A Brief History of Eastward Hospital Television.
Reg Charity No 293359
ETV or EastWard hospital Television Service can trace it’s root back to 1983 and the Basildon General Hospital where its founder members helped operate the hospital internal hospital radio station - SEHB (South Essex Hospital Broadcasting) previously called BHR (Basildon Hospital Radio).
According to legend, SEHB had sometime mid 1983 organised an outside broadcast that involved two locations. The first being programming from a stage set up in Basildon’s town centre, the other programmes from the SEHB Caravan parked in Billericay’s high street. All would have been fine, had not two factors (or fate if you like) got in the way. First the hospital radio stations equipment was not quite up to handling two outside broadcast points at the same time, vital talk back links went down, and the signal was not of the best quality. Secondly, the rain came down, which in the case of Billericay, meant the population of shoppers vanished leaving shopkeepers to give each other cups of tea. By 14.30 Ian Bancroft had decided to stop, and leaving Dennis Rookard to await the tow car for the caravan, went shopping in Southend.
What he brought was a Video Camera and recorder, which first saw the light of day a week later at another SEHB Outside broadcast from the Horndon Feast and Fair. Here Ian and a few others tried their hand at interviewing and various other productions techniques to produce a video.
Stage two in our development came as back home Ian started to find out if our material could be edited up into a programme format, while back at Basildon hospital, the small but growing TV production team first tried to find the inputs to the hospital internal cable distribution system, then after feeding a cartoon down it, wondering around the hospital to see what channel it came up on, and what was the picture and sound quality like.
Surprisingly it was not too bad, and would only need a R.F. Amp to bring it up to scratch. Armed with this information a series of test programmes were first broadcast over the Basildon system early in 1984. With a full service starting later that year.
However before this happened those members of South Essex Hospital Broadcasting involved in the television service decided that to develop a service, it would be better if they were to form their own service with its own charity number and committee.
Thus was born EastWard Hospital Television, the East standing for the South East Essex area we cover and the area where the establishments we broadcast to are located, and the WARD standing for the part of the hospital we broadcast into.
In those early days back in 1984 we broadcast our programmes using a piggy back system of twin video playback machines, each feeding a signal via computer driven time switching equipment and a Teletext computer into the hospitals own internal cable system. This enabled us to broadcast two four hour programmes a day, offering our viewers in the hospitals day rooms where the television sets were located an eight hour daily service.
Within months, we were invited to provide television service via cable to Orsett hospital in Grays, Hightwood hospital in Brentwood and the Warley psychiatric hospital, also in Brentwood. The Highwood hospital invitation also gave us the chance of establishing a studio and storage location in an old disused ward, which became our home for the next ten years.
Over the next ten years our network developed to include a special public service for those waiting in the accident and emergency departments of Basildon and Orsett hospitals, and for those hospitals without a cable system, four hour video cassettes were given to two local hospices and a small hospital for the elderly.
But by 1995 major Health Trust policy changes that resulted in the closing down of three of our prime target hospitals and the turning of others into day hospitals mean that we were back to Basildon as the only service, and even this was under threat as the day rooms where our viewers saw our programmes were being converted into offices or ward space.
If we were going to survive, then we would have to have a major rethink of how we were going to reach our audience, indeed if we could not broadcast into our hospitals by cable, how could we reach them. Or so our discussions went, should we start looking for an entirely new audience elsewhere.
The answer came from a request by a local old folks home for ETV to allow them to show our video cassettes to their elderly residents. If they are interested we reasoned, would other old folks homes. So began a series of meetings with home wardens and social services staff what kind of programming would be required, how often and more important, how long should the cassette be. Eventually we decided to produce several pilot shows in various formats to see which one worked.
From the comments we received we decided on a 60 minute programme format, being of local and timeless interests. The video cassette (now DVD as well) could be distributed around nursing homes or hospitals and could even be taken away for home viewing by the staff.
We even gave it a name. Essex in Vision as our on air name was a bit of a mouthful and everybody and their dog called us EASTWARD, nobody knew where we were located. As you can see by calling up our who views our shows page, the video magazine has been a great success.