1967 – ‘OUR WORLD’ | LIVE TV LINKS ‘THE WORLD’ | PART ONE: HOW IT WAS MADE AND PRESENTED
By David Taylor
Part One: An in-depth look at how this worldwide live programme was put together, and with lots of video excerpts, will hopefully explain the finished programme.
Part Two: How both the recording teams that worked with the Beatles and the television crew that set up in EMI Studio 1 all together made something unique and further helped place pop music into our ‘arts culture’.
UPDATE-AUGUST 2022: After this was first published I received a copy of the original, preliminary ‘Our World’ programme script, which had been saved by Bernard Newnham. I also was able to talk with the TC2 Studio Director Darrol Blake.
I have therefore been able to make some additions and corrections.
If it’s only The Beatles sequence that interests you…can jump to PART TWO – HERE
In my lifetime there haven’t actually been that many times when I can remember the actual moment of sitting in front of a television set and watching a specific TV programme being transmitted. One I do remember however took place on my 20th birthday, 25th June in 1967 and was the 2 hour transmission of ‘Our World’, the first global link up seen in 24 nations at one time by the use of satellites. And perhaps like everyone else, the truly memorable bit for me was the Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love’ which came towards the end of the programme. However I was also aware that the ‘linking’ sequences between the contributing broadcaster’s OB sequences were handled in a uniquely stylish manner that has also remained memorable to me…..55 years later.
A QUICK NOTE ON THE ARCHIVES AVAILABLE
Lots has already been written about ‘Our World’, and I’m going to concentrate on my particular interest, the production and technical sides of the broadcast.
The available reference sources are obviously spread around, some on the internet but also in the BBC’s Written Archives and in other US academic archives. I was lucky to have been given access to the BBC Technical Manager Norman Taylor’s archived documents and after my initial publication was given a copy of the programme Camera Script for one of the 3 BBC studios involved. The video-image resources available currently for someone like me though are unfortunately only on YouTube and Vimeo, so thanks to those who have uploaded videos of large parts the programme, although non is totally complete.
It was assumed that the BBC had lost their 2″ video recording years ago and that the only intact UK version was a rather grim looking ‘tele-recorded’ (film) copy. However Norwegian Television came up trumps when they located an original 2″ video-tape copy which they gave to the BBC, who were able to replace the Norwegian language voice-overs with sound from the BBC film copy, and remake a complete version. The British Film Institute showed this videotape at one of their ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ screenings on the Southbank, in December 2014…sadly I missed that.
Alas that ‘high-quality’ 2″ QUAD videotape copy has not been uploaded anywhere for me to use here.
THE SATELLITES THAT LINKED THE WORLD VIA TELEVISION
In 1967, television was still a ‘small world’; in the UK we could sometimes see something live from ‘Eurovision’, but could not watch a live Test Match from Australia. There had been live link-ups between Europe and the US, but photos from the Vietnam War would still take a week to be published in ‘Life’, so ‘international news’ was always lagging behind and to realise that the images in this broadcast were going to be happening live from Europe, the US, Russia, Japan and Australia and obviously all at the same time was going to make it a very significant television event.
The ‘Telstar 1’ satellite had been launched in July 1962, but only gave 20 minutes of coverage in every 2.5 hour period over the Atlantic for the transmission of a single TV signal between the US and Europe. It wasn’t until 1965 when Intelsat 1 ‘Early Bird’ went into a ‘geo-stationary’ orbit that TV coverage became possible when ever it was wanted, and 2 weeks after ‘Early Bird’ went up, a broadcast with CBS’s Walter Cronkite and NBC’s Chet Huntley in New York, plus the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby in Brussels, made ‘the live TV broadcast at anytime’ between the continents of America and Europe become a reality. This was just as author Arthur C. Clarke had first proposed in 1945 when he wrote that ‘geo-stationary satellites could provide worldwide radio coverage’.
THE ‘ROUND THE WORLD’ PROJECT
Aubrey Singer, BBC Head of Features and Science had been promoting the idea of a ‘Round The World’ project since 1965 and in 1966 members from eighteen countries met in Geneva, although the major US Networks weren’t present, agreed to undertake such a programme and decided that there would be no political content and it would all be live.
However it was the launching of Intelsat 2 ‘Lani Bird’ in January 1967 and Intelsat 3 ‘Canary Bird’ in March 1967 that made the idea of a completely global TV linkup possible.
“In 1966 Aubrey Singer noticed that there were now a complete circle of satellites all around the globe and it was possible to do a television programme and bounce it all around and so, with BBC backing he set off talking to the television companies around the world, and he came back with his ‘tail between his legs’, because they all said “You’ll never pull it off, the Russians won’t work with the Americans and it will all be so difficult….”.
But he wasn’t going to let it go, and he got The Beatles involved….and then everybody wanted to join in!” (X)
‘OUR WORLD’ GETS THE GO AHEAD
It was going to be a big undertaking, so it was passed over to EBU to organise, but the main programme development and linking was to remain with the BBC in London.
19 countries had agreed to do live contributions, but the Soviet Block countries pulled out a few days before the event, which still left 14: Australia (ABC), Austria (ORF), Canada (CBC), Denmark (DZR), France (ORTF), Italy (RAI), Japan (NHK), Mexico (TS Mexicana), Spain (TVE), Sweden (SRT), Tunisia (RTT), United Kingdom (BBC), USA (NET) and West Germany (ARD) and the programme was also shown in a further 10: Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland.
