The 50th birthday of Emmerdale this month also marks the golden anniversary of regular afternoon television.
It seems incredible to think that the idea of afternoon entertainment was once considered controversial.
Until 1972 television broadcasting hours were limited by law.
The rule was designed to protect the BBC – the argument was that any extension to ITV’s hours would need to be matched by BBC One so would either mean resources being stretched or a higher licence fee.
But by 1972 the rule must have looked to some like the nanny state in action – protecting the public from the dangers of watching too much television and not knowing how to use the off switch.
The rule was scrapped in January 1972 in part to compensate what was still the ITA and the ITV companies for the decision not to proceed at that point with a fourth channel.
But there was no significant change to the schedules until the autumn.
The IBA (as it had just become) ensured the extension to ITV’s hours provided a proper balance of viewing. The introduction of weekday afternoon viewing was the most significant development.
But as well as soaps like Emmerdale Farm and General Hospital there was much more.
A lunchtime news bulletin, pre-school programmes, programmes from the smaller regions with little access to the network, repeats of prestigious evening programmes, magazine features.
It seems incredible it took so long.
The BBC had some afternoon programmes in the 50s and early 60s, often explicitly aimed at women. Many ITV regions had cheap but popular lunchtime variety shows in their early days.
Nobody could pretend a market for afternoon TV did not exist.
Interestingly when the restrictions were lifted (with little meaningful criticism) some papers spoke of “all day” television. Of course, this took another decade-and-a-half.
The weekend schedule also benefited – the relaxation allowed LWT to launch the Sunday current affairs programme Weekend World.
ITV never looked back but the BBC’s attitude to weekday afternoon TV for many years was a sad reflection on the corporation’s financial state.
It was not for want of effort or concern by individuals.
The week before ITV unleashed a full afternoon schedule, the BBC quietly launched Pebble Mill at One. The magazine show ran for 14 years and was greatly valued by its viewers.
Efforts were made to cheaply fill in gaps in the rest of the afternoon schedule but afternoon closedowns didn’t disappear entirely.
By 1974 the BBC was trying to make a few original mid-afternoon programmes until disaster struck. Abandoning the afternoons back to the test card was one solution to a BBC cash crisis intensified by runaway inflation.
It took until 1983 for the BBC to regularly start offering afternoon entertainment only for history to repeat itself soon afterwards.
When the BBC finally launched an official daytime service in 1986, it would have been hard not to wonder if it was really there to stay as promised.
Today 24-hour TV is taken for granted. But the impact of the 1972 extension to hours should not be overlooked. It was a milestone in TV history.
It brought a lot of pleasure to people at home during the day – especially the old, the housebound and shiftworkers. People who could often be overlooked and who should not be classed alongside square-eyed couch potatoes.
PICTURED: BBC One programme menu (1980). SUPPLIED BY: YouTube Channel - Treffynnon19.