Where there blank pauses in the past?
March 31, 2012 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Were there significant pauses between commercials and tv programming in the past?

I have a vague childhood memory of a full three to five seconds of blank, dark screen occurring between commercials and programming (and such--that is, between station breaks, station id, teasers, etc). This would have been in the 1970's.

Did this happen? If this did happen, when did it stop? I can't figure out a way to google this. Thanks!
posted by marimeko to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
I don't remember any such thing, except when someone at the station made a mistake.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:10 PM on March 31, 2012

I remember relatively long pauses, but perhaps not as long as five seconds (that's a lot of dead air!).
posted by hattifattener at 1:19 PM on March 31, 2012

Air Control or Master Control at a TV station used to be real humans cuing up real tapes and hitting "play." Automated to some extent, but not nearly the way it is now. That human element was probably responsible for the pauses you remember.
posted by werkzeuger at 1:57 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

There were significant pauses, yes. Not five seconds long, but maybe two seconds. There was also a sort of a blip that differentiated the commercial block from the actual programming. We used to record a lot of stuff off of TV onto Betamax and I fancied myself a master of pausing the recording during the commercials and knowing when to unpause as the show came back on. This happened as late as the mid-late 1980s.
posted by Addlepated at 2:41 PM on March 31, 2012

Yes and no: TV stations were not as devoted to occupying every second and square inch of YB real estate in days of yore. I have (sitting in a box in the basement) some videotapes from twenty to twenty-five years ago. I probably last looked at one maybe ten years ago and even then the shows seemed strangely austere, with a good one to two seconds of dead air between commercials and end credits of shows being allowed to run full screen at regular pace instead of being compressed into the lower third of the screen or something and run at twice the usual speed while some promo for something else occupies your attention.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:09 PM on March 31, 2012

And you might recall that with Firefly, Joss Whedon wanted to give audiences a second's pause after each act before animated bunnies began singing about toilet paper, so at each act break there is as second or so of deep brown-black -- I think it was the darkest colour they could get that wouldn't register as full black and trigger the commercials -- and that went on the air just under ten years ago.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:13 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

BTW, YB=TV (I was one key to the right...)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:14 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't ever recall the pauses being 5 seconds long, except on very rare occasions (when I assume something went wrong).

But, there were definitely pauses between the programming and the commercials, just showing black.
posted by Netzapper at 3:51 PM on March 31, 2012

Keep in mind that broadcast network television in the U.S. is still largely a giant network of broadcast affiliates -- independent companies receiving feeds with empty programming windows so they can cut in their own content (commercials, news, local shows, etc). There's a wide variety of quality and standards, and this was even more prevalent in the days of cuing literal tapes. An NBC-affiliate station in, say, Denver, may be far more on the ball than the NBC affiliate in Santa Fe. The station director in Jacksonville may think the team in Orlando is a bunch of idiots, and vice versa.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:17 PM on March 31, 2012

In the 80's and early 90's in Ohio and Indiana they used to run local commercials sometimes along with the, um, national ones. I remember seconds of dead space around those pretty frequently, enough to notice. I haven't actually watched TV (shows occasionally, but on dvd or netflix, not on Actual Television With Commercials) since 1997, though, so I may not really understand the difference, because I don't know what it's like today. They run credits at double-speed? That's just weird.
posted by Because at 7:04 PM on March 31, 2012

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