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A Potted History of ITA Trade Test Transmissions
by Alan Keeling

My first sighting of ITA Test Card C was in 1957, at the tender age of four. We lived in Cwmbran, Monmouthshire, and our old 14" KB TV set received TWW and rather grainy Midland ATV reception. It was one rainy afternoon when my father and a neighbour adjusted our roof aerial. On the screen appeared a hazy Test Card C, bearing the black ident letters ITA LICHFIELD.

Until the summer of 1961 I was fairly well ‘hooked’ on BBC trade tests and would occasionally switch to ITA when the BBC broadcast its tone. It was also around this period in time that a neighbour employed by Radio Rentals informed me that the music accompanying ITA trade tests were commercially available long-playing, and occasionally EP, records, so my enthusiasm for ITA music began to increase.

On occasional ‘switching over’, on Saturday mornings, I would sometimes catch Elite Syncopations (Chris Barber's Jazz Band) or the Karelia Suite by Sibelius (an EP), and my lunchtime favourite, Second to None (Marches by the Band of the Royal Scots Greys).

By the autumn of 1961 I had permanently switched over to ITA. At 10 AM, Test Card C would appear with tone, followed by a minute of silence, then at 10.06 Dixieland Jazz by the Beale Street Buskers, which would fade out at 10.30, to be replaced by the tone, at which point the test card would be replaced for 15 minutes by a scenic view of a seven-arched bridge. Then after a couple of hours consisting of Offenbach's Gaietie Parisienne, a Satin Affair with George Shearing, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Bill McGuffie's piano with Show Tunes, another favourite LP would be placed on the transmitter's turntable at 12.36 PM, none other than Carefree with Percy Faith and his orchestra (for some odd reason, only the first four tracks were played).

From six minutes past one until four-thirty, artistes like Stanley Black, Dave Brubeck, Pepe Jaramillo, Carmen Cavallero, as well as Strauss waltzes, ending after 4 PM with Beethoven's Emperor piano concerto (Vienna Philharmonic).

Two paragraphs back I mentioned a scenic view; in fact this view was one of a number of slides supplied to ITA transmitters up and down the country. These slides consisted of local regional landmarks or monuments (e.g. London: Tower Bridge or Waterloo Bridge, with the Sphinx statue in the foreground) and were radiated intermittently with the test card, to allow dealers to demonstrate picture quality to potential customers. Unfortunately, and oddly, these slides were discontinued, two weeks prior to transmission commencement of Test Card D.

During 1962 and 1963 classical music dominated ITA trade test airwaves, such as Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite (101 Strings), Holst's The Planets (BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent) and Herold's La Fille Mal Gardée ballet music. The more well-known artistes featured during these years included Acker Bilk, George Shearing, Jackie Gleason and even a western film soundtrack score (The Big Country).

On the second March 1964 at 12.06 I tuned into the kind of music I thought would never occur on ITA trade tests, none other than The Shadows' Greatest Hits featuring such well known numbers like Apache and The FBI. On a wet Saturday afternoon in April 1964, the music of the Oscar Peterson Trio was interrupted by an announcement that Test Card C was to be replaced by D on the forthcoming Monday morning.

It was around the mid-sixties that my interest in ITA trade tests began to wane, but I do remember that from 1968 nothing but classical records were played, even down to a solitary record in the early seventies which was Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, which accompanied the then radiated IBA Test Card F and colour bars.

In conclusion I now own a fairly large collection of LPs, many of which are classical, and I believe that ITA/IBA trade tests gave me sufficient enthusiasm to appreciate such music.

With acknowledgements to Bob Jones of Croydon and to Andy Emmerson for their help in preparing this article.

© 1998 Alan Keeling

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