MHPPick of the Continuity Announcements

Engineering Information Bulletins

Engineering Information programmes were broadcast by both the BBC and ITA/IBA during the 1960s, 70s and 80s and were intended for the trade to find out which transmitters were undergoing maintenance and when new transmitters would come on line. They were regularly scheduled "ghost" programmes, as they never appeared in programme listings, or for example the Radio Times.

BBC "Service Information"

The BBC programmes went under title "Service Information" and originated on BBC2 in the late sixties. There were three broadcasts a day, Monday to Friday at 10am, 11.30am (after Play School) and 2.30pm. The theme music was called "Walk and Talk". The main bulletin was the first in the morning, the later ones were short updates of which transmitters were being serviced. "Service Information" introduced those members of the general public to the terms "Reduced Power" and "Liable to Interruptions"

In the seventies, after the three day week, Service Information was reduced to one programme once a day at 10.30am. It is clear from my postbag that a lot of people tuned in to see this programme, despite it not officially existing. It typically lasted only five minutes, but the Thursday programme was often extended, and in addition to the regular transmitter news, they had a "feature" about some new technology or event. Stereo FM radio, teletext, experiments with stereo television sound, and the possibility of dual language transmissions were some of the topics I remember being covered.

"Walk and Talk" remained the theme tune until Sept 1978, when it was replaced by "Swirly". This was a delightful electronic tune, by Roger Limb of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

This RealAudio clip is the announcement in 1969 on Service Information that BBC1 Colour transmissions were due to begin. Play Now! Download
0:50 100K
This RealAudio clip is also from 1969, and announces the arrival of BBC UHF television on the Mendip transmitter. Play Now! Download
0:54 106K

In the eighties, Ceefax had a regular Engineering Information page, which duplicated much of the content of the regular Service Information programme. It was not surprising that eventually the programme was dropped, as daytime TV encroached. Does anyone know the exact date it ended? One thing that Ceefax cannot show however, are the neat little coverage maps that demonstrated the service area of each new relay transmitter.

IBA "Engineering Announcements"

The ITA, soon to be the IBA, started their programme "Engineering Announcements" was first broadcast at 9.45 am on November 23, 1970 when it was networked on ITV after `Mondays Newcomers' (a magazine programme showing the first run of new advertisements).

In September 1972 it moved to Tuesdays at 9.10 am where it remained for 11 years. The words "Crawley Court" shall be remembered by many who tuned in to the delightful Gilbert and Sullivan piece that was played at the start. Engineering Announcements had a slightly more "magazine" programme feel than the BBC offering, and they regularly had on screen presenters, however it was only once a week. We have a very short RealAudio sound clip of the opening announcement. Play Now! Download
0:09 19K

During the industrial dispute in the summer of 1979, Engineering Announcements was the only programme on the ITV network, the sole break from the white on blue caption displayed throughout the dispute.

In 1983, with TV-am ready to launch breakfast television, "Engineering Announcements" transferred to Channel 4, at the same time of 9.15am on Tuesdays with a repeat at 12.15pm. With the expansion of programme hours, it has was progressively moved earlier to its final resting spot of 5.45 am.

In 1990, the IBA was abolished, to be replaced by the ITC, the Radio Authority and a privatised transmission company (NTL).

The final `normal' edition of Engineering Announcements was broadcast on C4 at 5.45 a.m. on 24th July 1990, followed by a farewell edition on 31st July 1990 and a sort of NTL corporate video on 7th August 1990.

NTL continued to maintain Engineering Information pages on Oracle, until they lost the teletext franchise in 1992.

Thanks to Mike Brown, we can bring you can now hear an entire edition of Engineering Announcements, in RealAudio. You can choose to download and save or play online all ten minutes of this edition from 1989. It  features the launch of the BSB rocket and previews the introduction of NICAM. Play Now! Download
10:20 1210K

 

If network time is slow or expensive, you can just listen to the opening theme of the above edition. Play Now! Download
0:25 49K

 

Our second edition of Engineering Announcements is brought to you in RealVideo (yes - that's with pictures.) Again it is a complete edition, and therefore again it is very large.

It is 11 mins 5 secs long, and features information about weather related reception problems, describing the basics of co-channel interference and will be of particular interest to TV DXers.

Play Now! Download
11:05 2089K
Our third edition of Engineering Announcements is quite a historic one, as it was the first programme on ITV to be broadcast in NICAM digital stereo. The programme describes in detail what NICAM is and how it works. The programme lasts over 13 minutes and includes the classical music before the programme. Play Now! Download
13:15 3560K
The above information has been pieced together from my memories, and those of various contributors who either emailed me or posted to the various newsgroups in response to my requests for memories. If you have something to add or correct, then please get in touch, either by email to darren@meldrum.co.uk or via mhp-chat

Pick of the Continuity Announcements

Last Update 06 Apr 2000