History of ITV

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The current logo of ITV PLC.

The history of ITV, the United Kingdom "Independent Television" commercial network, goes back to 1954.[1] Today, the ITV Network is split between three owners: ITV plc, STV Group and UTV Media.


The ITV regions after the network was completed in 1962.

The ITV network came about as a result of the Television Act 1954, which paved the way for the establishment of a commercial television service in the UK and created the Independent Television Authority (ITA).[1] The act itself was not without controversy, and much debate ensued both in the British Parliament and the British Press, and it was passed on the basis that the ITA would regulate the new service and ensure that the new service did not follow the same path taken by American television networks (which were perceived as 'vulgar' by some commentators). For example, it was made obligatory that commercials be clearly distinguishable from programmes. At the time, American shows were normally sponsored by a single company, so it was not uncommon for a game show host to step away from his podium after a round to sell cars or The Flintstones to segue into an ad for cigarettes with no perceived change from show to advert.

The new "Independent Television" network, named due to its independence from the BBC who had a monopoly on broadcasting in the UK, was made up of numerous companies providing a regional television service and would also generally provide programmes to the network as a whole. Each individual company broadcast on 405-line VHF and was responsible for providing a local service, including daily news bulletins and local documentaries, and for selling advertising space on their channel: this measure ensured that all the ITV companies were in competition with each other and that no single broadcaster could gain a monopoly over commercial broadcasting. However, national news was not provided by the individual companies and is instead provided by Independent Television News (ITN). Each regional service had its own on-screen identity to distinguish it from other regions, since there was often a sizeable overlap in reception capability within each region.

Upon the creation of the network, six franchises were awarded for London, the Midlands and the North of England with separate franchises for weekdays and the weekends. The companies in these regions were known as 'The Big Four' and consisted of Associated-Rediffusion (London weekday), ATV (Midlands weekday and London weekend), Granada (North of England weekday) and ABC (North of England and Midlands weekend). These companies were generally the best known and provided the most network output.

The first ITV contractor to begin broadcasting was the London Weekday contractor Associated-Rediffusion, on 22 September 1955 beginning at 19:15 local time. On the first night of telecasts, the BBC, who had held the monopoly on broadcasting in Britain, aired a melodramatic episode of their popular radio soap opera The Archers on the BBC Home Service. In the episode, core character Grace Archer was fatally injured in a fire, and it was seen as a ploy to keep loyal viewers and listeners away from the new station. The first full day of transmissions was 23 September 1955 when Britain's first female newsreader Barbara Mandell appeared. The London weekend contractor ATV launched two days later.

The other franchises launched within a year of the London launch, and other contracts were awarded by the ITA between 1956 and 1961. All the franchises launched by September 1962:

Date Region Company
22 September 1955 London (Weekday) Associated-Rediffusion
24 September 1955 London (Weekend) Associated Television (ATV London)
17 February 1956 Midlands (Weekday) Associated Television (ATV Midlands)
18 February 1956 Midlands (Weekend) Associated British Corporation (ABC)
3 May 1956 North of England (Weekday) Granada Television
5 May 1956 North of England (Weekend) Associated British Corporation (ABC)
31 August 1957 Central Scotland Scottish Television
14 January 1958 South Wales and West of England Television Wales and the West (TWW)
30 August 1958 South Central and South East England Southern Television
15 January 1959 North East England Tyne Tees Television
27 October 1959 East of England Anglia Television
31 October 1959 Northern Ireland Ulster Television
29 April 1961 South West England Westward Television
1 September 1961 English-Scottish Border and Isle of Man Border Television
30 September 1961 North East Scotland Grampian Television
1 September 1962 Channel Islands Channel Television
14 September 1962 North and West Wales Wales (West and North) Television (Teledu Cymru)

ITV was admitted as an active member of the European Broadcasting Union through the Independent Television Companies' Association Ltd (ITCA) together with the Independent Television Authority (ITA) in 1959.


The ITV regions after the minor change in contracts in 1964.

In 1963 the ITA chairman Lord Hill of Luton initiated a review of all the ITV companies following the release of the Pilkington Report, which saw the launch of BBC2 and heavily criticised ITV. This review would review a company's performance, and either grant them an extension to their service licence or replace the company with another in that region. This process was repeated frequently throughout the early life of ITV and lasted approximately ten years. Reviews like this also ensured that the companies maintained their high performance by maintaining the possibility of the loss of their licence. The new licences also included clauses which took into account the promised ITV2 UHF channel, promised to be launched if the Conservative Party won the 1964 general election.

Despite the review, no company lost its position as the local ITV contractor for their region and all licences were extended for another three years (starting July 1964), although several of the major companies were instructed to strengthen the regional emphasis of their on-screen identities. The only change to the network was the formation of a single Wales and West franchise, operated by TWW, following the collapse of WWN and subsequent takeover by TWW. WWN ran into trouble when the company had problems with the construction of their transmitter network, as well as strict provisions in their contract to produce a large amount of Welsh-language programming. This meant that WWN lost a lot of money and although they did receive some help from other ITV contractors, it was not enough; the company declared itself bankrupt in 1964—the only ITV company to have ever done so.

