When Sheffield had its own fourth TV station - well before everyone else had Channel 4

Memories of television from my childhood are sometimes vivid, sometimes vague. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, we had nothing like - as you can imagine - today's viewing choices.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 3:40 pm

As I’ve mentioned before there were only three channels when I was growing up – BBC1 and 2, and of course ITV – or in our region Yorkshire TV – all viewed in black and white, for most.

In my home we could only access two channels, BBC1 and BBC2 due to some technical problem.

On top of that BBC 2 lost its signal after a short while, and so it was not until I was 11 that I gained three channels and colour TV.

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watching telly -  old fashion family watching television set tv t.v  / 1950s / historical / children / home / lounge /
watching telly - old fashion family watching television set tv t.v / 1950s / historical / children / home / lounge /

TV then wasn’t a full time like it is now. We had to wait till well into the mid-morning to watch programmes such as Trumpton, Chigley, Camberwick Green, Bill and Ben, Mary, Mungo and Midge and many others I can’t recollect.

After that I think there was a short interlude where the TV went blank or at least showed the test card before Pebble Mill at One came on – not great viewing for a 5 or 6 year old.

I’m sure I learned many things subliminally from that programme.

However little did I know that in 1972 Sheffield was on the verge of something Channel 4 didn’t manage until November 1982.

Cablevision closes down - Cablevision, Sheffield, January 1976 Pictured is John Brand, Station General Manager

We as a city had our own TV channel, all about Sheffield.

However TV executives found it difficult to agree on how the new channel would be delivered, with discussions on the days of the week it would be aired and what the actual content would be.

The Conservative government of the day under Edward Heath gave the go-ahead for a pilot scheme for six local stations, providing 10 hours of programmes of purely local material.

One of the issues they faced was to find enough worthwhile content generated from a 20 square mile area.

Other obstacles which lay in the way of the station were part of the conditions. There would be no commercials permitted or old films and therefore the cost of running the channel would fall on the viewers via subscriptions.

Why was Sheffield chosen?

Barry King, managing director of cable company British Relay, said it was chosen out of 60 cities and towns where British Relay was established, for its strong scene of community.

“You are – please don’t take offence – something of a big village,” he said.

‘A big village’ is something I, and many Sheffielders pride themselves on, someone always knows someone who knows someone, in Sheffield.

“If the scheme could not work in Sheffield it wouldn't work anywhere,” he said.

The intention was to supply three hours ‘parish pump’ television daily, concentrating on news magazines programmes, with a little pure entertainment.

Sadly after launching on 29 August 1973, broadcasting from studios on Matilda Street, it closed in 1976 due to a lack of funds.

What great material the station would have generated for generations to view and enjoy. An intimate look at Sheffield and its people in moving pictures – a time capsule of the 70s.