Along with the commercial satellites ‘Early Bird’ positioned over the North Atlantic, ‘Canary Bird’ over the South Atlantic, ‘Lani Bird’ over the North Pacific, the NASA ‘ATS-1’ satellite was involved, as it was able to cover the South Pacific. The ‘up and down linking’ required to distribute each countries ‘in-and-out’ feeds would further require thousands of miles of ground cables, micro-wave links and numerous video and audio delay circuits.
There would also have to be lots of standards conversion of the picture, as the US and Japan had a 525-line TV services with much of the rest of the world operating in 625-lines and although the UK’s black and white TV service was still 405-lines, the BBC did have studios operating in 625 at their new Television Centre.
So BBC Engineering now faced some big standards conversion difficulties themselves:
“The BBC’s Design’s Department had built two simple converters, known as DD1 and DD2. These were three bays of equipment each, and converted in one direction only. DD1 did 525 NTSC to 625 PAL, and DD2 did 625 PAL to 525 NTSC. These two converters, however, had two drawbacks. When converting from 525 to 625, a 525-line picture was fitted into a 625-line raster, and with a corrected aspect ratio, it appeared as a smaller picture bordered like a postage stamp, although nothing was lost.”
“The other problem with these DD Converters was that two PAL or NTSC outputs existed. One with the right colour subcarrier frequency, but not locked to line syncs, and one with the wrong colour sub carrier frequency, but locked to line syncs. The former was referred to as the Transmission output, and the latter, as the Record output. It came about because 525 NTSC field frequency was not 60Hz, but 59.94 Hz.”
“The Record output was suitable for later transmission, once recorded, as on a VT replay locked to station pulses, the standard frequencies were produced.” 
THE PRE-PRODUCTION PLANNING
As the transmission dates approached, Aubrey Singer was involved in meetings to draw together the complex planning details. On the 4th of June a large planning meeting was hosted in one of the BBC Television Centre’s studios.
EBU ENGINEER ERIC GRIFFITHS PLANS THE LINK-UPS
The ex-BBC engineer Eric Griffiths picked up the job of discovering what was…and what was not really possible in ‘linking the world’ by these satellites. In January ’67 he started by visiting NASA asking questions about their involvement, particularly to find out about the ‘ATS-2’ satellite which was yet still to launch in April. Although the US, Canada, Japan and Mexico were all 525-line, Australia wasn’t and NASA weren’t happy about handling any 625-line signals. NASA however agreed to use ‘ATS-1’, although it was already scheduled to be doing VHF aircraft radio transmission tests during the ‘Our World’ broadcast period.
The producers wanted a picture of the whole world from space, but although ‘ATS-1’ could produce one, it took 20 minutes of scanning to complete the 4″x 5″ high definition (2000-lines) image and the satellite couldn’t be used for TV signals during that time, so a recorded image, instead of a live one would have to suffice.
Griffiths then went on to COMSAT, who operated the ‘Early Bird’, ‘Canary Bird’ and ‘Lani Bird’ HS303A satellites. These were all required, but at considerable cost and were being used for international telephone communications much of the time.
National Educational TV were to be the US broadcaster as the big US Networks hadn’t seen any financial gain in taking part, but NET would have to rent use of the CBS Switching Centre in New York. The other broadcaster on the North American continent, CBC in Canada would have to use both Toronto for the English Network, and Montreal for the French one.
To jump the Pacific the little Japanese ‘research’ ground station of Kashima was required, but it was manned by only 5 people, 2 of whom were very junior and it only had ‘one-way at a time’ equipment to link it up to just one of the 2 transponders on NASA’s ‘ATS-1’. This considerably complicating obtaining pictures to-and-from Australia.
THE CONTROL CENTRES
Having decided that BBC TV Centre in London would be ‘The World Hub’, a set of other Control Centres were to do the routing:
1: WEST ZONE – The CBS Switching Centre in New York would handle the contributions from Canada, the US, Mexico, Australia and Japan. All these would be operating in 525-lines and New York would feed them as 525-lines to London.
2: EBU ZONE – The EBU in Brussels would handle the contributions from Spain, France, Tunisia, Italy, Austria, Germany and Sweden.
All these would be operating in 625-lines, including France where they would have converted their own 819-lines to 625. London was to convert the 625-lines to 525 for the US etc.
3: OIRT 1 ZONE – The Control Centre in Prague would handle contributions from Poland, Hungary, Czecheslovakia and East Germany. These would be in 625-lines.
4: OIRT 2 ZONE – The Control Centre in Moscow would handle all USSR contributions and these also would be in 625-lines.
AND THEN THE ‘EAST’ WITHDREW
A really big blow occurred four days before the transmission date when the Soviet Block countries decided to withdraw completely from the broadcast. They cited the ‘Arab-Israeli War’ as the reason, stating the the West, particularly the US were supporting the Israeli war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
It was hard to prove that there was any other reason, but it was a great pity that the ‘Our World’ link-up, which really was going to be truly ‘global’, was now only going to be covering a ‘partial world’ after all.
It would have be a wonderful for TV audiences in the West to see ‘behind the Iron-Curtain’ and likewise for the Soviet controlled states to see more than they usually ever did of ‘The Western’ world.
Here’s the ‘final’ amended routing plan after the Soviet pull-out:
The ‘lines drawing’ above shows how the four satellites were fed by a web of ‘in-and-out’ lines which required the use of a total of 43 control rooms.
In the week of the broadcast ‘Radio Times’ had a rare colour front page and inside the BBC Director General in 1967, wrote:
“Our World’ is an audacious experiment in international communications. It is nothing less than an attempt to circumnavigate the globe by television. In spite of many satellite broadcasts in recent years ‘Our World’ is unique and important because it is the first global collaboration in the making of a programme instead of in the relaying of an event.” 
