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Updated: Apr 13, 2020


The time is 10a.m. The day is today, or rather any day between Monday and Friday. In a big, paper-strewn room at ATV's Midland headquarters in Edmund Street, Birmingham, Raymond Joss, one-time R.A.F. flight-lieutenant, prepares for a briefing.

So, too, does Tony Parker, wartime Spitfire pilot. Dan Douglas, ex-Army sergeant, speaks and the illusion of service life is dispelled.

"We still need a hard item," says Douglas.

The briefing is the conference that takes place each weekday. The conference at which the production team of ATV Today assess their assets and remedy their deficits.

On this day Raymond Joss, producer of the programme, had been totting up the day's assets.

Jennifer Gay was to introduce a film about animals in Africa, farming correspondent Leslie Thomas was with a film unit at Stoneleigh Abbey and anchor-man Kenneth Hill was due to leave his chair and take a lesson in The Gonk.

As programme editor Dan Douglas pointed out, the magazine urgently needed a hard news item to give it balance.

"I was wondering about Alex Griffiths, the Midland boxing promoter who believes promotions are being threatened by the sport being over-exposed on television," said Joss. The idea found no immediate takers. Tony Parker, director of that night's edition (co-director David Scott and a camera team were climbing the clock tower of Birmingham Council House) was concerning himself with the time schedule.

The programme had to be timed to the second. Only Palladium Show contestants can beat the clock.

"This Leslie Thomas film that's being shot today - is it topical?" he asked. Editor Douglas confirmed that it was.

"Perhaps we could use it tomorrow," said Joss. "Have we contacted the Tyrolean people?"

He turned to senior production assistant Barbara ~tkins. "Have we cleared the music copyright, Barbara?" he asked. She nodded.

What's The Gonk?

Douglas came in again. "The Gonk is cleared, too," he said.

"I'm not at all sure what The Gonk is," replied Joss. Reporter David Lloyd had the answer: "It's a new dance."

Lionel Hampden, another reporter on the team, was still puzzled. "I can't see where Kenneth Hill comes into it." he complained.

"He's going to learn how to do it," said Joss.

It was time to bring the conference back to the day's most urgent need - a hard item.

David Lloyd suggested a follow-up on a report that Birmingham had the highest proportion of alcoholics and drug addicts in the country.

Producer Joss made a tentative proposal for an item on the sale of contraceptives at Keele University.

Not at 6.15

He asked the opinion of Mr. Philip Dorté, ATV's Midland Controller, who had just entered the room. Mr. Dorté paced the floor slowly, shaking his head.

Mr. Dorté shook his head again. "No, not at 6.15. There's no question about it. You could do it after 10 p.m., but definitely not at 6.15."

Editor Douglas brought the discussion back to its starting point. "It looks like Alex Griffiths, then."

Joss picked up the telephone. "I want you to get me Gary Loftus in Manchester," he said.

While Joss spoke to ITV boxing expert Gerry Loftus, David Lloyd was elected referee of the coming verbal sparring match with promoter Griffiths.

Loftus said the contest would have to take place at long range. He could not get to Birmingham in time from a studio in Manchester. Director Parker ordered the necessary sound and vision links with Manchester.

Seconds and minutes ticked away and became hours. A first rehearsal took place, then it was time for the dress run-through.

Half and hour later, with Mr. Griffiths in the studio, it was time for the final check.

Another 15 minutes and it was all over for another day.

At one stage in the early part of the programme it seemed that the Griffiths-Loftus contest would have time for nothing else. But Jennifer Gay did show her animal film, Leslie Thomas did deliver his farming report and Kenneth Hill did take his lesson in The Gonk.

Tony Parker permitted himself a look at satisfaction at drawing his contest with the clock.

Tomorrow is another Today. It may be Tony Parker who does battle with the clock; it may be David Scott.

Whoever it is, they cannot win. All they can hope for is a honourable draw - and a good show.

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