Overall, the regional companies made a profit within the first few years of their existence; the largest regions especially so. Roy Thomson, the Canadian founding chairman of Scottish Television, famously described the ownership of an ITV franchise as "a licence to print money".


The ITV regions after the major change in contracts in 1968.

Another franchise review was called by the ITA in 1967, for contracts running from the end of July 1968, that was to drastically change the structure of ITV itself. The review aimed to ensure the ITV system was ready for the impending arrival of colour broadcasting, and also to again allow for the potential start of ITV2, should the Conservatives win any election held after 1970. The behaviour of some of the companies only reinforced the ITA's assumptions of 'arrogance' following the few changes in the last franchise round: Rediffusion London's department managers also popped up in similar roles for rival applications and TWW reapplied for their contract under both their own name and that of WWN/Teledu Cymru as a tax dodge. As a result Lord Hill had made it clear in 1966 that 'all bets were off' on the next franchise round and that the regions themselves may change. Therefore, in the period between the interviews of each applicant and the announcement of the changes, the newspapers speculated wildly about the likely changes: suggestions were made of Scottish Television exiting the system, Rediffusion moving to replace Southern and various other wild ideas.

These ideas did not went true, in the franchise rounds, several changes were made to the ITV regions including:

  • Abolishing weekend licences in all regions, except London. Outside London, all regions would be an all week contract.
  • The handover time between London Weekday/Weekend was moved from the beginning of Saturday to Friday at 7pm.
  • The North of England region was split into the North West and Yorkshire.

The ITV companies themselves also changed more than ever before, with changes to operating regions and the companies running them. The changes include:

  • The newly created Yorkshire region was awarded to the Telefusion Yorkshire consortium, who later renamed Yorkshire Television.
  • ATV lost the London Weekend franchise to the London Television Consortium, led by David Frost, which renamed as London Weekend Television.
  • TWW controversially lost their Wales and the West of England franchise to Harlech Television (HTV).
  • Granada was awarded the full week contract for the new North West region.
  • ATV was awarded the full week contract for the Midlands region, replacing ABC at the weekends.
  • Rediffusion, London and ABC were asked to form a joint company for the London Weekday franchise. This company, Thames Television, was controlled by ABC (51% of the shares) and was an attempt to keep ABC in the network, considering their franchises no longer existed.
  • Lord Thomson of Fleet was required to divest himself of most of his holding in Scottish Television.

In addition, the company Independent Television Publications was formed to produce a national programme listings guide. This guide used the title TV Times, previously used as the London listings magazine, and would replace all the regional programme guides, except the Channel Islands publication.

Before the changes were implemented however, Harold Wilson appointed Lord Hill as chairman of the BBC Board of Governors and replaced him with Herbert Bowden, also known as Lord Aylestone. He reviewed the changes Hill had made, but allowed them to stand.

1968 strike[edit]

The implementation of the ITV changes led to industrial unrest in the companies. Although there were no job losses in the system – this was an ITA stipulation – people were forced to move from Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds, from London to Cardiff and, perhaps less troublesome, from one part of London to another. Many staff stayed in the same jobs in the same locations, but now had a different employer. Since this meant that staff were being made redundant (albeit with a guaranteed job to go to), the unions required redundancy payments. However, these payments led to problems in staff not receiving them, who were changing company but not location, as in the case of the Teddington Studios. The unions asked for payments to be made in those cases; the companies responded by drawing the line, and wildcat strikes broke out in the weeks before and after the changes came into effect. By the Friday, after the changes, a mixture of strike action and management lock-outs had taken ITV off the air, and for most of August 1968 the regional network was replaced with an ITV Emergency National Service run by management. By September 1968, with both sides claiming victory, all workers had returned to work. However, memory of this strike would cause more industrial unrest in the decades that followed.

Post strike and colour television[edit]

This era also saw the introduction of colour television to the network and the introduction of the new 625-line system. During the 1960s, some commercial companies proposed the introduction of colour on the 405-line system, but the General Post Office insisted that colour should wait until the higher-definition 625-line UHF system became standard.[citation needed] ITV eventually introduced PAL colour on this system from 15 November 1969,[2] simultaneous with BBC1 and two years after BBC2. This did not, however, spread immediately across the UK – some regions had to wait a few more years before colour was available. This was primarily due to the cost incurred in purchasing new recording and broadcast equipment and the subsequent studio upgrade that usually accompanied it.

Colour strike, 13 November 1970 to 8 February 1971[edit]

Main article: Colour Strike

The colour strike was an industrial action by technicians at all ITV companies from 13 November 1970 to 8 February 1971 (although some shows made during this period in black and white were having their first transmission as late as December 1971) who, due to a pay dispute with their management, refused to work with colour television equipment.

Post-colour strike[edit]

Colour was available to nearly 100% of the UK from 1976, with the Channel Islands being the last region to be converted. This enabled the 405-line system to be phased out between 1982 and 1985.


Before the 1979 dispute[edit]

The ITV regions after the minor change in contracts in 1974.

Following the passing of the Sound Broadcasting Act 1972, the ITA was abolished and replaced with the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) who took on the same role as the ITA but were also in charge of the then-new Independent Local Radio stations.