THE BBC PRODUCTION TEAM
Aubrey Singer pulled together a team to work on ‘Our World’ that included Noble Wilson directing the overall international ‘World’ coverage in a ‘Master Control Room’ and Darrol Blake directing the linking packages in the biggest BBC studio.
Darrol Blake had been a Production Designer at the BBC and had moved into directing with the topical comedy show ‘BBC3’. His obvious talent had been noticed, as Darrol recalled in an interview in 2011:
“It was the most extraordinary programme and it was a story in itself. That happened because a Head of Science Features, Aubrey Singer, got this idea, went around the world twice. Apparently while he was pulling the programme together he went to Michael Peacock and said, “Who’s your best studio director?” Michael Peacock told me, “I didn’t know what he meant. What does he mean? Who’s used to chaos? Ah yes, Darrol”. 
Darrol produced the ‘linking ideas’ and put them together with his Graphic Designer, assembling all the archive film and graphics material and the Greek sculptures and collected items used as props in the BBC studio.
“I did three months on it and I was the director of all the bits in between the inserts from all of the other countries. There was a marvellous man called Noble Wilson who was directing in TC1 Gallery, I was in TC2 Gallery directing the TC1 floor, which had Bleriot’s plane and graphics and all sorts of things.“ 
SETTING UP IN BBC TELEVISION CENTRE
Television Centre was to run the show and therefore the big Production Gallery of the Studio TC1 became the ‘Master Control’ hub. The studio floor of TC1 was also the BBC’s biggest, but as its Production Control Room was to be taken over for ‘Master Control’, the cameras from the adjacent studio TC2 were moved to operate on the floor of TC1, but were controlled from TC2’s Production Control Room, along with the TC2 Vision, Lighting and Sound Galleries to provide all the facilities needed in adding the ‘moving graphics’, ‘captions’ and the centrepiece large suspended Globe. The studio also the housed the necessary ‘translation commentaries’ being sent to the participating countries.
All rather complicated.. so here’s a sketch of the layout used:
In the above you can see that the cameras from the TC2 studio, black and white Marconi MkIV’s were operating on the floor of the bigger TC1 studio, along with 2 of TC1’s cameras, probably by now colour EMI 2001’s. The programme used a lot of ‘back projection’ onto screens and ‘Eido’ in the drawing indicates that an Eidophor projector was being used for this, plus there was a ‘caption scanner’, shown as being in the TC1 gallery. Manually operated ‘caption stands’ placed in front of suitable studio TV cameras were also in use.
Not shown on the above diagram is yet another of the BBC Television Centre studios, TC5, which was producing the ‘local UK’ output as we shall see.
RIGGING IN TC1 ‘MASTER CONTROL’ and TC2
A show like this required considerable rigging to set up the communications and organise the control rooms and studio floors.
TC1 VISION MIXING PANELS:
THE MAIN VISION MIXER:
The Main Vision Mixer in TC1 would carry the 3 separate Euopean Inputs and the ‘Sub Control’ that had the two UK OB’s. It would also carry the 2 Cameras (5&6) that were shooting in the Production Control Room itself.
Finally the ‘Spare’ input with either the ’emergency’ VTR or Standards Converter.
This Main Mixer Output was ‘Clean’ of any ‘West Zone’ contributions and was thus the Output going to the ‘West Zone’ in New York.
THE AUXILIARY VISION MIXER:
The was also an Auxiliary Mixer mounted to the right of the Main Mixer. It took the Main Mixer Output and also the 625-line conversion of the 525 pictures incoming from the West Zone, and therefore carried both European and US (West Zone) contributions.
The Output of this Aux Mixer was thus the composite programme for all European Users.
THE TC1 PRODUCTION CONTROL ROOM MONITOR STACK:
On the left-‘Guide’-This was a closed circuit ‘sequence indicator’ that illustrated the programme running order. It showed the current sequence and the succeeding one, so that any breakdowns or changes could be notified to all as quickly as possible.
On the right- ‘TC1 cameras 1 and 2,’ : These were showing captions and were inputs into the ‘Black Edge Selector’, and the last was the ‘TC1 Caption Scanner’ -also feeding into the ‘Black Edge’.
1: Labelled ‘Spare’ , it could be switched between a ‘VTR’, only to be used in ’emergency’ if TC2 Studio Links were ‘lost’, or the ‘Standards Converter Output’, so that if the Genlock should fail captions could still be superimposed on ‘outside sources’.
2: ‘Studio 2 Output’. Although operating on the floor of TC1, the linking sequences were coming in of course from the TC2 Control Room.
3: Final ‘Transmission’ Output.
4: The ‘West Zone’ Input- the overall US input. This was the CBS Switching Centre that NET had hired, coming in via Goonhilly and UK International Control Room.
5: The ‘New York Transmission’ feed. A monitor-only feed of the US final transmission, which should of course have all the contributions on it.
6: ‘Black Edge Generator’– Output of all captions.
1, 2 and 3: The 3 separate Inputs from the EBU switching centre via the International Control Room , designated ‘Europe X, Y and XY‘.
4: ‘Sub Control’-the two UK Outside Broadcasts
5 + 6: ‘TC1 Cameras 5 and 6’ – Cameras actually within this TC1 Production Control Room, which were being cut into various explanatory sequences, showing ‘the director and his team’ at work. One camera set for a view across ‘Production’ and the other looking from behind the Director at the monitor stack beyond.
Norman Taylor’s ‘Technical Requirements’ document gives us the following details of how the sound was to be handled:
1: INTERNATIONAL SOUND
“During contributions from the various origins a ‘Commentator’ at the location may introduce or comment in his own language. International Sound will therefore consist of such commentaries in addition to effects and music played from tape or telecine over linking material. Each country taking the programme will receive a feed of International Sound.”
