Community cable experiments
Five community cable television experiments were authorised by the UK's Minister for Posts and Telecommunications in 1972. The first to begin operations was Greenwich Cablevision in south-east London on 2 July 1972. Five weeks later, on 9 August, the Minister authorised four more stations—at Bristol, Sheffield, Swindon and Wellingborough. Three of these were to be run by major players in the potential cable television industry that might result from these trials: respectively Rediffusion, British Relay and EMI (with its Radio Rentals cable system). A local independent operator, Wellingborough Traders Television Relay, was granted the fifth licence.
Bristol Channel began transmissions on the Rediffusion network on 17 May 1973, followed by Sheffield Cablevision on 29 August and Swindon Viewpoint on 11 September. Wellingborough did not begin until 18 February 1974. Other experiments were subsequently licensed on the coaxial network at Milton Keynes and in the Vale of Leven in Dumbartonshire, Scotland.
Bristol was the first to close, on 14 March 1975. By 1 September 1975, when only Sheffield and Greenwich were still operating, they were allowed to sell advertising time. Sheffield kept going until 2 January 1977.
Swindon was one of the locations for subsequent pay TV experiments (6 November 1981) and two more years later, on 29 November 1983, was among the first 11 broadband franchises allocated by the Home Office.
Despite a commitment to providing a local channel being a sine qua non of applications for broadband cable licences from then on, very few ever materialised and none survived. It took the development of video streaming on the internet to begin to fulfil that promise.
Image source: Terra Media Archives
Return to previous page