirable service during the 12½ years of ATV’s previous licences, although the premises have been modified to television studios from a cinema originally on the site.

With the award of the new contract to ATV to provide in the Midlands a seven-day service from July, 1968, for six years, it was essential that a new up-to-date television centre should be built, capable of meeting this new requirement, also to provide the facilities for the predicted colour service.

Following the award of the new contract, ATV investigated a number of sites in the Midlands, but it was most attracted by the site previously known as the West End car park area, then Paradise Centre and now finally ATV Centre.

After discussions and negotiations with the City Council and others, the site was acquired in June, 1966.


The main architects had previously been commissioned to design a new television centre so that by the time the site was acquired, building work was able to begin immediately.

A co-ordinating committee had been set up in October, 1967, to plan the development of the new centre, also its equipping, and to prepare arrangements for the transfer from the Aston Studios.

On the committee were represented the architects, the ATV subsidiary responsible for building, head of engineering, technical operations staff and all who could contribute towards the overall plans.

As it was planned to bring the new studio centre into operation by September. 1969. it was appreciated that this timetable would not provide for any delays and at the same time would not meet the requirement of ATV for the new seven-day operation between July, 1968, and September, 1969.

To accommodate the seven-day operation from July, 1968, for just over one year it was necessary to increase the amount of equipment operating at the Aston Studios and to increase the number of staff to deal with the new requirements.

Most of the additional staff were transferred from the London end of ATV’s operation following the cessation of ATV’s weekend operation in this area.

The plans for the new television centre proceeded satisfactorily with minimum delays and problems all the while being kept under close scrutiny by the regular monthly meetings of the coordinating committee responsible for its construction and subsequent operation.

Orders for equipment, including television and other apparatus were being processed as quickly as possible with guarantees of deliveries in time to meet the transmission date.

It was planned to bring the television studio centre into operation on a phased basis, firstly the central technical apparatus room including telecine machines and video tape recording equipment, with the master control room and announcer studio, all to be operative in mid-September, 1969.

The second phase was to bring into operation the smallest studio, Studio 3, so that live television programmes could be originated on the new 625-line system.

It was planned to follow this with phase three which would be the operation of the largest studio, Studio 1 which could also accommodate a studio audience, to be in operation by mid-November.

With these facilities completed it was expected that ATV could meet all its programme commitments although it was appreciated that this would produce some difficulties due to the nonavailability at this stage of the remaining studio. It was finally planned to bring the last studio, Studio 2, into operation in February. 1970.

This plan has been achieved, and it has been possible to meet ATV’s own predicted timetable, at the same time meeting the colour television date which was subsequently set for mid-November 1969. for a large part of the Midlands area.

With full operation from ATV Centre, the studio centre at Aston was closed.

The building plan produced a number of difficulties for it was essential to maintain ATV’s output to the region without reduction in service or the number of programmes.

This was further complicated for, by introducing elements of the new centre, phase by phase, it was necessary to link Aston and ATV Centre, in a hybrid fashion while they were contributing to ATV’s main output. As will have been seen, with the exclusion of Studio 2, the development for programme output was completed at the new centre 15 months after the acquisition of the site.

At the end of this period all ATV’s programme output from the Midlands was being originated on the new 625-line and in colour.

Now, apart from its permanent restaurant and reception, the centre is complete and in full operation.

Inevitably in such a project a number of problems arise, but all have been successfully dealt with without any disturbance to the viewing audience.

The start of the colour service in November, 1969, was also successful, although the transmission in UHF colour was restricted to the area covered by the Sutton Coldfield transmitter.

Full operation

The Waltham transmitter is now in commission providing a UHF colour service to Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Shortly, the next transmitter will be coming into service to provide UHF colour to the southern area of the region, which includes Oxford.

At the same time, the former VHF service on 405-line monochrome is continuing, giving a regular service in black and white to more than ten million viewers.

The new television centre is now in full operation. It has been and is achieving, all that had been expected from it and all its equipment is working satisfactorily.

In its construction and design it is probably the most exciting television centre in the country— if not the world — and most certainly the most up-to-date.

ATV is now quite justifiably able to boast to its viewers that they are now receiving a service from studios which compare with anything in the world.

The building and operation of the centre has required a great deal of hard work and I am pleased to pay credit to the dedicated team who joined me in meeting the challenge of this exciting project and in achieving its successful outcome.

It is also a great credit to all the staff who operate the services within the centre that they have so ably taken the complicated transfer and change in their stride and produced an output of which we believe ATV can be justly proud.

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