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Independent Television (ITV) is the name given to the original network of British commercial television broadcasters, set up to provide competition to the BBC. In England and Wales, the channel that it broadcasts was recently rebranded ITV1 by ITV plc who own the regional broadcasting licences for the regions. The regional names have been kept by SMG plc which owns Scottish TV (Central Scotland) and Grampian TV (Northern Scotland) and UTV (Northern Ireland). Channel TV now operates under the name ITV1 Channel, but isn't owned by ITV plc.



Main article: History of ITV

The start

Independent Television was launched following the Television Act 1954. The Independent Television Authority was set up to control and review the network. In the three main areas – London, North of England and the Midlands – ITV was launched in September 1955, February 1956 and Mar 1956. These areas were divided into one franchise for weekends and one for weekdays with these companies broadcasting:

Outside of these areas, the licensee would broadcast during the whole week. The rest of the franchises went to:

WWN failed financially in late 1963; in 1964 its area and on-air name, Teledu Cymru, were taken over by TWW.

ITV contracts weren't permanent and the first franchise round was made in 1963 with new licenses commencing in 1964. There were, however, virtually no changes in contracts in the first round.

1968 franchise round

Unlike the 1963 review, that of 1967 brought several changes. The new contracts would start in 1968 and the major changes were:

  • No area, except London, would be split into different franchises for weekends and weekdays.
  • The "North of England" region was split into two: North-West and Yorkshire. The weekday broadcaster in this region, Granada, was awarded the full week franchise for the North-West and a new company called Yorkshire Television was awarded the eastern areas, mostly in Yorkshire.
  • ATV lost the London weekend franchise, but got a full week franchise for the Midlands.
  • The London Television Consortium, put together by David Frost won the London weekend contract, which now included Friday evenings from 7pm. They went on air initially using the name London Weekend Television but then adopted the name London Weekend before reverting to London Weekend Television (often abbreviated to LWT) in 1978.
  • ABC (whose weekend contracts in the Midlands and North had disappeared), and Rediffusion London, the weekday London contractor, were forced into a shotgun marriage. The resulting company, Thames Television, was 51% controlled by ABC and took the London weekdays contract.
  • TWW lost its franchise for Wales and the West to Harlech Television (which would become HTV).

The changes brought both strikes and lock-outs, leading to an ITV Emergency National Service in an attempt to keep the network on air. (A further technicians' strike blacked out ITV completely for two months in 1979).

The third franchise round in 1974 brought no company changes but did take the Lincolnshire transmitter from Anglia Television and reassign it to Yorkshire Television. The ITA changed its name to Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) following the Sound Broadcasting Act 1972. During the 1970s, the teletext service ORACLE was launched.

1982 franchise round

The franchise review of 1982 would bring several changes:

  • ATV was restructured into Central Independent Television (Central), and the Midlands converted to a dual region.
  • Southern lost their licence to Television South (TVS), and the South of England region was converted to a dual region.
  • Westward lost their licence to Television South West (TSW).
  • A national breakfast service would launch in 1983 and the franchise was awarded to TV-am.

In November 1982 S4C in Wales and Channel 4 in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland were launched.

1993 franchise round

Image:Itv1989.jpg The Broadcasting Act 1990 brought several changes to the ITV network, which was officially renamed Channel 3. The franchises would be awarded on a "highest-bidder" basis rather than the previous "beauty contest". The IBA was abolished and replaced by the Independent Television Commission (ITC).

The auction brought several changes which would come into place on New Years Day in 1993:

  • Westcountry Television won the South West England franchise, replacing TSW.
  • Meridian Broadcasting won the South and South-East England franchise, replacing TVS.
  • Carlton Television won the London Weekday franchise, replacing Thames Television.
  • Sunrise Television (later GMTV) won the Breakfast franchise, replacing TV-am.
  • Teletext Ltd won the National Teletext franchise, replacing ORACLE.

The 1993 franchise round was followed by consolidation where most of the companies merged.


In 2000 Granada bought Meridian, Anglia and HTV from UNM, but had to sell HTV to Carlton. In 2001 Granada bought Border. Granada and Carlton then owned all the franchises for England and Wales. In February 2004, Granada Media and Carlton Communcations were eventually allowed to merge to form one single company: ITV plc.

In addition to their "Channel 3" licences, three of the ITV companies have invested in other forms of media:

The Channel 3 licensees have also been involved in some failed businesses. Carlton and Granada launched the digital terrestrial pay television service ONdigital in 1998 (it was rebranded as ITV Digital in 2001). The service was placed into administration in 2002. ITV news provider ITN and NTL launched the ITN News Channel in 2000, but later on sold it to Carlton and Granada who rebranded it as the ITV News Channel. It was closed down in December 2005, making room for ITV4 and the new CITV Channel on DTT. Both UTV and SMG launched their own versions of ITV2, UTV2 and S2, in 1999. These were closed and replaced by ITV2 some years later.



There are some programmes produced by ITV companies (past and present) that are well-known, usually in the UK, but often world-wide. These include:

In the last decade, the number of productions by 'independent' production companies (that is, companies that are independent of the ITV network) has increased. Notable examples include Thames Television (itself a former ITV contractor) and Celador, producers of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

ITV companies: past and present

Former ITV contractors


Current ITV franchise holders

Image:Independent Television ITV regional map 1993-1999.png

See also

External links

The ITV companies

Unofficial sites about ITV

British television | Channels


North Scotland: Grampian TV | Central Scotland: Scottish TV | Scottish/English Border: Border
North and North West England: ABC, Granada | North East England: Tyne Tees | Yorkshire: Yorkshire | Northern Ireland: UTV
Wales and the West of England: TWW, WWN, ITSWW, HTV | Midlands: ATV, ABC, Central | East Anglia: Anglia
London: Rediffusion, ATV, Thames, LWT, Carlton | Southern England: Southern, TVS, Meridian
South West England: Westward, TSW, Westcountry | Channel Islands: Channel TV

Breakfast: TV-am, GMTV | Teletext: ORACLE, Teletext Ltd | News: ITN, ITV News

ITA | IBA | ITC | Ofcom
ITV1 | ITV2 | ITV3 | ITV4 | CITV | CITV Channel | ITV Play | Men & Motors | ITV News Channel | ITV Digital
ITV plc | SMG plc | Ulster Television plc

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