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Frank Gilfeather: How long until GB News goes the way of Grampian Television?

Started in 1961, the name Grampian Television was retired in 2006
Started in 1961, the name Grampian Television was retired in 2006

In a couple of months there will be a celebration of sorts to mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of Grampian Television.

Viewers of a certain vintage will recall it was put on life support after being bought by STV in 1997 and took the Glasgow-based station’s name nine years later, which finished it off.

The shareholders, dazzled by the offer on the table, exercised their right to cash in their chips and pulled the plug on an ITV franchise covering an area the size of Belgium.

GB News or Cheapskate Productions?

Today, I wonder how long the embryonic GB News will be given before being euthanised, especially as founder Andrew Neil – the driving force behind it – has been missing for a month as he takes a break at his home in the South of France. Who can blame him?

Others, from both sides of the camera, have departed. There will be many experienced presenters, lured to the channel by big bucks and a promise of woke-free content, who may now be regretting their move as the technical difficulties, poor lighting and iffy sets seem to shout “Cheapskate Productions”.

Nigel Farage’s Monday to Thursday show is seen as a programme to boost flagging, if not non-existent, audiences and he kicked it off by pointing out that no fledgling broadcaster was without its problems.

That may be so, Nige, but if a TV station hasn’t learned anything since John Logie Baird said: “Look what I’ve invented”, then what hope does it have?

Autocue issues

My introduction to lights, camera, action, was in the black and white days of 1967. I was a trainee reporter on the Arbroath Guide – gone and almost forgotten – and permitted to supplement my meagre salary by staring down the lens of a hulking Grampian camera to talk about the local amateur boxing scene in an era when viewers were interested in that sport.

If a TV station hasn’t learned anything since John Logie Baird said: “Look what I’ve invented”, then what hope does it have?

It was on a Friday teatime programme called Sportscall and, at least for me, it was rabbit in the headlights stuff. One time, a loveable man called Fred Edwards, who broadcast on rugby and wrote about it in The P&J, had a little trouble with the autocue. It was an early version of the technology operated by the presenter’s foot on a button, rather like an early electric sewing machine.

Alas, the longer he read, the further his foot pushed the thing away but, not to be outdone, he stretched his leg centimetre by centimetre to follow it, determined to keep the autocue rolling. Within seconds, most of his body was under the desk and viewers could see only his head and shoulders.

Good old Fred would have felt right at home in a GB News studio.


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