The next franchise round in 1974 produced no changes in contractors, as the huge cost in switching to colour television would have made the companies unable to compete against rivals in a franchise battle. It also allowed the companies to recoup the cost and to return to normal service. Some slight changes were made to the Yorkshire franchise area however, as the Belmont transmitter in Lincolnshire switched from Anglia to Yorkshire, boosting the broadcast area. Also the Bilsdale UHF transmitter, based on the border between Yorkshire and Tyne Tees and much disputed over, was assigned to Tyne Tees.[3]

The IBA during this period allowed Yorkshire and Tyne Tees Television to consolidate slightly into a new venture: Trident Television. Trident originally managed advertising sales for Tyne Tees and Yorkshire but was allowed a reverse takeover of both companies; Tyne Tees and Yorkshire did however retain their own studio bases, management, boards and on-screen identity.[4]

Launch of Oracle teletext[edit]

This period also saw the launch of the Oracle teletext service. It was officially launched in 1978, a few years after the launch of the BBC's Ceefax service and offered news and information delivered through the remaining lines of information in the television transmission. The service began to see improved takings following a heavy promotional campaign using the slogan Page the Oracle and the inclusion of the software as standard in most new television sets at the beginning of the 1980s.

1979 dispute[edit]

Possibly one of the most notable events for ITV during this period was a 10-week industrial dispute in 1979, which led to the subsequent shutdown of almost all ITV broadcasts and productions. Trouble first occurred at London's Thames Television when electricians refused to accept, what they considered, a derisory pay increase. Management attempted to operate a normal service but other transmission staff refused to co-operate. When Thames' management ordered the striking staff to "return or else" the broadcasting union ACTT instructed members at 13 other ITV stations to walk out in support. The only company unaffected was Channel Television; the unions realised action there could force the station out of business as it was so small.

Viewers were greeted with blank television screens on the morning of 10 August 1979, and were left without regular programmes, most importantly the highly rated soap opera Coronation Street as well as various sporting events.

Post-1979 strike[edit]

The strike ended with victory for the unions in a dispute estimated to have cost the companies £100 million in lost revenue. Programming resumed at 5.38pm on 24 October 1979. Returning viewers were greeted with a new jingle, "Welcome home to ITV", sung by the Mike Sammes Singers. When the strike ended, ITV had the daunting task of luring back viewers from BBC. This proved difficult as production of original programming had stopped and wouldn't even be available for several months; ITV therefore suffered in the ratings at the hands of the BBC. Two and a half months after ITV began broadcasting again, it was finally ready to air additional original programming and viewers began switching back. This strike was to be the last major strike for ITV as the power of the broadcasting unions began to wane, even though minor disputes plagued the television industry in the 1980s. The dispute was the longest in the history of British television.


The ITV regions after the major change in contracts in 1982.

At the end of 1980, the IBA announced it would be reviewing the ITV broadcasting licences again, for contracts beginning on 1 January 1982. A few changes were made to the ITV structure, with the creation of dual regions for Wales and the West, the South and South East and the East and West Midlands. These regions were created following the push for more regional news. The company operating these regions had to provide a regional news service for both regions and provide studio facilities in both areas. The franchise round concluded with the following changes:

This period saw the ITV companies, and the BBC, expand their services further into the day than ever before. As large part of this was a result of the franchising of a breakfast service in 1980. TV-am was awarded this contract and given a provisional start date of May 1983. There had been other programmes previously; most notably the Yorkshire Television programme Good Morning Calendar, which had shown that the public were interested in a breakfast service. As a result, TV-am and the BBC both rushed to begin their own services. TV-am would broadcast between the hours of 6am and 9.25am every morning; the somewhat obscure 9.25 close time came about in order to allow time to switch transmitters from the breakfast broadcaster over to the regional ITV stations; today this transition is seamless, though the anomaly remains. TV-am launched as a serious news programme on 1 February 1983, however changed its format soon after to attempt to copy the success of the BBC's Breakfast Time.

Another expansion came in 1987 when ITV Schools programming was moved from ITV Daytime to Channel 4, freeing up a large section of the daytime schedule for new shows. This expansion in programming, and in advertising time, helped give the stations a boost. At about the same time, the companies began to move into night-time broadcasting. This began with individual efforts by individual companies, primarily the 'Big Five', before collaborative efforts resulted in the whole network operating 24 hours a day by the end of 1988. Notable efforts included Night Network by LWT, Night Time by Granada and ITV Night Time by London News Network.

2 November 1982 saw the launch of Channel 4, which built on the ITV network for its funding. The ITV companies sold Channel 4's airtime until 31 December 1992, after which a 'funding formula' continued, whereby the ITV companies would subsidise Channel 4 if it fell into the red. However, it never did, and the funding formula was withdrawn in 1998. During the period 1982–98, Channel 4 and ITV would regularly cross-promote each other's programming, free of charge.

ITV introduced its first official corporate logo and national on-air identity in September 1989; this was an attempt to unify the network under one image while still allowing for regional identity. However, Anglia, Channel, Ulster, TVS, and TSW refused to use the generic idents that were designed for their regions, preferring to stay with their distinctive on-screen branding. The regions to have the longest use of the generic ident were Yorkshire, who kept it on until October 1994, and Grampian who continued to use the 1989 generic ident right up until ITV's new corporate logo was introduced in 1998.

