|Country Number (23)||1967||FIRST WAVE|
|Television commenced||April 1963|
|Colour System||February 1978||PAL|
Television Stations / Channels
During its first 24 years in operation, the television service in Sierra Leone was plagued by poor infrastructure, lack of funding, political unrest, and general apathy towards the service (less than 3% of the population had access to a television set). When it was on, Doctor Who would have been watched by only a few thousand people...
The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) was established on 1 October 1958; the radio station (which had been established in 1934) was housed in an old war-time building in New England, Freetown.
Television was brought to the country by a consortium of private owners, including Thompson Television (International) Limited (who designed, and oversaw construction and installation of equipment), RCA, and the NBC network in the United States. The Sierra Leone government owned only a 40% share. SLTV and the SLBS operated entirely independently of one another.
Sierra Leone Television (SLTV) was inaugurated on 27 April 1963, and operated out of the same building as the radio service, although broadcasts were limited to a 15 mile radius within the capital (in 1964, there were only 390 privately owned television sets in Freetown).
By 1967, RCA and NBC had withdrawn from SLTV, leaving TTI as the sole manager (until 1972).
- Doctor Who aired on SLTV from April 1967 to December 1968. During this run, the TV and radio stations were seized following a military coup that lasted a year.
- A second run of Hartnell episodes aired from July 1970 to March 1971.
By the end of 1971, SLBS and SLTV had merged into a single government-owned enterprise, both as SLBS. (Thompson Television withdrew its involvement shortly after, giving the SLBS full administrative control.) With combined radio and TV services continuing to expand, a brand new purpose-built facility was needed. Construction of Broadcasting House commenced in 1974, but ongoing work was beset by financial problems and lengthy delays, resulting in the structure remaining half-completed for nearly ten years.
While the new base was under construction, television broadcasts continued from the old building; by now black and white transmissions reached beyond the capital, with two thirds of the country receiving a signal, albeit often a very poor one. Frequent power and equipment failures resulted in long periods of "dead-air" often lasting for months.
A PAL transmitter was installed in February 1978 replacing the monochrome signal with colour, which was only available in Freetown. The rest of the country had blank screens. Transmissions stopped completely less than a year later due to financial constraints. By that time, the number of registered television sets was less than 9,000.
- A run of Jon Pertwee stories was purchased by the SLBS in late 1979, although these episode may not have screened for a number of years...
By 1982, SLTV had become known as "Ghost TV" due to the frequent amount of dead-air. (The Pertwee stories may have aired at this time.)
The unfinished Broadcasting House was left to decay; the roof of the semi-completed structure had collapsed during a severe storm, and all the equipment stored within was lost.
In 1987 the government sold the colour transmitter. There then followed a period of six years with no television service at all.
It wasn't until the spring of 1993 that a television service resumed, one that had been established by yet another private consortium, this one based in Hong Kong. This service had limited coverage within Freetown, and was in black and white to start with.
Broadcasting House was finally completed by the new owners in the late 1990s. The building later suffered serious damage when it was occupied for four days by rebels who had stormed Freetown in January 1999 during a period of civil war.
Broadcasting House resumed operation by the end of 1999, and underwent refurbishment in the late 2000s.
The SLBS was replaced by the independently-owned Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) in April 2010.
The principal broadcast language of Sierra Leone is English.
DOCTOR WHO IN SIERRA LEONE
Stories bought and broadcast
25 stories, 111 episodes (but played in an incorrect order):
Sierra Leone TV therefore bought GROUPs A to F of the William Hartnell stories, with the exception of one story; The Dalek Invasion of Earth had been withdrawn from sale during 1967 while Terry Nation was trying to sell his Dalek spin-off series to American networks.
The programme was supplied as 16mm black and white film prints with English soundtracks.
Origin of the Prints?
Four stories, 18 episodes:
|AAA||Spearhead from Space||4|
|RRR||The Three Doctors||4|
|UUU||The Time Warrior||4|
|YYY||The Monster of Peladon||6|
The latter three serials would have been supplied as PAL colour video tapes with English soundtracks. BBC paperwork indicates the series was sold by September 1979. Malta, Sri Lanka and Swaziland also bought these same four stories between 1978 and 1980.
The series commenced on the SLTV on Wednesday, 12 April 1967, at 8.15pm. The timeslot changed to 7.35pm from 19 July 1967, then to 7.05pm or 7.00pm from 16 August. There was a two-week break during October; the 26th and last episode of the run – presumably The Keys of Marinus part six - played on 18 October 1967.
Four weeks later, on 13 November 1967, the series recommenced, now on Mondays, with a slot starting at 7.40pm for the first episode but dropping back to 7.25pm for all others.
This run of episodes lasted 56 weeks, with the final episode airing 2 December 1968. As far as can be determined, no episodes aired on Christmas Day 1967, 1 April, 22 April, 5 August 1968.
(It was during this run that the TV station was seized by militants during a military coup. Whether this affected the scheduled broadcasts is unknown.)
