No trade test on Sundays

Occasionally an old clip of what was once unremarkable everyday television provides a gateway into another world. A piece of continuity which has surfaced from a Sunday morning in June 1974 does just that. A time when life was not so different but also so very different.

The clip shows the end of an adult education programme for trade unionists. This in itself is fascinating.

To some today, this may seem a sign of political bias. In fact, the essential role of trade unions representing the interests of workers was broadly accepted by almost all in mainstream politics. The problem was when individual unions or disputes got out of hand.

But for pres fans, the bonus is what happens afterwards. The gap until the next programme lasts 20 minutes so you might think it’s time for the test card and music. Wrong. Instead, a complete closedown follows. Presumably almost 20 minutes of black and tone were in store.

VIDEO: BBC One junction. TX DATE/TIME: Sunday 9th June 1974. SUPPLIED BY: YouTube Channel – Kaleidoscope’s Presentation Vault. COPYRIGHT: BBC.

But the reason, when you think about it, is obvious.

The test card was not designed for viewers, although those of a certain disposition may well have known how to use it to adjust the brightness or tuning. The trade test transmissions were, as the name suggests, for the trade. The test card tested aspects of a receiver that were dangerous to untrained hands.

In 1974 the law prohibited most shops in England and Wales from opening on Sunday. In practice they remained closed across the UK. The idea of service engineers routinely working on a Sunday would have been unthinkable too. No good employer, except in an essential service, would expect someone to work on Sunday.

So trade test transmissions would have been deemed pointless. Later on the test card and then Ceefax did start to fill Sunday gaps.  But this clip is a little reminder that if isn’t simply television which has changed since 1974.



PICTURED: BBC One clock (1974). SUPPLIED BY: YouTube Channel - Kaleidoscope's Presentation Vault. COPYRIGHT: BBC.

Posted by Andrew Nairn

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