Carlton Television was originally a company set up by Michael Green's Carlton Communications to bid for an ITV franchise. Having failed to buy into Thames Television in 1987, Carlton finally succeeded in ousting that broadcaster in the 1991/92 franchise round, for reasons that were seen as political.
A controversial edition of Thames Television's This Week documentary series dealt with the killing of IRA members in Gibraltar by a British Army's special forces unit. Titled Death On The Rock, the programme infuriated the UK Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, as well as British tabloid newspapers. Death On The Rock went on to win a British Television Academy Award.
It has been widely believed, but not fully proven, that the 1990 Broadcasting Act was used to revoke Thames' ITV franchise license because of Death On The Rock's criticism of the British Army.
The first ever Carlton programme to be broadcast nationally when Carlton joined the network, was Surprise Party, effectively the same format as This Is Your Life, previously a mainstay of predecessor Thames Television. Hosted by Michael Parkinson, the first celebrity to be the subject of the show was entrepreneur Richard Branson. At the end of the hour-long show, Michael Parkinson told viewers to keep their eyes out for another Surprise Party. However, no further programmes were ever made.
Alarm bells had been ringing before Carlton even transmitted as part of the ITV network, as one notable commission with wide publicity was The Good Sex Guide, inviting scorn and derision from conservative newspapers, before it had actually been broadcast.
Carlton found itself at the centre of a major controversy about truthfulness in broadcast journalism in May 1998, when The Guardian carried a series of articles alleging the wholesale fabrication of a much-garlanded 1996 Carlton documentary, The Connection, which had purported to film the route by which heroin was smuggled into the United Kingdom from Colombia. An internal inquiry at Carlton found that The Guardian's allegations were in large part correct and the then industry regulator, the ITC, punished Carlton with a record £2-million fine for multiple breaches of the UK's broadcasting codes. The scandal led to an impassioned debate about the accuracy of documentary production .
In recent years, changes in rules concerning media ownership enabled Carlton to buy out many of the other ITV stations, including Central Independent Television, Westcountry, and part of HTV (via Granada), as well as the rights to the archives of ITC Entertainment and its former sister company ATV, and the Rank film archive. HTV was the only region owned by Carlton not to be subject to a full rebrand as Carlton. Both "HTV West" and "HTV Wales" stayed with their then-current idents; however upon Carlton's purchase, the animated introduction and music to the idents were replaced by the sequences and audio in use with Carlton's graphical package. The logo and endboard of the ident remained unchanged however, using the generic hearts look of 1999. Carlton also did not acquire most of HTV's production facilities, most of which Granada retained.
The ITC archive is particularly lucrative since it includes such popular shows as Thunderbirds, The Prisoner, The Saint and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (original version), as well as feature films that include The Return Of The Pink Panther, On Golden Pond, and Capricorn One. Many Rank Organisation films are also part of the Carlton library. Carlton has released much of this material on video and DVD via its own label in the UK, and via A & E Home Video, Acorn Media, MGM Home Entertainment, and Lions Gate Home Entertaiment in the USA. A large number of these films were shown on Carlton's digital movie channel, Carlton Cinema, however it closed in 2003.
In September 2002, Carlton and Granada, having now acquired all the franchises in England and Wales, made the controversial decision to remove all regional idents, continuity and branding, and replace them with the single brand, ITV1. English regional idents were to only precede regional programming, and regional announcements were pre-recorded from London (Wales gets on-screen recognition prior to all programming, see ITV1 Wales). Unlike Granada-owned regions, Carlton used dual-branding on its regional idents with the Carlton logo, so the Carlton Westcountry and Carlton Central regions were simply known as ITV1 Carlton. Granada-owned franchises preferred simply to place text of the region name under the ITV1 logo. This went on until August 2003, when Carlton dropped the practice, resulting in changing the brands from "Carlton Central" to "ITV1 for Central England", from "Carlton Westcountry" to "ITV1 for the Westcountry". The HTV regions were re-branded "ITV1 Wales" and "ITV1 West of England" in 2002.
On 2 February, 2004, Carlton Communications plc merged with Granada plc, creating ITV plc, which now owns all of the ITV franchises in England and Wales under the "ITV1" brand (Wales still uses its own on-screen identity as ITV1 Wales, but now also uses English ITV1 continuity). In addition, Carlton Video became part of Granada Ventures, and the three English Carlton ITV regions were reverted back to their previous names: "ITV1 for Central England" again became "ITV1 Central", "ITV1 West of England" became "ITV1 West" and "ITV1 for the Westcountry" became "ITV1 Westcountry", prior to regional programming in their respective areas.
Since 28 October, 2002, Carlton Television (in common with all the other ITV companies, except Scottish Television, Grampian Television and Ulster Television) has been known on air simply as ITV1 (London Weekdays). Unlike London Weekend Television, Carlton Television did not note the last day (25/10/02) of its regional identity on-air. However, the Carlton brand continued to be seen on production captions until 2004. Since Carlton and London Weekend Television now use identical presentation and logos, the division between the London weekday and weekend franchises is now invisible, although the old LWT - now ITV1 (London Weekends) - does have London Weekend Weather, which is sponsored by a different company to that of London Weekdays.
With the merger of Carlton and Granada, Carlton Television and LWT are now run as a single entity (ITV London), with a single management team appointed to both companies. Both continue to have a separate legal existence however, and still have separate licences, although this is now just a formality.
Upon merger, Carlton lost recognition to programmes made by their companies, which became branded as "Granada" and the relevant area, for example, all programmes made in London became branded as "Granada London". From January 16, 2006, all programmes produced by any ITV plc owned region are branded by ITV Productions. This means that there is no distinction between which programmes are made by Carlton, LWT or any other ITV company.
Between 1997 and 2003, Carlton owned a number of extra channels, carried initially on analogue cable, and also later on their flagship platform, ONdigital too, although none of them ever made it onto Sky Digital. However, three closed in 2000; and all five were closed by 2003. Most were closed due to funding issues and lack of loyal viewership. They all time-shared on three EPG positions. Carlton Food Network and Carlton Select shared a channel, and Carlton Kids, Carlton World and another channel named 'RAW!' shared the second. Carlton Cinema received an EPG position of its own, but would be periodically closed down to provide bandwidth "On Sport 2" during the ONdigital days.
Carlton World was a general entertainment and factual channel broadcast in the evenings, with sister Carlton Kids broadcast in the daytime. This ceased transmission in 2000.
Carlton Kids was a children's channel and showed most of all of Carlton's children's imports, and programming from Carlton's regions. Time-shared with Carlton World, it ceased transmission in 2000.
Carlton Food Network was the Carlton channel devoted to cookery, and time-shared with Carlton Select. It was later re-branded 'Taste CFN', and ceased transmission in late 2001.
Granada, Carlton hear wedding bells.(Carlton Television Ltd.; Granada Television International Ltd. consider merger)
Oct 14, 2002; LONDON -- Moving to squash concerns about the long-term health of their network, Britain's two major commercial stations, Granada...