Film unit spotted in city

KEEN-eyed Bradfordian Ray Banyard spotted this Yorkshire Television Outside Broadcast Unit (OBU) parked in Hall Ings. “I was walking past and thought it was interesting so I took a few pictures,” he says. “I can’t remember what year it was but the vehicle registration might be a clue. I think it may have been in the 1970s.

I don’t know what they were filming but it will have been something in St George’s Hall, maybe wrestling.” That tallies with the ‘R’ registration plate on the passing car in this photograph. The OBU itself dates back to 1968, the year Yorkshire Television was launched.

In July 1968 the North of England ITV region was split into two, the North West (Granada TV) and Yorkshire (Yorkshire TV). Previously, Granada TV had the weekday contract for both regions with ABC TV having the weekend contract for the North of England as well as the Midlands. As part of their fleet, North of England ITV acquired two Marconi-built Outside Broadcast trucks.

Originally painted in ‘Yorkshire Gold’ with a pale green base, they were built in the Marconi New Street factory, a manufacturing plant in Chelmsford, Essex which was the world’s first purpose-built radio factory. The chassis is a Bedford KML and the bodywork – made from corrosion-resistant aircraft-grade duralumin – was made by RTS of Hackney. One of these trucks – not the one pictured – was later passed to the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) who used it to make training videos.

It was later used for the same purpose by London-based Harefield Hospital Television who had much the same plans but the equipment was outdated and it was eventually used as a store room outside their studios. In recent years this truck has been restored and has appeared on TV and at various events. The history of the OBU at ITV dates back to 1955 when the company received the go-ahead to start transmission.

The new ITV regional companies scrambled to get the necessary equipment to fulfil their pledges to provide the programmes set out in their submissions to the Independent Television Authority. Marconi and Pye were already supplying outside broadcast units to the BBC as well as exporting units to the world market. Suddenly they had a new market in Britain and rose to the occasion by supplying a total of 18 Outside Broadcasting Units and anciliary equipment to allow the fledgeling ITV companies to bring live programmes from all over the UK.

Unlike the bespoke units delivered to the BBC, many of the ITV OBUs were of a standard design. The photographs supplied by Ray are also interesting in that some of them include a T&A delivery van painted in the old livery. As many readers will remember, before they were white, the distinctive vans used to be painted yellow, with Telegraph & Argus written on them in black lettering.

Like New York’s famous taxi cabs, you could spot them a long way off.

Helen Mead

You may also like...