Another new introduction was the ITV Telethon. This event, held in 1988, 1990 and 1992, saw the regional companies and the national network come together to raise money for charity. The 27 hour telethons were suspended following the change of culture at ITV following the franchise changes in 1993.

The Broadcasting Act of 1990[edit]

ITV Logo (1989–1998)

Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government spent much of the 1980s privatising and deregulating British industry, and commercial broadcasting was no exception. The Broadcasting Act 1990 paved the way for the deregulation of the British commercial broadcasting industry, which was to have many consequences for the ITV system.

As a result of this Act, the Independent Broadcasting Authority was abolished, and replaced by two new 'light-touch' regulators: the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and the Radio Authority. The small Cable Authority was also abolished, its powers transferred to the ITC. The act also changed the system of licence allocation for the franchises now legally known as Channel 3: the previous system where applicants needed to show good programming ideas and fine financial controls was replaced by highest-bidder auctions to determine the winner of each ITV regional franchise. This element of the ITV franchising process was very controversial; the press and the existing ITV companies lobbied to have it changed and the ITC agreed to introduce a 'quality threshold' to prevent high bidders with poor programme plans from joining the system. Another safeguard was the 'business plan' which determined if a bidder could maintain the payments due and still retain money for programme making.

Other changes were also made as part of the act: ITN, the news provider for ITV, was no longer to be exclusively owned by ITV companies. Additionally, Channel 4, which had previously been an independent subsidiary of the IBA, was now to become a government-owned corporation, patterned after the BBC. It would also begin to sell its own advertising – a function previously provided by each ITV company as a return for subsidising the channel.

One further change in the 1990 Act related to the way the ITV networking system was run. Since the 1960s, the Independent Television Companies' Association's Programme Controllers' Committee, representing the 'Big 5' network companies (Thames, LWT, Central, Granada, and Yorkshire) had decided which programmes had aired in network programme time slots. This had the effect of excluding other ITV companies, as well as independent production companies. Following lobbying by independent producers and TVS, the Act required that ITV's scheduling be performed by a nominated person independent of the regional companies, and that a 25% threshold of independent production be required. This led to the creation in 1992 of the ITV Network Centre, a central body in charge of the network schedule, with, for the first time, a single ITV Director of Programming.


Following the changes laid out in the Broadcasting Act 1990, a franchise round was announced by the ITC in 1991 for licences beginning 1 January 1993. A number of companies bid for the licences including:

Franchise Incumbent and bid Competition and bid Results Winner
Borders Border Television £52,000 unopposed unopposed Border (by default)
Central Scotland Scottish Television £2,000 unopposed unopposed Scottish (by default)
Channel Islands Channel Television £1,000 CI3 Group £102,000 CI3 Group disqualified on quality grounds[1] Channel (by default)
East and West Midlands Central Independent Television £2,000 unopposed unopposed Central (by default)
East of England Anglia Television £17,800,000 CPV-TV[2] £10,100,000;
Three East £14,100,000
Incumbent highest bidder. CPV-TV disqualified on quality grounds.[5] Anglia (highest bidder)
London (weekdays) Thames Television £32,700,000 CPV-TV (£45,319,000);[6]
Carlton Television £43,200,000
CPV-TV bid highest but disqualified on quality grounds Carlton (highest qualified bidder)
London (weekends) London Weekend Television (LWT) £7,590,000 London Independent Broadcasting £35,400,000 London Independent Broadcasting disqualified on quality grounds London Weekend Television (by default)
North of Scotland Grampian Television £720,000 North of Scotland £2,710,000;
C3 Caledonia £1,130,000
North of Scotland and C3 Caledonia both disqualified on quality grounds Grampian (by default)
North East England Tyne Tees Television £15,100,000[3] North East Television[4] £5,010,000 Incumbent highest bidder. Tyne Tees (highest bidder)
North West England Granada Television £9,000,000 North West Television[5] £35,000,000 North West Television disqualified on quality grounds Granada (by default)
Northern Ireland Ulster Television £1,010,000 TVNi £3,100,000;
Lagan £2,710,000
TVNi disqualified for business plan[6]. Lagan disqualified on quality grounds Ulster (by default)
South and South East Television South (TVS) £59,800,000 Meridian Broadcasting £36,500,000;
CPV-TV £22,100,000;
Carlton £18,100,100
TVS disqualified for business plan[7] CPV-TV disqualified on quality grounds.[5] Meridian (highest qualified bidder)
South West Television South West (TSW) £16,100,000 Westcountry Broadcasting £7,820,000;
Tele West £7,270,000
TSW disqualified for business plan[8]. Tele West disqualified on quality grounds.[5] Westcountry (highest qualified bidder)
Wales and West of England HTV £20,500,000[9] Merlin £19,400,000;
C3WW £18,300,000;
C3W £17,800,000
Incumbent highest bidder. C3WW disqualified on quality grounds.[5] HTV (highest bidder)
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Yorkshire Television £37,700,000[10] Viking £30,100,000;
White Rose £17,400,000
Incumbent highest bidder. Viking disqualified on quality grounds.[5] Yorkshire (highest bidder)
Breakfast TV-am £14,100,000 Sunrise £34,600,000;
Daybreak £33,200,000
Sunrise highest bidder. Sunrise [later GMTV] (highest bidder)


The ITV regions after the major change of contracts in 1993.

