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ATV News Sheet December 1966

Slotted between ITN News and ATV today in the TV World you’ll find eight minutes of Midlands News. This is the nightly Monday to Friday regional programme which reports the dramatic, the unusual and the bread-and-butter happenings in the giant Midland Region.

As news it’s unique – because it’s the oldest regional bulletin in Independent Television. And the claim has often been made that many other regional news organisation have been modelled on the format established in Birmingham on May 7, 1956.

Admittedly things have changed a lot since those days. The early bulletins were compiled at the offices of the now defunct Birmingham Evening Despatch. One of the journalists was Reg Harcourt –now a stalwart of ATV Today- who for many years worked as a reporter and subeditor on the news at Edmund Street.

But before Reg quit newspapers for television Bob Gillman had joined the organisation. For some time he handled the programme on his own and eventually led a team of thee –the newcomer being Tim Downes.

That was in 1961. Tim had been working for a news agency in Leicester and came to ATV at the age of nineteen. He’s still here –still on the news- and what’s more he’s still the youngest member of the news team.

Two of the other are relative newcomers. Paul Dunstan joined last December and John Wilford in January of this year. Both have newspaper backgrounds and this has been a policy which ATV has pursued over the years –to keep the news bulletin in the hands of trained journalists.

Mike Warman leads the present four-man team. His newspaper training was done mainly in Staffordshire. Although the bulletin is very much a team effort someone has to coordinate the operation and this is Mike’s job. He’s responsible to programme editor Bob Gillman and producer Donald Shingler.

The area covered by the bulletin runs from Chesterfield in the north to Marlborough in the south. It’s an area which contains some of the most heavily industrialised places in Britain- and vast areas of rural agricultural communities. In fact it serves an audience of nearly two and a half million homes.

To cope with this ATV employ more than a hundred correspondents who submit each day the best stories from their particular area. These are then sifted by the news team and a balanced selection is given out in the bulletin.

Some days there are enough good stories to more than fill the allotted eight minutes –on other days it seems on the surface as if the Midland Region is completely inactive. But, but the time the news is transmitted, invariably a crop of interesting stories have found their way to Edmund Street and, because the programme can be adapted right up to the moment of transmission, it’s quite possible for Midlands News to “scoop” newspapers over a story.

Another important role is co-ordination with ITN. Midlands News reporters keep an eye open for stories which may be of national interest and ITN often take advantage of this facility.

Behind the scenes at Edmund street is a team of three girls who do the secretarial work, typing and copy-typing for the bulletin. Bridget Griffiths leads this team-behind-the-team with Gwendoline Powell and Mrs Sue Morris. And there’s yet another girl on the team –the despatch rider known to everyone as Tex. Every night she’s charged with the vital duty of delivering the news from Edmund Street to the Alpha Studio.

If there’s a main policy behind the Midlands News it’s one of adaptability. The format has changed a lot in the past ten years and there’s no doubt at all that there’ll be changes in the future.

But this is desirable and inevitable. The essence of news is immediacy and the team’s main concern is to get the best stories as quickly as possible.

Well that’s the news. Now the weather…

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