Monday, 14 December 2015


I thought I would try and assess the likelihood of returns from certain avenues of investigation - just for my own amusement.
Cinemas and Mobile Cinemas:

In Brazil the TV signal didn’t extend over what is a very large land mass indeed; therefore, prints had to go into distribution through Cinema circulation. I imagine something similar could have happened in Nigeria, but as Philip Morris said, at the Pandorica Convention, Nigeria’s Cinemas largely went bust in the eighties, things changed when Nollywood started up in the early nineties, but that isn’t strictly relevant. Places like Jamaica had Mobile Cinemas, but as always these were mainly for educational purposes and the prints would not have had a stable resting place. I personally feel prints are unlikely to have turned up via this avenue and would most likely be educational or locally produced material and news films if they did. As the countries that are most likely to have been the final resting place for these items don’t have much economic stability then I think this compounds the unlikeliness of something being recovered via this route.

Universities, Embassies, Hospitals and other Governmental institutions:
The BBC always offered first refusal to the National Broadcaster when it came to selling televisual material and most National Broadcasters in the poorer countries were run under Government or Quasi-Governmental departments: The Department of Education or the Department of Information, for example. Some Embassies actually edited film prints, which were sent out to Universities for educational purposes and in the case of ETV in Ethiopia, the Broadcaster was actually located in Addis Ababa City Hall. As I have mentioned before, there were plans to use localised Hub distribution from educational or information departments under the guise of Media Centres.

National Broadcasters:
These places didn’t have a lot of storage space. If there was any kind of recall, and in the case of VT which was expensive and reusable there certainly was, then locating these prints to return or destroy should have been fairly easy. However, paperwork is notoriously unreliable. It isn’t hard to imagine a whole plethora of ways in which material could have survived and leaked into circulation. Logistically unless things are somehow misplaced then they are unlikely to have survived. ‘Tomb’ was sent back along the bicycling-chain so there was no record of its location. ‘Web’ and ‘Enemy’ were sent to another local broadcaster supposedly illegally – I say supposedly because no paperwork has survived which doesn’t guarantee this was an illegal transaction, although it’s a fair assumption to make and we know they did happen. Phil Morris has even contradicted his, “They never throw anything away” statement from the original Facebook Missing Episodes Q&A at the Pandorica Convention with a story about how Lagos dumped prints on the beach and a couple of other references I can’t recall right now.

Private Collectors and Ex-Employees of TV stations:
Prints are most likely to have entered circulation through Employees of TV stations or people retrieving items from skips. Prints being returned via this route could depend upon the philanthropic nature of the individual and would certainly be one of the hardest to quantify the chances. Auctions would be untraceable and every instance is unique.

Audition Prints:
Audition prints are nothing special. Once it was purchased it was no longer an audition print, but then set could be used or broken up for audition purposes. I have a theory that a set would be sent out for audition purposes but if other requested an audition print rather than get another print sent out it would be more economical to split a set. There was a broadcaster in Brazil, Global TV I think, that used to order Audition Prints; broadcaster them and then return them refusing to pay for them. Obviously, sending part of a serial rather than the whole thing would be a wise move to prevent this kind of practice.

National Archives:
A lot of countries in Africa still don’t have National Film Archives. I don’t think TIEA would even entertain the idea of searching a whole archive without reason, be it financial or otherwise, despite Morris’s famed tenacity.

TV recordings:
Illicit copies by employees are possible and did happen on a small scale, but this is a situation that’s very similar to the Private Collectors scenario. Obviously, prints would more likely than not be close to their point of origin, but the story about illicit copies being made and then the guy moving to Ireland are could be true. It’s been a long time and neither people, or prints are static, but obviously big cities or capitals are more likely locations for recoveries provided they haven’t been passed along the Collector chain.

Hubs/Distribution Points, Airports, Bonded Storage and Customs:
I could have just given this the heading, “Red-Tape”. This would obviously, be only relevant to poorer, more corrupt and disorganised countries, but would be a massive boost for the chances of returns. If proven true. I could write quite a long post about this, but I think that’s outside the scope of what this post intended to achieve.

Private Auctions:
This is a no go really, as lot descriptions are often vague and bidders are usually untraceable.

There is something unconsidered, or an outlier. Prints have been found frozen inland fill under the permafrost of the Yukon, Ivor the Engine episodes were found in a pig pen on a farm and the recent ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ episode found with a French Awards Organisation are all clear reasons to, “Expect the unexpected.”

Thursday, 20 August 2015

TIE Advertising

Advertising was a large part of TIE's business and this recording industry year book from 1979 shows how active in terms of advertising TIE were in the late seventies. This has no bearing on supplying programmes as far as I am aware but does show they were still in contact with various TV stations at the time. I have several of these but it is awkward getting the blog to show a larger amount of photos cleanly so will only show one for now.

Other companies mentioned are Richard Meyer Associates Ltd, Richard Jobs Ltd (an ABC subsidiary) and of course Rediffusion and a few others.

There is also a WRTH advert at the end.