“A team of translators situated in Studio TC2 will provide translations of commentaries taking place on International Sound in English, French and German. These translations will be fed to three curcuits called ‘English, French and German Guide Circuits’. Each country taking the programme will receive a feed of whichever Guide Circuit they care to nominate.
Instructions on last second changes of item order etc., originating from the Project Director, will also be given on these circuits in the appropriate language.”
“Each country taking the programme will provide a ‘Narrator’ in its own studios who will give a commentary in his own language to be mixed with International Sound and distributed on his own Network over International Vision. The narrator will use a script but will also receive information from the appropriate Guide Circuit and International Sound. Except for a locally originated introductory preamble lasting five minutes before the programme proper commences, the narrator will not appear in vision.
The BBC Narrator will be in Studio TC5″.
I initially found this confusing when I saw the preliminary camera script, as the actor Michael Johnson was called the ‘Narrator’, but he was just reading the script mainly for Darrol Blake to follow for cueing his film and graphic sequences. He was very important, but didn’t ‘go to air’.
The ‘Programme Narrator’ in TC5…was in fact the UK local programme ‘Presenter’, Cliff Michelmore, who introduced the UK programme and then read the Jay script for UK viewers only.
However this was in is fact explained on the Norman Taylor ‘Tech Rec’ document:
PSEUDO PROGRAMME NARRATION:
“To give the Project Director and the Studio TC2 Director some sense of programme timing, a pseudo narration will be originated in Studio TC2 and will be fed on closed circuit to headphones in Studios TC1 and TC2 Production Control Rooms.”
THE TC1 SOUND DESK:
The TC1 Pye TVT Sound desk would carry the 3 Euopean feeds onto its desk Groups D–E with the output going out as a ‘Clean Feed’ to New York, thus being clean of the ‘West Zone’. The 3 European inputs would also go, along with the incoming West Zone to desk Group A; thus becoming the ‘European Output’, which is what Norman Bennett the Sound Supervisor would normally be monitoring.
THE PROJECT ENGINEER:
Copying a layout used in the recent 1966 General Election coverage, two compartments were put into TC1 Production CR. One was for the Project Engineer (Eric Griffiths) and was fitted with picture and waveform monitors plus TC1 Picture Output monitor of the feed going to Brussels and another monitor of the output to New York.
He could monitor sound from Goonhilly (West Zone incoming) plus the 3 European lines and the TC1 Outputs.
He could get across the two Conference Circuits, ‘Production’ or ‘Technical’, and talk to the Project Editor or Project Director and had a phone to ICR as well.
THE PROJECT EDITOR:
The other compartment in TC1 PCR was made for the Project Editor (Aubrey Singer) and had a TC1 Output picture monitor with a TC1 Sound Output on loudspeaker.
An English Guide commentary plus a feed of BBC1 Off Air.
He had comms to the Project Director and the Project Engineer and three phones to the switchboard.
PRODUCTION AND TECHNICAL CONFERENCE CIRCUITS:
The previously mentioned Conference Circuits were ‘4 Wire’ circuits and the ‘Production Conference’ provided the Project Director with the ability to talk to New York, and Brussels and would have also linked to Prague and Moscow.
Another similar ‘Technical Conference’ circuit provided a similar link up for the Technical guys.
SWITCHBOARD IN THE TC1 TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT STORE:
Just to provide yet even more ‘backup’, a complete telephone switchboard was installed (by the GPO) in the Technical Store attached to TC1, to terminate the Overseas Production Control lines and also Direct Exchange Lines that were specially put for the programme.
“I was in TC1 camera store for the show. I was working in BH lines Dept at the time and we were responsible for sorting out all the control lines and audios from everywhere.”
From the preliminary programme ‘Camera Script’ for TC2, here’s the ‘Technical Requirements’ section:
The four Marconi cameras of studio TC2 were therefore cabled through to the studio floor of the adjacent TC1, and a really big ‘Transatlantic’ crane was brought in, along with the BBC’s Mole Crane, to cope with the very large area of studio cyclorama and the enormous hung screens, that were to be used for the back projection images. The ‘TK’ machines were the film Telecine’s required for playback of the ‘moving graphics’ sequences that Darrol had put together.
Here’s what the interior of the TC1 Studio looked like with the big ‘Cyc’ and the screens.
The Transatlantic Crane was used as a prop for photo of the assembled crew, which was taken whilst the show rehearsals were underway. Undoubtedly quite a few would be missed off this picture, taken on the ‘floor’ of TC1. On the large crane are Aubrey Singer and Noble Wilson. Both Darrol Blake and Norman Taylor are in the right hand upper group.
Near the centre on the front row. clutching a script board, is the Floor Manager, Joan Marsden who controlled the studio floor in TC1. She was known, both within the BBC and to many of the ‘visitors’ who had come under her ‘control’ in the studio…as ‘Mother’.
Here is the front page of the Camera script for TC2’s contribution, as it was before the Soviets withdrew:
We can see that some VT machines were recording ‘links’ on the Friday, to provide back-ups for the furthest countries. These 2″ tapes were ‘hand carried’ on suitable flights as soon as they were finished.
“55 years ago I passed through TC1 on the way to somewhere. I picked up a junk script with Brian Hiles name on it. It was for ‘Our World’, which was what was in TC1, but it was junk because it was the original version, which started with a view from a Soviet satellite looking down at the Earth. At the last minute the Russians took offence at something and dropped out, thus making this version of the script useless. It’s probably the only copy.” (Y)
I don’t doubt it is now the only copy, as I can’t imagine even the BBC Written Archives at Caversham would have this original version. We’ll be able to browse bits of Bernard’s saved document during our review of the programme.