As a direct result of the franchise bid:

All other existing ITV companies retained their regional franchises. Due to their bids being barred on business plan grounds and therefore deemed 'too high', TSW and TVS attempted to obtain a judicial review of the ITC's decisions, and of the wording of the 1990 Act. Accordingly, the ITC held off awarding the contract to Westcountry until the review was completed. As the contract with Meridian had already been agreed, the court felt unable to conduct a review of that decision. The review of the south-west franchise process took several months, but was decided in favour of the ITC.

The relaxation in the franchise ownership rules, as a result of the 1990 Act, meant that mergers between ITV companies were now possible; this was further enhanced by the passing of the Broadcasting Act 1996, which relaxed the rules even further. As a result, companies began to take each other over to increase efficiencies and to expand.

In 1992, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees merged again, creating Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television plc. The two companies were permitted to merge before their existing arrangements expired in June 1992,[8] due to the marginal nature of both companies' finances, and a need to rationalise the two companies before the franchise handover date. More takeovers ensued in 1994 with Carlton taking over Central after having had a stake in the company for a long time, Granada buying LWT in a hostile bid and MAI, owners of Meridian Broadcasting, taking over Anglia Television. As a result of the latter, Anglia's presentation and playout facilities were moved to Meridian's base in Southampton. In 1996 Carlton bought Westcountry Television and increased its stake in Central to 81%. The following year in 1997 saw a number of large takeovers; Granada acquired Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television plc and moved the presentation and playout of Granada, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees to The Leeds Studios. Scottish Media Group (SMG), which owned Scottish Television, acquired Grampian Television and began to consolidate staff at its studio base in Glasgow. Also, United News and Media, the evolution of MAI and owner of Meridian and Anglia, purchased HTV, however few departments were consolidated.


By 1999, four groups owned the majority of the ITV franchises, with UTV, Channel Television and Border Television remaining independent; Granada, Carlton, United News and Media (UNM) and the Scottish Media Group (SMG). From here, the companies further consolidated their channels. In 1999 a new on-air look was introduced and adopted by Channel, the UNM, and Granada regions. This look reduced regional identity to a design at the conclusion of the ident: the majority of the ident was generic to all the stations. The same year, Carlton dropped the Central and Westcountry names from their on-air presentation, instead branding these regions as Carlton, and using the same presentation for all three regions. The acquisition continued when in 2000 UNM was bought by Granada. As a result, Granada acquired Anglia, Meridian and HTV but had to sell the broadcasting arm of HTV to Carlton to comply with the then-current regulatory requirements. The following year in 2001, Granada acquired Border Television from Capital Radio Group and moved presentation and play out facilities to Leeds.

In addition to franchise mergers, in 1998 the Independent Television Association and Network Centre formally merged, becoming "ITV Network Limited". At the same time, a new lower-case ITV network logo was introduced at the same time for use around the network. The new logo design was meant to appear friendlier to the viewer.

Throughout this period, the ITV companies sought to expand into the new, multi-channel environment forming in the UK. The big companies sought this first: In 1996 Granada launched four channels through a partnership between Granada and BSkyB entitled Granada Sky Broadcasting. These four channels, Granada Plus, Granada Good Life, Granada Men & Motors and Granada Talk TV focused on repeated entertainment programming from the archives of the Granada channels, women's lifestyle programming, programming for men and televised interactive debating respectively. The latter channel closed down after only 10 months on air following low viewer figures, while sister channel Granada Good Life re-branded to Granada Breeze in 1998. Also in 1996, Carlton launched Carlton Food Network, a cookery channel, and Scottish entered into a deal with BSkyB to launch a satellite channel Sky Scottish, from which the company could broadcast repeats of Scottish programmes and air additional Scottish sport; the Sky Scottish channel closed within 18 months due to low viewership. Carlton however expanded its channels, launching Carlton Select in February 1997 with Carlton Cinema, Carlton Kids and Carlton World launching in November 1998. However, all but Carlton Cinema closed shortly into the new millennium, mainly due to low viewership and cost cutting in light of the cost of funding ON Digital.

ITV logo 1998–2006.

Despite these larger companies having launched their own services a few years previously, Granada, Carlton and United News & Media collaborated to launch a new service in 1998: ITV2. The new channel expanded network ITV programmes and launched on multiple services, giving additional appeal to the style of ITV itself in light of new competition from channels operating on satellite, cable and more recently Digital Terrestrial Television. However, ITV2 only launched in the regions part of the original deal, leaving Channel, UTV, Scottish and Grampian to use the multiplex space in their region to whatever purpose they saw fit. As a result, SMG launched its own channel, S2 and UTV launched UTV2, both offering similar programming tailored for their region. By 2002 however, both channels had ceased and were replaced by ITV2 itself.

