TV Cream

TV: T is for...

Trade Test Transmissions

ONE OF those functional but nevertheless well-remembered series that BBC2 showed in the run-up to colour broadcasting, the Trade Test Transmissions were a regular feature of daytime broadcasting in the early ’70s. If you were watching early enough you could catch the daily announcements of transmitters which were being repaired and get the schedule of films for the day – they showed a different one every hour. A lot of them were made by the Shell Film Unit and most of the ones were documentaries (in the loosest sense). Here’s a selection –

1. Evoluon – about a science exposition in Eindhoven.

2. Tide of Traffic – increasing traffic volumes and their environmental effects.

3. Jusepina – The one about the Italian girl whose parents owned a petrol station. The ‘plot’ revolved around the various people who came to the station.

4. The Home-Made Car – a young bloke is building a car in his drive (maudlin sax-solo) to impress the girl next door, who keeps getting picked up by her boyfriend (cue mad drum-solo).

5. A couple of pre-Greenpeace efforts on environmental pollution.

6. The history of paint from cave-dwellers to the present day. This had a man splitting the stone open and pots of paint, etc.

7. Plastics – how they make them and what you can do with them.

8. The inner workings of the internal combustion engine.

9. An oil pipeline being built in Algeria.

10. Another one about oil exploration in the North Sea.

11. A German bloke talking about technology and its benefits to the world. It featured Haydn’s ‘Creation’ on the soundtrack.

12. One featuring a man washing the deck of a boat at sunset.

13. A virtual tour of Amsterdam.

Don’t forget the Acorn Trail, some kind of PIF-style shill for the National Trust, which always seemed to turn up just before Grandstand on a summer morning…

Other highlights included:

– a documentary on Scottish wild cats

– a cartoon about the history of flying, opening with doomed flight of waxy-winged Icarus, ending with two farmers chewing straw, watching a bi-plane pass overhead.

– Crown of Glass – about building the stained glass windows of Liverpool Catholic Cathedral

– A cartoon by Phillips about the history of colour TV

– One with speedboats racing through swamps with flaming petrol. At the end a chap gets bitten by a stone fish and gets taken to hospital in a boat.

– One about a salmon/trout farm.

– The modernisation of the Royal Mail.

– Building of the Kariba Dam.

All sheer bliss for the visual memory centres of many a young brain. If anyone can recall more of these, let us know…



  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    The trout farm film was actually called ‘Rainbow Trout’, according to Victor Lewis Smith.

  2. Mike Beacham

    March 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    The best TTT was the documentary about the ‘Coup des Alpes’ sports car rally. It was shown quite regularly.

  3. Alan Keeling

    September 4, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    During the early 1950s, demonstration films were shown on the BBC during the mornings as part of their daily trade test transmissions. The films would include trailers for forthcoming programmes, etc. Each film would be shown every 15 minutes along with Test Card C. When ITV started transmissions, BBC dropped the ‘demo films’ which were replaced with pictorial slides bearing the caption: BBC TEST TRANMISSION. The slides shown by local ITA transmitters, did not have captions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top