We also discover from it a few more names of crew, although TC2 Sound Supervisor Brian Hiles is misspelt and the ‘Tape Operator’, is Geoff Booth, the sound ‘Grams Operator’.
The ‘UK Local Output Studio’ – TC5
I had expected that the UK’s own TV output of ‘Our World’ would have been also coming out of the TC2 Control Room, with the BBC Presenter, Cliff Michelmore somewhere on that TC1 studio floor. In fact the UK output was regarded as yet another ‘country’ and with the complexity of all that main programme linking and switching, meant that there was yet another ‘set-up’ for the programme in studio TC5, which is where Cliff introduced the UK’s ‘local opening’ and continued his ‘narration’ from, as we shall see.
Also located in TC5 were three well known BBC presenters, Corbet Woodall, Meryl O’Keefe and Tim Gudgin, given the task of ‘voicing-over’ the the various incoming foreign language contributions, into English, once again just for the UK TV audience.
EUROVISION IN BRUSSELS
The EBU had sent the ex-BBC Engineer Eric Griffiths around the world pulling together the complicated technical threads required to make this all work, and Eric had now become the ‘Project Engineer’ seated in one of those two ‘compartments’ in the TC1 ‘Master Control Room’. However there were other EBU Engineers working to link the EBU Countries involved and here’s two Brits at work in the EBU Brussels Centre:
“It took ten months to bring everything together. The Eastern Bloc countries, headed by the Soviet Union, pulled out four days before the broadcast in protest of the Western nations’ response to the Six-Day War.
The ground rules included that no politicians or heads of state could participate in the broadcast. In addition, everything had to be “live”, so no use of videotape or film was permitted. Ten thousand technicians, producers and interpreters took part in the broadcast. Each country had its own announcers, due to language issues, and interpreters voiced over the original sound when not in a country’s native language. Fourteen countries participated in the production, which was transmitted to 24 countries, with an estimated audience of between 400 and 700 million people.”
All the countries participating had their video and audio routed out to the BBC Television Centre TC1 ‘Master Control Room’ in London, and then received it back as part of ‘the programme’ for their local transmission.
It certainly looks like the picture quality is worst from the most distant contributors and of course this is because, the US say would have sent a sequence from their NET OB unit, to the CBS Switching Centre in New York, before the hop on ‘Early Bird’ to the BBC…and then all the way back again to the US for distribution to the NET network’s ‘affiliate’ TV stations. Picture quality would deteriorate on long routes like that with an incredible amount of processing going on along the way. In fact, technically, the switch from the Japanese item to the Australian one was probably the most complicated of the programme – the Japanese station at Ibaraki had to manage a switch from ‘Transmit’ to ‘Receive’ mode, while the Australian Cooby Creek, had to do the opposite and switch from ‘Receive’ to ‘Transmit’. Failure in either place would have lost their contributions completely.
THE ‘OUR WORLD’ BROADCAST
Although British Summer time would make it 7pm in the UK, to the rest of the world it was 20.00 GMT when everyone would join up with the output from BBC’s Television Centre for the ‘Our World’ programme.
The show started with a ‘pre-amble’, that was locally delivered in each participating country, explaining the programme that was to follow and detailing the complexity of the link up that applied to their own country, and that in each one a simultaneous language translation was going to be carried over the pictures from the other countries.
Once they had finished this explanatory piece, each countries presenter would then be reading the same Antony Jay script over Darrol’s TC2 pictures and be using the ‘International Sound’ – the clean FX and music underneath.
“The excitement of actually doing it was extraordinary; babies were born on cue in Mexico and Denmark, people shot rapids, I cued a tram in Melbourne from Television Centre when it was five in the morning there. Nowadays you’d just take it for granted, but getting pictures out of Australia for instance was quite something.”
By that Darrol Blake means when he finished the linking section he was directing, then Melbourne was cued, and their ‘Tram Sequence’ began. The Programme Director Noble Wilson, in the ‘TC1 Master Control Room’ would have been the one to call ‘Cue Melbourne’ on the ong distance talkback.
Working in TV on any live shows would get the crews ‘pulses racing’ a bit and in the UK a typical audience at this time could be in well excess of 15 million viewers. But the potential audience for ‘Our World’ was expected to be 170 million ‘TV sets’….so guessing the number of viewers becomes pretty impossible once that many are expected to tune in. 400 to 700 Million is the figure Wikipedia has quoted for this audience!
“I was the gram-op in the gallery of TC1. We received the opening music on a 10½” reel of pink backed Agfa ¼” tape. Unfortunately, (for me!) the Russians decided to opt-out of taking part in the show so the sig. tune had to be shortened by several seconds! So there was I, razor blade at the ready, having done a copy of the tape as soon as we got it. The Vienna Phil. isn’t easy to chop but I managed it and it all worked thank goodness! “ 
The whole programme was promoted as being totally live:
“One thing we must make clear – in the next two hours everything will be live – no film or recording”
Cliff says this in the UK introduction, although in the section from Mexico, they make the excuse of showing off their new large OB truck and then explain that they are making a four minute dance item…which they promptly then show us…all apparently ‘off tape’…as you’ll see in their item later. Perhaps they are just so excited with their brand-new technology now that the Mexico Olympics were almost on them.
“Cliff Michelmore presented the English national version, Michael Johnson’s ‘out of vision’ narration was never broadcast but enabled me to time the London links.”
