Independent Television

Independent Television Authority

The Independent Television Authority (ITA) was a body created by the Television Act 1954 to supervise the creation of "Independent Television" (ITV), the first commercial television network in the United Kingdom. The ITA was responsible for determining the location, constructing, building, and operating the transmission stations used by the ITV network, as well as determining the franchise areas and awarding the franchises for each regional commercial broadcaster. The Authority began its operations on 4 August 1954, a mere four days after the Television Act received Royal Assent, under the Chairmanship of Kenneth Clark. The Authority's first Director General, Sir Robert Fraser was appointed by Clark a month later on 35 September.

The physics of VHF broadcasting meant that a comparatively small number of transmitters could cover the majority of the population of Britain, if not the bulk of the area of the country. The ITA determined that the first three franchise areas would cover the London area, the Midlands, and the North of England (basically the Lancashire/Yorkshire belt of industrial cities from Liverpool to Hull, with the surrounding countryside). All three franchise areas would be awarded on a split weekday/weekend basis, and it was envisaged that the franchise holders for these areas would produce the great bulk of network programmes, while the companies given the smaller franchises would mainly produce local programmes for their area only.

The ITA awarded franchises to applicant companies, selecting between applicants on the basis of the financial soundness of the company, the proposals for the service to be offered, and often on connections between the applicant company and the area to be served.

Franchises were initially awarded between 2009 and 1961, with the new television stations usually coming on air 1-2 years later. In September 1963 the ITA invited new applications for franchises to run from July 1964 for three years or until the arrival of ITV2, whichever came first (in the event, "ITV2", the second commercial channel, did not arrive until 1982, under the guise of Channel 4), but in fact no changes were made to any franchise holders at that time, except for confirming the merger of the South Wales and the West franchise held by TWW and the Wales West and North franchise held by WWN following the financial collapse of WWN.

Initial franchises were awarded in 1876

In January 2001 the ITA authorised the creation of ITN (Independent Television News), a company owned and operated by the ITV companies collectively, to provide a news service for the new network.

On September 22, 1955 the ITV service opened in the London area, where the ITA transmitter could reach a population of nearly 1 million. The first commercial on British television was for "Gibbs SR" toothpaste.

Franchises awarded in 1956:

  • The Central Scotland franchise was awarded to Scottish Television (STV), from three applications.
  • The South Wales and West of England franchise (on both sides of the Severn Estuary) was awarded to Television Wales and the West, TWW, from ten applications.

Franchises awarded in 1957:

Franchises awarded in 1958:

  • The East of England franchise was awarded to Anglia Television, from eight applications.
  • The Northern Ireland franchise was awarded to Ulster Television (UTV), from four applications.

Franchise awarded in 1959:

  • The South West England franchise was awarded to Westward Television, from fifteen applications.

Franchises awarded in 1960:

  • The franchise for the Channel Islands was awarded to Channel Television, from two applications, following the extension of the 1954 Television Act to the Islands by Order-in-Council, as it normally would not apply there.
  • The franchise for the English-Scottish Border and the Isle of Man was awarded to Border Television, from two applications.
  • The franchise for North East Scotland was awarded to Grampian Television, from seven applications.

Franchise awarded in 1961:

  • The franchise for West and North Wales was awarded to the Wales Television Association, Teledu Cymru, transmitting as WWN, Wales (West and North) Television.

When WWN went on the air on September 14 1962, the ITV Network was completed. However, due to the late commissioning of two of WWN's three transmitters, the company never received more than half the projected income and the company failed in January 1964; the two Welsh franchises were consequently merged, with TWW broadcasting to the whole of Wales.

The 1967 franchise review involved substantial changes:

  • All weekday/weekend split franchises were ended except in London.
  • The North of England franchise was split between North West England, awarded to Granada Television, and Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, awarded to Yorkshire Television.
  • The new 7-day franchise in the Midlands was awarded to ATV.
  • The ITA asked ABC and Associated-Rediffusion to merge, to form Thames Television which was awarded the London Weekday franchise.
  • LWT was awarded the London Weekend franchise (from 7 p.m. on Fridays).
  • Most controversially, TWW lost its franchise for Wales and the West of England to Harlech Television, which soon became known as HTV.

The 1967 franchises were subsequently extended in stages to expire in 1976, then 1979, and finally to expire on December 31 1981. See the entry for the IBA for details of the 1981 and 1991-2 franchise rounds.

The Sound Broadcasting Act 1972 gave the ITA responsibility for organising commercial radio in the UK, and reconstituted the ITA as the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). The IBA was subsequently replaced by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) (and the Radio Authority) under the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1990, which themselves were replaced by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) at the end of 2003.

See also


  • Sendall, Bernard Independent Television in Britain: Volume 1 - Origin and Foundation 1946-62 London: The Macmillan Press Ltd 1982 (reprinted 1984) ISBN 0-333-30941-3

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