WRTV Handbook Advert 1971

Odds and Sods

 I should start by saying some of these have appeared on Broadwcast at some point and some where alluded to by Ford on PMF sometime ago so none of this is new or exclusive to this site. These clipping I obtained from the Proquest database at the British Library. My reason for doing so was just out of curiosity about TIE's later years. I am posting this for reference purposes.


Variety in either 1982 or 1984
From Variety in the 1980's

An advert for TIE's HK station - Nothing to do with DW

Here is a document that details how long Thomson was contracted to manage each station - Sorry if these aren't in the right order. It's a real shit trying to arrange these:


About Bermuda

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Stirling Consortium: TIE Ltd and the Thomson Connection

Canadian-born Lord Roy Thomson
Certain individuals and organisations involved in bringing television to the Commonwealth manage to escape widespread notoriety. So what was the role of the Thomson Organisation in proliferating British television material throughout the globe?

The Beginning

Back in the sixties, Africa was seen as a potential growth market for the future. Companies and even first world governments wanted to get in on the act. Businesses wanted to sell equipment, TV producers wanted to sell programmes and the British government wanted to spread positive propaganda via COI (Central Office of Information) prints which were either free or very near free. In parallel to this, Communism was still seen as a very real and present danger in the sixties. The concept of the dangerous Marxist was reinforced by Ethiopia's fall to Communism in 1974. 

As the seventies set in, the growth market that had been imagined never materialised. Prominent traditional forms of mass media such as radio and even newspapers, in countries with often poor literacy rates, were proving stubbornly hard to displace. However, Thomson Television International pioneered the management agent technique. This proved very successful as they became the biggest installer of television broadcasters around the world.

Many early television services in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia were focused towards education. Through distribution of COI prints and newsreels TIE (Television International Enterprises Ltd) had plentiful access to cheap programming which met the educational agenda for a lot of emerging Commonwealth broadcasters, and of course, by spreading positive British propaganda there was incentive for the government to give subsidies in order for Thomson and TIE to win contracts in what was part of ‘Operation Flavia’. In return, TTI/TIE provided access to the distribution network of what was at the time the largest Television operator in the developing world. A perfect ecology of business co-dependencies.

Stirling’s organisation was often part of a much larger consortium.  TTI (Thomson Television International Ltd) headed the consortium with American firms NBC and RCA as minor members. TTI formed in August 1962, with a capital of £100 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Scottish Television. In 1957, Canadian-born Lord Roy Thompson bought Scottish Television and over the course of his career went on to own over 200 newspapers all over the globe and had interests in printing, publishing and travels besides his television interests. Consequently, Thomson had the papers which could print listings and promote the stations. Thomson was also a driving force behind the formation of TIE, in 1959, when Stirling was short of funds after his exploits with Capricorn in Rhodesia and some gambling debts. In Smear!: Wilson and the Secret State by Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsey, it states: 

"Stirling also set up a commercial television company, Television International Enterprises, with funding from Lord Thomson of Times newspapers." 

Stirling’s involvement with Capricorn would cost his business the television contract in Rhodesia, but Thomson as part of the consortium that set up the original RTV station didn’t lose out. TIE eventually went on to win their first contract in Kenya with as part of a consortium that included Thomson. This would set a pattern for most of TIE’s later installations more on Kenya here: and here: As Stephen Dorril stated in his 2002 book (MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service), Stirling often employed Current or Ex-SAS in order that they could travel under the cover of TIE business but TIE was a legit business in itself:  

Setting up the Stations

Along came the Stirling/Thomson consortium promising tailor-made television stations designed to suit any budget that would eventually pay for themselves through the sales of advertising spots. Most consortium members would provide finance in order to win a contract. Minor members like NBC/RCA often got equipment deals, but unlike the French set ups, Thomson wasn't tied to any manufacturer and often used British equipment. TIE got programme supply but couldn't dictate programme policy (as well as selling advertising which was crucial) and TTI provided:
  1. Management services
  2. Finance and budgetary concerns
  3. Arranging credit with suppliers
  4. Design of the stations and field surveys for transmitters
  5. Hiring contractors and building the station
  6. Training and hiring of staff
  7. New governmental legislation and official internal procedures
  8. Collection of TV licence fee
Thomson became consultants for the term of the agreement (usually, a minimum of five years, but possibly up to fifteen) and withdrew a consultancy fee. Later on, TIE took more of a backseat as minor consortium member being asked to provide some finance and to focus more on programming supply and selling advertising spots, as well as producing programmes through their subsidiary TIE (Productions) Ltd. Obviously, without programmes to draw in viewers there would be no advertising revenue. TV sets were imported and rented. Some were in public places like cafes where people could congregate to view the new medium.  Local programming was expensive to produce and was never able to achieve the quality that was obtainable from the US and certainly not at the prices on offer to third world countries with programmes being available at a fraction of what they had cost the overseas broadcaster to produce. With local broadcasters often producing as little as 20% of their own programming, although there were exceptions such as the Ghana Broadcasting corporation who had set out to make 75% of their own programming and largely stuck to their commitment from the inauguration of their service right up to present day. Ghana has been an exemplary figure in Commonwealth broadcasting, but out of the ordinary none the less. Thomson as the world’s largest media magnet of the time was able to open doors for TIE through association and Stirling was well connected as it was. TIE supplied programmes to TTI stations it had helped set up but also TTI stations which it hadn’t on occasion as evidenced by the Pathe letter that names a certain bicycling chain here:

SLTV being built

Through the consortium, training could be sought either by TV station employees attending a training course in Scotland at the Thomson foundations highly prestigious Nuffield Institute or with secondment of staff from foreign broadcasters. The Thomson foundation was a joint enterprise between Thomson, the BBC, various independent UK TV producers and the British government that didn't just train staff but also produced COI films. Some of these were made by the students who were then allowed to take the prints back to their native organisation. Even Rediffusion stations like Malta and Canadian owned stations like Ghana sent their staff there.

So, Thomson had a financial interest in TIE; however, I don't think that was the only reason that TTI leant on TIE so heavily. TIE did offer a unique service after all. The one-stop-shop combination of providing programmes, at a competitive rate, to stations with genuine troubles sourcing the material and selling advertising spots to help finance the stations proved a very powerful draw to the ruling powers of nations that saw a television service as a prestigious achievement. The allure of Thomson’s ability to supply programmes through TIE and the connections that TTI could offer was so alluring that in the late-sixties the Japanese government heavily funded the NEC's (Nippon Electric Company) bid for Pakistani television, mainly to win the contract to supply the equipment, NEC then allowed Thomson a 15% stake in the Pakistan national broadcaster on a debenture basis in order to gain access to television programmes. The Italian government had offered Ethiopia a TV station for free! Many of these broadcasters would not have gotten off the ground for decades to come without the assistance that TTI’s consortium offered. However, the TV stations may have been tailor-made considerations towards fulfilling contracts seemed homogenised and without consideration for cultural requirements. 

The Customer is Always Right

As for TTI’s significance, they mean seem pretty unimportant for observers of the Omnirumour, but together they were a world-beating partnership. Thomson helped set up more TV stations across the globe than anybody. So, TIE's success in no small part to providing a service that benefited both sides of any agreement and helped raise them above their competitors. Thomson was the impetus and TIE was the vital life-blood of the stations. Comparisons can be drawn to the service which TIEA Ltd provides as the company doesn't just ask broadcasters to hand over old material for repatriation, or to intrusively snoop around their premises. 

"I know of no better illustration of the way reciprocal obligations can reach long and powerfully into the future than the perplexing story of $5,000 of relief aid that was exchanged between Mexico and Ethiopia. In 1985, Ethiopia could justly lay claim to the greatest suffering and privation in the world. Its economy was in ruin. Its food supply had been ravaged by years of drought and internal war. Its inhabitants were dying by the thousands from disease and starvation.Under these circumstances, I would not have been surprised to learn of a $5,000 relief donation from Mexico to that wrenchingly needy country. I remember my feeling of amazement, though, when a brief newspaper item I was reading insisted that the aid had gone in the opposite direction.Native officials of the Ethiopian Red Cross had decided to send the money to help the victims of that year’s earthquakes in Mexico City.
It is both a personal bane and a professional blessing that whenever I am confused by some aspect of human behavior, I feel driven to investigate further. In this instance, I was able to track down a fuller account of the story. Fortunately,a journalist who had been as bewildered as I by the Ethiopians’ actions had asked for an explanation. The answer he received offered eloquent validation of of the reciprocity rule: Despite the enormous needs prevailing in Ethiopia, the money was being sent to Mexico because, in 1935, Mexico had sent aid to Ethiopia when it was invaded by Italy(“Ethiopian Red Cross,” 1985). So informed, I remained awed,but I was no longer puzzled. The need to reciprocate had transcended great cultural differences, long distances,acute famine, many years and immediate self-interest. Quite simply,a half-century later, against all countervailing forces, obligation triumphed." - Influence by Robert B. Cialdini

The Future

TIEA, like TTI and TIE used to, offers a vital and mutually beneficial service to its customers at an affordable price to help preserve the cultural heritage of nations that may struggle to otherwise afford it.
"Sub-Saharan Africa has been revealed as one of the fastest-growing buyers of UK-produced TV programmes in the past year, new research from Pact, in conjunction with BBC Worldwide and ITV Studios Global Entertainment, reveals. The UK Television Exports Survey 2014/15 (full PDF version below) showed that exports to South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa grew by over a third (35%) in the past year. In particular, sales of TV programmes grew by 21% from £8.4million to £10.2million." - See more at:

And, only forty years later than Thomson Television International predicted! TTI was dissolved on 22 Sep 2015.

Lord Roy Thomson (1894-1976) by Stephen Ward


Files from the National archives: DO 191/234, FO 1110/1724

Smear!: Wilson and the Secret State 
by Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsey 

Influence by Robert B. Cialdini

The Daring Dozen: 12 Special Forces Legends of World War II
By Gavin Mortimer

War plc: The Rise of the New Corporate Mercenary
By Stephen Armstrong

MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service