A LOOK AT THE THE 2 HOURS…IN SMALL ‘CHUNKS’
Let’s dip into the programme in ‘small chunks’…I don’t expect you to want to view all 2 hours, certainly not in one go.
In the UK on Sunday 25th June, ‘Our World’ followed a Rolf Harris Show, the introduction started at 19.55.
Here’s the opening from TC5, as shown in the UK with the presenter Cliff Michelmore. This is obviously taken from a BBC ‘tele-recorded’ copy, ie a film ‘camera’ photographing a TV screen and (not a 2″ VTR copy) and alas it is extremely contrasty with burnt-out white highlights. The sound, particularly when the clip starts is also extremely poor…film modulation noise and ‘crackles and pops’ make it sound like someone’s 8mm film! It does get better though.
Here’s James Dibble in Sydney with his lead-up into the main programme as seen in Australia:
Meanwhile in their introduction in Toronto, CBC brought out the ‘heavyweight’ academic Marshall McLuhan, who famously coined the phrase ‘The Medium is the Message’, and predicted that global communications were about to transform how people viewed their world. However today he’s totally absorbed with his ‘lecture’ and refuses to really listen to any of the interviewers questions at all!
Back in Australia James Dibble was explaining the satellites bringing them the programme:
And in Australia, having exhausted their material, they’re stuck with watching the clock before London starts the programme for everyone.
THE MAIN PROGRAMME STARTS
All around the world they switched from their local introduction and took the feed from London for the opening credits sequence accompanied by the ‘Our World’ theme sung in different languages by the Vienna Boys Choir, which is followed by a ‘menu sequence’ that highlights three of the forthcoming items.
I thought it would be interesting to both view some of that same video again along with the camera script, although the script slightly changed, once the Soviets had withdrawn.
I’ll insert that same video again, but jump directly to after the Titles, so you can follow the cues and cuts as Cliff reads. If you’re reading on a ‘desktop’ sized screen, and you don’t ‘enlarge’ the playback, you should be able to start playing the video below whilst reading at least some of the text from the Camera script:
As we have seen, after the title sequence Cliff Michelmore, along with the studio presenters in all the other countries, goes ‘out of vision’ and therefore they ‘voice over’ their linking items for the rest of the whole programme, all reading Antony Jay’s script.
In Michelmore’s case I imagine he moved off to the side of the set in TC5 to where he could see a TV monitor and was from then on cued by the Floor Manager whenever required.
“We were trying to make it something which was a program in its own right, that was about something and yet had to carry with it–and this was the problem–all the different nations, and so we decided to make population growth–which was one of those preoccupations, like global warming is now–a kind of theme of it. We wanted something to try to capture the maximum audience at the beginning, so we thought: Let’s have babies. Typical bit of meretricious television programming, but it gave us a way of getting into it.”
“The program would begin by attending the births of various children in hospital delivery rooms around the world, then examine the world into which they had arrived. It would consider population growth and the means of supporting people on the planet, and also delve into the worlds of culture and science.”
AND THE BABIES KEEP COMING
And indeed babies are now popping out all over the world…after the boy we have seen in Japan, we get to see a baby girl in Denmark and a ‘still attached’ baby pops out in Mexico City…as seen below (to then be followed from another in Edmonton, Canada).
Good to see Mexico in this ‘worldwide linkup’…obviously with one eye towards the Olympics that were coming their way the next year that would be also using the same satellites.
The broadcast was next split into main sections titled, ‘The Hungry World’, ‘The Crowded World’, ‘Physical Excellence’, ‘Artistic Excellence’ and ‘The Worlds Beyond’.
So next Cliff Michelmore starts the “The Television Journey-that no one has ever taken before” which leads to the first of these programme main items, the one based on that unifying theme of ‘population’, although it’s hard to follow those themes in the OB inserts that come next.
At 1’41” on the timeline of the video above we were originally being led, via a live shot of the earth from the Russian Cosmos satellite, into an OB insert from Sverdlovsk at ‘midnight’. Alas because of the lack of anything from the USSR we get the excitement of producing ‘pig iron’ in Lintz.
Here’s the script showing what was missed:
As you can see from the camera script, we would then have continued across to Leningrad, and on to an insert from Posnan, Poland.
The Austrian ‘pig-iron’ was probably not what the enormous world-wide audience were hoping for, but that perhaps was the problem with asking TV companies around the world to rise to an event like this…some didn’t really rise above a fairly average news clip.
The next insert from Paris also fails to excite…a police helicopter monitoring the returning weekend traffic of Paris. Cliff links next across to North Africa where at least the Tunisian’s try and give us an idea of the old and the new in their capital Tunis, where we arrive do after dark.
NIGHT TIME IN TUNIS
A searchlight on the camera to show the buildings and with lots of carefully choreographed ‘action’ in the ‘souk’ there…but so what… it does show the changing face of North Africa.
Next came a report from onboard a fishing boat off Huelva, Spain. Because it was very dark, the images were difficult to discern but I guess it was clever in 1967 to get a large television camera on a small boat and then linking it ashore…but not at all visually interesting really.
Next we cross the Atlantic, first to the USA.
THE AMERICAN CONTINENT JOINS IN
After the ‘summit’ in Glassboro, the view of cattle ranching was different …..and so they went on to a happy crowded beach at Point Grey on the Pacific coast near Vancouver, which I’ve left out.
WHY WAS ‘TELE-RECORDING’ SUCH POOR QUALITY?
I’d like to point out something about the copy you are watching. With the very high cost of 2″ videotape in the 1960’s, programmes like this weren’t kept for long; tapes were re-used pretty soon after transmission. TV programmes were shown once or possibly twice and then their life was over, even something as historic as this broadcast…was wiped by the BBC!