In 2000, ITN, the news producer for the ITV Network, launched the ITN News Channel which provided rolling news on cable, satellite and digital terrestrial. Following the increase in ITV branded channels and services, including ITV2 and ITV Digital, the decision was taken by Carlton and Granada to rename the ITV Network in their regions as ITV1.

Another venture initiated by Carlton and Granada was jointly bidding for the newly created digital terrestrial television licence. The companies jointly bid with BSkyB for the licence under the company name British Digital Broadcasting and won, however BSkyB was forced to withdraw following competition laws. The two remaining companies launched the service in 1998 as ON Digital, and ran the service that housed other free to air channels. Following the launch of Sky Digital later that same year and following a heavy promotional campaign by Sky, which compared the Sky Digital service to ON Digital's service and always to Sky's benefit, the company started making heavy losses. In a resort to keep the venture afloat, the two companies used the name of ITV to boost the success of the company. The newly named ITV Digital launched in July 2001 complete with an expensive advertising campaign featuring Al and Monkey and an exclusive deal to air the Football League on the newly created ITV Sport Channel. However, the venture was still not bringing the results required and ITV Digital went into administration in March 2002, with the ITV Sports Channel closing two months later. This led to criticism of Carlton and Granada from SMG, UTV and Channel which objected to the ITV name being reduced following the collapse of the service.



The on-air branding of the ITV regions as of 2011.

From 2002, the ITV Network began to consolidate again. On 28 October 2002, the Carlton and Granada regions adopted the celebrity presentation package, which resulted in the regions being known as ITV1 at all times, with the region name only appearing prior to regional programmes. This look also marked the centralisation of continuity in the Carlton and Granada regions to London, with the exception of Wales.

The pinnacle of ITV's consolidation was the merger of Carlton and Granada in 2004. The two companies had previously tried to merge twice before in the 1990s, however the government and competition laws prevented this from occurring. However, in October 2003, the government announced that it would no longer prevent a merger from taking place, subject to safeguards being set in place to ensure the continued independence of SMG, UTV and Channel Television. Carlton and Granada finally merged at the end of January 2004 with the shares owned 32% by Carlton shareholders and 68% owned by Granada shareholders. The new company, ITV plc, was floated on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol 'ITV' on 2 February 2004.[9] The new company owned all the ITV regions in England, Wales and the Scottish Borders. The choice of the name "ITV plc" was controversial, since it could imply that the company runs the entire network, and an agreement had to be reached with SMG, UTV and Channel before the name could be used.

The day of the merger was marked by significant changes throughout the ITV plc regions. All of the ITV plc regional news programmes now featured a new look in line with the national ITV News bulletins and the regional company logos were replaced officially with an ITV logo followed by the company name below – these began to appear on production captions and as part of other branded output, such as weather summaries. As a result of the merger, ITV plc was faced with a surplus of facilities it no longer needed. Following the merger of companies that were formerly rivals, studio and production facilities were replicated many times over, many of which were becoming costly to maintain due to age and difficult to justify following technological advancements. As a result, regional news moved into smaller offices and studio facilities were sold off. Anglia's separate studio facility was sold off as an independent studio with HTV's main studio in Cardiff having the same fate. However, the axe fell on Tyne Tees' Newcastle studios and on Meridian's Southampton studio complex. Both broadcasters left their studios and were demolished, moving to smaller regional news bureaux. The reduction in the size of the organisation and in the number of transmission centres resulted in a large number of job cuts.

ITV plc reviewed its digital channel portfolio. In 2002 Carlton and Granada jointly bought the ITN News Channel from ITN and relaunched and renamed it the ITV News Channel. The service was still produced by ITN. The following year in 2003, the final Carlton owned channel, Carlton Cinema, closed; the channel had been struggling ever since the failure of ITV Digital. Following the success of ITV2, compared to the Granada and Carlton branded channels, a further channel ITV3 was launched. The channel replaced Granada Plus and aired archive programmes, notably drama. On 1 November 2005, ITV plc launched another new channel aimed specifically at men: ITV4.[10] The channel became notable for airing programmes such as classic 1960s ITC series and alternative sports such as the British Touring Car Championship. The new channel featured a new look ITV logo, which was officially rolled out across the network on 9 January 2006.[11] The new look was more coherent than previous and also included Channel Television, who voluntarily adopted the look. 2006 also saw the launch of the CITV channel, which used the airspace previously used by the ITV News Channel which had closed down in December 2005, and of the new service ITV Play which turned out to be controversial and closed down the following year.

ITV plc began to look at High Definition in 2006, when the company launched an experimental channel ITV HD. This service was primarily for airing the 2006 World Cup, to which ITV held the rights. The service became permanent in 2008 and showed its own schedule of programmes in HD acquired by ITV plc. The channel re-branded as ITV1 HD in 2009, but still broadcasting its own schedule of HD programmes, and launched as a full simulcast of ITV1 on 2 April 2010. The launch of the simulcast service saw the end of Men & Motors, which was closed down on 1 April 2010 to make room for ITV1 HD on other platforms. On 7 October that same year, ITV plc launched an HD simulcast of ITV2, entitled ITV2 HD and on 15 November 2010, the channel was joined by ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD, all launching on Sky only.

