In the beginning…


The exciting days getting Channel on the air

Ken Killip, OBE, Channel’s retiring managing director

Ken Killip
Ken Killip: ‘No one present will ever forget our opening’

ABOUT Easter 1961 Howard Thomas, Managing Director of ABC Television where I was working at the time, asked if I would help start a new television service in Jersey. Mr Thomas said his friends, Senators George Troy and Wilfred Krichefski had been awarded the Independent Television Authority’s contract for the Channel Islands and they had asked if our company could provide a technical advisory service and bring them on the air.

So my family and I found ourselves residents of the beautiful Island of Jersey in June of that year. My contract was for a three year stay — that was twenty-six years ago!

How to start was the question. The company comprised a board of directors under the Chairman, George Troy and around 300 shareholders who were doubtless impressed by Lord Thomson of Fleet’s famous statement that an ITV contract was a ‘licence to print money.’ Alas, they were soon to be disillusioned.

It was to be ten years before the company could pay its first dividend and a long trail before it achieved the present financial stability.

As a first step it was essential to establish our earning capacity in order to set a limit to the amount that could be spent. A simple calculation indicated our anticipated advertising revenue (we had no other source of funds as all television licence revenue goes to the BBC). Our population was one fifth of that of the next smallest ITV company (Border TV, at Carlisle) and they were not yet in profit. We were 0.2% of the UK population and our income could be expected to be in like proportion.

Despite our meagre income, we were required under the ITA contract to establish ourselves as a financially independent unit and to provide a fully balanced programme service including a reasonable proportion of home produced material.

It was obvious that a very cost effective method of producing television programmes would have to evolve if the station were to survive.

The Board of Channel did not waver when faced with these unpleasant facts, as under the confident leadership of George Troy there could be no thought other than success.

It was fortunate that Channel could rely on the support of ABC Television, and the Chief Engineer Howard Steel turned his considerable talents and technical resources to our problem. Together we planned a studio centre that could operate with the minimum of staff and meagre resources. A site was purchased and building work commenced in December of 1961.

ABC Network

The ITA had by this time completed their technical plans, and the transmitter building at Fremont Point was well advanced, as was the reception and relay centre in Alderney. The ITA were responsible for the reception and transmission of our signals and our network feed of mainstream ITV programmes. They had to overcome many unique problems concerned with the long distance path over the sea and they should be congratulated on the excellence of their engineering work.

But what about Guernsey? Three of our seven directors were Guernsey residents and Edward Collas, Eric Bodman and Gervaise Peek made sure that the interests of their Bailiwick would not be overlooked.

It was clearly impossible for a studio of the size and complexity of the Jersey centre to be duplicated in Guernsey as there were insufficient funds, and in any event the ITA transmitter was sited in Jersey. In resolving this problem the Board set a pattern that continues until this day. Guernsey was to be provided with equal filming facilities to those in Jersey, together with a full reporting and technical team.

Channel was unique and it was obvious that a new and more flexible approach to staffing would be required.

It was clear we could not afford the departmentalisation that was normal in other stations and would need to maintain flexibility at all levels in the company structure. It was decided therefore to recruit and train local people wherever possible.

We were fortunate that my friend and colleague Brian Turner, sadly now deceased, was persuaded to join us from ABC and together with Jim Dale, the only other person who had studio experience, we set to the task of recruiting and training a staff of some 50 people towards the day that they would be called on to put their newly gained skills to the test.

At the same time we were building a specially designed studio to the plans of a Belfast Architect Brian Hewitt, who had specialist knowledge of TV station design, and it is to the immense credit of CW Construction that it was completed on time, so that Brian Turner and the ABC Television engineers could install our cameras, film projectors and specialized master control equipment.

It says much for the quality of our local youth, both men and girls, that so much was achieved by them in such a short time. The company’s policy of local recruitment and training has continued and we take satisfaction in our achievement of introducing so many local youngsters to a career in broadcasting.

Many have left to pursue careers in England and abroad with considerable success, and we have been well served by those who stayed and are now reaching important managerial and other positions within our own organization.

ONE week to go and our Founder Chairman, Senator George Troy invited all the staff to a party. This was a memorable event and the last occasion that everyone would be free to get together, as a crew is on duty every day of the year. No one present, however, will ever forget our opening on September 1, 1962.

Prompt at 5 pm we went on air, and our Chairman, after a brief opening statement, introduced our first programme, The Adventures of Robin Hood. Announcing duties were then passed on to Francis Hamon, who with June Allez, was soon to present Puffin to an astonished world.

September 1 was the climax to months of hard work and the shaping of our crew who were new to the world of TV. Ward Rutherford was Head of News and Features, Michael Parkin our London-based Head of Sales, Edward Baker, the Company Secretary, and Brian Turner was Operations Manager. We were 50 in total and about to embark on the adventure of our lives.

Three only remain of that initial team, some having retired, some having left to work in television in the UK and abroad, but all must be proud of the achievement of bringing to life television’s smallest self-contained and independent operation.

Small we remain, but it is difficult to recognise the company and its programme output that sprang from our low key introduction.

With a staff of one hundred, our output has quadrupled and is of a quality to match the best of network production in our specialist field of external reporting.

A woman looks towards the viewer, whilst inset a man looks into a camera
Channel’s first two announcers: June Allez and (inset) Francis Hamon

John Henwood who succeeds me as Managing Director, supported by Michael Le Cocq, Marketing Director; Andrew Hearne, Technical Controller; Euan MacGregor, Finance Director; Rosie Mathew, Company Secretary; Michael Lucas, Head of Local Programmes; and Bob Evans who heads our Production Unit.

The company is well set to meet the challenge of the next decade and beyond. We have invested in the latest of electronic wizardry, and staff in all departments have retrained and trained again with enthusiasm and zest to get the best and most efficient use out of the new equipment. Our new base at La Pouquelaye will come into operation during the next twelve months and the Technical Department is well advanced with plans to make it a showpiece of our industry.

The past 25 years have been exciting and fun — I’m sure the next will match it in achievement and I wish John Henwood and his crew the best of luck in a period that will at least match the challenge of the past.


The Lee Barnard Collection in the Transdiffusion Archives

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