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Early Cable TV in the UK

(October 2017)

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JO
Jon
Found this post in The Sport Thread interesting.

I think there were limited experiments with horse racing and films in the 1960s on the small scale cable systems in the UK. The government wouldn’t allow them to expand so it never developed from there.

I'm aware Cable TV has existed in some form in the UK for a long time.


My questions are, which areas had this? Technically how did it work? How did it get into homes (did they use set top boxes etc) and what channels were broadcasting on it and how would they have charged for PPV?
:-(
A former member
Swindon had it from 83, I believe Milton Keynes, part of Glasgow and London also had it in the mid 80s.
WO
Worzel
Of course some of the early Cable TV broadcasts were by/using British Relay Television.

There's a fascinating documentary/piece that's surfaced on YouTube about it:
LL
Larry the Loafer
I remember finding this a while back. It's a compilation of trailers and clips from Swindon Cable...



What confused me was whether Swindon Cable was a service, a channel, or both? It advertises the handful of channels you get access to, but there's a bunch of clips of what looks to be a channel solely for Swindon Cable.
BR
Brekkie
How common is cable across Europe? Obviously it's pretty much the primary broadcasting method in the US (and presumably Canada) whilst Foxtel in Australia is mainly delivered via cable rather than satellite too. Here though thanks I think mainly to competition issues it never really took off and has always been in the shadow of Sky.
WW
WW Update
How common is cable across Europe? Obviously it's pretty much the primary broadcasting method in the US (and presumably Canada) whilst Foxtel in Australia is mainly delivered via cable rather than satellite too. Here though thanks I think mainly to competition issues it never really took off and has always been in the shadow of Sky.


In many smaller European counties, pay-TV (cable and satellite combined) pretty much the default method of television distribution. Here in Slovenia, the most-watched commercial TV channel recently stopped over-the-air broadcasting altogether -- it reaches enough people via pay-TV and it gets money from cable systems (which pay more for it as a pay-TV-only channel).

According to THIS, pay-TV penetration exceeds 90 percent in the following European countries: Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Malta, Sweden, Romania, Denmark, and Portugal.

And HERE's a map showing the penetration of cable only (without satellite). Not all countries are included in this study, but of those that are, cable penetration exceeds 50 percent in the following: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Romania, and Sweden.

You'll note that the UK is among the countries with the lowest levels of cable penetration.
WW
WW Update
I should add that in Slovenia, satellite TV is common only in areas where cable TV is not available. The dominant cable and satellite services are run by the same company, and cable is a better deal, provides a faster internet service, and is seen as being less of a hassle (no need to clear your dish of snow all winter long, for instance).
GE
thegeek Founding member
We've had a few previous threads on this, with some great posts. See https://tvforum.uk/tvhome/analogue-cable-memories-41886/page-1 and https://tvforum.uk/tvhome/uk-cable-tv-days-sky-bsb-31302/
MA
mark Founding member
What confused me was whether Swindon Cable was a service, a channel, or both? It advertises the handful of channels you get access to, but there's a bunch of clips of what looks to be a channel solely for Swindon Cable.

It was both. It was a cable TV provider with its own local channel called Swindon's Local Channel. It was proper community programming - as you can see from the video, the BBC's local radio station supported it at one point.

The local programming lasted from the 80s until 2000, when Swindon Cable became NTL.
TJ
TedJrr
The early twisted pair networks persisted into the '80s

Rediffusion was a major operator. In order to subscribe, naturally, you rented your set from Rediffusion. Smaller towns (eg Grimsby) seemed to disappear with the migration to colour/UHF, but larger towns (eg Hull) were using the system for relay untill the mid-80's. In Hull the post 625 chane lineup was BBC1, BBC2, Anglia and Yorkshire. Post '74 Tyne-Tees substituted Anglia and Yorkshire became the Belmont version. The radio was certainly, Light, Home, Third and BBC Radio Humberside (Redifussion Channel "B"), not sure about Radio 1.

The technical distribution was to a (small) rotary switch selector, usually mounted in the window-frame. It connected to the TV, extending sound and vision separately. It seemed to be the case that there was no AF amplification, so when a radio channel was selected, the TV turned-off, but the speaker and volume control remained in cct.

Toward the end of the '80s Maxwell took over, and the systems were briefly re-aligned to deliver satellite of tape devived primary services rather than off-air.

Rather than being unobtrusive, thick cables ran everywhere, most noticeable at the end of terraces.
SC
scottishtv Founding member

Thanks for the links - some really great reading on those threads.
LL
Larry the Loafer
mark posted:

It was both. It was a cable TV provider with its own local channel called Swindon's Local Channel.


Thanks for that. There is one more question that pops into my head when I watch that video though.

Is it just me who thinks somebody is whispering "a brand new waitress" in that initial promo?

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