A well-swung valedictory

Some people get nostalgic about old telly programmes. I’m one of those. Nothing too unhealthy (or, indeed, strange these days) about watching old Bagpuss or Mr Benn. Where an interest arguably becomes an obsession, though, is if you start getting interested in the bits on TV that aren’t the television programmes themselves.

I often wonder why I can sometimes be transfixed by a television trail, channel logo, or – for crying out loud – continuity announcement. It’s not just a reflection on Television Itself Not Being Quite As Good As It Used To Be. OK, so I do believe that to an extent, though I can’t quite agree with a friend who maintains that “TV went downhill with the last episode of Edge of Darkness.” But if you put me under some strange form of hypnotherapy and asked me about my obs- sorry, interest, I guess you’d come up with some connection based on the fact that I share a birthdate with ITV. And the fact that I actually know that (based on something I read in the TV Times around that time in, ahem, 1980) speaks volumes in itself.

Face it, though, if you’re reading this within the UK, you probably remember regional ITV. If you were growing up in the seventies or eighties in Britain – always assuming you had a television – your local telly company were there to entertain you. From Land’s End to John O’Groats (that should perhaps read ‘from TSW to Grampian’), you’d know where you were by the Golden Hind, the saltire, the strangely shaped television aerial, Tower Bridge fanfaring itself before your eyes, or the rather scary arrow thing. To name but a few.

As Andrew Wiseman points out though, it’s all changing on Monday. Makes sense on one level I guess. Given that the eleven companies that owned English commercial telly in 1993 are now down to two (and in all probability, just one before long) it probably makes little sense, economically anyway, to have dozens of people round the country announcing programmes.

But skirting around the quip about Granada, Carlton and economic sense (eh, Mun-keh?) I’ll miss regionality. It is the end of some sort of era, though whether that era’s worth celebrating is another matter. And, undoubtedly, in the rich pageant of life this all matters rather less than half an iota.

Doubt anyone will notice, really (unless you’ll be watching the ridiculously early morning news or either side of The South Bank Show on – specifically – LWT tomorrow, in which case you might get a tad confused.) The Transdiffusion crowd will notice, mind, and so will I. As for the rest of you, though, you can always relive the past. And feel rather old to boot. But then, nostalgia’s a game for the old.

[And that really is it for tonight. Thanks for joining us on Backburner. Excuse me while I point this rostrum camera at a cardboard cutout of a Celtic cross, remind you of your local radio stations, and fade out over an instrumental. No, Gus Honeybun, don’t even think about it. Down boy. Down…]

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