A technical look at 21 years in Channel Television


Technical developments across Channel’s 21 years

Andrew Hearne
Andrew Hearne joined Channel in 1968 and is now the Technical Controller within the company

In 1962 when Channel Television went on the air, 16mm film was the industry standard for recording events. Not so today, at least as far as CTV is concerned. Channel Television was the first station in Europe to stop using film completely and go over to ENG (Electronic News Gathering) in 1979. But before we talk about the present set up let’s have a look at the Company’s growth since 1962.

The main studio in Jersey has a floor area of 1000 square feet and in 1962 had two television cameras equipped with four lenses on a turret, the one required being selected by the camera operator. The Presentation Studio had one camera. In the Technical Area there were two telecines, one equipped with projectors for 16mm film, 35mm film and slide transparencies, the other having only a 35mm film projector to start with, others were added later.

There was also a camera to show the station clock, to record the news and make features 16mm film cameras were used. There were two hand held cameras for mute work and two sound-on-film cameras, recording the sound on a magnetic stripe on the edge of the film, which was loaded in 400 foot magazines which held enough film for just over ten and a half minutes.

The film was processed at the station and edited on a simple picture synchronizer at the start, but, in late 1964 a film editing machine was purchased. By 1968 we had purchased a camera that could be used with a separate portable audio recorder. This method of working was called “Sep Meg” — short for separate magnetic sound — and meant that better quality audio could be recorded, and more sophisticated editing was possible.

By this time a larger film processor had been installed and also another film editing machine. During 1970 in the technical area the old audio cartridge machines used for commercials were replaced with more modern types.

In 1971 two more television cameras were purchased, one was for use in the Jersey Studio and the other in the Guernsey Studio — that gave us ‘live’ inserts in local programmes from Guernsey via a microwave link. These cameras were another step forward for us — they were the first all transistor types to arrive on the station.

Towards the end of 1974 the early stages of planning the conversion of the station to 625 line colour working began.

By then CTV was the only ITV company still originating its programmes in 405 lines, it meant a major re-wiring of the station, the change-over was a big job though – needing two kilometres of co-axial cable and a lot of new equipment.

Our studio vision mixer and presentation switcher were by this time long overdue for replacement — they were 13 years old and could only handle monochrome — black and white — pictures.

We found a British manufacturer who could build us new ones designed not only for colour, but able to work with the 405 line signal until the day we went colour. These were installed on Tuesday 19th August 1975, and involved most of CTV’s technical staff working all through the previous night. The operation went very well — until transmission time.

There was no sound reaching the transmitter at Fremont Point! It turned out an over enthusiastic trainee had removed the main sound output cable from the cable ducts along with all the unwanted ones. But everything was swiftly put right and the viewer was none the wiser.

Eleven months later, on July 26th 1976, CTV went on the air in colour, the IBA having provided a new link with the mainland, a considerable engineering feat. In the technical area a new colour telecine had been installed for news items which had in fact been shot on colour stock for some time previously but had only been shown in black and white.

The telecine also showed local adverts in colour. Local programmes continued in black and white until August 1977 when four colour cameras and a second colour telecine were purchased.

In 1978 a colour camera was purchased for the Guernsey studio, and the IBA provided a new microwave link to carry the colour signal to the Jersey studio.

Also in 1978, CTV was becoming interested in ENG and started looking at the “state of the art” equipment. This meant recording on video tape — something not new in the studio, but fairly new out in the field, and something CTV had not done at all up to then.

But by June 1979 the first ENG outfit was in operation and by November 1979 the third was in the field and the last 16mm film had been processed at the TV centre. In the four years since then CTV has continued to improve its facilities in all technical areas to ensure a good service to the Channel Islands.



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