Webpage created: July 10, 2019
Webpage updated: July 10, 2019
WESTWARD TELEVISION COMPANY LIMITED
The franchise for the coverage of the South West peninsula was offered on October 14th 1959. It attracted twelve applicants, including Associated Rediffusion, who were already piping radio into Plymouth. Eventually the proposal drawn up by Mr Peter Cadbury was selected by the Government and awarded the franchise.
Westward Television Company started broadcasting on April 29th 1961 from a transmitter at Stockland Hill. There was no opening ceremony, just networked programmes until 11pm, when "Hello from Westward" was shown, followed by a local "Epilogue" from the Bishop of Exeter. The only real excitement came from a travelling exhibition -- by railway, no less -- which visited 23 locations to give everybody a flavour of what Westward was hoping to be about.
Westward constructed a brand new studio complex at Derry's Cross, Plymouth, which ended up costing over £500,000, a lot more than envisaged. They immediately hit financial problems. Added to this, the local audience remained far more loyal to the British Broadcasting Corporation than had been experienced in other areas. The result was a 25% reduction in the technical staff employed at the Plymouth studios.
The Company did foster good relations with the local community and eventually earned top marks as being the friendliest station. It was also thought to be the most amateur, which was not good with officialdom but probably accounted for its friendly reputation. Your author, then aged 14, appeared on "Westward Diary" at 6.15pm on Friday May 11th 1962, when he and his partners in a local magazine, Brian Bishop and John Crimp, were interviewed live by Mr Reginald Bosanquet, who went on to become a newsreader on ITN's "News at Ten". It was an afternoon off school and each got paid £3 3s as well!
However, the good, formative years, soon gave way to wrangles in the board-room. Mr Cadbury had, it is claimed, upset the Chief Executive of Plymouth City Council, the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall and many other local bodies, and one of the other directors claimed that Mr Cadbury was a liability. The Board sacked him even though he had 60% of the voting shares and the staff wanted him to stay. This upheaval coincided with the Independent Broadcasting Authority's regular round of franchise awards, when Westward lost their contract.
The new franchise was awarded to Television South West, who took over in August 1981 but continued to broadcast under the Westward name until the official launch on January 1st 1982.
While Westward gave birth to many who went on to greater things, its most famous "son" was Gus Honeybun, the station's mascot. Helped by his Uncles (Roger Shaw, Stuart Hutchison, Ian Sterling or David Fitzgerald) and Aunts (Sheila Kennedy, Sally Meen, Ruth Langsford or Judi Spiers), who read out the children's' birthdays, Augustus would do bunny hops, wink and play with his "Magic Button", which made strange patterns appear on the screen or turn the studio lights out. He continued to appear when Television South West took over in 1982 but was retired when Westcountry Television took over the franchise in 1993.