STV celebrates sixty years of broadcasting

It was sixty years ago today that STV – as Scottish Television – began broadcasting on the Independent Television service for Central Scotland. The northern service, originally known as Grampian Television, followed in 1961.

This Is Scotland – a variety special – was broadcast on Saturday 31st August 1957 from The Theatre Royal in Glasgow and over the six decades since STV has continued to entertain and inform coming a long way from those early black and white days, growing into Scotland’s leading digital business brand.

STV became nationally, and in some cases internationally known, thanks to its output for the regional ITV network originally independent companies spread across the UK providing local flavoured programming mixed with network offerings. Today STV is the last Channel 3 independent company standing, with UTV in Northern Ireland recently obtained by ITVplc; who also own all of the stations across England and Wales.

The first home of STV, the Theatre Royal in Glasgow.

Scottish Television was founded by Canadian newspaper magnate Roy Thomson with early popular offerings for Scotland bringing a mix of drama, entertainment, variety, factual and music to screens. The first offering, the live variety show, This Is Scotland brought the good and the great of the country’s top stage and screen talent to air including the final appearance of Jack Buchanan the renowned actor and entertainer. The variety theme continued with Jig Time, set in a studio barn, and The One O’clock Gang variety series based on ATV’s Lunchbox programme.

Network commissions however were also important to STV, for both recognition of being a successful production centre and also national exposure. The first ITV series commissioned was, in October 1957, This Wonderful World. Presented by John Grierson, the founder of the British documentary film movement, the factual magazine series saw Grierson bringing topics of interest from across the globe into viewers homes. The production would run for a decade. In 1962 it was comedy that became seen not just on STV but several other ITV regions too with The Adventures of Francie and Josie. Scottish comedians Jack Milroy starred as Francie and Rikki Fulton as Josie. Scottish Television was also never afraid to tackle issues, and bring controversial content to screen. In 1967 documentary The Bowler and the Bunnet saw actor Sean Connery direct and present the programme which cast a critical eye over the operating of the Fairfield Shipyard in Glasgow.

Time for a dance, 10 O’clock sharp with Jig Time in the old barn.

Other popular factual included the long running out and about series Weirs Way which saw climber, author and broadcaster Tom Weir travel around Scotland exploring its landscape, natural history and meeting its people. Children’s series, many produced for CITV, included activity game show Funhouse, hosted by radio DJ Pat Sharp,  later episodes of informative know-how series How2 with Fred Dinenage and entertainment slot The Glen Michael Cavalcade. STV also made several contributions to the children’s storytelling series Dramarama, which gave viewers an early sighting of David Tennant.

It was of course the networked drama and soap opera which made STV a household brand across the UK for many years with village based saga Take The High Road proving popular with daytime ITV audiences. The series, launched in 1980, would run until 2003 making it Scotland’s longest running soap. Based in the fictional dwelling of Glendarroch, near the real Loch Lomond, the storylines followed the everyday lives of the villagers, from the lowly cottage residing gossip to the lord of the manor. High Road followed on from a previously successful Scottish Television serial Garnock Way, which ran from 1976 to 1979.

Home of the big shows, STV’s Glasgow Cowcaddens base.

The best known drama from not just STV, but arguably Scotland, is Taggart which starred for its first twelve years the late Mark McManus in the title role of Jim Taggart. Dealing with grusome crimes in Glasgow city, the show gave us ‘there’s been a murder’ spoken in a strong Glaswegian accent. It’s notoriety with the show lead to the 2003 20th anniversary documentary being simply titled There’s Been A Murder!.

After the death of Mark, in 1994, with his final episode airing in early 1995, Taggart continued through to 2010 as an ensemble piece, and while still hugely successful, it was never quite the same without the wit and dour presence of Jim Taggart. Following in the vein of Taggart in 2000 STV launched Rebus which was lead by John Hannan. The drama, which ran until 2007 was based on the Inspector Rebus novels by the Scottish author Ian Rankin.

Earlier this year STV added a further extension to its service launching STV2, which expanded upon previously launched ‘city stations’ on the Local TV network. The secondary STV network saw Scotland gain its first international, national and local news programme all in one with the debut of STV News Tonight.

While the party maybe taking place at the STV Glasgow studios tonight, the north of Scotland wouldn’t be served by Independent Television until 1961 – when Grampian TV took to the air, this service is now part of the STV empire operating as STV North.

STV’s current home on the southbank of the river Clyde in Glasgow.

STV Hall of Fame

John Grierson presents STV’s first network programme, This Wonderful World.

Take the High Road proved to be Scotland’s longest running soap opera. It followed on from Garnock Way.

Mark McManus, as Jim Taggart, and Glasgow became the stars of crime drama Taggart.

Despite Mark’s death in 1994, Taggart went on without him until 2010.

Spin to win, John Leslie and Jenny Powell brought viewers Wheel of Fortune, originally fronted by Nicky Campbell and Carol Smilie.
Children’s programmes proved popular for STV with Fun House, later editions of How2 and The Glen Michael Cavalcade.

Tom Weir presented Weirs Way for many years.

STV News at Six presenter John MacKay with weatherman Sean Batty.

1967 and Sean Connery fronts a controversial factual documentary for STV.

STV News Tonight, the first international, national and regional news programme for Scotland airs on STV2 with Halla Mohieddeen.

STV Productions bring programmes to other networks screens including Antiques Roadtrip for the BBC.

STV revived old TVS game show Catchphrase, this time fronted by Stephen Mulhern.

Billy Connolly was just one of many comedians to appear on STV. (Pictured on LWT’s an Audience With).
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2 thoughts on “STV celebrates sixty years of broadcasting

  1. Just watched thingummyjig for the first time since a wee girl loved it , it brought back so many memories brilliant , I hope your showing the Francie and Josie show well done for showing a blast from the past.

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