So what you are seeing is a scratched, low contrast ‘tele-recorded’ copy made onto film.
The ‘cut-off’ heads on all the items; particularly noticeable on the one from Ghost Lake, aren’t due to poor camerawork but the fact that some of the original image is cropped when the tele-recording takes place. It being no more than a film camera looking at a TV screen with it’s frame rate adjusted to avoid the blanking interval in the video. We’ve also been told earlier that the BBC’s frame conversion from NTSC 525-lines, was also ‘lopping a bit off’. The difference is shown below:
Staying with the Canadian version of the programme, we go further West:
THE SATELLITES TAKE US ACROSS THE PACIFIC
I thought the scenes of the Japanese workers rather manically hacking away at the rock face under Tokyo were really well done with moving cameras, going both down and across and then close-ups of the rock cutting. Not something anyone would have seen on TV before surely.
The Melbourne tram item was referred to earlier by Darrol Blake, when he said “I cued a tram in Melbourne from Television Centre when it was five in the morning there”.
ALL THE EXCITEMENT OF CUMBERNAULD
At this point the available video copies on YouTube have differed but I think the UK’s first segment came next, from the new town of Cumbernauld, not far from Glasgow. It doesn’t sound like a thrilling item, but it’s easy to forget that towns like Cumbernauld were going to bring big changes to the lives of many people in what was still a little changed post-war Britain. A town built around a pedestrian shopping precinct and with completely car free living areas was still a revelation to much of the rest of the world as well.
This item obviously would have required quite a lot of pre-organising to get shots of children, a working factory, and then the bar inside the hotel, all happening on a Sunday, as Kenneth Macdonald, later a BBC Scotland correspondent remembered:
“I saw it go out live”. It was the modern world then”.
“This was Scotland on a Sunday, so they had to open shops especially so people could pretend to buy things. And there were so few cars they too had to be pre-planned and ‘cued’ into shot by the director”.
TV GRAPHICS BEFORE COMPUTERS
In later years it was so easy to do impressive wipes and dissolves, but I still think that in 1967, the multiple cross faded sequences, within the context of ‘remaining in the studio’ was a good concept. Just running a film of it with a Cliff’s ‘voice-over’, would really have made it seem like a ‘documentary’ and this presentation must have been Darrol Blake’s idea and then carried out by his designer.
And I was pleased to see that, on viewing the programme again in the BFI 2014 showing, a very experienced TV producer, on his ‘Illuminations’ company website agreed with that assessment:
“The graphics of the programme, created with screens, projections and models in a huge, wonderfully-lit studio at Television Centre, are one of the glories of the programme, achieving a brilliantly distinctive “look” and facilitating story-telling of great economy. It came as no surprise to see a closing credit to the great television designer Richard Levin.”
However the Director Darrol Blake said that despite that credit going to that ‘Head-Of-Design’, the Designer who did most was Norman James.
Darrol also gave much credit to his Graphic Designer who had assembled much of the visual material as well. The programme brief said ‘live’ and by anchoring us within the TV studio, with the mix of stills and film and graphics happening around us, the audience feels part of the story telling. I love the descending screens to give movement to even those still images.
Alas Cliff has just led us into another ‘damp squib’ of an OB item. This time about 16 year old Olympic swimmer Elaine Tanner trying to capture a speed record. It was in reality a news clip, but then ‘human achievement’ was the topic.
So on to…oh dear; another boring item. At Castello Di Bollate in Italy, we see two horsemen, both brothers, In an indoor riding centre as they also train for the Olympics. I won’t bother to show that either.
SWEDEN BREAKS THE ’60’s TV’s SEXISM
Next is Soderfors in Sweden, where we finally get a female presenter. Good old Sweden, able to get away from the ‘men in suits’ ….and perhaps TV wasn’t so male dominated in Scandinavia in the late ’60s. She also manages to brighten up the visuals with a great pair of tinted glasses. This is an item about white water canoeing….and we get to find out that Soderfors……..concentrates on stainless steel!
I like the fact that all four participants get tipped in…..
Next up is an ambitious item from France. Their ‘man in a suit’ gets to go down into the ‘Med’ off Marseilles…in a submersible ‘bathyscape’. The first time, I guess, for a TV reporter with his camera, some lights and a mic….and some long cables in the water.
UNDER THE SEA NEAR MARSEILLES
Back to Cliff Michelmore to lead into more of the superbly written script….
First up in ‘Artistic Excellence’ is Zefferelli, making ‘Romeo and Juliet’. This film, which came out the next year received amazing reviews. Zefferelli though acts like a real ‘ham actor’ to the Italian TV cameras in this sequence.
WHO’S OVER ACTING HERE
What incredible casting by him though, of the two youngsters.
Now here’s the continuation of the scene, the ‘wedding scene’ …and I don’t think it’s fair to criticise the poor ‘boom op’ as with one big ‘key light’ and three TV cameras working, he stood no chance of keeping his shadow out of the TV coverage, and I’m sure he normally coped with single film camera shots just fine.
A bit of an aside to show that from the film, but interesting to see how it came out. Taking $38.9 million at the box-office, it won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography (Pasqualino De Santis) and Best Costume Design (Danilo Donati); it was also nominated for Best Director and Best Picture.
Next we go to the stage at Wagner’s opera house at Bayreuth, were Wagner’s grandson Wolfgang is staging Lohengrin.
