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THE TRANSMISSION GALLERY

TALES FROM A COLD FIELD

Being fairy-stories told to the author as a young engineer
© Ray Cooper, 2005 (2nd revised edition, Jan 2006)

The "Robinsons" Complain

The powers-that-were obviously entertained the belief that the main vision programme feed, provided by the (then) Post Office, was going to be unreliable, and to cope with this, two monoscope installations had been provided, one producing Test Card C, the other the now famous legend "Normal Service will be Resumed as soon as Possible", in lovely curly lettering. There were also 78rpm turntable desks, and a suitable selection of pre-recorded apologetic messages by a BBC announcer.

But in addition to all this, there was a complete 35mm film telecine channel - probably the only one ever installed at a BBC transmitting site. To feed this machine, there were copies of the Trade (Demonstration) films that were all the rage in those days. To those who have never met these films, it must be said that programme hours in those days were relatively low, and those mostly in the evening. To assist the trade, demonstration films interleaved with test card were radiated in the mornings, usually between the hours of ten and twelve, and sometimes in the afternoons if there was no programme material to be had. If the P.O. link broke, or required maintenance, Sutton could radiate its own trade programme using its monoscope and film channel.

The Trade film was however not of much use when the link broke on programme. Accordingly, a complete copy of the film "Swiss Family Robinson" had been provided. This was left laced-up on the telecine machine - in the event of the incoming programme failing, the bod on the desk would get on the blower to the P.O. and find out how long it was likely to stay off. If the report was discouraging, the telecine machine would then grind into action.

Unfortunately, failures of this kind always put the P.O. on their mettle, and they usually succeeded in getting the link back well before the film ended. The rule governing this circumstance was quite plain - "the advertised programme will be radiated" - so the "Robinsons" would have to be unceremoniously chopped, and the original programme reverted to. This, of course, meant that further complaints from people who were getting quite interested in the film replacement would be added to the volume of 'phone calls complaining of loss of the advertised programme. This was very much a no-win situation.

I don't think that "Robinson" was ever screened in its entirety.

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