In June 2005 Ofcom, the channel's regulator since the demise of the Independent Television Commission, announced huge reductions in the licence fees payable by the Channel 3 contractors (and Five). This move reflects the significant shift towards digital viewing in the UK, and the British government's desire to switch off analogue television signals altogether by 2012. Licence fees will fall further as the shift to digital continues. Ofcom has also significantly relaxed most of the remaining public service requirements on the ITV contractors; regional non-news output has been a significant casualty of these cutbacks, with most regions now broadcasting no more than two hours a week in this category. An experimental internet service, ITV Local, attempted to unite regional content through an on-line user experience that combined regional news, local programming and other features.


Main article: ITV 50
ITV50's logo, used in September 2005

In September 2005, the ITV network celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a season of ITV50 programming that was run on the network, including a run down of ITV's 50 top programmes, a World of Sport retrospective, a seven-week Gameshow Marathon presented by Ant & Dec, the launch of an "Avenue Of The Stars", and most notably a five-part documentary series made by Melvyn Bragg, which chronicled ITV's history. The Post Office issued special ITV50 postage stamps. The regional companies owned by ITV plc also aired special regional retrospectives (even though none of them were themselves fifty years old), as well as using special ITV50 station identification. While Scottish Television, Grampian Television, and UTV aired the network ITV50 programming, they did not themselves air regional programmes of this sort, nor did they use the special identification. ITN also celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with special features in its programming.

ITV Logo 2006–2013


In March 2006 it was announced by SMG plc that Grampian Television would become the latest ITV region to lose its own regional identity, as it adopted the brand name STV, used by Scottish Television. This brand, which works similarly to the ITV1 brand in England and Wales, had previously been used by Scottish Television from 1969 until 1985.

In September 2007 the then chairman of ITV plc, Michael Grade, announced huge cost-cutting plans for the company which would see the regional news programmes cut from 17 to nine. These plans saw many mergers of news programmes including the merger of Central News East and West, Anglia East and West and Yorkshire North and South into one programme for each region. However most controversially were the merge proposals suggested covering two regions. These saw the merger of the West and Westcountry regions to form one programme from Bristol, the merger of the Meridian South, South East and Thames Valley to form a programme from Whiteley and one programme from Newcastle upon Tyne covering Tyne Tees North, South and Border regions. The new arrangement resulted in pre-recorded opt out segments in the main programme for some regions where regional news was mandatory, such as Meridian South and South East, and where a programme crossed regional boundaries, such as Tyne Tees and Border. These changes took effect from February 2009, when Meridian began its pan-regional service.[12][13][14] The plans also saw the end of the ITV Local online initiative, as regional cuts affected the service hard; the service closed down in 2009.

In 2008 all of the ITV plc regions operating licences were transferred to one company, ITV Broadcasting Ltd., who now operates all of the ITV plc regions. This essentially leaves ITV Broadcasting Ltd as the sole company producing and broadcasting programmes to the ITV Regions in England and Wales.

In November 2009 ITV plc gained full control of the breakfast broadcaster GMTV when the company bought the 25% stake of The Walt Disney Company for £18 million. ITV subsequently announced that GMTV would be closed and replaced with two new programmes in September 2010: Daybreak, a news and features programme, and Lorraine, named after presenter Lorraine Kelly and providing a platform for female debate. The official name of the company itself was changed to ITV Breakfast Ltd.

In 2011 another step was taken towards the unification of the ITV Network when ITV plc bought Channel Television.

2013 rebranding[edit]

The on-air branding of the ITV regions as of 2013.

On 15 November 2012, it was announced that as part of a major rebranding, ITV1 would revert to being called ITV. In addition to this, ITV will have a new colour-changing logo stylised as handwriting, the colour varying depending on the programming the logo is used on.[15] The overhaul was linked to ITV's attempt to cut costs, curb debts and reduce the company's reliance on advertising. This overhaul of its brand affected all of ITV plc's channels and online services on 14 January 2013.

ITV license renewal for 2015[edit]

According to the Guardian newspaper, ITV will increase regional news programmes in England and Wales from nine (in 2009) back to 17 in the future. Culture Secretary Maria Miller suggested talks about the future of ITV regional news in the South of Scotland. A possible new ITV franchise for Wales could be introduced, which would replace the Wales and West of England franchise, currently awarded to ITV Wales & West (formerly HTV). This is part of ITV's and Channel 5's franchise renewal for the next ten years which will expire in 2024.[16][17]

List of former ITV franchise holders[edit]

  • ABC Weekend TV (Associated British Corporation): North and Midlands weekend franchise (1956–1968)
  • Associated-Rediffusion: London weekday franchise (1955–1968)
  • Associated Television/ATV Network: Midlands weekday franchise and London weekend franchise (1956–1968); Midlands (7 day) (1968–1981)
  • Southern Television: South and South East England franchise (1958–1981)
  • Thames Television: London weekday franchise (1968–1992)
  • TSW (Television South West): SW England franchise (1982–1992)
  • TVS (Television South): South and South East England franchise (1982–1992)
  • TWW (Television Wales and the West): Wales and West of England franchise (1958–1968). See also ITSWW (March–May 1968)
  • Westward Television: SW England franchise (1961–1981)
  • WWN (Wales West and North Television): North and West Wales franchise (1962–1964)
  • TV-am: National Breakfast Television franchise (1983–1992)
  • ORACLE: National Teletext franchise (1977–1992)