GERMANY GOES FOR WAGNER
Wolfgang Wagner is the one strutting about on stage. He took over the Bayreuth Festival around this time and, despite lots of controversy did make Bayreuth very successful. Rudolf Kempe only conducted in 1967 and dropped out in ’68 but made a ‘live’ recording that is available on CD….and in fact it’s available to listen to on YouTube:
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMrUA0BsKT4) .
Try a bit of it…the prelude that starts is really wonderful…and you may get hooked!
That’s Heather Harper singing her heart out in the really terrible costume and that ‘head-dress’.
I wonder if the slight ‘sound sync’ problem was just because the mic was so very far away……yes it can make a difference, but more likely there was a slight delay on the sound when transmitted. Audio always went a separate route to video on OB’s at that time….but was probably more often correctly in sync than it is in this modern digital era!
AND FRANCE FOR THE AVANT-GUARD
Now for something different again….well a quick burst, we won’t dwell on it.
As you see, I didn’t dwell on it…but in fact ‘modern art’ was big in the late ’60’s. Musique concrete, modern dance and statues by Giacometti, Miro and the American Alexander Calder plus paintings by Kandinsky, Bonnard and Chagall were shown in this clip…but I’ll move on.
MEXICO – NOT QUITE LIVE
Next is Mexico and as I mentioned earlier, the “totally live” rule is obviously flaunted here.
You get the idea…..the commentator tells us that they’re recording a four minute dance sequence…which they then play us! So…..just a few ‘live shots’…..of the presenter, plus people watching a TV and the VTR machine.
N.E.T DOES THE BIG CLASSICAL MUSIC STARS – CHEAPLY
Next we jumped back to New York…where the reporter’s intro gets slightly ‘lost’ behind the swelling sound of two pianos as Leonard Bernstein rehearses with Van Cliburn. (Harvey Lavan ‘Van’ Cliburn, Jr…the son of a Texan oilman).
Both standing up for how they perceive it should be performed. Van Cliburn had become famous when this work was one of the two items that won him the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition, in front of Khruschev in Moscow…so he really knew how he wanted it to be. Pity we don’t see it being rehearsed with the New York Phil I think. The cost of that for National Educational Television was way too much I guess. By the way, Lenny never did give up smoking!
FLOWER POWER IN LONDON
Finally (I hear you say) we get to the Beatles segment…..well here’s just a bit of it anyway
Cliff links us into the next section. Hard to realise that the whole world was waiting for that ‘Moon Shot’…which happened 2 years later and was when all the communications satellites were used again.
FINALLY THE FUTURE IN SPACE
The next item was from the large radio telescope at Parkes in Australia….getting signals from the furthest known star. So lets jump to the end of that and then join Cliff Michelmore for another eloquently delivered link…the closing of the programme.
So as Cliff starts, the Sound Supervisor, Norman Bennett, smoothly ‘fades under’ the closing music, ‘pre-faded’ by Gram Op. Dave Mundy, to end ‘on time’ and Director Noble Wilson cuts to shots from participating countries along with some nice camera moves in the studio and the ‘closing roller’ is cued. The roller, or in this case two rollers, were indeed motorised rollers carrying the printed names on either a horizontal or vertically scrolling paper sheet. A studio camera was aimed at this and it was superimposed over the end pictures.
Alas the end of the programme on this video copy suffered from the ‘wobbling frame’ problem that we fairly frequently encountered on TV ‘back in the day’!
Here’s the ‘Our World’ crew photo with numbering, as previously mentioned:
References and credits:
 BFI Screening of refurbished videotape-December 2014: https://www.illuminationsmedia.co.uk/what-a-wonder-ful-world/
 More details from the BBC History website: https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/anniversaries/june/our-world
 BBC details on the great BBC Genome website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/genome/entries/581d6e34-67f3-40e2-a372-12a4947d4c56
 Lots of information about the Australian Cooby Creek satellite station: https://www.honeysucklecreek.net/other_stations/cooby_creek/our_world.html
 Email from Dave Mundy, BBC Sound Dept…..who helped me a few years after this, when he was looking after a BBC Mk6 scanner.
 Darrol Blake interview text: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/spaces-of-television/2013/06/08/darrol-blake-interview-part-ii-directing-for-the-bbc-and-thames-television-in-the-1960s-and-1970s/
 Taken from a YouTube copy of the BBC tele-recorded print – (With thanks to Ryan Baker for uploading): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3LmQFt4pQc
 ABC opening sequence- copy of 2″ Quad tape in a YouTube video – (With thanks to watvhistory for uploading): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbWMBiz2z7k
 Marshal McLuhan’s CBC interview: https://tripleampersand.org/transcript-of-marshall-mcluhan-on-our-world-global-satellite-broadcast-on-june-24th-1967/
 The first part of the Canadian transmission on YouTube (once again thanks to Ryan Baker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGWjEZA_XNY
Many thanks to Mike Jordan for photos at the Science Museum Exhibition 2015.
 ‘A Technical history of Eurovision by Brian Flowers’ (EBU Senior Engineer): https://tech.ebu.ch/docs/techreview/trev_311-flowers_eurovision.pdf
 Plan of TVC with thanks to Martin Kempton’s superb website ; http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/tv%20centre%20history.htm
 BBC Engineer Dick McCarthy: from: http://www.bbceng.info/Operations/studio_ops/reminiscences/tvc/d-mccarthy-tvc.htm
 Documents from UK Master Control Supervisory Engineer Norman Taylor, via Simon Vaughan of the Alexandra Palace Television Society.
(X) Conversation with Darryl Blake in August 2022.
(Y) Many thanks to Bernard Newnham for letting me have a copy of his re-discovered ‘Our World’ Camera Script.
Thanks also to the Ex-BBC members of the tech ops website.