There were also 15 weeks when no paper was available. There are 43 episodes to account for, which means that there were at least 13 weeks during which Doctor Who didn't screen. There is the possibility that The Dalek Invasion of Earth did screen (which reduces the number of 'extra' episodes by six); the moratorium on selling Daleks stories ended by the end of December 1967, so The Dalek Invasion of Earth could have been made available to Sierra Leone in 1968.
The first episode to be named in the papers was The Priest of Death (part three of The Massacre), on 18 December (although it seems like the episode that week should have been The Sea Beggar). All the episodes from 8 January 1971 onwards were named, although – as noted in TV listings below – the listings went out of sync for six weeks during February and March 1971.
From these listings, it is clear that Sierra Leone Television aired the stories out of order, presumably mistaking the story production codes as reflecting the story order: they started with AA, BB, CC, then went to T through to Z.
The final episode was part four of The Gunfighters, on 26 March 1971.
NOTE: There have been reports that The Savages may have received an illicit repeat circa 1982/83 – but see below...
Fate of the Prints?
Although ownership of the television service changed from a part-private to a fully state-owned enterprise in 1971 - after the run of Doctor Who had already concluded – the TV station remained in the same building.
It is unclear whether the BBC had contacted the SLBS during the extensive search for missing episodes in the mid-1980s; if so, then SLBS either replied in the negative, or not at all, particularly if the TV station was off the air and not being fully staffed at the time.
Television operations (under the new Hong Kong-based ownership) transferred to the new Broadcasting House by the mid-1990s, but it's unlikely that the move would have included any old SLTV film stock.
Between 7 and 10 January 1999, Broadcasting House was severely damaged when it was occupied by armed rebels who attacked Freetown. On 9 January 1999, the rebels burned down the nearby hall containing the country's entire sound history archive and gramophone library.
It has been reported (HERE) that the film store at the television studios was destroyed during shell-fire, and that episodes of Doctor Who may still have been held there. But it's not clear whether this film store was at the old SLTV building or the new Broadcasting House. (If we had to choose, we think the film store reportedly destroyed was the old SLTV site rather than the new Broadcasting House.)
With so many disruptions affecting television broadcasts during the early 1980s, it's not clear when (or if!) the four Pertwee stories actually aired: did they play in one continuous run over 18 weeks, or were they staggered over a longer period of several months or years?
As noted above, there have been reports of a repeat screening of The Savages in the early 1980s. This comes from a third party who related the story of a friend's uncle who saw an episode during a visit to Freetown in 1982 or 1983: it was in black and white and featured "the first one with the white hair" and "cavemen living in a wilderness outside a futuristic city who were captured and put in a machine and tortured."
The plot description and the comment that it was the first one with white hair have led some to wonder whether this was an out of contract repeat of the William Hartnell story, The Savages. But the story description (which was told some 26 years after the event, and relayed via a third person, so some distortion of memory is to be expected) could equally apply to The Monster of Peladon, one of the Jon Pertwee stories purchased in late 1979.
(Breaking the description down, the "one with white hair" is Pertwee rather than Hartnell; the "cavemen" are the Peladon miners; the "futuristic city" is the refinery control room; and "put in a machine and tortured" could be scenes of those being zapped by the "ghost of Aggedor", being blasted by the sonic cannon, or assaulted by the mind-scrambling automated defence system outside the refinery.)
The 1982/83 airdate makes it far more likely to have been a story purchased in 1979 held over for a few years and seen on a black and white set than an illicit repeat of a story that had previously screened in 1970...
There is no clear record that Doctor Who screened again on TV in Sierra Leone.
|← AIRDATES ...... (CLICK ICON TO GO TO TABLE SHOWING EPISODE BREAKDOWN AND AIRDATES)|
TV listings have been obtained from the Freetown newspaper, Daily Mail.
Listings initially gave the series name as "Dr Who", "Dr WHO" or "DR WHO". Some of the billings print the title as "Dr No"!
No episode titles are given until the December 1970 to March 1971 run. The 18 December 1970 listing (which was suffered from bad ink-bleeding) said: "DOCTOR WHO: Science fiction serial starring William Hartnell. Tonight: The Priest of Death", although the episode due to screen that night should have been part 2, "The Sea Beggar".
It appears that the TV listings were again pushed out of sync by one week between 12 February 1971 and 19 March 1971, as there are two listings for "The Bomb" (29 January and 12 February) but none for "Johnny Ringo" (which should be 19 March).
Of course, it is possible that the episodes did air as published (as previously noted, the TV station was often plagued by technical problems), in which case the handful of Sierra Leone viewers who had access to a TV saw the final instalment of The Ark twice, and did not see episode three of The Gunfighters; or, "Johnny Ringo" aired on 26 March 1971 and the last episode of The Gunfighters aired on 2 April 1971, but wasn't listed.
The Daily Mail discontinued publishing TV listings from 1971 onwards (perhaps coinciding with the merger of SLTV with SLBS?). Papers were checked through to 1984, but there were no further TV listings to be found.