ITV Regions 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s
5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4
Northern Scotland Grampian Television STV
Central Scotland Scottish Television
Northern Ireland UTV
English-Scottish Border Border Television ITV1 ITV
North East England Tyne Tees Television
North West Granada Television (weekday)
ABC Television (weekend)
Granada Television
Yorkshire Yorkshire Television
East Yorkshire/Lincolnshire Anglia Television Yorkshire Television
East Anglia Anglia Television
North and West Wales WWN TWW HTV
South Wales and the West TWW
Midlands Associated Television (weekday)
ABC Television (weekend)
Associated Television Central Independent Television (Carlton)
South West England Westward Television Television South West Westcountry (Carlton)
London Weekday Associated-Rediffusion Thames Television Carlton Television
London Weekend Associated Television London Weekend Television
Southern England Southern Television Television South Meridian Broadcasting
Channel Islands Channel Television
Breakfast TV-am GMTV ITV Breakfast
Teletext ORACLE Teletext Ltd.


  • "Welcome Home" (1979 after industrial dispute)
  • "Get Ready" (1989)
  • "Television From The Heart" (1998)
  • "'Britain's favourite button"[18] (1990s)
  • "The Brighter Side" (2009–2013) (ITV1)
  • "The Brighter Side Just Got Brighter" (2009–2013) (ITV1 HD)

See also[edit]


The following notes apply to the 1991 Franchise round:

  1. ^ The 'quality threshold' was a subjective evaluation by the ITC of the application submitted with the bid. The 'threshold' worked in one direction – high bidders could be disqualified for not reaching it, but low bidders could not be 'promoted' for having passed it. The ITC did not announce if the lower bidders had passed the threshold or not.
  2. ^ CPV-TV was a consortium led by David Frost and Richard Branson. It bid for the East, London weekday and South franchises, aiming to offer a centralized single service.
  3. ^ The ITC at first considered disqualifying the Tyne Tees bid, on business plan grounds.
  4. ^ North East was backed financially by Granada Television.
  5. ^ North West Television was a consortium led by Phil Redmond of the independent producer Mersey Television, and backed financially by Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television.
  6. ^ The 'business plan' test was a subjective evaluation by the ITC of the business plan submitted with each bid. The evaluation tested whether the bidder could afford its programme plans and also, more importantly, afford to pay the amount it had bid. The ITC did not announce if the lower bidders had passed the business plan evaluation.
  7. ^ TVS sought a judicial review of this decision, but the High Court decided it could not look into the matter as the ITC had already awarded the contract to Meridian.
  8. ^ TSW sought a judicial review of this decision. The ITC held off from awarding the contract to Westcountry until the High Court had ruled. After four months, the High Court ruled that the ITC had no case to answer, and ITC confirmed the award of the contract to Westcountry.
  9. ^ The ITC at first considered disqualifying the HTV bid on business plan grounds.
  10. ^ The ITC at first considered disqualifying the Yorkshire bid on business plan grounds.[19]


  1. ^ a b "History of ITV plc". ITV plc. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Chillerton Down Transmitter". The Big Tower.com. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "UHF and colour". Photomusicians – Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. Retrieved 11 December 2011.  Information gained from scanned image from the ITA Yearbook 1968.
  4. ^ Tyne Tees TV official website, accessed 12 June 2006.[dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d e https://sites.google.com/site/bromfieldnet/south-west-broadcasting/list-of-bids
  6. ^ http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/118257/response/289758/attach/2/1%20210536725.pdf
  7. ^ ITC, quoted in Encouraging Bidding In The Single Licence National Lottery Framework report, UK National Lottery Commission, 19 November 2004
  8. ^ Clwyd, Ann. "On regional television". Bumblebee Blogs. Steve Punter. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "London Stock Exchange listing". London Stock Exchange. 27 December 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-11-28. Retrieved 2007-12-28. 
  10. ^ Wilkes, Neil (13 July 2005). "Male-skewed ITV4 to launch on November 1". Digital Spy. Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "ITV unveils new channel identities across its portfolio of channels". ITV plc. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  12. ^ "ITV 'can cut' regional programming". BBC News. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "Anger over news merger acceptance". BBC News. 25 September 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  14. ^ "Meridian faces axe". Salisbury Journal. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "ITV1 to become ITV in channel rebrand". The Daily Telegraph. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  16. ^ "ITV and Channel 5 'may have to increase programming commitments'services". The Guardian. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  17. ^ "http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/sep/18/itv-to-get-licence-renewal". Ofcom. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  18. ^ Alleyne, Richard; Davies, Hugh (9 August 2006). "The decline and fall of ITV's chief – News – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  19. ^ Cherry, Simon ITV: The People's Channel Richmond, UK: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd 2005, pp204–207

External links[edit]